Sex, pay, politics, scandals and ethics - City lawyers lay their lives bare on the internet

The unsavoury truth about pay, politics and sexual attitudes inside prestigious City law firms is laid bare in an internet chatroom which has become a "must-visit" for solicitors. Tens of thousands of messages from lawyers, attracted to the website's bulletin boards, also paint a picture of the legal profession's ruthless work ethic where young trainees are mercilessly exploited by senior legal figures.

The unsavoury truth about pay, politics and sexual attitudes inside prestigious City law firms is laid bare in an internet chatroom which has become a "must-visit" for solicitors. Tens of thousands of messages from lawyers, attracted to the website's bulletin boards, also paint a picture of the legal profession's ruthless work ethic where young trainees are mercilessly exploited by senior legal figures.

Rollonfriday.com, set up by two former City solicitors, identifies for the first time the law firms that pay the most and those that work their staff the hardest. It also highlights firms that operate relaxed dress codes or have a reputation for the best social mix between the sexes.

But it is market-sensitive information on pay scales which has made the site unmissable for legions of lawyers. Rollonfriday praises one American firm for paying its 25-year-olds in London more money than Tony Blair can earn in a year. But, at another, it warns young lawyers of one firm where they can expect to be "spending your evenings and weekends admiring the office". It says the world's biggest law firm, Clifford Chance, pays its newly qualified lawyers £28,500.

Its insight into another well-known London firm recalls a Serious Fraud Office investigation last year after one its senior lawyers "fled the country amid allegations of the theft of millions of pounds of clients' money". But the conversations posted on the discussion board have been the main reason for the present rate of 1.4 million site visits a month, compared to 600,000 at the beginning of the year.

On the subject of "What to do with a trainee solicitor", one experienced lawyer writes: "Leave her alone or she'll gob in your coffee." Another says: "Aren't you supposed to poke them with sharpened sticks or something to increase their motivation? When I was a trainee in my previous line of employment one of the old sweats would line up a row of spoons on his table every day which he would throw at the heads of trainees who spoke."

In a debate on "How to be a successful solicitor", lawyers suggest "drink excessively" and "blame the other side for everything". Another advises: "Studiously covet a disinterest in anything interesting. Learn to love the small print." While another says: "Wear your tie over one shoulder and rush around everywhere. People will think that you're so important and busy you don't even have time to straighten your tie."

One solicitor, not a criminal lawyer, asks what he should do after being arrested for breaking a man's jaw in a bar brawl. He is told by a contributor that if he is "white and middle-class" he will have nothing to worry about.

The bulletin board correspondence echoes the kind of e-mail exchange which led to a law firm being sued for sex and race discrimination last year. The £10,000 claim, which has been withdrawn from the central London employment tribunal, referred to an exchange of messages sent hours after a legal secretary had handed in her resignation from a London law firm.

One of the solicitors wrote to his colleague: "Can we go for a real, fit, busty blonde this time? She can't be any more trouble and at least it would provide some entertainment!!"

Many of the rollonfriday discussion board exchanges are sexually explicit. Matthew Rhodes, 29, the co-founder of rollonfriday, says his site has managed to buck the trend of dot.com failures by nurturing a "cult following" among young solicitors who want the "warts and all" truth about the legal marketplace.

He says the information gleaned about the law firms is sometimes uncomfortably accurate, because it is based on confidential reports sent to the website. "We know solicitors who use the site to find out exactly what a law firm is like before they try to get a job there," says Mr Rhodes, who left his City law firm two years ago to try out his new internet business idea. "I think we have also managed to create the feeling of a legal community which includes partners as well."

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