There’s an air of restrained positivity around the corridors of Simmons & Simmons as it continues to adjust to life post-pandemic. Profit for the year up to the end of April 2020 rose by 6% year-on-year to £126 million, while profit equity partner climbed by 7% to £756,000. Revenue is also up 4% to £390 million.
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 puts it: “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 insider admits. Be warned though that even the most human of partners can lose their approachability when “under the cosh to get something done”.
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”.
And the work is also decent. 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. “I have sat in some of the busiest seats which means I have often spent my evenings in the office,” a Simmons spy tell us. “In two years, I’ve only had to work two weekends, which is pretty great compared to stories of other firms.”
Another report from the front line describes an average day in a busy period as nine til nine and in a quiet period nine til seven, with a further report suggesting that time in the office decreases as the week goes on: “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.”
Despite the £79,000 NQ salary, there remain gripes about remuneration, which some see as “not comparable to the firms it competes with”. NQ pay in Simmons Bristol office, meanwhile, sits at a respectable £52,000.
There does however seem to be slightly more 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, although whispers suggest there have been “a lot of cut backs” in recent years.
International secondments are available in Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris and Dublin – although some we understand were cancelled due to COVID-19 – while client secondment rates have remained stable over recent years, with around 15% of trainees getting to experience one. Recent destinations include RBS, Goldman Sachs and Schroders.
Meanwhile, back at Simmons HQ, located right in the heart of the action in Moorgate, a fancy refurb continues to impress. “The London office has some great parts (5th floor views, client reception),” one insider tell us, while another praises the cool artwork adorning its walls which “creates a really nice feel”. In Bristol, meanwhile, the firm relocated to the Aurora in 2019, which is described as “great” by one trainee on account of its rooftop garden.
The firm’s tech know-how received a well needed shot in the arm last summer through the acquisition of legal engineering start-up Wavelength. This, coupled with Simmons’ dedicated document management team, has gone down well trainees. Although the laptops could do with an upgrade, according to one source.