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%, with the journey capped last year as profit per equity partner (PEP) surged over the £1 million mark. This year it’s up again, by 4% to £1.25 million, while revenue has reached £162.5 million — an 11% increase on the previous year.
The strong growth follows last year’s “significant strategic investment” by the private equity-focused outfit into, among other things, artificial intelligence, upgrading IT systems and a big push towards remote working.
Symbolic of the new ethos sweeping the corridors of Travers is a recently implemented policy that has done away with its old corporate dress code in favour of tie-less “business casual” clothing (when lawyers are not in meetings with clients or conducting work on client floors). Those corridors are looking better than ever, by the way, following a major refurbishment of the firm’s offices on the City-Farringdon borders, a stone’s throw from the famous Smithfield meat market. The refit is a “big improvement”, we’re told, although IT remains a work in progress. An insider reports: “Undergoing a lot of upgrades at the moment, so appreciative that its a transition period, but many issues making work difficult. Outlook and Word in particular having difficulties pretty much brings you to a stop, but work phone and logging in from home capabilities are good.”
Another nod to modernisation is Travers’ launch of the #ThatsNotCool safe word initiative to help flag inappropriate language and behaviour — a welcome development in the #MeToo era.
Buoyed by such developments, Travers continues to be a happy place to work — and the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019–20 shows the cheerful mood to very much continue to permeate the lower ranks of the firm.
Recent pay rises — taking trainee remuneration up to over £50k and newly qualified salaries to close to an £85k base rate — may also have played a part in this.
There is apparently a “great, warm atmosphere based on shared knowledge and support (and a sense of humour)” — which is reflected in the firm’s consistently strong scores for partner approachability. The camaraderie regularly extends to the Bishop’s Finger pub on a Friday. A cross-generational set-up that sees rooms shared by one partner, one associate and one trainee helps facilitate good relationships across different levels of seniority. Bonds are further deepened through regular social events, including visits to the Globe to see Shakespeare and ‘decathlon day outs’.
Travers also scores top marks for its training, which is among the best in the City. One trainee describes it like this: “The partners are closely involved in trainee supervision and take a keen interest in our career development. In my first seat I was taken along to client meetings from a couple of weeks in and have also been given some responsibility on the relevant aspect of a small corporate deal, with associate and partner oversight.”
Work-wise, “there are the usual trainee admin tasks”, such as filing, cover letters, document review and bible assembly, “but associates and partners make an effort to pass more interesting tasks our way, even if just for experience.” These include tasks such as negotiating leases/licences, doing the first cut of a sales and purchase agreement or drafting deeds to amend the rules of a pension scheme.
The hours are definitely at the more reasonable end for such a profitable firm, with an average leave time of 7:32pm. Although departments tend to be “very busy”, and we hear that partners “make every effort to ensure trainees don’t have to stay very late”. Still, “there’s been a lot of work and not too much life in the corporate department”. Other departments by most accounts offer a more balanced experience.
As with some other smaller City firms that put an emphasis on quality of training, Travers likes to keep its rookies 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.
Travers’ perks include box tickets at the Albert Hall, “particularly good” French classes and free access to a fridge and cupboard of drinks, crisps and biscuits after 6pm. There is also a £30 Deliveroo allowance for anyone working after 7pm. To boost vitamin levels, a big bowl of fruit is delivered around lunchtime every day to keep the troops healthy. But perhaps the most enjoyable trainee freebie is helping out on graduate recruitment events, which involves “travelling to many different universities, staying in a fancy hotel and enjoying the free food and drink”. We’re told that the highlight is the Law Society boat cruise in Durham, “which consists of chatting to students and socialising in very scenic surroundings”. Looking further ahead, trainees who stick around get to enjoy a six-week paid sabbatical at five years post qualification.