Big in the Middle East (where it has four offices) and expanding in the English regions (specifically in Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter), Trowers & Hamlins is a slightly quirky firm whose twin specialities are, rather contrastingly, local government work and international M&A. It’s a mix that seems to be working, with London-headquartered Trowers scoring solidly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23.
Following a shake-up in management last year, the firm’s revenues have rocketed 12.6% to £126 million while profit per equity partner hit record highs of £412,800, up 19.5%. There’s also been a recent round of salary increases (to £80,000 for London NQs and to £60,000 for their regional counterparts) adding to the positive picture of healthy growth and investment at the firm.
Perhaps Trowers’ biggest strength is its culture. A trainee paints a picture of what it’s like: “Everyone is really approachable and friendly. We all want to do well but there is no feeling of competing against each other. People genuinely want to help each other succeed, which is a great feeling to come into work knowing.” Moving up the food chain, “junior fee-earners are really helpful and impart wisdom”, and this trend continues when the rookies are asked about partner approachability: “Everyone is very approachable. The partners are actually real people! They are very down to earth and are a good laugh.” Though be warned, while partners may be “supernaturally friendly and welcoming”, they are “not always available”, so pick your moment of approach wisely. Regardless, the insiders have praise even for the top level of command: “Senior partner, Sara Bailey can often be seen wandering around the office to check in with people and is more than happy to stop for a chat.”
Trainees also enthuse about the “good level of responsibility” they’re given during their training contract, with trainees running their own files from day one. But that’s not to say they don’t get their fair share of the less glamorous tasks! One rookie details their experiences: “On my second day I was asked to go to a client meeting on a really large project! Work has been complicated, interesting and evolving ― not to say you do not get some administrative tasks (as those do just need to be done) but I would say the legal work far outweighs the administration. We are given real responsibility as well, I am working on several elements of several matters emailing senior associates and partners at other firms and senior figures within clients.”
Of course, the nature of the work will differ between departments and between supervisors ― we are told it can range from being “really meaty and interesting” to “lots of admin work”. And the level of training received by newbies receives the same fate. As one rookie explains, “this varies from department to department, and supervisor to supervisor. Sometimes people don’t make time for you. However, some supervisors have daily check-ins and make sure you have a good amount of work”. But when it’s good, it’s really good: “Much more comprehensive than most other firms and not just on legal knowledge and skills, which is bolstered by a semi-annual lecture by Edwin Peel. Plenty of other training programmes for mindfulness, presentation skills etc,” one insider tells Legal Cheek.
Why most of Trowers’ lawyers are so nice can be attributed to all sorts of factors, but the “unbeatable” work/life balance surely must play a significant part in morale. As one gleeful rookie explains, “there are very few days where I am in the office past 7pm and there is no sense of presenteeism ― if you are done for the day you can just go. I have never felt like I am missing out on life, and everyone at the firm is lots of fun too”. Naturally, the hours can fluctuate between offices and departments. London lawyers usually work a bit longer (although they do tend to start later) than their regional counterparts, while one rookie tells us things have stepped up a gear since moving from real estate into corporate. But when you can sometimes be out the door “even at 5:30pm” ― a time we were starting to think lawyers didn’t know as existing outside the office ― the odd later stint can be easily tolerated.
And it’s not just the shorter hours that the regional rookies extol the virtues of. “The combination of living in Exeter but working for first-rate clients both in London and in the South West on highly stimulating matters cannot be matched,” reports one rookie.
Firm freebies include a breakfast subsidy and Vitality membership. If you’re in London, there are also quarterly trainee-dos paid for by the firm, and free tickets to the Royal Academy of Arts. Overall, trainees are underwhelmed by the relatively small number of perks on offer (especially outside of the City): “I think they could do more to make employees feel valued,” one mole notes.
The offices are mostly “solid”, with the London office reportedly upstaging neighbour Slaughter and May with its glass-fronted split-level reception. However, their Birmingham home “could do with an update”, and opinion seems divided on the Manchester offering ― one rookie describes it as being “quite dated”, but another mentions it is “probably one of the best amongst our competitors”. Either these rookies are on different floors, or the standard is pretty low!
Outside of the office, trainees give mixed reviews on the firm’s shift to WFH during the pandemic and beyond. The main point of criticism concerned the apparent “pitiful” delay in receiving much-needed home working kit. “It took a long time and a lot of lobbying for budgets for keyboard, mouse, printing credits and seats to be available,” one source claims. “We only received laptops after Covid,” another adds. But after a slow start, remote working support is “dramatically improving”, and the trainees seem much happier with the current state of play. “Very good approach to working from home,” one spy summarises.
The firm tech (or lack thereof) doesn’t seem to fare much better in terms of reviews, with one spy branding it “shocking” and another more vehemently reporting it as “POOOORRRRR!!!!” (no emphasis added). To explain the situation, this rookie provides an example: “Intranet can only be accessed on a version of Internet Explorer from the Windows XP era. Cannot open Zoom or Teams within the virtual workspace.” But perhaps this spy puts it best: “They need a reboot in this department.”
However, Trowers’ international offices may have better tech, and luckily for any frustrated rookies, there are plenty of secondment opportunities (or at least there were without Covid, so let’s hope these pick back up). About 20% of trainees do one during normal times, with all given the option to spend time abroad if they wish. In almost all cases the destinations are either Abu Dhabi, Bahrain or Oman, although some have taken place remotely this year in light of the pandemic. Apparently, the experience is highly recommended, with trainees receiving “a large amount of seminars, tutorial training sessions, one-on-one training” and being “given a great deal of genuine responsibility”, including “managing our own caseloads and good client contact”. Another Dubai-based rookie explains how it’s “a fantastic way to experience the firm’s culture from across the globe, as I feel like I could be sat in the London office until I look out the window and see the Burj Khalifa!”