Moving to a West End firm is often seen as a good option for City associates or junior partners who feel undervalued in their current position. Many lawyers can feel dwarfed by the sheer number of lawyers that surround them, struggle to stand out for promotion or find it hard to specialise in an area that they are passionate about. Entrepreneurial lawyers can equally feel frustrated by the lack of opportunities and support. Lawyers who recognise dwindling prospects of hitting the senior partner ranks or those with a more entrepreneurial vent often cast their eye beyond the large City firms. The West End’s abundance of niche practices, busily catching business from new trends or picking up work that is no longer fashionable among the City giants, has a certain appeal for those with a taste for opportunity.
Working at a West End firm does normally mean taking a reduction in salary offered, given that a typical West End or niche firm will offer anything up to 25 per cent less than the large City firms. Nevertheless, this is partially compensated for by a better work/life balance, not only in the amount of expected office hours to be worked but also in a culture more at home with welcoming interests and activities outside the office. Furthermore many of these firms can offer a compensatory bonus that directly rewards entrepreneurialism and new business winners – where bonuses are often uncapped it can mean you have the potential to earn more in the long term than you would at one of the City firms.
The nature of West End work
A good number of West End firms were formed from teams that jumped ship together from City firms and their specialist focus gave them a USP to pick up a more diverse client base than the usual City fare of multinationals, banks, and pension funds. In terms of the nature of the work, West End firms can vary from practices with a diversity of sector specialisms, with clear unashamed niches, for example in music , media , technology, private client, sport, charities, transport, health, retail and leisure and white collar crime etc. That’s not to say you won’t be doing City quality work – far from it, you may just be in a smaller office environment where you can be more of an individual than a cog in the machine.
A diverse client base requires a different set of skills and rewards and develops a certain type of relaxed client meeting lawyer. Many West End firms have developed, or rather diversified, in order to ensure they can meet the wider legal needs of their clients who might include high net worth individuals, SME businesses and public bodies. Lawyers who enjoy and excel in client-facing work often enjoy the West End’s more entrepreneurial clientele, involving many smaller and medium sized companies.
A land of opportunity
The opportunity to specialise, and develop a standout niche practice is perhaps the most appealing factor of the West End for City lawyers looking to move. City lawyers of a few years PQE, and experience in a niche areas such as data protection usually find that West End firms offer the best environment to focus and spend more time building a practice in that area. Outsourcing and technology lawyers are in demand while media lawyers can immerse themselves in the worlds of music, gaming, and films. The chance to carve out an increasingly specific niche goes right to the heart of many a West End firm’s ethos.
The West End can offer better prospects for partnership general, a quicker route to equity and more say in how the firm is run and the direction it and your practice takes. Developing strong relationships with clients, fine tuning increasingly valuable niche legal knowledge and becoming a more entrepreneurial lawyer is on offer for most West End arrivals. This contrasts to serving clientele deeply connected to the institution itself which is the case at most City firms.
If the prospect of becoming an irreplaceable asset to a firm that fits you is tempting, contact EJ Legal for more information about the opportunities available, visit