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Baker & McKenzie is the least attractive international firm to work for in Beijing, while Clifford Chance is the most attractive, a survey of lawyers working in the city has revealed.
Rob Metcalf, managing partner at Beijing-based legal search recruiter Metcalf & Q, which carried out the research, said that magic circle firms were seen as attractive places to work, while DLA Piper, Jones Day and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom were not viewed favourably in the local recruitment market.
"Particular partners can become the brand - that's how some firms got onto the least attractive list," said Metcalf. He added that for other firms, gruelling workloads and a perceived lack of opportunity ;to ;move between departments had worked against them.
The recruiter asked 100 lawyers across 30 firms questions about their working environments and the quality of leadership and management at their firms. They were also asked to identify foreign firms they would outright decline an offer from.
"One lawyer noted that there was a strong split between fee-earners and support staff, and sensed the lack of respect from senior management for those that did not tot up billable hours each week," said Metcalf.
"When it comes to salary and so on, these firms are all pretty transparent. People can have gripes that are not necessarily to do with pay. It can be about client contact and career progression," he added.
Respondents were split in their view of Bakers, which has been in China for almost three decades. While the firm topped the least attractive list, a number of respondents had a positive perception of the firm, making it the eighth most attractive at the same time.
"People know who they are and know them well enough to say yes or no. In branding terms it is a victory," said Metcalf.
Bakers ;declined ;to comment.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Clifford Chance was ;voted ;the ;most attractive firm to work for.
Beijing and Shanghai managing partner Stephen Harder said: "This is a vote of confidence in the tone and standards set by our partners and counsel in Beijing. It is also clear that a determining factor for those voting was career progression and training. Our practice management team, Marianne Black and her deputy Li Bingxin, has made an enormous contribution in this area."
Those law firms receiving the most positive feedback were praised for good leadership, pleasant working environments and allowances for staff with children or elderly parents.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was in second place and Simpson Thacher in third. While Clifford Chance and Simpson Thacher did not feature in the top 10 least attractive firms, Freshfields came in at number seven, reflecting the ambiguity in local perception.
Metcalf pointed out that one possible reason for names being duplicated is that many of the international firms are simply not known in China. While international firms such as Hogan & Hartson, Lovells, Norton Rose and White & Case do operate in China, their brands are not recognised by local lawyers.
"It's interesting when you read firms saying they have big plans for China, but no one has really heard of them over here," added Metcalf.