Following last year’s bumper financial results, Simmons & Simmons has maintained a decent amount of momentum. Revenues rose 6% to £465 million, compared to a 12% jump last year, while profit per equity partner broke the million-pound mark for the first time. NQ salaries have also recently been increased to £105,000 (previously £88,000), and £69,000 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: “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.”
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. There may also be a chance in the future of visiting Simmons’s new Silicon Valley office that opened in March. 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”. 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.