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 (NHS), 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, employment, litigation and energy and waste management with some success.
Bevan Brittan’s financial results have shown solid growth in recent years, with revenue reaching just over £56 million in the 2020-21 financial year and profit per equity partner (PEP) reaching £535,000 in the most recently disclosed PEP figures. This latest financial year ended up being one of the firm’s most profitable to date, despite the pandemic.
The firm offers around ten training spots each year, which we are told by one trainee leads to a good amount of early responsibility: “The small intake of trainees in each office means you are given more opportunities.” 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 advising on the purchase of Dagenham Dock which will be redeveloped into more than 3,100 new homes. Whilst international secondments aren’t on offer, there are client secondment opportunities seeing trainees posted to NHS Trust legal departments, the Financial Conduct Authority and local authorities.
One Bevan Brittan insider tells us that the quality of work that trainees are exposed to “varies between departments” but there is generally “very little admin”. Overall, it seems rookies are involved in a good mix of “work which enables you to consolidate learning/skills as well as work which is challenging from both an intellectual and skills perspective.” 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, but other firms offer a higher chance of NQ success. However, over 20% of the firm’s partners trained at the firm, indicating those who are retained often want to stay for the long run.
Bevan Brittan (don’t spell it “Britain” in your application form, 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 and Leeds. All four offices are centrally located with some having gone through changes in recent years: the Leeds office has doubled in size, the London office was refurbished into a modern and agile workplace and the Birmingham office relocated to an interim office in One Temple Row while the firm looks for a permanent base for its 70 Birmingham staff. 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. At its core, Bevan Brittan values responsible business with £20,000 being donated to local office charities, 25 staff trained as mental health first aiders and 30 being appointed as diversity and inclusion ambassadors.
We are told Bevan Brittan has embraced legal tech through “an internal IT team that are very experienced and have developed in-house legal solutions to most of our daily work”. Though as one trainee notes that the move to digitalisation did not happen overnight: “The firm took a long time to find a provider they were happy with for internal/external conference calls”. While the recently refurbished London office features “some automated adjustable desks allowing us to sit or stand” and is “newly agile”, overall, the facilities aren’t world-beating. “There are desks and fridges”, one newbie noted dryly. However, the Bristol base does have an on-site gym with a few other standard perks such as a subsidised café and onsite launderers. 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 tells 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”.