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 performing respectably financially over recent years and scoring solidly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22.
In 2018 the firm’s revenue stood at just under £100 million while profit per equity partner was just over £300,000. However, like most firms, Trowers took a financial hit during the Covid-19 affected financial year of 2019-2020 which saw profit per equity partner drop by 12% while revenue rose by just 1%. Perhaps most interesting of all has been the growth in lawyer headcount, which has seen a sharp 22% increase over the past year or so, meaning the firm now has over 400 solicitors.
Trowers’ biggest strength is its culture. A trainee paints a picture of what it’s like: “Everyone is extremely helpful and offers to help out whenever they have capacity. Everyone on my floor checks in with each other before leaving to lend a hand so no one is in too late.” The best supervisors are “a source of constant support in both work and general life matters”. Bonds are further strengthened with a well-used trainee “WhatsApp group where we can call on each other for support”. But beware, though, of a few “no-goes” — especially in some of the transactional departments, which seem “to have a completely different culture altogether”.
Trainees are particularly pleased with the partner approachability and the lack of hierarchy, with one insider telling us that “partners are genuinely interested in what you’re getting involved with, and mid-level colleagues are on hand to help explain things”. Another insider adds the lack of hierarchy means “when you first arrive at the firm it’s sometimes difficult to know who is a partner and who is a paralegal”, adding that “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 report on the “high levels of responsibility” they’re given during their training contract, with trainees running their own files from day one. One insider explains “some tasks are not as exciting as others but “there is definitely enough of a range that you find yourself being challenged”. At Trowers rookie associates are seen as “the future of the firm so we’re treated as real fee earners from the very start. We’re given real responsibility and client contact from day one.”
Why most of Trowers’ lawyers are so nice can be attributed to all sorts of factors, but the good work/life balance surely must play a significant part in morale. Trainees describe this highlight that “there is no “coats on chairs” policy, if you have finished work for the day you can log off as early as 5.30pm. We are encouraged to take regular breaks, get involved in extracurricular activities and look after our mental health”. 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.
Outside the capital life is really pretty good. “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. Needless to say, pay is significantly higher in London than outside (see below), with the newly qualified solicitor rate across the firm ranging from £47,000 to £72,500.
Trowers’ international secondments are another draw for prospective new recruits. Around 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 a highly recommended addition to the training in London, where trainees receive “a large amount of seminars, tutorial training sessions, one-on-one training” and are “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!”
Moving on to perks. Freebies include free breakfast before 8:30am (a real favourite with the firm’s youngsters), discounts on hotels, gym membership, Apple watches and Eurostar travel, as well as gratis Haribos. The offices are mostly nice, with the Manchester gaff said to rival the London office (which upstages neighbour Slaughter and May with its glass-fronted split-level reception) for style, however Birmingham “could do with an update”. Meanwhile, the social life is apparently pretty buzzy. “You will always find someone to have a drink with,” one trainee tells us.
Trainees offer mixed reviews on how Trowers adapted to the pandemic, with many lamenting the apparent delay in receiving much-need 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 (over four months after the start of the pandemic)”, one source claims. “Laptops have only recently been distributed, over a year after.” But another adds that after slow start, remote working support is “dramatically improving”.
The firm tech (or lack thereof) doesn’t seem to fair much better in terms of reviews, with one spy branding it “embarrassing at best”. Another describes it in slightly more kinder terms as “behind the curve, but improving”. A further source says trainees have “recently been given training on and started working on High Q and Docusign, but I feel like this lags far behind other firms.”