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Revealed: the best law firms to train with in Britain

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The results from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey are in

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Ten law firms have been rated outstanding for their training in Legal Cheek’s exclusive survey of over 1,500 trainees and junior solicitors.

The study canvassed the views of rookies at nearly 60 top UK corporate law firms in order to provide students with some much-needed objective information about where to start their careers. Firms were graded A* to D across a range of categories — and the first up is training. In no particular order, the firms which received A* grades are…

Burges Salmon

One of the few firms to operate a rotation across six seats rather than the traditional four, Burges Salmon offers a kind of international baccalaureate of the training contract world — while the others go for plain old A-levels.

With more ground to cover, the firm offers some of the most rigorous supervision and feedback regimes in the business. Burges Salmon trainees tell us that “supervisors are always willing to take the time to talk matters through to answer questions”, with the one-to-one training rated “outstanding”. They add that “lots of feedback” is available alongside “constructive opportunities to improve your work”.

Burges Salmon firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Bird & Bird

Few firms do training better than Two Birds. One insider summarises the approach: “[There is] very good ‘on the job’ training from supervising partners in each department, and generally from associates. Emphasis [is] made on taking the time to give clear instructions at the start of a piece of work, and then follow up with feedback [and] comments once complete.”

It helps that Bird & Bird treats its trainees like adults, with each “expected to manage your own workload”. Expect “real responsibility” and “direct contact with clients, local counsel or other lawyers.” Yet at the same time, behind the scenes there is said to be no such thing as a “stupid question”.

Bird & Bird firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Linklaters

Training at Linklaters is apparently “so good it hurts”, with new graduates receiving three weeks of induction “before we were even allowed to sit at our desks”. There is then further training at each seat supported by, notes one rookie, “incredible resources which answer nearly all of the questions I have ever had.”

It’s all delivered by associates and partners who are “technically brilliant with absolute dedication to excellence”. Sure, it’s rigorous, but this is the magic circle. “You feel very invested in by the firm,” adds another insider.

Linklaters firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Travers Smith

Trainees at the firm where profit per equity partner smashed the £1 million mark this year report “very good formal training” but it is apparently the “informal training [that sets] the firm apart”. This basically boils down to “excellent access to client-facing work in a very supportive environment”.

A set up that sees Travers Smith trainees share a room with a partner and an associate, each of who “actively take time to explain new issues or comments they have to you”, facilitates the learning process.

Travers Smith firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Taylor Wessing

Few firms rear their youth as whole-heartedly as Taylor Wessing. It begins with a two-week training period before you even start training, after which there is department-specific training in each seat. There is “LOTS of training sessions and support,” one TW TCer tells us.

Where the firm is smart is in how it puts all this into action, with its extremely equipped rookies then awarded “a high degree of responsibility” as they go forth and lawyer. Happily, there is “lots of support” on hand that’s facilitated by a partner “open door policy” that is adhered to in more than just the literal sense of the term.

Taylor Wessing firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Osborne Clarke

“Everyone always takes the time to explain things with you,” trainees at famously nice Osborne Clarke tell us. They add that partners at the international firm — which is split across London, Reading and Bristol in the UK — are keen to “discuss the bigger picture and where your work falls in the context of the matter/deal”.

Formal training sessions are supplemented by senior lawyers “offering one-to-one training if someone really wants to challenge themselves”. It’s also worth noting that each team at Osborne Clarke has a designated ‘training and know-how lawyer’.

Osborne Clarke firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Mayer Brown

Mayer Brown’s well-drilled London rookies have long been a target for other US and magic circle rivals, but recent pay rises are illustrative of a newfound determination by the firm to hang onto its talent.

The departmental training is said to be some of the best in the City, with trainees praising its “commercial relevance”, “thoroughness” and “appropriate frequency”. A wider culture of relative informality helps bed all this knowledge in, with partners “willing to spend time training and explaining things to junior colleagues”. The fairly small cohort size leads to plentiful “meaty work, such as drafting documents, interesting pieces of research, and attending meetings/court.” One trainee sums up the approach: “I have been given challenging pieces of work with supervision which is a great way to learn.”

Mayer Brown firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Macfarlanes

First-rate instruction is combined with plentiful seminars from internal and external speakers to deliver a grounding in corporate law matched by few firms. It’s not just the variety and volume of the training at Macfarlanes that impress its rookies, but the “collaborative atmosphere”.

Your superiors at the firm are encouraged to help you out, but so are your peers. “Great atmosphere, wonderful people,” exclaims one rookie.

Macfarlanes firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills’ “highly structured” training programme is run in large part by its senior lawyers, “who for the most part are excellent teachers”. The focus is on giving trainees as much exposure as possible. That means often being invited to listen in on important calls, or attend meetings, “as a teaching point”.

“Significant amounts of time” are set aside by senior associates and partners to “go through tasks in detail” and “provide very thorough feedback”. Trainees at the firm talk about being “really pushed and challenged” within a “friendly and supportive” environment.

Herbert Smith Freehills firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

Bristows

With its fondness for hiring trainees with science PhDs, Bristows is a cerebral sort of place to start your career. “Super-bright” graduates rapidly process instructions from similarly intelligent yet “down to earth” senior lawyers in a “supportive” environment where “good vibes” abound.

All ten of the trainees who start with the firm each year are guaranteed a seat in the IP litigation department, Bristows’ flagship practice area, while also spending time in five-six other seats in a mixture of three-six month rotations. This slightly unusual system — which is a departure from the standard four six month seats operated my most firms — gets the thumbs up from Bristows’ rookies, who rate its “flexibility and variety”.

Bristows firm profile [Legal Cheek Most List]

The rest

Overall the standard of training among the 56 firms surveyed by Legal Cheek was very high. Looking beyond the ten above which secured A*s, 36 got an A-grade, while nine received a B and one got a C. You can access all the firm scorecards through the 2016-17 Firms Most List. We’ll be announcing the winners of each category in the New Year.

If you would like to purchase a report containing a full breakdown of Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey results for your firm, benchmarked against the other participating firms and a custom selected group of peer firms, please contact Legal Cheek Research for more details.