Weightmans has undergone a transformation in recent years. 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.
Splashing the cash, Weightmans recently spent a seven-figure-sum redesigning its Liverpool HQ which followed a significant refurbishment of its Birmingham premises at St Philips Point. It also has offices in Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester and, most recently, Newcastle, and employs more than 1,300 staff.
In fact, Weightmans is doing pretty well. Its most recent financial results show turnover edging towards £100 million and an operating profit of almost £30 million. It’s in the top 45 UK law firms and, in 2018, 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” — although we hear this can vary from department to department. “I’ve sat in three different departments”, one rookie explains, “and got three very different attitudes, approaches and expectations.”
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 are 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 consistently well for partner approachability in the 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 apparently “brilliant”: an adjective not often used in this context. In 2018, the firm introduced ‘agile working’ across all six of its offices — a move which no doubt aided the transition to home-working during the lockdown. Technology-wise, Weightmans is “using AI [artificial intelligence] for projects, has good systems and a good 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 in 2018 to develop an artificial intelligence initiative that can identify arguments for settling cases and speed up decision-making, apparently, using ‘metadata extraction’.
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 good 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. With major investment into office premises, technology and staff having recently taken place, trainees should increasingly feel the benefit.