Liverpool-headquartered Weightmans is a firm on the move. In the past year, it consolidated three offices in the South East and two in Manchester into two state-of-the art premises — one in London’s Square Mile and one in Manchester’s ultra-swish Spinningfields financial district. No doubt all those removal vans, cardboard boxes and sticky tape cost a small fortune. However, the firm had enough left to completely refurbish its Birmingham office at St Philips Point. It also has offices in Glasgow, Leeds and Leicester, and employs more than 1,300 staff. In fact, Weightmans is doing pretty well. It achieved its biggest ever turnover last year, and its managing partner has publicly stated the firm “is in the strongest position we have ever been in”. It’s in the top 45 UK law firms and, last year, recruited an impressive 13 new partners including specialists in sports law and aviation.
Traditionally, Weightmans has been known as an insurance firm, doing mainly litigation work. It has carved out a formidable reputation in this field and covers the whole gamut from defending NHS Trusts against clinical negligence claims such as complex brain injury litigation to advising corporates on their insurance needs. There’s more to the firm than insurance, of course. It offers trainees a long list of options including family and private client, fraud, employment, corporate, real estate, marine and transit, disease and construction as well as commercial insurance, insurance litigation and speciality insurance.
Weightmans provides “great training, both on soft skills and legal matters”, and has a high retention rate. Trainees will attend court and client meetings. The quality of work “varies — some work like proof reading etc, but a lot of client contact and a lot of hands-on work being able to undertake drafting”. Another trainee comments: “With the exception of one, very short seat, I have been interested in the work I am doing.”
The majority of the partners are “very approachable and always helpful” although “there a couple who refuse to even acknowledge your existence!” Whoever among the firm’s 180-plus partners this unsociable duo is, they haven’t spoiled the atmosphere for the rest of the office — the firm scores an A for partner approachability in the 2018-19 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. According to one trainee, “the benefit of sitting in an open plan and agile office is that you spend all day sitting with associates and partners. This makes everyone feel a lot more approachable.” Another trainee comments: “Varies but mainly they are great, I can speak to them about anything and they’re always happy to listen and help.”
The work/life balance is “brilliant”: an adjective not often used in this context. Last year, the firm introduced ‘agile working’ across all six of its offices — staff now have the option of working remotely during the week. Technology-wise, Weightmans is “using AI [artificial technology] for projects, really good, and good systems and IT team”. AI is a hot topic in the legal world right now, and the firm has been quick to jump on board. It partnered with Liverpool University and a software company earlier this year to develop an artificial intelligence initiative that will identify arguments for settling cases and speed up decision-making, apparently, using ‘metadata extraction’. The new technology has already undergone initial tests in the firm’s insurance practice and will be ready to help lawyers and clients in the autumn.
Salary and perks are “average”. The social life “was very good at one time but has gone downhill”, apparently, although the “team enjoy working together” and there are “various events organised”.
Not surprisingly, given that Weightmans is a national firm, international secondment is not available. However, there is a 46% chance of a client secondment. The length of time can vary, from two weeks with a healthcare client to “Metropolitan Police, Department for Legal Services. It is likely to be at least nine months.” Other stints with clients lasted three months and three two-week periods.
With a history stretching all the way back to the nineteenth century, this is a dynamic firm which has not rested on its laurels. The range of work is good with a strong bias towards insurance. It appears to be in a strong place and on an upwards trajectory. With major investment into office premises, technology and staff having recently taken place, trainees should increasingly feel the benefit.