Medium-sized Wedlake Bell rates consistently well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19, with A ratings pretty much across the board. We’re not surprised: the eight trainees recruited every year enjoy “lots of responsibility to project manage and run small matters”, one insider tells us. Nothing like a chance to gain exposure to real lawyering early on.
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. Wanna-be lawyers who aren’t into leases and wills should consider looking elsewhere. Likewise, trainees aren’t 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. Wedlake Bell gets an A* for social life, with one insider telling us that “the social scene is very inclusive and there is something going on every week”. The perks are decent too, although with “room for improvement”.
Wedlake Bell has 66 partners at time of writing, having recently swallowed 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: profit per equity partner was £350,000 in 2015, on turnover of over £31 million. The size is still pretty manageable, so newbies report a “culture of approachability”. 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 pretty new — Wedlake Bell moved into the City only in 2016 — and the open-plan digs make for “a very comfortable and modern place to work”. There isn’t a proper canteen serving hot food, but you can get a limited selection of “high quality” grub.
Lawyers need their brain food when tackling complex matters, and Wedlake Bell does offer decent quality of work. It’s “far more varied than at my previous firm”, one junior practitioner confides – naming no names – and “something new seems to crop up every day”. Trainees say that some of their tasks are “inevitably more routine than complex”, but rate their training highly: “I was invited by the firm soon after qualification to undertake professional exams to improve my technical expertise in the area I qualified into”.
What about work/life balance? If you’re looking beyond the really big firms, you’ve probably twigged that workloads are saner in a place like Wedlake Bell. You’d be right, although remember that this is still a full-service firm, meaning that there’s variation between different departments. Lawyers can almost always bank on being away 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 mates or hobbies for years on end. The trade-off is time versus money – although that calculation isn’t as easy to make for Wedlake Bell as with other firms, since the firm doesn’t disclose its trainee or newly qualified lawyer pay.