Big in the Middle East (where it has four offices), expanding in the English regions (specifically in Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter) and plans to launch in Singapore, 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 2023-24.
The general feel is one of healthy growth and investment – in addition to its Singapore launch, the firm announced the creation of its India desk earlier this year and has also continued to grow its practice in South West England with strategic hires to its Exeter office. Trowers upped its London NQ salaries to £80,000 last summer, and their regional counterparts also enjoyed a boost to £60,000. The firm’s most recently available financials show a revenues of £126 million and a profit per equity partner figure of £412,800.
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 and 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. A rookie describes the firm’s training programme as “very traditional and structured”, with “regular training sessions”, accompanied by “high-quality hands-on training”. Another 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.” Overall, the verdict seems to be that the quality of the work varies between departments, as in most firms. One trainee summarises: “in smaller teams, I was assigned NQ-level work, while administrative tasks were handled by PAs and paralegals. In larger teams, administrative and repetitive tasks are unavoidable”.
The level of training received by newbies is also team-dependent. 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.
Rookies are also super positive about their peers, describing the trainee cohort as “very supportive”, and praising the firm for “foster[ing] a collaborative environment which pushes us to work together for the benefit of our clients”. The same is said of superiors as well, with trainees noting that approachability of members at all levels is “an area where the firm excels”.
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. Meanwhile, another notes that there is “good support for trainees going on secondment”.
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!
On the WFH front, trainees report that the firm pays for a monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse, although one spy notes that the “virtual desktop and intranet do not function well under load or with any modern video call software”.
The firm tech is said to have “improved a lot in recent years”, although it “could be better”. One spy reports on there being a dedicated innovation and legal technology team, with many colleagues working with them on developing client solutions. While apparently trainees are not very involved with this, one rookie suggests such exposure would be “beneficial for [our] learning”.
Trowers’ international offices may have better tech, and luckily for any frustrated rookies, there are plenty of secondment opportunities. About 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, Dubai or Oman. 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!”