The Legal Cheek View
Travers Smith’s stellar growth over the last decade has been one of corporate law’s success stories. In this period the firm’s revenue and profits have jumped by around 50%, while profit per equity partner (PEP) has surged to over the £1 million mark. In its most recently available financial results, revenues neared the £200 million threshold, rising 5% to £195.2 million, whilst PEP dipped 8% following last year’s 21% rise.
Nestled among the streets of Farringdon and just a stone’s throw from the famous Smithfield meat market, the firm’s City HQ features trendy artwork, break-out spaces and a sizeable café area. This, coupled with its tie-less “business casual” clothing policy (when lawyers are not meeting with clients, of course), brings an air of relaxed professionalism to the corridors of Travers. However, it’s apparently getting a bit cramped and will only get more so with Travers recently upping its annual trainee intake from 30 to 40. One spy tells us it is “time for an upgrade”.
Fortunately, the firm is planning to move its headquarters in 2025, taking the top nine floors of a 13-storey “modern” and “sustainable” office redevelopment close to its current location. The new premises, which has Deloitte and Goldman Sachs for neighbours, will include flexible office space as well as four (yes, four!) roof terraces, and brings together under one roof the firm’s London staff who are currently spread across two offices.
Travers continues to be a happy place to work — and the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 shows that the cheerful mood continues to permeate the lower ranks of the firm. “It’s a really happy environment and some fellow trainees are now some of my closest friends,” remarks one survey respondent. Recent pay rises — taking base rates for trainees and newly qualified lawyers to £50,000, £55,000 and £105,000, respectively — may also have played a part in this.
The “friendly” senior lawyers who are said to be always on hand to answer questions, coupled with the regular catch-ups with supervisors, go some way to explaining the firm’s consistently high scores for partner approachability. The partners are greatly appreciated by trainees we spoke to: “I’ve had partners sit on one-on-one calls with me for a couple of hours just to take me through things and make sure I understand them. People are friendly and supportive and want to help trainees both in work contexts and in a more general pastoral type role.”
Another says: “Everyone I have worked with from Partners down through to junior associates is very invested in making sure you understand the tasks that you are given and why they are relevant to a matter. There is a genuine desire to see me improve and open discussions with supervisors about what work I can be given to challenge myself and push myself to become a better lawyer.”
This is further supported by the firm’s cross-generational set-up that sees rooms shared by one partner, one associate and one trainee, with “real effort” to recreate the system when working from home. “This really helps you develop a good relationship with your superiors,” one source explains. Bonds are further deepened through regular social events, including visits to the Globe to see Shakespeare, ‘decathlon day outs’ and drinks at the Bishops Finger most Thursdays.
Unsurprisingly, given all this, Travers also scores top marks for its training, which is among the best in the City. It provides a good mix of formal seat specific training and on the job training leaving newbies feeling “well supported” but also with a sense that their supervisors trust them and listen when they want to take on more responsibility.
Speaking of work, whilst all trainees have “a broad diet of tasks”, there is “a conscious effort to give good quality work to trainees”. One rookie shares: “my supervisors have always happily discussed with me what other types of work I want to experience in a department so that they can channel it my way if it comes up.” The highlights, insiders tell us, are “working directly with partners, drafting agreements and running my own small-scale transactions.” Another has this to say: “The work is highly varied and stimulating — you are challenged on a daily basis. Certain departments offer more responsibility to trainees than others but generally, a lot of trust is put into trainees to undertake complex, challenging and valuable tasks.”
The hours are at the more reasonable end for such a profitable firm, with an average finish time of around 7:30pm. Although “the hours can be long” and “very much depend on the department […] the advisory departments can have fairly civilised hours whereas corporate and disputes can be tough, hours-wise”. Another source explains: “The nature of e.g. corporate work is that you’ll have some late nights but they try to avoid them where they can and I’ve never felt that trainees are asked to hang around unnecessarily. Some departments have a good policy on days-in-lieu if you’ve had a rough time (other departments could be better in that regard).”
As with some other smaller City firms that put an emphasis on quality of training, Travers likes to keep its newbies close during their TCs. It tends to reserve secondments for associates, who regularly spend time with its ‘best friend’ law firms in other countries and UK and international clients. But each year a handful of trainees do a stint in Travers’ Paris office, while a few also spend time with major clients, such as Hermes Investment Management and private equity firm Apax.
The IT at Travers apparently underwent a major overhaul in 2019 which enabled a smooth transition to remote-working when the pandemic hit and continues to make WFH a dream. Every member of staff is supplied with screens, a keyboard, headset and mouse, we’re told, but the firm draws the line at expensing furniture like office desks or chairs. One insider describes the firm’s IT support as “outstanding”, while another tells us they’re “always contactable and great at getting things fixed”. Current firm policy is a minimum of two days in the office each week.
Travers’ perks include access to a private box at the Royal Albert Hall, an “incredible” in-house physio, free music lessons, late night taxis and a £30 Deliveroo allowance for anyone working after 7pm, though not if you’re working from home. This is also a great firm for foodies, offering free breakfast and lunch from the canteen which has “high quality food and nice coffees” until 3pm and free dinner if you work past 7pm. Intriguingly, one spy also reveals that trainees are presented with a briefcase at their first firm Christmas party. Looking further ahead, rookies who stick around get to enjoy a six-week paid sabbatical at five years post qualification.