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Firms of the year 2017. The firms with the worst culture
24 February 2017
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RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year 2017 survey revealed the firms with the worst working environment, with 4,900 staff rating the culture at their firms.

Hovering at the top of the bottom with 65%, Charles Russell Speechlys' problem was a fractured culture where "suspicion still exists" between legacy Charles Russell and legacy Speechly Bircham staff. One per cent behind,  DAC Beachcroft had a culture of red tape, with "so much bureaucracy" it required "ten people to sign off the smallest thing", like a "£3.50 cab fare" requiring "3 partners if it's non-chargeable". And those partners were "so tight that only sh!t low quality lager or warm white wine is offered at internal celebrations". 

On 63%, collegiality and respect "varies hugely between departments" at Fieldfisher. One staffer took emergency leave to look after their children after a death in the family and was told on their return to work that I should have used the firm's emergency childcare provision so that I could remain at work. And to think the firm claims to be supportive of families". Yet "certain heads of departments" were"getting away with 45 days holiday" which "goes 'unnoticed'."

At Jones Day, "there are a small number of lawyers/partners who don't appear to do very much, which can breed discontent amongst the rest and harms the otherwise, pretty good culture".  But for one lawyer, the culture of the firm was summed up by the (not-alternative) fact that it was "the official counsel to the Trump campaign".

Scoring 58%, Hill Dickinson came in for stick for "not taking employee engagement seriously" with "many managers just paying lip service".  There were complaints about a "bullying culture in some departments" and those at the top being in it for themselves: "top-heavy hierarchy don't give a damn about staff, it's all about lining their own pockets and feathering their own nests while the minions can go to hell".  One non-fee-earner said "mutual respect still needs a great deal of work".

At Bircham Dyson Bell  there was "more politics than the Palace of Westminster", while at Shoosmiths weak leadership was blamed for allowing "bullying and really obnoxious behaviour to thrive". On 50% Capsticks seemed to be a gloomy place with partners who were "controlling and moody". The diagnosis proffered by a colleague: not being able to "make it at DACB" so "they've got enormous great potato waffle-size chips on their shoulders as a result".  

Also on 50%, Ince & Co was "depressing". A lawyer suggested, "new premises and new technology have helped drive behavioural change, but it takes time". 


At Kennedys on a dire 34%, staff complained of "extremely arrogant partners" who "do not know how to treat their staff properly" resulting in junior fee earners "being signed off with work related stress in droves" and "morale absolutely through the floor."

Also on 34% was huge-paying US firm Kirkland & Ellis, "in a state of cultural civil war", fought between "the indigenous Kirkland species ("the red squirrels") and the imposters from Linklaters ("the gray squirrels"). The gray squirrels keep inviting more mates over and they don't want to play with or be friends with the red squirrels, in fact it's all rather strange.  A common factor is that  [certain] squirrels from both camps have common ground in liking young married female squirrels a bit much".

At BLM, on 31%, social activities were cited as a guide to the culture: "one of the listed benefits is 'free tea and coffee' which I really think says it all". There was a "sense that the firm is falling apart" due to the resignations of partners and "you generally feel like you are working in a factory churning out claims". 

A request at every Christmas party

The Bottom Three

Earning 29% thanks to its "dog eat dog" and "toxic" culture, personal injury firm Irwin Mitchell's merger with Thomas Eggar was a bone of contention for many. A legacy TE lawyer said it "led to upset and distress for many long serving loyal members of staff, it's a horrible place to be now and I hold IM responsible." A trainee said there was "a real them and us culture...Depressing".

At Slater & Gordon a lawyer identified a "low cost centre vibe to the place" concluding that it was "time to put this dog down". A colleague said the siege mentality was battering morale, telling RollOnFriday, "the constant speculation about financial viability can get you down, especially when it is from clients or peers at other firms".

On 21%, ex-firm and current Golden Turd KWM took last place. Lawyers said any positive culture had drained as the firm entered a death spiral and it became apparent that "the partners only care about themselves. They show no duty of care to their employees". By the end there was, said another, "no trust, loyalty or money left in the business". And before long there was no culture at all, or anything else.


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