The law firm that acted for the claimants in the landmark case of Pyrrho Investments v MWB Property, which saw the use of artificial intelligence-derived ‘predictive coding’ in document review approved by the English courts for the first time, is one of the more bold and experimental in the City.
RPC combines law with consulting, running the spin-off RPC Consulting brand, a joint venture with software company Marriott Sinclair that emulates the Big Four accountancy firms’ multi-disciplinary approach.
Beneath all of this are traditional foundations. RPC has a longstanding reputation in its core practice areas of insurance, corporate and litigation which dates back well over a century. Indeed, it was the firm’s experience of handling large-scale disputes, rather than any native tech-savviness, that saw it instructed on the now widely-known Pyrrho case. And it is on the basis of this reputation, more than anything else, that RPC trades. The firm is particularly close to the insurance industry, with major clients including some of the sector’s main players.
The firm also has an original approach to social media, allowing its trainees to post public messages from uncensored collective Twitter and Instagram accounts — @LifeInALawFirm — that are as likely to feature jokey posts about late night bundling as on-message graduate recruitment tweets.
The internal set-up of RPC’s “beautiful” glass and steel office can feel more tech company than law firm at times. One insider reports: “The open plan office and mixed pods mean you sit with anyone from paralegals to partners (including the managing partner) and questions are positively encouraged.” Another enjoys the “nice views of the docks”.
It’s no coincidence that RPC has scored consistently strongly for partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. “The partners are extremely approachable. Nobody thinks they are too important to be approached by trainees,” one rookie tells us, whilst another appreciated how partners “actively seek to get trainees involved and will spend time explaining/answering questions”. That open plan, however, comes with its downsides. One insider complains: “Some partners like to make their area of the floor their own office which means stepping over boxes and personal effects to get to one’s own desk.”
In recent times, the firm ditched its all-equity partnership structure, making the partnership leaner and somewhat boosting profit per equity partner (PEP). This goes some way to explaining RPC’s explosive 50% PEP rise from £424,000 to £634,000. Revenue is also up 23%, climbing to £136 million. As well as adding 28 lawyers to the partnership the firm has also poached Travers Smith’s former head of commercial, IP and technology group, as well as Bird & Bird’s commercial disputes team in Singapore.
Trainees are known to be a “close-knit bunch” who insiders tell us help to foster a “supportive and understanding environment”. And RPC’s caring side has apparently really shone in the firm’s response to the pandemic, with one spy telling us: “Apart from IT issues every once and a while, everybody has been great. Extremely supportive and proactive in ensuring we still get the training we need and the face-time we need to stay motivated.”
And the relatively small London trainee intake of 13 gives the TC experience a personal touch, which doesn’t seem to have been changed by the addition of four Bristol training contracts a few years ago. One trainee says support can be “very seat dependent” however “my personal experience has been of lots of variety, real responsibility, and a readiness to provide feedback”. Another describes their experience like this: “The firm offers personalised training throughout the contract, not just during the first seat, and departments will run frequent specialised sessions to get trainees up to speed with the relevant sector.”
On top of this, rookies are known to get experience on cases that are “very high-profile and front-page news”. That said, there is also your fair share of grunt work to be done. “Some of the work is incredibly stimulating, but as a trainee there are a fair amount of trainee-typical tasks,” one insider told Legal Cheek.
Traditionally, most of RPC’s trainee secondments are with clients, and that still remains the case, with around a quarter of rookies (normally around half when there isn’t a global pandemic spoiling things) spending time at the likes of Google, AXIS Capital and various global insurance companies. International opportunities are also available, with the firm’s Hong Kong and Singapore offices proving popular destinations.
Work/life balance is reasonable; an average start time of around 9am and average finish time of around 7pm equates to a ten-hour day. Note, however, some variations between departments. While one trainee told us that “most of my current team tend to have left the office by 6pm”, another explained how “there are moments when you are required to work quite late”.
Perks are fairly run-of-the-mill for a City law firm, with staff able to take advantage of a private healthcare programme, a mortgage advisor, HelloSelf membership and weekly classes including Yoga. Despite recent increases, pay, remains on the somewhat low side compared to its market rivals: newly qualified (NQ) solicitors will earn an annual salary of £70,000 in London and £49,000 in Bristol. Upon qualification, solicitors will also be included in a firm-wide bi-annual salary review process.