Inside Farrer & Co – the blue-blooded law firm that serves Britain’s aristocracy

Thursday, February 10, 2022 4:41 PM

Farrer & Co’s Grade II listed London headquarters at 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Throughout its 300-year history, Farrer & Co has earned a reputation as London’s classiest law firm.

Founded in 1701, the company is famous for serving the elite and acting on behalf of the British aristocracy.

The London firm also has long-standing ties to the Royal Family and currently acts as the Queen’s go-to law firm.

Talk to AM City Sam Macdonald, partner at Farrer & Co, said: “It’s fair to say that historically we’ve had this reputation, as a law firm that represents the establishment.

However, Macdonald is clear that Farrer is not just for aristocrats.

“It remains true that we have customers who fit that description, no doubt, but I think that increasingly, over the past two decades, these types of customers are part of a much larger set of customers. “, says Macdonald.

He explains that the decline of the British aristocracy over the past hundred years has forced Farrer & Co to seek business elsewhere.

“After spending a lot of time dealing with old money, we are now dealing with both old and new money,” Macdonald says.

After spending a lot of time dealing with old money, we are now dealing with both old and new money

Sam Macdonald, Partner at Farrer & Co

Macdonald notes that while a large portion of Farrer’s customers “have been with us for a long time,” the company has, over the past two decades, broadened its horizons.

While Farrer & Co still serves clients who have been with the firm for at least 100 years, the London litigator is increasingly working with a new clientele of super-rich internationals.

“Increasingly, our customers come from all over the world,” says Macdonald.

According to Macdonald, the shift from old to new customers has also transformed the way Farrer & Co does business.

While the company has traditionally won business through word of mouth referrals, Farrer & Co now has a very sophisticated marketing and business development department, which it uses to win all sorts of major clients – super -rich global to large multinationals. companies.

Stable, discreet and trustworthy

Farrer & Co built its reputation in the service of nobility. In 1789, Farrer Co acted on behalf of the Duke of York in prosecuting The temperaturein a case that saw the newspaper’s editor serve a year in prison for defamation.

In the 1930s, the firm also advised the Royal Family in negotiations over the abdication of King Edward VIII.

Most recently, the firm represented Rupert Murdoch’s News International, the media conglomerate that now owns The temperature – during the phone hacking scandal.

The company failed to win contracts with Prince Harry and Megan Markle, however, who instead opted to bring in media specialist Schillings.

Farrer & Co also counts the multi-billion dollar Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among its top clients, alongside major museums and art galleries.

Macdonald says the company’s elite clients are drawn to Farrer & Co because of its longstanding reputation for discretion and reliability. “We don’t impose our own agenda,” says Macdonald.

The firm, which was started by London lawyer Tempest Slinger and his son Tempest Slinger Jr, has also gained a reputation for stability, having employed at least one member of the Farrer family for most of its history, since Oliver Farrer first joined the company in 1759.

However, Macdonald says Farrer & Co’s success is “ultimately having very, very good lawyers.”

Macdonald notes that Farrer & Co only hires ten interns each year because he says the company puts “a lot of effort into recruiting.”

However, he explains that Farrer & Co does not aim to compete with large US law firms when it comes to salaries.

“If people are looking to earn those numbers, they won’t apply to us,” says Macdonald, explaining that Farer & Co “offers something a little different” from Magic Circle law firms in the City of London.

If people are looking to earn these numbers, they won’t apply to us

Sam Macdonald, Partner at Farrer & Co

Either way, Macdonald says Farrer & Co remains competitive because he says the people who work at the company “expect to be paid decently.”

“We were very lucky to have a reputation that attracted really strong people right from the start,” added Macdonald.

At the same time, Farrer also prides itself on offering a decent work-life balance.

“We seek to recognize and respect that people have lives outside of work,” Macdonald says.

The company has also embraced flexible working, although it recently renovated its London headquarters – a Grade II listed mansion on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Farrer now expects his lawyers to spend at least 40% of their time in the office. However, the firm’s lawyers can come to the office as often as they wish.

“If someone wants to spend all their time in the office, we can accommodate that,” Macdonald says.

Blue blood?

Despite its reputation as London’s swankiest law firm, Macdonald is clear Farrar & Co is “working hard” to diversify.

“That’s one of the things we’re good at, we’re not really looking for someone to fit a particular mould,” Macdonald says, as he claims the company is looking for “intellectually engaged” people. and “getting along with other people”. .

That’s one of the things we’re good at, we’re not really looking for someone to fit a particular mold.

Sam Macdonald, Partner at Farrer & Co

According to Farrer’s own statistics, 62 percent of the company’s partners attended a private school.

In comparison, 53% of associates in large companies in the City of London had private training in 2020.

Macdonald himself grew up near Cambridge before studying English at the University of Manchester.

More recently, the firm announced that it would hire its first apprentice lawyers. The two new apprentices will follow a six-year internship, before becoming qualified lawyers.

“We want to bring new ideas and new thinking into what we do,” says Macdonald.