April 17, 2024

EXCLUSIVE Management of law firms ranked: from amazing to worrying

EXCLUSIVE Management of law firms ranked: from amazing to worrying

best boss

“And I knew exactly what to do. But in a much more real sense, I had no idea what to do.”

Management can transform a dumpster fire into a phoenix, make a good firm great, or it can hold a steady course. Or it can crash everything into a wall. 

Leaders had a challenging time over the pandemic, and now they’re staring down the barrel of flexible working expectations, increasingly vocal junior lawyers, and an imminent recession. RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 reveals which firms are being led by strategic titans, and which are keeping their rabble in the dark.

law firm management 2023

1st Burges Salmon

The Best Law Firm to Work At 2023 has snagged law’s Best Director Oscar.

The managing and senior partners “are genuinely sound and seem to care about their minions. I feel looked after and in capable hands”, said a junior solicitor. Others said the management was “very open and friendly”, and that “you can say hi to senior management in the corridor and not only will they say hi back but they will be happy to stop and have a chat”.

According to a partner, “They demonstrate that it is possible to run a profitable business and have a decent set of values. Incredibly refreshing after spending years in City firms with so much drama and politics”.

2nd Osborne Clarke

OC’s management “has been top notch for many years, but was fantastic through the whole pandemic roller coaster”, said a senior lawyer. 

Outgoing MP Ray Berg garnered a huge amount of praise. He “is incredible and the new managing partner has some big shoes to fill” was the general sentiment.

“He was the Barack Obama of law firm management, both in terms of coolness – I can’t imagine there are any other managing / senior partners that wear leather jackets, ankle bracelets, and party in Ibiza – and vision”, said one senior solicitor.

Management as a whole at OC “is incredibly transparent and inclusive. I think the level of detail shared by management with the whole firm is probably more comprehensive than the level shared by some firms within their non-equity partnership ranks”, said a senior solicitor.

Joint 3rd Clarke Willmott and Mills & Reeve

CW’s management was also “open and transparent”, said staff, who pointed to the results: “they must be doing something right given the growth in recent years”.

At M&R, “I really trust that the senior management at the firm care about us all keeping our jobs, having a good experience and doing good work”, said a junior solicitor. 

In a comment representative of many others at Mills & Reeve, a senior lawyer said the managing partners “come across as very personable”.

5th Trowers & Hamlins

Unlike a recent Tory chancellor, management “is cautious but commercial”, and unlike recent Tory PMs, its installation of successive female leaders has been well received: “it’s a very diverse, caring and collaborative environment” said one partner.

Joint 6th Bird & Bird and Sidley Austin

2Birds “seems like a well oiled ship”, said a junior lawyer. “Management are lovely and approachable people even as a trainee”, said a trainee. In summary, said a colleague: “Pretty good, fairly responsive, can’t detect any arseholes, not resistant to change, also not doing anything particular different, although I can see efforts are being made. I am satisfied”.

Sidley Austin has come out of nowhere in recent years and claims a spot in the upper echelons of the 2023 management results, with abundant praise for the new female Latino global firm leader, who was a “great change from old white dudes” and “just electric”, according to respondents.

8th Addleshaw Goddard

A top ten spot for keeping a steady hand on the tiller. “They retain a sense of normalcy and approachability”, exhibit “No crazy moves”, and keep a “low profile and just get on with the job”.

9th Ropes & Gray

“Boston runs the show”, said a senior solicitor, “but that’s the case for most US firms in London who can’t point to a substantial independent London centric business”.

Although they may be a “US outpost”, management “do what they can to keep us informed about what is going on” and London staff “feel included in the operations of the firm”, said respondents.

A partner said that management “recognise revenue is fundamental but that the firm has a broader purpose in society and we have to treat our people with respect. Hence our revenue per lawyer is the same as Kirkland but we have a lower profit margin because we invest in our people and platform to preserve our culture”. Shots fired.

10th TLT

After a few years bedding in and navigating Covid “which they did excellently”, John Wood and the team “are now really hitting their straps on more of the business-as-usual stuff”, said a partner, while a junior lawyer opined that Wood “is the impressive dad we’d all like to have”.

“They take on board our opinions on a range of matters and, more importantly, we have seen changes as a result of that” said a junior solicitor: “one big one was TLT World and the flexibility this offers” she said, “from working at home when it’s needed, to dressing for your day and generally being trusted to get on with your work in the best way for you rather than having this dictated by arbitrary rules such as ‘minimum three days in the office’”.

Joint 11th RPC and Latham & Watkins 

“As ever with RPC, the partners are genuinely decent people to work for. There is the odd clash or personality but that’s probably because we’re actually allowed to have one”, said a junior lawyer.

There was a grumble that changes to the working environment like hot-desking and a requirement for lawyers to fiddle with the billing program themselves were “rammed through by faceless teams of back office dweebs without adequate consultation even of partners”, but as for those partners, they “are friendly and approachable”, while the Town Hall meetings “keep us regularly updated on the performance and strategy”.

At Lathams, management “are incredibly bullish on the firm’s future and this really feeds through into how people feel about the firm on the ground”, although some agreed that “they are not visible”, and one said the office managing partner “doesn’t talk to any of us, just sends emails”.

A senior associate said L&W “strike a good balance between being a US firm, but also recognising that they’re a (culturally) West Coast and London-dominated one, not a traditional white shoe coven of sociopaths from NYC”.

13th Weil

“Excellent management – very well oiled machine”, commented a senior lawyer. It has “almost a small firm feel in terms of management structure” and a “sense of familiarity pervades”. Comms “can occasionally veer into sermon territory” but are “generally very good”. Hallelujah!

14th White & Case

Leadership of the US firm is “astute and competent”, and “regular town halls and the personalities at the top make for an approachable leadership group”, said staff. “Oh and they organise great firm-wide parties”, said a trainee.

“Unlike some other shops in town, the firm is largely managed by people with successful and busy practices, who know what it is like to be a fee earner”, said a senior solicitor. “We are in safe hands”, a colleague assured us. 

Joint 15th CMS, Shoosmiths, DAC Beachcroft and Horwich Farrelly

CMS management is “refreshingly down to earth for a major city firm” and partners “are mostly approachable and collaborative”.

The pandemic “was handled very well and its aftermath (eg remote working) continues to be sensibly managed, with the firm recognising the shift in working practices and not unnecessarily pushing for a return to the office”, said a senior CMS solicitor.

Shoosmiths is adjusting to a new regime. The incoming CEO, David Jackson, “is determined to make his mark on the business by making changes to values, pay, bonus etc. Think the next 12-24 months will see a rocky patch for the firm as it adjusts to change”, predicted a junior solicitor. “There has been a seismic shift with the new CEO”, said a partner. 

Jackson “appears to have a clear idea about what he wants the firm to achieve over the next few years so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s great that we’re being ambitious in terms of who we want to see as competitors”, said another junior solicitor.

Matters appear to be in hand for now, however: management “seems hands-on and comms are pertinent and plentiful. The growth figures speak for themselves” said a respondent.

DACB has “genuinely nice people running the shop”. Also, “David Pollitt also has a really impressive head of hair”. He and Virginia “do and have done incredible things for the firm. What happens next is what everyone is worried about”, said a partner.

There were some quibbles over a lack of DACB bodies: “The approach to making up a deficit due to staff shortages is to bombard current staff with spreadsheets and emails asking everyone to work more hours, leading to higher turnover of people and relentless stress. It’s exhausting”, said a senior solicitor.

Horwich Farrelly leadership is “pragmatic and sensible” and “switched on”, or, in the alternative, they “don’t know their arse from their elbow” and “go around chasing insurers and offering bleak low fixed fees for work. The issues comes when management expects us to run frivolous arguments, which we end up settling and then they raise hell about the workload not being profitable”.

“Also one key partner spends his entire time at award shows and blasting it all over LinkedIn giving it billy big bollocks.”

Joint 19th Hogan Lovells, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith

Three big-hitters scored well in joint 19th. Hogan Lovells’ group management “is exceptional, very attentive to associates’ needs and really stands up for their team members”, said a junior solicitor. London office management “is good as well and you can see the OMP cares about the firm and makes efforts to ensure a good working environment”. Only global management in the USA, perhaps predictably, “is impersonal and distant, with a disproportionate focus on US-only problems”.

“I like our UK management. Less fond of our global management who are utilisation-obsessed corporate drones, agreed a colleague: “UK management is under pressure to tend in that direction, and it trickles down, but it’s okay so far”.

There was some nervousness around the predicted merger: “I was only mildly dissatisfied, and then they started talking to Shearman about a merger….CEO elections cannot come soon enough”, said a senior lawyer.

At Macfarlanes, “despite reservations about how much partners take home for themselves, I have to admit that the firm is run exceptionally well”, said a senior solicitor, noting that “It is very rare that we need to be concerned for our jobs, salaries or even the impact of a downturn”.

Another Macs lawyer reckoned that “Travers and us are the only real SC firms left with a unique culture that provides a viable alternative to the sad life of MC/US lawyers. And management is to be thanked for that”.

Macfarlanes’ leaders are “a little old fashioned, but certainly not unapproachable”, said a colleague, and “communicate exceptionally well”, said others. 

There were some grumbles about “an unhealthy obsession with getting one back into the office to ‘retain our culture’ – hint, if it’s still there after 2 years of lockdowns, it’s not going anywhere, if we have to get back in now to retain it, it’s probably already gone”, argued one WFH-lover.

At Travers Smith “there has been a big shift in emphasis towards profit and cost cutting since the elevation of the new Managing Partner, which isn’t entirely surprising given his background as a PE exec and with the looming recession”, said one solicitor.

“Lots of policy changes recently”, said a trainee: “despite surveying us on WFH (unanimously positive from what I’ve heard), they changed the policy to be more restrictive”. 

A junior solicitor stuck up for management’s office push: “they get a lot of flack for trying to get people to come back to the office, but I honestly don‘t understand how you‘re supposed to preserve the working relationships or build new ones (and preserve culture) if nobody is in?”

Joint 22nd Shearman & Sterling and Debevoise & Plimpton

“For a global firm, there isn’t much of ‘death by committee’” at Shearman & Sterling, said a partner. “Communication could be a touch more organised but it is a small enough partnership that the message gets out.”

The message at the moment isn’t particularly comforting for some respondents: “Talk of a merger is deeply disconcerting, especially when the supposed bedfellow is Hogan Lovells. Kirkland & Ellis will not be shaking in their boots”, said a senior solicitor.

At Debevoise & Plimpton the management “is approachable and, at least on its face, is open to actively responding to feedback. However, it is a very slow-moving machine”, and it “often taken months, if not years, to implement (meaningful) change”, said a junior solicitor. 

That’s because “everything has to be approved by NY”, with London “often treated as a second-class satellite office by NY headquarters (for work allocation, work management decisions, etc)”. 

“Any big decisions have to come from New York”, agreed a colleague. The London office is “not as independent as you’d like (or they suggest)”, though “individually, the partners in each team are great”.

Joint 24th Pinsent Masons and Ashurst

Pinsent Masons is transitioning to a new managing team, which “have a lot to live up to”. 

The management “always keeps employees up-to-date on plans, strategies and seem to share the same culture as the rest of the firm A keen-sounding junior lawyer declared that the firm “has led the way on strategy becoming the first truly purpose-led law firm”, and was able to “increasingly leverage the firm’s outstanding work on diversity and inclusion” to achieve “increasing success”.

“Talks a big game about work/life balance, values, ‘purpose’, mindful business etc but all they actually care about is hours and billing”, countered a more jaded colleague. “It’s understandable – it’s a law firm trying to make money. Just stop pretending that that’s not why the firm exists. It’s clearly the main motivator behind all the decisions”. 

At Ashurst “decisions are transparent and open to discussion, and the firm “feels like it’s really on a good course”.

Joint 26th Norton Rose Fulbright and Watson Farley & Williams

The middle layer of management was praised at NRF. “Good, clear comms and strategy at EMEA level; less convinced about the global strategy”, said a senior NRF solicitor.

“I think the EMEA management is doing a good job. At team level, the team leaders could do with some people management training”, said junior colleague. The standard of internal communication was “consistently good”, and highlighted for the “amount of business/financial information provided”.

There was praise for WFW’s new MP. “What I liked is she said you can have a family and a career, but didn’t sugarcoat anything. She said it is hard and you have to make it work. But I don’t want anything handed to me so that is fine with me”, said a solicior.

“I have never worked with Lindsey”, said a junior solicitor, “but she has spoken to our associate group a few times, was pretty open and pragmatic (brutally so in answering a couple of questions). About a month before Christmas she was on our floor for some reason and said hello to me by name. I get she’s not the Queen or anything but I was pleasantly surprised”.

For her to-do list: “Management needs to get a firm grip on the a-holes in the Singapore office and strangle them with it”, requested a senior WFW solicitor.
Joint 28th Clifford Chance and Mishcon de Reya

“They are staying optimistic about growth and talking the talk”, relayed a senior CC solicitor. “When we hit recession, the true test will arise, but for now they are doing well.”

CC management, “particularly in my practice area, genuinely seem to care about the quality of life of the team, and actively work to address concerns”, said a senior solicitor, although one policy drew a trainee’s fire: “Asking us not to wear t shirts when wfh is stupid”.

The Mishcon de Reya IPO-that-wasn’t “was clearly a major shitfest but other than that, management do a decent job”, said a partner.

Mishcon management “do give a shit about the firm and earnestly believe their own rhetoric which is rather sweet”, said a senior solicitor, although she added that “the IPO effort was a disaster and more people are relieved it didn’t go through than would dare say so out loud”.

Management “seems engaged and communicates well”, said staff, and, OK, “sometimes they get things wrong, but they don’t seem to be scared about admitting it. And they seem pretty open to new ideas”.

Joint 30th Kirkland & Ellis and Weightmans

K&E is “very transparent” and management “will always guide you on your progress or lack of! They’re definitely not shy in telling you, that’s for sure”, said a junior solicitor. Verdict from a colleague: “they love cash and so do I”.

Meanwhile, Weightmans is in possession of “one or two weapons grade throbbers” but the managing partner “seems a decent sort”, and while the management is “a little Liverpool-centric” that “is consciously being addressed”.

Joint 32nd Plexus and Irwin Mitchell

“Last year I’d have voted neutral”, said a Plexus insider, “but this year it’s much better, largely as the a-hole Partners have been exited and the crew running the show now are both honest and very competent”.

“Only one lawyer on the management board and it shows”, said others: “they are good but simply do not understand that Law Firms are people businesses”.

In Irwin Mitchell, “every hour I bill I’m conscious of the massed ranks of unproductive management types it needs to pay before I see any reward”, complained a senior lawyer. 

Fellow IM respondents were more charitable, painting leaders are “cautious and frugal but overall a very sensible bunch”. Though some investments wouldn’t go amiss: “progress requires money being spent”, perhaps on the clunky IT from the “dinosaur era”.

34th DWF

Newish boss Sir Nigel Knowles “is the Erling Haaland of law firm management; a top performer everywhere he goes, fixated on success and exists on a diet of raw meat”, claimed a senior solicitor. So…good?

“Even though there is a lot of corporate BS in every firm wide email or town hall, the firm actually do seem to care about employee wellbeing”, said a junior lawyer.

“Intentions are good”, agreed a senior colleague, “but constraints of IPO mean I far preferred things pre IPO”. His view had support: “The company has changed negatively since the IPO. There seems to be a real focus on looking good to our investors”, said a disenchanted colleague.

35th Charles Russell Speechlys

“Loads of McKinsey/Bain style guff being pushed around at the moment”, said a junior lawyer, meaning “lots of jargon and platitudes, and not a word about how all of this is supposed to affect anyone’s day to day”. That’s what we like to hear: some proper management.

“There’s been a clear shift in management resulting in a big focus on firm strategy, internationalisation and growth”, promised a less dismissive colleague.

36th Herbert Smith Freehills

Respondents praised the no-fuss management. “Comms seem very clear and well thought-out”, they said, and while it was “a bit risk averse”, HSF was “going in the right direction”.

One lawyer grumbled that there was “too much time spent on firm-culture initiatives – this sort of thing is important but doesn’t need to be gold plated with associated costs. When ultimately it’s lip service without work life balance (or market leading pay to compensate for it!)”.

37th DLA Piper

“Yep Simon Levine guides the firm well 👍”, vouched a paralegal: “Never met the guy but he seems to know what he is doing and likes a Vlog”. It’s “generally decent with an excellent CEO whose only weakness” are his vlogs, “#DadHumour”, a junior lawyer agreed. 

The management have made a real effort to visit the different offices and take time to speak with us. They generally seem like good people and there is little waffle or focus on silly initiatives that no one cares about. I think they did a good job throughout the pandemic as well, with no redundancies or furlough jf

The firm’s huge size has an impact, but “the juggernaut keeps on rolling, so they must be doing something right”, said a senior lawyer. It is “horribly bureaucratic but fundamentally decent”, although “the good ol’ days of DLA Piper are long gone — if anything, it’s terribly ‘beige’ without some of the fun and games of old DLA”, mourned a nostalgic senior solicitor.

38th Freshfields

“As a Brit, I find it a bit cringey to admit this but the leadership team – esp senior partner Georgia – is genuinely great”, said a senior Freshfields solicitor. 

A few gripes centred around the recent “Modernise” project which moved PAs into a communal resource pool for junior associates and trainees, “which is a terrible idea – both for junior fee earners building relationships and learning to work with an assistant effectively, and for the PAs feeling part of a team” according to a senior solicitor. “There is no modernisation here, just a management group impressed by management consultancy-inspired nonsense” grumbled a colleague.

On the other hand, “They have clearly listened to fee earners’ requests and have made major improvements on pay and flexible working. If they are looking to stop people moving to American firms, they are doing an excellent job” said a respondent, and others agreed: “they really seem to be making an effort to keep associates happy”.

Just let Freshfields people party, though. Management “have cut down on social budgets quite harshly the past few years, which is a nonsense bit of belt tightening. Ski trips (which, yes, had issues with some teams, but on the whole mostly was a good way to connect and build some camaraderie) are now also banned”, complained a senior solicitor: “This one grates. Don’t take away the fun”.

Joint 39th Linklaters and Gowling WLG

Linklaters management “are approachable and receptive to feedback”, although the new leaders “just aren’t visible in the way the previous lot were” – perhaps those much-mocked vlogs fulfilled a purpose?

Gowling WLG’s bosses “try to avoid falling prey to gaffes where they can with around a 70% success rate”, said a junior solicitor. “There is a Gowling attitude which is not to treat you like shit. Which is a relief after some of the law firms I’ve been at before”, said a colleague.

41st HFW

“The shift away from old-boys-club shipping firm is refreshing, and overall it seems to be moving in the right direction”, said a senior solicitor at HFW. 

“The messaging remains pretty negative, however, and there is an increasing feeling that we are all being looked upon as an army of lawbots”, although “I am confident the firm will find the right balance with time, because at the end of the day they are a decent bunch of solid lawyers with the firm’s (rather than their own) interests at heart (although I should caveat that I trained at the firm and may have imbibed too much koolaid)”, said a lawyer.

“Hearts are in the right place and heads are mostly too”, agreed a fellow HFW lawyer.

There was some room for improvement. Management’s “favourite phrase for the past two plus years has been ‘high performance culture’. Nobody knows what that means, lads. As far as I can tell it’s management speak for ‘bill more, please (for the same pay, obvs)’”, guessed a junior solicitor.

Joint 42nd Clyde & Co and Eversheds Sutherland

Clydes management “is good, with clear communication. On the other hand, and at the risk of sounding like Piers Morgan, I’m not sure I need to receive a minimum of 5 e-mails a day about our core values and latest diversity & inclusion initiatives”, said a senior solicitor.

There has been some turmoil as a result of the takeover of BLM. “I think the BLM merger was a mistake and they should have used the money to raise salaries”, said a junior. 

“As a former BLMer it is clear that the firm had been run into the ground and the EP’s have sold us out to save their own skin”, said a survivor from the acquired firm.

“The incoming BLM teams that aren’t as enthusiastic as we are about the acquisition (sorry I mean merger)”, said a trainee, although native Clyde & Co staff certainly weren’t unanimous in their support: “I know, why don’t we buy a(nother) failing insurance firm which has zero chance of producing a return on investment and continue to neglect the practices that might actually turn a profit”, sneered one.

Eversheds Sutherland management “communicate well and the firm has been sensibly managed in recent years with incremental growth”, said a senior solicitor, who complimented the “broadly sensible approach to blended working with an expectation of being in the office 3 days a week” and said, “I actually wouldn’t mind if management got a bit more forceful with insisting on more time in the office”.

Critics raised the “committees on committees” which were “impossible to keep track of and woefully inefficient”, and claimed the focus on billable hours “has become relentless. We were recently told in a compulsory 1 hour meeting that we should be able to hit our increased targets and do 1000 hours of BD on top, no problem, if we only get off our phones and work harder. It seems to be a big culture shift”.

Joint 44th Allen & Overy, Womble Bond Dickinson, and Capsticks

A&O was accused of being “only interested investing in two places – the US and China”, despite both being “absolute basket cases! Someone should ask the firm how much it’s losing in the US per month” as “here in London some of the big swinging dick partners are getting pissed with how much money is being thrown at China and the US with no ROI”.

Womble Bond Dickinson “finally got rid of the last managing partner and new fella seems to be in the real world”, although “we tend not to hear much from firmwide management”.

At the time of the survey, criticism of management for the “major clanger” of threatening to sue the government for dropping WBD from a legal panel was tempered by the perception the team was “doing a good job piloting the merger talks” which, spoiler alert, did not happen. 

“The possible merger to create WBDBDBP seems a commercially sensible proposition, assuming that it gets voted through. Given our reputation in the marketplace (which is justified at time) I can understand it if BDB’s partners might be reticent”. They were.

Addressing losses of Wombles staff, a partner said: “My top tip? If you’re going to hire senior associates from ‘big’ firms as partners on huge pay packets, make sure they either have a following or that you put in place adequate support structures to help them build their practices. Leaving them sat in a room on their own with no support doesn’t work, hence the massive turnover of staff and mass exoduses”.

Capsticks “try their best to boost morale. How happy you are depends very much on who your line manager is”.

47th Ince Gordon Dadds

After the Biles regime, “which was a catastrof**k of immense proportions, anything is better”, said staff: it is now “amazing in comparison to the Biles, who were genuinely awful”, although it was “too early to say otherwise”.

Jennette Newman “is really turning the place around since the Biles’ left”, and the suspended shares are not her fault, said defender: “We are not the only Plc hit by issues at BDO’s audit team”. 

“Newman actually knows how to run a City law firm” and “dragged the firm out of the abyss. Donnie Brown managed to rescue it by managing two fund raises. Without them there would be no firm after the barbarian interlude of John and Adrian”, said a senior IGD solicitor.

48th Kennedys

The cost of living payment to those earning under £35,000 “was a nice gesture”, and although one lawyer said management was an “absolute shambles” and “completely disorganised”, others said the bosses were “nice enough. Just nice though – not particularly business-minded or profit driven, leading to them agreeing some woeful rates with insurer clients”.

49th Dentons

“Having the CEO based in the Middle East actually seems to be going quite well – he turns up regularly and makes an effort with the UK side”, said a Dentons lawyer.

Others said the new management “seems to have improved the direction of the firm”, but cautioned that “changes are yet to be fully implemented and reflected”.

A junior solicitor critiqued the deal strategy: “The firm seems to be doubling down on its role as a co-counsel firm to US heavyweights, but picking up table scraps in terms of actual deal involvement. Though profitable and an easy way to make a quick buck for the senior partners involved, we’ll always be relegated to playing second fiddle, resulting in a heady mix of self-loathing and lack of self-respect. Repeat ad nauseam”.

50th Slaughter and May

“Deborah Finkler is terrifying but good to see management taking steps to modernise the firm in the right areas”, said a timid senior solicitor. 

Others said there were “some gimmicks around dogs in the office and the working practice policy”, but it was “otherwise sound”, and a “clear vision” was in “distinguishing the firm from an increasingly homogenised MC pack”.

Less satisfied colleagues said the strategy “is currently the worst of both worlds – middling pay for the City but absolutely brutal hours”, while the new working hours policy “is meaningless and is treated as such by most partners”. Though the new work life balance plan was “well intentioned”, it “has gone down as well as a fart in a space suit”, said a senior solicitor. You can’t win them all.

51st Baker McKenzie

It wasn’t a vintage placing for Bakers this year, despite management swinging into action to clean up far-flung messes. Respondents referenced “in-fighting amongst the partners who routinely slag each other off”, while a trainee claimed that “the partner I work for has a habit of making lewd jokes and commenting about what I wear”.

“Please just give us actual time to have lunch/dinner and a break for our mental health and not ANOTHER sodding webinar”, begged an under-pressure junior solicitor.

52nd Slater and Gordon

“They have no interest in the well-being of their staff. It’s like the Marie Celeste – countless fee earners have left or are leaving”, said a senior solicitor.

“They never listen to you! We have the worst case management in the world that crashes daily. The work/life balance is basically non existent, case loads are also too high and training and progression is also non existent”, summarised a colleague.

The slating wasn’t unanimous. One partner said Slaters was “a lot more stable since Madelene Holdsworth took over”.

53rd Goodwin Proctor

Respondents highlighted an admirable “focus on culture and wellbeing”, and said the firm was “reasonable on remuneration”, but the “disgruntled employees constantly bemoaning lateral hires” did just that in their responses, pulling down the firm’s score.

54th Squire Patton Boggs

While a few respondents drew attention to the “open, supportive and friendly” management in the UK, others complained that there were “massively overpromised in coming here”. They also said the US leadership comprised a “short-termist, money-grabbing bunch of turbokh**ts” which “occasionally flies in to bully and browbeat” UK leaders, who then give staff “a patronising lecture via MS Teams how ‘it’s very important the firm stays on budget…or else’”. 

“Some partners run their teams like little fiefdoms and if you cross them your head will spin faster than the wheels on a Schwinn bicycle”, said a junior SPB solicitor.

55th Keoghs

It’s “an odd structure” as “team leaders are often non-qualified and are ‘managing’ associates and partners within their teams. Of course, this doesn’t work well and, in the main, team leaders are simply there to approve holidays”.

Middle management “lack clout and don’t check in on those at the coal face”, while senior management “are still counting their cash after the Davies Group buy out”.

“The sell out to equity by the former senior partners has changed the firm for the worse”, said a colleague.

“They’re more interested in appearing ‘right-on’ than actually doing right by their employees”, said another, who cited a team meeting held about an employee’s tragic death, “that we then had to make the time up to meet our daily billing target”, and an obituary sent out “with the deceased’s name spelt incorrectly”. Oh dear.

56th Knights

Overall, “Knights is a good business. The management can be slightly aggressive in their approach when it comes to billing and WIP but they are no worse than any other large firm”, posited a junior solicitor.

“I would sooner trust a fart after a dodgy curry then trust the management team at Knights”, was the erudite counter argument.

57th BCLP

The Golden Turd was bottom of the pack this year. It was “clear that UK partners have minimal influence on current management”, according to a senior solicitor.

There were “a series of strange and badly-thought-through decisions, of which the business services staff pay debacle is just the latest”, said a peer: “who knew trying to run a London firm from Missouri would be so difficult?”

A kinder respondent said management was “well meaning, but it’s never clear what the strategy is. I think the US and UK parts still fit very uneasily. Partners still seem to do their own thing without thought for how it fits into the wider firm strategy”. Happily, the only way is up.

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