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UK Firm of the Year 2014: Openness
07 February 2014
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Law firms aren't exactly famed for keeping staff in the know. In a profession where confidentiality rules, management often shrouds its plans in secrecy. So which firms smash the stereotype to top the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2014 for openness, and which are less transparent then Machiavelli in a lead-lined box?

Firm of the Year Latham & Watkins and Mishcon de Reya share first place with stellar 94% scores. Lathamites praise the firm's "generally very approachable" partners and "collegiate" atmosphere. Although one senior associate (who nonetheless gives it top marks for openness) warns that a "combination of poor hiring and backstabbing" may "ultimately change the culture of the firm". Menawhile staff at Mishcon report an "open-door policy" and evidence of "genuine strategic leadership at the top".

     94% transparency: How it looks 

Firm of the Year 2014 silver medallist Bird & Bird comes third in the openness category, with staff rating it highly for its "non-hierarchical" atmosphere and "approachable" partners. Osborne Clarke comes fourth, getting credit for being "very open about where we're going"."No-one is hiding behind closed doors", says one OB lawyer. Possibly because they can't, since it's an open plan office. It makes for an "inclusive atmosphere", says an associate, in which "no one is unapproachable". Even when they might want to be.



Further down the table, respondents from Trowers & Hamlins have a lot to get off their chest. The Managing Partner is praised for her "forward-thinking and progressive attitude" by one partner, but another grumbles that there is "zero say for the majority of partners", and "a microscopic number of people on full equity who call the shots". An associate reports that Trowers "can have bad timing when emailing the firm very important messages. I.e. when a lot of people will be out of the office". And the Cairo closure was apparently "not announced and was only known by looking at the vast amount of leavers on the starters and leavers list". Still, that's better than Ashurst and Irwin Mitchell. Both firms seem to have Pravda-esque internal newsletters which only announce joiners. At IM, "they publish the figures detailing people joining who all seem to be low-grade debt recovery people, but they don't publish details of those leaving who all seem to be high-profile partners".

But despite such sterling examples of opacity, Golden Turd winner Parabis beats everyone to the arse-end of the list. One staffer says they feel "anonymous", comparing life in the firm to "working at Tesco". Another says the firm is "disorganised" and "full of in-fighting". Clarke Willmott comes second from bottom and gets a real kicking. Respondents say there is "bickering between teams and offices", "dreadful communication from central management" and "no sign of a firm-wide business plan". The strategy, says one, "appears to be to simply ride out the tough times until 2007 returns".

Linklaters, fifth from bottom with 47%, also comes under fire. The firm is good at sharing its strategy "in a glossy brochure", says a senior associate, but "less good at consulting with staff". The firm's management is "enigmatic and mysterious", says another lawyer. Unfortunately, "I may want that in a date, BUT NOT FROM MY BOSSES". Taxi for one, no snog.

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anonymous user
07/02/2014 08:33
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Interesting that there seems to be some correlation between firms that overwork their associates and those with poor communication (e.g. Linklaters).
anonymous user
07/02/2014 12:54
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Interesting that for the second year running, linklaters is getting a real kicking in the survey. But then no surprise when the attitude of management at the very top is "we're linklaters, if you think you can do better then good luck to you, we're not changing". People are voting with their feet and certainly at the credit crunch qualifying intake there will be no one left soon. In interests of full disclosure I am one of those people who have voted with my feet and now much happier
anonymous user
07/02/2014 14:00
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Anon @ 12.54 - I think that sentiment has been growing over the past couple of years and is pretty widespread at the moment (I'm one of those who hasn't acted on it - yet).

Out of interest, what did you leave for?
anonymous user
07/02/2014 14:03
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Will RoF post the number of respondents from each firm? How skewed are these figures, or did roughly an equal number of people respond from each firm?
anonymous user
07/02/2014 16:21
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Hi I left the second post up there about people voting with their feet. Agree with the person who said the sentiment has been growing over the last few years. In my opinion, something tangible and big needs to be done quickly. And it would be better if more than lip service was given to the idea of a work/life balance because frankly the money doesn't make it worth it. I'm in house now, maybe why I have time to respond on this. Best decision ever but take the time to work out what's right for you.
anonymous user
11/02/2014 21:58
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So Osborne Clarke rank 4th on openness? Presumably this is on the basis they're open to redundancies, open to pushing talent out, open to an all boys club, open to paying shoddy salaries...
  

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