Russell-Cooke

The Legal Cheek View

If you want to work in London, but are not quite sure that becoming a hardened corporate lawyer is your true calling, then Russell-Cooke might be the law firm for you.

Founded in 1880 by William Russell-Cooke (the husband of the famous suffragist known as “Mrs William Russell-Cooke”), the firm’s history is intertwined with a strong sense of social justice. Today, Russell-Cooke’s benevolent culture remains strong. 

The firm is particularly active in supporting the local community around its Putney office, as well as supporting local charities such as Polka Hospital and the Friends of Richmond Park. Further, this summer Russell-Cooke welcomed two interns as part of the 10000 Black Interns initiative for the first time. And if that wasn’t enough, the firm is also said to place “a lot of emphasis on being environmentally conscious”, doing “everything from carbon emissions offsetting to solar panels and beehives”.

Having started out advising the Royal Family and important liberal politicians in the 1890s, Russell-Cooke developed strengths in its property, family and private client practices. Property is the largest money spinner, bringing in 33% of turnover, while dispute resolution (including family work) yields a respectable 28%. Private and corporate clients account for 18% each and litigation makes up the majority of the remaining 42%. The firm’s turnover for year ending 2022 was £39m.

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No need to limit yourself to corporate work here! Of particular noteworthiness is the firm’s rare breadth of work. Today, Russell-Cooke’s clients range from royal families to charities and social businesses. This means as a trainee you can dip your toes into high calibre corporate work (especially in real estate) and do a seat in family law at the firm. As one trainee confirms, Russell-Cooke offers “good quality work” and “exposure to a variety of cases”. Trainees can expect to get involved in drafting wills and powers of attorney for wealthy private clients and helping to represent survivors of the Grenfell Tower catastrophe, all within the space of one TC.

“Obviously there are the usual trainee tasks like calling the court etc but also really substantial tasks such as having meetings with clients and witnesses by myself to take details and draft a witness statement which has been invaluable experience,” says one trainee we spoke to. The small team sizes also mean that newbies can take on “true responsibility” and “get involved in real work”. “Staff take the time to invest in you and you get extremely good quality of work and excellent contact with clients,” details one insider. 

The firm offers a four-seat training contract to around 16 trainees with a starting salary of £43,500 that rises to £46,000 in the second year. Although perhaps a marginally lower rate than their London counterparts, there is consensus among trainees that the work/life balance makes for an excellent trade-off.

One trainee described the work/life balance as “really good — possibly even better than I thought! […] I have been asked on a number of occasions why I am still in the office/working if I am still there at 7pm. Though one trainee acknowledges “as with all law firms, sometimes you have to work early/late”, weekends are almost always free and busy periods tend to come in “short bursts”. 

As for working from home, the firm requires trainees to go into the office four-days-a-week while running a three-day policy for everyone else. This “sometimes means you have to come in on an emptier day when there doesn’t feel like there is much point”, but generally works out pretty well. The offices could also be more impressive with a few gripes about the “scruffy” Putney office being too far from central London. The Holborn office gets slightly better reviews: “nice but very cramped”.

The training is said to be “high quality” with the perfect recipe of “personalised feedback”, “regular one to one sessions”, a “good level of supervision” and “meaningful work”. On top of this, friendly home-grown partners, who can readily recall their days in the firm’s junior ranks, create “a really nice vibe” in the office. Russell-Cooke has a reputation for decent partner promotion rates and the small trainee intake means that your odds of making it to the top are pretty good.

With a merry sense of familial camaraderie, it is perhaps unsurprising that trainees praise partners for being “very approachable and easy to talk to” and say that there is “no real enforced hierarchy”. Despite the fact that trainees are split between the firm’s Putney, Holborn and Kingston offices, trainee cohorts are very close-knit, enjoying “lots of socials” together. “The small trainee intake means we all know each other really well and socialise and there’s little competition as there are more qualifying seats than there are trainees” shares one jolly junior.

But don’t expect tons of little perks other than a “limited” budget for trainee events. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for most: “The firm makes it clear the perks are the culture and work/life balance and the sacrifice of that is no flashy gym membership but it’s a pretty good sacrifice when you look at our hours”. One area where trainees are hoping for improvement is the tech. The IT is “basic”, “outdated” and “often crashes”, though fortunately the IT department is “amazing and super helpful”. There is however word that the firm is “getting an update soon”.

All in all, Russell-Cooke has done well in welcoming newbies into its strong and unusually communal culture that has prevailed over its 140-odd year existence.

Deadlines

Spring Vacation Scheme 2023

17 - 21 April, 24 - 28 April 2023
Applications close 17/02/2023

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A
Quality of work
A
Peer support
A*
Partner approach-ability
A*
Work/life balance
D
Legal tech
D
Perks
D
Office
D
WFH
B
Eco-friendliness

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £43,500
Second year trainee salary £46,000
Newly qualified salary Undisclosed
Profit per equity partner Undisclosed
GDL grant No grant
LPC grant £10,000

NQ salaries vary depending upon region.

Hours

Average start work time 09:11
Average finish time 18:14
Annual target hours 1,200
Annual leave 25

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. First year trainees receive 22 days leave, rising to 23 days in their second year. Trainees have an annual target of 850 hours which increases to 1200 by the end of their training contract.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 6%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. Please note that due to COVID-19 secondment probabilities are lower than in usual years.

General Info

Training contracts 16
Latest trainee retention rate 100%
Offices 3
Countries 1
Minimum A-level requirement AAB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Diversity

UK female associates 76%
UK female partners 37%
UK BME associates 11%
UK BME partners 3%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words