The Legal Cheek View

BCLP was formed in 2018 from the merger between America’s Bryan Cave and the UK’s Berwin Leighton Paisner. The former has a strong reputation in the US for M&A, while the latter has long been known for the quality and breadth of its high-end international commercial real estate practice.

The global player boasts around 1,200 lawyers across more than 30 offices in eleven different countries, with additional regional support across many other jurisdictions. In the UK, BCLP operate mainly out of their London office, but this is complemented by a strong presence in Manchester, which also offers a small number of training contracts, and a Southampton base. Globally, BCLP consolidated its two French offices into a single Paris base and opened a new office in Seattle.  The firm also, like many other firms, shuttered its Moscow hub in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

The decision to close the Moscow office, which generated annual revenues of $30 million (£24 million), has predictably taken a financial toll on BCLP’s global revenues, which are down 3.8% from last year to $845 million, or £664 million. Profit per equity partner (PEP) is also down 12.8% to $942,000 (£740,000) following a record increase of 29% the previous year which saw PEP pass the $1 million mark. This comes despite a 5.6% fall in the number of equity partners at the firm. Technological investments and lawyer compensation increases were among the other reasons for the decline.

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In 2020 BCLP announced its three target areas of focus as part of its ‘Project Advance’ plan: litigation and investigations, mid-market corporate and finance transactions, and real estate. And the firm has continued to build on this in 2023, recently poaching a fifteen-person IP and corporate team from Dentons. Elsewhere, mid-market M&A, litigation and real estate transactions all experienced growth this year. The firm has also recently announced Steve Baumer as a single-head CEO — after a period of co-chairing with BLP veteran Lisa Mayhew — in line with BCLP’s global ‘one firm’ strategy. In London, the firm made up seven new partners in its latest promotion round, after losses in practices such as IP, where the firm lost an 11-strong team to Taylor Wessing in 2021.

Despite a turbulent few years firm-wide, one thing that has remained the same at BCLP is the importance of quality training: “BCLP invest hours of training into both firm-wide knowledge and the specific seats you sit in. Often, the teams invite leading professionals in their area (lecturers, clients, analysts etc) to give a talk on a current topic which is always insightful and is highly encouraged across the firm to attend these events,” one trainee details. “Excellent engagement” and “intellectually stimulating” work were the buzzwords amongst respondents to the 2023-24 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, with one spy explaining: “we get work beyond what a usual trainee would be expected to do and we’re challenged, so it is very stimulating.”

It’s no surprise that trainees found stimulating work when companies such as BlackRock, Deliveroo, Nike and BoxPark make up their clientele. In one of their most notable recent deals, BCLP secured a major win in the High Court for clients Royal Mail and BT, in a landmark case against DAF, Volvo/Renault and Mercedes, for their participation in a cartel — creating what is now the leading cartel damages judgement in the UK.

“Trainee work will always be mixed, but there’s an acknowledgement that you should have access to as much as possible beyond the boring process work,” reflects an insider. Note, though, that “the more trust you build during the seat, the more responsibility you’ll be given as it progresses, which is normally where the most exciting tasks end up lying”. And that can mean drafting opportunities that allow for client engagement, as well as the chance to run with smaller matters and be exposed to complex cross-border deals that are “really engaging and high profile”. Again, this is an area where experience differs between teams, with one rookie advising that “smaller teams can offer more insightful and stimulating work”, with the corporate and funds teams named as particularly exciting places to be!

If funds don’t sound exhilarating enough, there’s also a decent chance of getting away during your training contract, with popular destinations being Brussels, Paris and Abu Dhabi. There are some decent client secondments on offer, too, ranging all the way from six months at Goldman Sachs to a stint at charity Reprieve or even some time at fashion giants Dr Martens. One insider described their client secondment experience as a “really good opportunity to get stuck in and develop so many interpersonal and legal skills”.

Expect a good level of camaraderie among the intakes too, where “everyone is really willing to help each other out”. Another rookie says: “I’ve found my cohort of trainees to be so supportive, it makes the job more fun to have a bunch of people going through it all at the same time as you and is also a life saver in tougher moments. Even through the recent qualification process, there’s been no sense of competitiveness — we’re friends and everyone genuinely wants the best for each other”. This supportive atmosphere extends to trainees doing the apprenticeship route, which is offered in Southampton and Manchester, with newbies there praising the “supporting and understanding” teams and “very approachable” supervisors.

And partners also come highly praised. “I’ve had superiors across different teams actively go out of their way to help me, so I feel confident saying my experiences are reflective of the wider firm culture. From helping with my work to supporting my career progression, I’ve always had positive experiences when I’ve asked for help,” says one spy. Another details: “In my experience the two supervisors I’ve had have both been great. They were highly supportive, eager to give feedback and very approachable. Both have been great at building my confidence in my own abilities and making sure I know when I have done a good job.” A shout-out is clearly deserved for the graduate development team at BCLP too, for picking supervisors wisely: “The Emerging Talent team does a great job of picking supervisors who will genuinely care about helping their trainees through the two years.”

For prospective applicants, it’s worth noting that BCLP has developed a deserved reputation for innovation. One rookie reveals that “innovation is a big thing at the firm, they really value progressing legal tech solutions”, another adds: “new trainees get the new technology which is great (iPhones, laptops etc). The tech team is very supportive and always has an open door if you need IT or admin support.” The firm is continuing to offer an ‘innovation’ seat in some practice areas throughout the training contract and one rookie tells us they’re “now on a new AI trial” — exciting stuff!

The firm’s innovation credentials owe significantly to its part in creating the pioneering flexible lawyering outfit Lawyers on Demand (LOD). Although the BCLP Cubed hub for technological innovation was closed last year, the firm has continued to improve on its tech offering, bringing in chief information officer Dan Surowiec from Baker McKenzie to supervise the integration of innovation and tech specialists into the firm.

Meanwhile, perks include private healthcare, a subsidised canteen and coffee bar and a certain amount of “benefits” to spend each October on things such as Apple products, wine deliveries and the gym. A recent addition is the introduction of an in-house doctor on certain days of the month. Some insiders are disgruntled at the meal budget for late nights in the office, although this has now risen from £10 to £20.

While such freebies are not seen as stellar, they perhaps don’t have to be as they’re not compensating for crazy hours; with the exception of real estate, finance and corporate, which have reputations for late nights, the work/life balance is excellent for City law. One junior lawyer neatly sums this up as “definitely better than plenty of City firms, but definitely not 9-5 (except maybe on a Friday).”

As one insider puts it: “Work life balance varies from seats and teams. Overall working in a commercial law firm you expect not to work 9 to 5 and that, on occasion, the hours will be long. The firm is understanding of this and every team has ‘capacity talks’ to ensure no one is feeling overwhelmed and to ensure the work is shared out evenly. Also, the firm understands that you have a life outside of work and as long as you let people know you have dinner plans no one will be upset if you log off at 7 to meet friends!”

Another comments: “For a City law firm the hours are very reasonable. The latest I have stayed is 11pm and I am mostly gone by 8pm with the occasional later finish in a busy period. I generally don’t have any issues making weekday plans and am always out on Friday for a drink with the other trainees.” The firm’s netball, hockey and football teams are also said to be a great excuse to get out of the office on time (and of course a great way to socialise with colleagues outside of the office as well.)

The location isn’t bad either. BCLP’s old London gaff, Adelaide House, was on the banks of the Thames across the river from London Bridge Station. But during lockdown the firm moved a stone’s throw away to the 125,000 sq ft Governors House building at 5 Laurence Pountney Hill. Trainees describe the open-plan office as “clean and modern with a rooftop terrace, courtyard and brilliant canteen.” The Manchester office is also said to be nice and currently undergoing a refurb — we can’t wait to see the result!

When WFH, which trainees can only do one day a week at BCLP, the set-up is said to be “good” with the firm providing trainees with everything they need — “meaning it’s just as easy to WFH as it is to work in the office.”

The environment has also come to the fore in recent times. Metal straws, new environmentally friendly cardboard bins, re-usable coffee cups and a trainee-led ESG group all bode well for the firm’s greener future.

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Legal tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


First year trainee salary £50,000
Second year trainee salary £55,000
Newly qualified salary £105,000
Profit per equity partner £740,000
PGDL grant £20,300
SQE grant £20,300

BCLP also offers an interest free loan in addition the PGDL and SQE grants, for those that would benefit from the additional funding. The above figures are for London. First year trainees in Manchester receive £33,000, rising to £37,000 in their second year and £67,000 upon qualification. Those who study in regional locations, or online will receive a maintenance grant of £18,300 per annum.


Average start work time 09:06
Average finish time 19:25
Annual target hours 1,700
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


Chances of secondment abroad 22%
Chances of client secondment 23%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 35
Latest trainee retention rate 58%
Offices 31
Countries 11
Minimum A-level requirement No minimum
Minimum degree requirement No minimum


UK female associates 63%
UK female partners 32%
UK BME associates 15%
UK BME partners 14%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words