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 2020-21.
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 has taken 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, 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”. 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 “it is not a contrived approachability like some other office environments I have experienced. It really does feel like a family at Trowers”.
Trainees also report on the high level of responsibility they’re given during their training contract, with trainees running their own files from day one. One insider shares that the work “for the most part has been genuine fee earner work, not admin or dogsbody stuff”. At Trowers trainees 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 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”. The firm’s lawyers put in a daily average of less than ten hours, generally arriving in the office at around 9am and leaving around 6:30pm (when there’s not a pandemic going on). Admittedly, those times are lowered by the firm’s regional offices. London lawyers usually work a bit longer (although they do tend to start later). Apparently, “everywhere but corporate has a good work/life balance (for a City law firm)”.
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 £44,000 to £68,000.
Trowers’ international secondments are another draw for prospective new recruits. Around 20% of trainees do one, 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. 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”.
Moving on to perks. Freebies include free breakfast before 8:30am (a real favourite with the firm’s youngsters), discounts on hotels, gym membership and Eurostar travel, and gratis Haribos. The offices are mostly nice, with the new 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.
On the whole, trainees have been impressed with how Trowers has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some trainees having to start their training contracts at home. Sources tell us that the switch to remote working has been “seamless”. Although, one common gripe is the firm’s tech (or lack thereof) with trainees reporting that the “only downside is that we’re expected to work from home on our own PCs” and that “laptops are sorely needed”. Whilst there’s room to improve in the tech department, Trowers makes up for this with the support it provides to trainees. The firm makes sure to stay in close contact with everyone with “team Whatsapp groups, team catch up calls, trainee catch up calls, virtual trainee socials, virtual office breakfast socials and regular updates from senior management about how the pandemic is affecting the firm”.