The Legal Cheek View
The 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 most bold and experimental in the City.
Where else do trainees get to tweet from a completely uncensored collective Twitter account – @LifeInALawFirm – that is as likely to feature jokey posts about late night bundling as on-message graduate recruitment tweets?
The internal set-up can feel more tech company than law firm at times. Reports one insider: “The open plan office and mixed pods means you sit with anyone from paralegals to partners (including the managing partner) and questions are positively encouraged.” It’s no coincidence that RPC has one of the highest scores for partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
A push towards agile working that has seen laptops introduced across the firm adds to the progressive vibe. As do trainee secondments to glamour clients such as Google.
Beneath all of this, though, are some very solid and traditional foundations. RPC has a long tradition of expertise 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-savvy, that saw in 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 clients including industry giant AIG (which is another common trainee secondment destination).
A relatively small UK trainee intake of 15 – split across the firm’s offices in London and Bristol – gives the TC experience a personal touch. Trainees report that the balance between support and exposure to complex work is carefully calibrated, with “really good training with people at all levels willing to take a lot of time out to walk you through things.”
While most secondments are with clients, a few lucky rookies get to spend time in the firm’s Hong Kong and Singapore offices, with a formal trainee placement programme being put in place in the latter location this year.
Work/life balance is reasonable; an average arrive time of just after 9am and average leave time of approximately 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 6”, others reported staying later.
Knitting all of this together is a collegiate culture that sees trainees allocated to ‘houses’ – it’s “like Hogwarts!” one tells us. This groupings feature in the regular social events put on by the firm, offering featuring a competitive element. Apparently you could “do something every night if you wanted to”, with firm-organised activities including football, darts, a book club, a talent show and quiz nights. We understand that bottles of champagne and John Lewis Vouchers are liberally handed out to the winners.
The principle of awarding good performance is reflected in RPC’s newly qualified pay, which unlike rival law firms is not set around a publicly disclosed fixed-rate, instead being “merit-based”. As you would expect, this elicits the odd grumble, with some junior lawyers suggesting that it can allow the firm to pay average salaries that are towards the lower end of the City newly qualified solicitor payscale. Still, with profit per equity partner standing at £334,000 – down 8% despite a 2% rises in revenue this year to £103 million – RPC is one of the more generous firms when it comes to the ration between junior and senior lawyer pay. And the firm’s consistently good scores in the Legal Cheek Survey suggest that rookies are pretty happy with the deal.