Big in the Middle East (where it has five 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 and scoring well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
Revenue is up 12% this year to £97 million from £85.6 million, while profit per equity partner has risen marginally to £312,000. Perhaps most interesting of all is the growth in lawyer headcount, which has seen a sharp 22% increase, meaning the firm now has over 400 solicitors. There remain 23 training contract places up for grabs this year.
Trowers’ biggest strength is its culture – and this is evident again in this year’s Legal Cheek Survey. For peer support, there are few better places. 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.” Similarly, the firm is hard to match the firm for partner approachability. The best supervisors “a source of constant support in both work and general life matters” and hierarchies are minimal.
Why Trowers’ lawyers are so nice can be attributed to all sorts of factors, but the excellent work/life balance surely must play a significant part in morale. The firm’s lawyers put in a daily average of less than ten hours, arriving in the office on average at 8:46am and leaving at 6:31pm. 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 is a good work/life balance (for a City law firm)”. Outside the capital and 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 £40,000 to £62,000.
Trowers’ international secondments are another draw for prospective new recruits. Over a third 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 Dubai. 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”.
And finally, perks. Trowers pops up with an A* in a category largely dominated by the magic circle and US firms. 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 some of the best in corporate law. “You will always find someone to have a drink with,” one trainee tells us.