The Legal Cheek View
Weightmans has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Before 2022, the firm had been steadily growing and busily consolidating its three offices in the Southeast 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. Then in January 2022, Weightmans announced its merger with the long-established boutique firm RadcliffesLeBrasseur that was finalised just a few months later.
While this merger was being completed, Weightmans proved the effectiveness of this steady transformation, recording a strong set of financial results. The top-50 firm’s net profits grew by 25% to reach £11.3 million while turnover was £103.2 million, up 5% from last year.
Following the merger, the national firm now numbers more than 1400 spread across its nine UK offices. Of these, the firm’s Liverpool HQ is the most recently refurbished, vaunting new ergonomic furniture, a social hub, an innovation space, client suites kitted out with the latest video conferencing tech and even a moss wall! Elsewhere, its Birmingham premises at St Philips Point has also seen a significant refurbishment. Other firm locations include Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, London, Newcastle and Manchester.
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. The RadcliffesLeBrasseur merger further bolsters Weightmans’ already impressive offering in the healthcare and insurance sectors, as well as reaffirming its position as one of the few top national law firms in London offering international private wealth services.
Though a national firm at its core, Weightmans has also built a global network of foreign firms through international networks. These include the invitation-only network of top-tier independent law firms Legalink and Insurance Law Global, which has bases in more than 30 cities across six countries. The firm offers trainees a long list of options including family and private client, employment, corporate, real estate, marine and transit as well as various options within insurance.
Weightmans provides “a comprehensive and fulfilling training scheme”, with trainees praising the supportiveness of the Early Careers team and an innovation training programme designed to increase legal tech skills.
One insider details the process and their experience: “A training plan for each seat is agreed with an emphasis on training targets over hours targets (though this is team dependent to some degree). That training plan is reviewed monthly and weekly check ins (subject to team) are a good way to check in on capacity and training needs. Different teams offer differing levels of responsibility. A claims seat will offer more freedom (especially if you have a background in claims) over other seats. I have completed a diverse range of admin and fee earning tasks. When doing fee earning, feedback is often given and colleagues always have time to talk through a piece of work. I have attended client meetings and court hearings. Colleagues will often give you a task with learning in mind as opposed to business need and capacity. In claims seats, you can run your own files if you feel confident enough.”
The quality of work “varies from seat to seat but [is] mostly positive”. Examples include “attending conferences and talking to clinicians in healthcare” and “running a couple of small claims matters to trial”. Though the reality of being a trainee comes with “some pretty mundane tasks”, there is “no photocopier in sight”.
The firm’s 225-plus partners are said to be “more than willing to call in to explain anything”. This is unsurprising as the firm scores consistently well for partner approachability in the 2022-23 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. According to one trainee, “there is a genuine interest for you to progress and to stay with Weightmans if they can make it happen”. Another trainee comments: “It feels like an equal playing field and trainees are never made to feel any different.”
The work/life balance is apparently “really good”: words not often used in this context. In 2018, the firm introduced agile working across all six of its offices, while rookies also credit supervisors sensibly managing workloads and stressing that there is no expectation to work over hours. Indeed, there are apparently no formal hours targets, although one spy reports that the “claims will often give you something to work towards”. Technology-wise, Weightmans has an in-house innovation team who work on developing new tech and trainees are able to do a seat in this area if they wish.
The firm partnered with Liverpool University and a software company in 2018 to develop an artificial intelligence initiative that can identify arguments for settling cases and speed up decision-making using ‘metadata extraction’. The firm is developing constantly with AI being used to help out. “Software that can bulk process documents are used and the innovation team is producing a bespoke litigation management system to make routine cases easier and more profitable to run”, explains one trainee. Embracing technology has also helped with becoming more environmentally conscious to match the firm’s “drive to comply with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals”.
Salary and perks are “probably a bit on the low side compared to similar sized firms”. Perks are limited to “discounts at various retailers, gyms, health assessments, mobile network providers”. But this does not seem to bother rookies, who value their 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays, social events such as ‘fridge Friday’ and strong camaraderie with their peers more. As one trainee put it: “Law firms with perks tend to strike me as a bit gimmicky and usually using the perk to hide a more deep-seated problem (such as poor work-life balance).”
Not surprisingly, given that Weightmans is a national firm, international secondments are not an option. However, there is a chance of a client secondment with clients including Whitbread, Certas Energy and Manchester Hospital.
With a history stretching all the way back to the nineteenth century, this is a dynamic firm which keeps developing. Following its recent merger capitalising on long-term investment into office premises, technology and staff, it is surely an exciting time to be at Weightmans.