Travers Smith’s stellar growth over the last decade or so 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 a muted 1% to £197.5 million, whilst PEP remained at £1.1 million, following last year’s stellar 21% increase.
The story behind these numbers is that the firm has undergone a reshuffle in its leadership, with a number of senior lawyers leaving for firms such as White & Case and Dechert. The firm, like many of its rivals, has also faced inflationary rises and macroeconomic changes. Travers has also undergone a change in leadership, with senior partner Kathleen Russ standing down and veteran employment partner Siân Keall stepping up as interim leader ahead of firm vote later this year.
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”. Students looking to join the firm without taking the typical training contract route are also able to start its new solicitor apprenticeship programme beginning in September 2025.
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 2023-24 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 £110,000, 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, with another adding that it “does not feel like a hierarchy”. 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. Central firm-wide training is provided for all newbies upon arrival, which takes you from “tech through to diary etiquette”. This is followed by a good mix of formal seat specific training and on the job training leaving rookies 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.”
And whether these tasks are assisting Marks & Spencer’s with an acquisition in M&A or advising Shazam on database ownership issues in the commerce, IP and tech team, fresh-faced rookies are sure to be dealing with big-named clients at Travers Smith. Names such as Channel 4, Sony and NatWest form the bedrock of Travers’ corporate clientele elsewhere.
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,”’ insiders generally feel that the situation at Travers is “well balanced” with the firm adopting a flexible approach as long as the work gets done: “no-one bats an eye if I relocate to home for the evening work”, one trainee tells us. “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 six-month stint in Travers’ Paris office and, with the launch of a new international secondment programme last year (which saw secondees from Denmark, France, and the US arrive to the firm’s London office), more international opportunities may be on the way soon. A few rookies 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 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”. Trainees, however, will only be able to use this set-up one day a week as the firm’s new agile working policy requires them to be in the office for the other four. With this increasing to two days a week from home at associate level. Meanwhile, in-office tech now includes the all-new TSBot which is designed to assist with more mundane tasks using the same state-of-the-art AI software as ChatGPT.
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.