For a mid-tier largely regional firm TLT punches well above its weight for training and quality of work. This is largely thanks to an ethos that encourages young lawyers to take on high levels of responsibility – and the strong scores recorded by the firm in the corresponding categories in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 suggest that it is getting the balance right in the way its rookie are reared. Expect plenty of client contact if you begin your career here, insiders tell us.
“As a trainee I have been given a lot of responsibility (e.g. running my own files, or taking the lead on specific parts of larger matters, such as leading the DD on large corporate transactions),” reports one TLT rookie. Another describes receiving a “high level of supervision” without “being micro-managed”.
This tricky mix is fostered by a culture that is unusually down-to-earth for a corporate law firm. Partners are so friendly that it’s “unnerving”, we are told. “I feel I can talk with any of them, be it about work matters or the results from the football on a weekend,” another trainee adds, while also praising the open plan office.
It’s an approach that is clearly working financially, with revenue up at TLT by 4% this year in what is the firm’s fifth consecutive year of growth. Much of the slightly quirky way in which TLT operates stems from the leadership of longtime managing partner David Pester. One of the most respected legal bosses in the business, he has transformed his firm from a relative unknown into a major law brand since he took the helm way back in 2002. TLT now has seven offices, including a City of London base near St Paul’s, the headquarters in Bristol and an overseas outpost in the Greek port of Piraeus.
Pester’s formula partially works by undercutting leading City firms on certain aspects of banking transactions, which he then hands to his teams of enthusiastic youth in Bristol, Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and sometimes even London. But TLT also has major real estate, employment and general commercial practices that serve a mixture of local and national clients. Star clients include Barclays, Lloyds, the BBC and EDF Energy.
The work can be tough, but it’s rewarding. There’s “sexy work for interesting clients”, which includes “assisting drafting complex bespoke contracts” and pretty extensive project management, alongside more standard typically trainee-level work. Where it differs from major City law firms is in how TLT makes it fit within relatively standardised and manageable hours. Most trainees and junior lawyers barely exceed nine hours on a typical day, arriving just after nine and leaving just after six (see average arrive and leave times below). “It’s not a pushover here, but workloads are generally manageable,” a trainee tells us.
In other arguably less important areas, TLT doesn’t fare so well. Despite its evidently efficient model, the firm manages a lowly C for tech-savvy in our survey, which hasn’t been prioritised during the recent growth. Although there have been attempts to increase the use of software in areas like document review, “general day-to-day IT can sometimes be a hindrance to completing work quickly”. Perks is another weaker point. Some decent freebies – including free entry to Bristol Zoo plus a health insurance scheme that awards goodies like cinema tickets and Starbucks coffees to those who meet their step count targets – fail to make up for the fact that pay in the firm’s main Bristol office lags local rivals. And there are continuing gripes about the lack of canteens at the firm’s offices.
Happily, that latter failing will shortly be remedied in Bristol, as the firm closes in on the final phase of the renovation of its headquarters. The “bland and monolithic” 1970s-style office block at 1 Redcliff Street will look very different when its major refurb is complete, with the new client suite on the 15th floor set to have some of the best views in the city. In the meantime, some of the most unreliable lifts in the legal profession are doing wonders for TLT trainees’ aforementioned step counts.