After a lousy 2016, which saw lawyer redundancies and far too many newly qualified departures, Simmons & Simmons has bounced back with some decent financial results, a respectable trainee retention rate (albeit mired in some controversy) and a solid performance in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
Profit per equity partner (PEP) and revenue are both on the rise again; the former rebounding by 9% to £635,000 after dropping 10% the previous financial year, and the latter rising 7% to £316.1 million. Employment, international litigation and UK corporate have apparently had a good year, although some of the boost has come from the weaker pound helping income from Simmons’ 20 overseas offices go a bit further than usual.
Perhaps more importantly, trainee attrition seems to have stabilised after the back-to-back 2016 retention rate horror shows that saw the firm keep on, respectively, just 50% and 54% of its trainees. This year Simmons has retained 80% of its trainees, however there have been suggestions that some of these may have been on fixed term contracts. Watch this space for the next Simmons retention rate, which will be significant.
What is undisputed, though, is that morale at the junior end of the firm is better than last year, where an “incredibly supportive and kind” next generation of lawyers are sticking together. There’s been an improvement too in the vibe of the partners, who one insider describes as “some of the worst and best people I’ve met, mainly best”. Doubtless that improved PEP has improved their mood.
The training remains very good. “I’ve had a lot of responsibility and feel like my training has been incredibly comprehensive throughout,” one rookie reports. And the work is also decent. One trainee sums it up like this: “Honestly a really good standard of work. Lots of “cutting edge” *groan* research, drafting, running calls, corresponding with counsel. Senior people seek your input and involve you in meetings. Good stuff, no complaints.” But hours can vary wildly. “At times, it’s past midnight every night for months. At times, it’s 6pm most nights for months,” we are told.
Despite the recent newly qualified pay rise to £71,000, there remain gripes about pay, which some see as “not comparable to the firms it competes with”. There’s also considerable frustration about a perceived lack of perks. This extends to unhappiness about lack of international secondment opportunities – only around 12% of trainees do one despite Simmons’ extensive overseas office network. One trainee tells us: “The international secondments are a joke. Only a couple are offered each seat for 70-80-odd trainees. Advertising international secondments as part of the graduate recruitment process is misleading, especially when they appear to be so widely offered (or even mandatory) elsewhere. Sad.”
Happily, the London office, right in the heart of the action in Moorgate, is a pretty nice place to be. “Impressive art works and a new cafeteria make it rather nice actually,” a rookie reports, while an ongoing refurb should improve things further. “If you like glass monolithic structures, you’re in luck”.