The Legal Cheek View

Following their latest bumper financial results, Simmons & Simmons has maintained a decent amount of momentum and reported growth for the third year running. Revenues rose 12% to £521 million in 2023, compared to a 6% jump last year, while profit per equity partner remained stable around the million-pound mark. NQ salaries have also recently been increased to £107,500 (previously £105,000), and £72,000 in the firm’s Bristol office.

The firm also saw growth in other areas including its healthcare and life science practice which has been buoyed by its advisory work with developers of Covid-19 vaccines, advising over 80% of the largest 50 global asset managers and a strong performance from its NewLaw business, Solutions. On the other side of the coin. There has been an element of consolidation too, with firm opting to shutter its Doha office after twenty years.

The junior end of the firm seems like a reasonably happy ship, as one rookie explains: “Trainees are a close group, especially within cohorts. We regularly meet up in the Gallery for lunch to catch up. Everyone is friendly and I often find myself having long (non-work-related) chats with trainees.”

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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: “My supervisors have been supportive and have helped me to get involved in areas where I show a particular interest.” Trainees are also rarely left feeling like an outsider to a project, with associates and supervisors having a good reputation for “stopping to explain the logic behind the work you’re doing for them”. Indeed, despite being just months into their training contract, another junior reveals they have already “been exposed to a lot of client contact”.

Another trainee shares their account: “In some departments the work is genuinely really engaging and intellectually challenging, while in other departments it’s more at the dull/ document and project management/ constant redlines end of the scale.”

There is “truly excellent work — just sometimes quite a lot of it!” 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. Although weekday plans seem to be off the cards, weekends and annual leave are well-respected with one junior lawyer recalling that “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, while 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.”

Following a successful move to working from home during the pandemic, trainees need only now go into the office three days-a-week with the firm remaining “super supportive and keen on flexibility”. Insiders 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”.

There is also some positivity when it comes to the firm’s perks. The crowd favourite is clearly the Deliveroo allowance of £50 for those working past 7.30 which puts it at the top end of the scale. The firm has also introduced a wellbeing fund of £300 which can be used on products or activities that support mental wellbeing in some way. Rookies tell us they have been spending their £300 on a range of things from sports gear, gym membership and wellness retreats to music or creative writing lessons. The free coffee machine is also popular as it apparently has “actually good coffee” — a vote of confidence that is not to be underrated from a famously fussy profession when it comes to coffee.

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.  On the client front, recent destinations include NatWest, UBS and the firm’s legal engineering start-up Wavelength. Although such acquisitions make for impressive reading, insiders claim 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”. The office appears to be in a period of transition with the firm “shifting to open plan/hot desking” that has received mixed reviews. One spy reports: “The offices are nice where they’ve been upgraded to the new, airy open plan. Some of the floors are still the old cubicle office-style but are due to be upgraded throughout this year”. 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.

The firm recently boosted its ESG credentials with the announcement of near-term targets to reduce global carbon emissions before the end of the decade. These included switching to renewable electricity, tackling emissions from employee commuting and cutting down business travel.

Deadlines

Dublin Training Contract 2024

To commence September 2024
Applications open 15/09/2023
Applications close 31/12/2023

Summer Vacation Scheme 2024 (London)

1 -12 July 2024
Applications open 02/10/2023
Applications close 31/12/2023

Spring Insight Scheme 2024 (London)

3 - 4 April 2024
Applications open 01/12/2023
Applications close 31/01/2024

Summer Vacation Scheme 2024 (Bristol)

17 - 28 June 2024
Applications open 02/10/2023
Applications close 15/02/2024

Evolve Placement Year (London)

To commence September 2024
Applications open 02/10/2023
Applications close 15/02/2024

Summer Internship 2024 (Dublin)

17 - 28 June 2024
Applications open 02/10/2023
Applications close 15/02/2024

Solicitor Apprenticeship (London, Bristol)

To commence September 2024
Applications open 15/10/2024
Applications close 15/02/2024

Insider Scorecard

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

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

Money

First year trainee salary £52,000
Second year trainee salary £57,000
Newly qualified salary £107,500
Profit per equity partner £1,000,000
PGDL grant £10,000
SQE grant £15,000

The above figures are for London. Trainees in Bristol get £46,000 in their first year and £48,000 in the second, and NQs receive a pay of £72,000. First year salary for trainees in Dublin is €47,500, rising to €50,000 in their second year. In Bristol the GDL grant stands at £7,500, whilst the SQE grant is £10,000.

Hours

Average start work time 09:01
Average finish time 20:30
Annual target hours 1,600
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 9%
Chances of client secondment 5%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 24
Latest trainee retention rate 83%
Offices 21
Countries 17
Minimum A-level requirement BBB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Diversity

UK female associates 57%
UK female partners 29%
UK BME associates 21%
UK BME partners 12%

Universities Current Trainees Attended