The 2018 guide – our 21st edition – has launched
“Lawyers will be paid for thinking about things rather than doing things,” predicts Anthony Julius in an interview with us. Julius has defeated a Holocaust denier, led Princess Diana’s divorce case, and is a star in the Mishcon line-up – we thought his views on the future of the profession were worth listening to. As law firms jostle to introduce AI and replace the more banal parts of the solicitor’s role, “the advisory and exercising judgement parts will increase in significance,” adds Julius. “And so the character of our thinking, the range of our reference and the nature of our general education is going to be much more important.” Read his full interview.
This is the consensus view on how tech is changing the law. For the moment we don’t see AI encroaching upon recruitment numbers; instead it should send an encouraging message to students – especially non-law students – that the law will always need their broad intellect. Non LLBers and novices should start here.
High Court judge and former Chairman of the Bar Council, Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, told us this year: “The rise in the costs of qualification can mean we increase the risk that the profession is once more being restricted to those that can afford it.” This, along with many cultural factors, has caused the law to struggle with social mobility. The SRA’s unveiling of the new Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam is in part an attempt to deal with the cost barrier and improve access into the law. It sounds pretty peachy – that was until we interviewed some of the SQE’s many critics, whose views can be found in our review.
Law firms themselves are addressing the diversity problem with mixed success. This year we’ve noticed some quite traditional firms adopt flexible working, helping parents who are gunning for partnership. This is slowly doing its bit to improve the number of women making partner in the City. But we’ve also noticed that the firms pledging to have 30% female partners by 2020 are, largely, not on target.
A glance at the new salaries table shows a more divided market again this year. The US firms in London have driven up the average NQ pay: Herbert Smith Freehills is the only UK firm in the £90k+ bracket. On the London stage we’re seeing a global elite gather momentum – a group that transcends national hierarchies. Giant salaries are one of its hallmarks, which, we assume, means giant hours, but we felt the myths needed investigating, so we quizzed some Covington trainees who told us bluntly what it’s like at an American firm.
These firms represent the winners of globalisation. Marching on in spite of the political mood of the moment, these lawyers tell us “globalisation is a fact and it is the responsibility of everyone to make it work" – the words of a Norton Rose Fulbright associate when we interviewed the firm about how to cut it as a lawyer in a globalised market. Their stories show what you can achieve through cross-border cooperation, and how to create opportunities at that level.
Becoming a lawyer is not easy. Our single goal as a research team is to make it less painful for you. We interview thousands of lawyers; we learn about the reality beyond the marketing; we help you appreciate what makes each organisation unique and attractive – or not. And it’s worth all the trouble, as Mrs Justice McGowan remarks: “It is an intellectually challenging and hard career but once you’re established it is an incredibly satisfying profession, which is also fantastic fun, most of the time…”
Antony Cooke – Editor