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. After an uncharacteristic slump last year due in part to the pandemic, the firm’s financials are back on track, with PEP soaring by 21% to £1.22 million and revenue rising by 15.4% to £185.7 million.
Nestled among the streets of Farringdon and just a stone’s throw from the famous Smithfield meat market, the firm’s City HQ continues to impress thanks to a major overhaul in 2018. Trendy artwork, break-out spaces and an expanded café area are among the features trumpeted by our spies. 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. 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 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 2021-22 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 £100,000, respectively — may also have played a part in this. And unlike several of its City rivals, Travers opted against cutting rookie remuneration in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
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. 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 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: “There are department specific and firm-wide training sessions that are all on relevant and (mostly) engaging topics. The training is slightly less ‘fun’ online but the sessions are still good because they are often led by internal team members rather than a carousel of external training providers.”
Speaking of work, “all trainees have their fair share of slightly mundane trainee tasks,” one rookie explains, “but I’ve also had the opportunity to work 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 definitely 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 points to the firm’s “no face-time culture” and how working late only occurs “when absolutely necessary”.
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. 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”. This will surely be of help now that the firm is letting its lawyers and staff work remotely for up to 50% per fortnight, with 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. 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.