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Firm of the Year 2017 Stories

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Firm of the Year 2017 results: The top firms
27 January 2017
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The law firms with the happiest staff in the UK have been ranked in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey, as well as the firms whose staff absolutely hate working there.

Burges Salmo
n was announced as the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 last week, along with runners-up Osborne Clarke and Bird & Bird as joint silver medalists. And KWM was unveiled as the Golden Turd, with runny-ups Irwin Mitchell and Kennedys. However 66 firms qualified for the survey (entries for another 85 firms were received, but sadly not in sufficient numbers to merit inclusion), with lawyers and staff voting in their thousands on everything from their pay to their work/life balance to the state of their loos. Together, the 4,920 respondents have drawn a comprehensive map of satisfaction across the legal profession.



Two very different firms shared the fourth spot. US firm Shearman & Sterling came joint first last year and won outright in 2015. Hitting 80% this time around, one lawyer said, "Although we often have to work late, you always feel part of a team", and, "don't feel like you're left to fend for yourself, as I've heard is the case in other American law firms". The salaries are "excellent", said another, and "ok, so other US firms pay more, but I doubt they have the same working environment and collegiate culture as we do".

Managing Partner Nick Buckworth said, "After 2 years ranked at number one it was always going to be a challenge to rank in the top tier - so we are all delighted that we have placed so highly. Having a strong, positive and highly motivated team is our number one priority and I am delighted to see that my colleagues have again endorsed our efforts so strongly. No room for complacency though and we continue to challenge ourselves to ensure that Shearman is the employer of choice for the best and brightest". 

Shearman shared fourth with new entry Mills & Reeve, a regional firm founded in East Anglia (though now with offices across the UK). Mills & Reeve made staff happy for many of the same reasons cited by staff at fellow high-performing non-City firms Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke. People are "really nice as well as being ambitious and hard-working", and "buy into the firm's culture which makes it an excellent place to work". Another lawyer said that, "Having moved from a big London firm, I have never been happier in my working life despite taking a sizeable pay cut".

  As this Mills & Reeve solicitor knows, happiness isn't all about money. It's about quality of life, too.


We’re clearly delighted that our loos, and indeed our biscuits, have stood up well against the very best firms in the country”, said Claire Clarke, Mills & Reeve's managing partner, adding that, “along with our appearance for 13 years running in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For list, this is yet further proof that Mills & Reeve is truly a great place to work".

Mishcon de Reya came 6th, improving its 74% score from last year. With a big presence in the public eye acting for the Remoaners in their successful court action against the government, staff were buzzing.  Also in the top 10, Travers Smith took 7th with a superb 76%,  Clarke Willmott and CMS came joint 8th and Linklaters and US firms Weil and Mayer Brown rounded out the cream with 74%. Links was the highest placing Magic Circle firm, snatching the title away from Slaughter and May, which last year managed 68% to Linklaters' 65%.

Just outside of the top 10, 2015 Golden Turd Trowers & Hamlins acquitted itself well for a second year running since its shaming, scoring 73% to reach equal 13th place alongside BLP and Taylor Wessing. Baker & McKenzie and Hogan Lovells tied in 16th on 72%, with a consensus amongst Bakers staff that it is "open and friendly". It is also, said one lawyer, "very keen to promote flexible working", which is "handy when you have to rely on 'Southern Fail' to get to work". Meanwhile, at "supportive and collaborative" HogLove, it "feels like a smaller and friendlier firm than it is on paper".  

Plenty more firms performed admirably. Further down, seven scored in the less-stellar low 60s while two firms teetered on the brink of an Officially Pretty Poor Mark, which has been designated arbitrarily as anything under 60%. On the edge, Ashurst's management was "pretty terrible for a while", said an associate, although things are now "seeming to improve" following the appointment of London Managing Partner Simon Beddow. It is, said another lawyer, "probably a sign of how poor things have been that Simon simply sending office update emails every couple of weeks which have been written by him and are not stuffed to the gunwales with management guff seems like a stroke of genius". At Freshfields, a great score for pay was mostly undone by a dismal score for work/life balance, which "can be dreadful in certain teams". It just managed to land the right side of 59.5%

As for those firms which did not, click through to read about the mediocre-scoring firms and, right down at the bottom, under that leaf mold, lower, past the dead crow, the dregs.