Bevan Brittan is one of those 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, 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.
Bevan Brittan’s financial results have shown solid growth in recent years, with revenue reaching just over £50 million in the 2019-20 financial year and profit per equity partner (PEP) reaching £443,000 in the most recently disclosed PEP figures released in 2018. Although like many firms, Bevan Brittan may take a financial hit following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The firm offers ten training spots each year, one of whom told us that it’s a good place to learn your craft as 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: some of Bevan Brittan’s recent work includes successfully defending Oxford University against a High Court action taken by a former Clifford Chance trainee over “negligently inadequate teaching”. Whilst international secondments aren’t on offer, there are client secondment opportunities seeing trainees posted to NHS Trust legal departments, the FCA and local authorities.
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 and infrastructure, litigation, advisory and regulatory, employment and property. The firm’s trainee retention rate is worth bearing in mind, however: only seven out of ten (70%) have typically been kept on in recent years, although that rose to 78% for 2019 and stayed steady at 78% in 2020. 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 four offices are centrally located, with its Leeds outfit recently doubling in size. 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 tells us, 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 newly refurbished London office, however, features “some automated adjustable desks allowing us to sit or stand” and is “newly agile”, while the Bristol base does have an on-site gym with a few other standard perks such as a subsidised café and onsite launderers. And one thing Bevan Brittan certainly has to offer is a healthy work/life balance, with lawyers generally expecting to knock off between 6pm and 7pm. “I always have quality time with my friends/cat during the week,” one trainee highlights.
On the whole, trainees note that Bevan Brittan has adjusted remarkably well to working from home during the pandemic. No doubt this was helped by the fact that lawyers at the firm “already had home working kits including 2 desktop screens, laptop, keyboard and mouse etc. All our IT systems are online and accessible remotely with little/no need for paper documents from the office” as one insider tell us. The firm also gives lawyers a budget for home office equipment and one happy rookie reports “my comfortable work chair was couriered to me on request”.