The Legal Cheek View
Medium-sized Wedlake Bell has rated consistently well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey over the years. The eight or so trainees recruited this year rate the firm’s training very highly. Rookies enjoy “lots of responsibility to project manage and run small matters” and are able gain exposure to real ‘lawyering’ early on.
Admin work at trainee level, however, is inescapable and the quality of work at Wedlake Bell does seem to vary across its departments. One trainee reports: “In my current seat, I am dealing with a lot of administrative tasks so it’s not the most stimulating. However, other seats are known to give more responsibility.”
Like many of London’s smaller commercial outfits, Wedlake Bell has a big real estate division, and also does a lot of private client work. Wannabe lawyers who aren’t into leases and wills should perhaps consider looking elsewhere. Likewise, trainees are probably not going to be doing a seat abroad: the firm isn’t multinational, although it has some links abroad and an international employment law subsidiary called iGlobal Law.
That’s all right: you’ll be too busy painting the City red to worry about overseas excursions. This is where the work-life balance comes into its own: “I appreciate being able to finish at 6pm on most days – definitely a rarity across the City!” While leaving times vary, Wedlakers can almost always bank on finishing by about 7pm. That means being able to plan evening and weekend activities — something trainees don’t appreciate until they’re stuck in the Magic Circle with no plans or hobbies for years on end. The trade-off is time versus money — a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor salary of £70,000 is no match for a Magic Circle NQ.
The social life at Wedlake Bell is positively pumping (for a law firm), with one former trainee telling us that “there seems to be a conscious effort to keep the firm as sociable as possible, despite the office move and slight change in perceived firm culture. Regular drinks events and other activities (eg, choir performance, netball matches, trips) — most people are keen to be involved”. The perks are decent too: plenty of chatter about the freebie bowls of porridge in the morning and soup in the afternoon, a day off on your birthday and “almost everyone has a Surface Pro”. Newbies especially like “breakfast, drinks on terrace”. One says: “The rooftop terrace is the best perk we have.”
Wedlake Bell has around 70 partners at the time of writing, having last summer swallowed up Moon Beever, Stitt & Co and merged with the more sizeable Cumberland & Ellis a few years back. These tie-ups seem to have boosted an operation that struggled for profitability at the turn of the decade: in the most recent accounts, filed with Companies House in early 2022, revenue was £36.6 million for the year ended 31 March 2021, down from £37.5 million in 2020. However, profit was up, at £15.6 million compared to 2020’s £14.8 million. Moreover, despite the expansion, the size is still pretty manageable, so newbies report a “culture of approachability” which “doesn’t feel hierarchical”. The firm itself says there’s “room to be noticed”, which isn’t necessarily the case in firms with dozens or even hundreds of trainees.
The facilities are relatively new — Wedlake Bell moved into the City only in 2016 — and the “client floor is quite sleek. The rest of the office is open plan”. The aforementioned roof terrace on the eighth floor offers “staggering” views of St Pauls and the surroundings. There isn’t a proper canteen serving hot food, but we’re told there are occasional “chef’s table lunches” where an on-site chef whips up a themed lunch. As for working from home, the firm’s policy is that trainees are encouraged to attend the office five days-a-week but are given flexibility to request to work remotely when necessary. On spy summarises in the situation from the inside: “the set up is good, but some departments don’t actually allow trainees to work from home”.