Weightmans has undergone a transformation in recent years. It consolidated 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.
Weightmans recently spent a seven-figure-sum redesigning its Liverpool HQ to include new ergonomic furniture, a social hub and innovation space, following on from a significant refurbishment of its Birmingham premises at St Philips Point. These redesigned offices are described as “modern, bright and airy”, and are said to include “new green spaces”. Other firm locations include Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester and, most recently, Newcastle. Across locations, the firm employs more than 1,300 staff.
In fact, Weightmans is doing pretty well. Its most recent financial results have yielded a turnover of £103.4 million and an operating profit of almost £30 million. It’s in the top 45 UK law firms and, in 2021, recruited an impressive 11 new partners including specialists in healthcare and disease.
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, employment, corporate, real estate, marine and transit as well as various options within insurance. 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 over 30 cities across six countries.
Weightmans provides “a comprehensive and fulfilling training scheme”, although “working from home has inevitably had an effect on my training experience”, one trainee explains. Training can also vary from seat to seat as another trainee reports “very good and varied training in my second seat, not so much my first”. The trainee cohort itself is “really friendly”, helped by a week spent together in Liverpool at the beginning of the training contract.
The quality of work “varies from seat to seat but [is] mostly positive”. Examples include “attending conferences and talking to clinicians in healthcare”. Though the reality of being a trainee comes with “some pretty mundane tasks”, there is “no photocopier in sight”.
The firm’s 180-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 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 — meaning Weightmans was able to “seamlessly transition to working from home” during the lockdown. 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 “not only with the more mundane tasks but also in decision making”. 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”. Working from home has, however, created difficulties with reports of “abysmal” case management systems “if your internet isn’t amazing”.
Salary and perks are “probably a bit on the low side compared to similar sized firms”. Limited perks include “discounted gym memberships” and “spot rewards for good performance”. Before Covid, social life was supported with a “‘fridge Friday’ every month which includes free drinks and snacks”. Understandably, social life suffered during lockdown. The firm did, however, give all staff a £500 Covid bonus, £300 for a desk and chair and a laptop and two screens.
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. With major investment into office premises, technology and staff having recently taken place, trainees are sure to feel the benefit.