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.
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.” Although another claims its Tower Bridge location “isn’t the best”.
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,” another rookie tells us. Beware, though, that open plan 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.”
The firm’s response to the pandemic seems to have gone down well within its trainee ranks, 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.”
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.
A relatively small London trainee intake of 13 gives the TC experience a personal touch, and this doesn’t seem to have been changed by the addition of three Bristol training contracts a couple of 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 offers up this view: “Even during the pandemic when we are all working from home, everybody has made a consistent effort to arrange daily video calls to go over pieces of work and other bits of training. We constantly have webinars on various topics and are kept up to date with legal developments post-lockdown.”
Traditionally, most of RPC’s trainee secondments are with clients, and that still remains the case, with roughly a third 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 arrival time of around 9am and average leave 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 6”, 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 and weekly classes including Yoga. Pay, however, continues to be on the somewhat low side compared to its market rivals: newly qualified (NQ) solicitors will earn an annual salary of £68,000 in London and £48,000 in Bristol. Upon qualification, solicitors will also be included in a firm-wide bi-annual salary review process.
As for the firm’s finances, revenue is up to £110.1 million, a 1% increase on the previous year, while its profit per equity partner (PEP) figure dropped 2.2% to £424,383 from £433,340. Total profit fell from £32.6 million to £31.7 million.