Bevan Brittan is one of these firms that focuses on specific sectors, rather than trying to be all things to all clients. It was traditionally a public sector specialist, the firm of choice for the National Health Service, and still does a great deal of its business for NHS organisations, councils and housing associations. On the day of the health service’s 70th anniversary last July, for example, Bevan Brittan donated all the fees it earned from advising NHS clients to charity. But while still primarily public sector focused, it has expanded into the likes of construction, energy and waste management, and is trying to attract more private clients. Those efforts seems to be paying off: over a quarter of Bevan Brittan’s 2017-18 revenue came from the private sector.
Profit per equity partner jumped an almighty 41% last year, from £313,000 to £443,000. The firm made the right noises in response to the good results, saying that “to sustain this level of growth we continue to invest in our future legal talent” including more trainees. It now takes on ten every year, one of whom told us that it’s a good place to learn how to be a lawyer: “regular training sessions, supportive teams and partners, enough direction with tasks and processes as you find your feet in a new seat”. Public sector work may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it can go in interesting directions: last year Bevan Brittan successfully defended Oxford University against a High Court action taken by a former Clifford Chance trainee over “negligently inadequate teaching”.
One Bevan Brittan insider tells us that the quality of work that trainees are exposed to “varies between departments but with very little admin – there’s a great business support team which fee-earners expect you to use if elements of a task involve a large amount of photocopying/scanning”. Successful applicants will do four six-month seats in the firm’s various departments: Clinical Risk, Commercial & Infrastructure, Litigation, Advisory & Regulatory, Employment and Property. The firm’s trainee retention rate is worth bearing mind, however: only seven out of ten are kept on. Not awful, by any means, but other firms offer a higher chance of NQ success.
Bevan Brittan (don’t spell it “Britain” in your covering letter, they won’t like that) has four offices, but we understand that the London and Bristol bases play host to the lion’s share of the trainees, with a couple in Birmingham. All three offices are centrally located. Those considering an application are “strongly” recommended to apply for the summer vac scheme. The firm has a handy little section on its careers website giving its take on the training contract applications it receives.
For those who do bag a training contract, the atmosphere in the office is said to be good, perhaps a knock-on effect of the clients being mostly dedicated to public service rather than cut-throat capitalism. “Everyone’s got your back”, one current trainee is happy to report, and the partners are “all big softies really”. The firm itself boasts of its “open plan office where trainees often sit beside senior partners” – a mixed blessing, perhaps.
The facilities themselves aren’t world-beating: “there are desks and fridges”, another newbie says dryly, and the technology “all works”. The Bristol office does have an on-site gym and there are a few other standard perks. And one thing Bevan Brittan certainly has to offer is healthy work/life balance, with lawyers expecting to knock off between 6pm and 7pm.