There’s a positive air around the corridors of Simmons & Simmons following bumper financial results. Revenues shot up 12% to £437 million, while profit per equity partner neared the million mark, growing by 30% to £980,000. NQ salaries have also recently been increased to £100,000 (previously £88,000), and £68,000 in the firm’s Bristol office.
With trainee retention rates bouncing back from a difficult patch a few years ago, the junior end of the firm seems like a reasonably happy ship again. As one rookie explains: “Our cohort are a really tight, close-knit group of people. We got to know each other properly during the LPC as we were put into classes together and often had catch-ups through the Simmons bespoke Compass Training Module.”
At partner level the vibe is a bit more formal but similarly friendly. “The firm doesn’t like to be known as ‘nice’, but it really is,” one junior admits. Be warned though that even the most human of partners can lose their approachability when “under the cosh to get something done” and, as another insider reminds us, “there is still a hierarchy in place”.
The training on the whole remains very good but can vary from department to department, trainees tell us. One rookie reports: “We get excellent supervision and support from those in our team. The culture is collaborative and we’re encouraged to ask questions and learn from our mistakes.” Despite being just months into their TC, another junior reveals they have already “been exposed to a lot of client contact”.
Another trainee shares their account: “A lot of admin work and the teams are so overworked that they have little time to provide guidance or share knowledge. Get a fair amount of drafting if you put yourself forward. Good client contact in some seats.”
There is “truly excellent work — just sometimes quite a lot of it!”. One trainee sums it up like this: “I find we are given a good amount of responsibility and I have, as a whole, been given stimulating work. Obviously there’s an occasional bundle but we have great paralegal support so there’s not too much of that.” But hours can vary considerably, according to insiders. “Being in a busy department means that there is always more work to be getting on with and this often means finishing off a day’s work after a break for dinner. Despite the busy week, everyone generally understands that weekends should be kept free from work if possible. My supervisor has also definitely helped me manage my workload so I don’t have to work on the weekend,” a Simmons spy tells us. “In two years, I’ve only had to work two weekends, which is pretty great compared to stories of other firms.”
Reports from the front line suggest an average day in a busy period is a nine til nine affair and in a quiet period is nine til seven, whilst others stress the importance of personal time management: “If you put in a shift Monday to Wednesday and don’t try to make evening plans, on Thursday you can probably leave at a reasonable time and on Friday I’ve even been told to leave as soon as it went past six.”
It appeared to be business as usual during lockdown, with one insider describing the transition from office life to home-working like this: “Everyone was well-informed and communication was at the forefront. There was an awful lot of importance placed towards mental wellbeing especially during the lockdown period. Everyone’s individual working capabilities (whether you have children to look after at home) were taken into account and we worked around it through flexible working hours.” Another told Legal Cheek that “the firm has a great set-up where they sent us external monitors, headsets and office chairs for working from home”. Enamoured with the remote working lifestyle, the firm has announced plans to introduce a hybrid working scheme in September 2021, allowing employees to work from home for two or three days a week.
There is some positivity when it comes to the firm’s perks. Gym subsidy, free cabs home and Deliveroo after 9pm have been well-received by the junior ranks. However, whispers suggest there have been “a lot of cutbacks” in recent years and there were apparently “minimal perks” whilst working from home.
International secondments are available in Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris and Dublin, while client secondment rates have remained stable over recent years, with around 15% of trainees getting to experience one. Recent destinations include Natwest, UBS and the firm’s recently acquired legal engineering start-up Wavelength. Although such acquisitions make for impressive reading, insiders confess that “partners are too scared to use it”.
Simmons’ HQ is located right in the heart of the action in Moorgate and a fancy refurb continues to impress. “The London office has some great parts (5th floor views, client reception)”, one insider tells us, while another praises the cool artwork adorning its walls which “creates a really nice feel”. Others, however, think the office “seems a bit dated” and, despite the refurbishment, “needs updating”. In Bristol, meanwhile, the firm relocated to the Aurora in 2019, which is rated highly by trainees and has a rooftop garden.