Burges Salmon

The Legal Cheek View

Corporate law firms often struggle to differentiate themselves, but Burges Salmon genuinely stands out from the crowd with a model that sees it do a large amount of City of London work mostly from Bristol. Allied to a prevailing organisational niceness, this makes it a really good place to start one’s career, current trainees tell us.

“They make an effort to ensure we are involved with interesting work,” one rookie reports, explaining that “if boring work is given it is always done so with an apology and an explanation as to why it is important”. Some “excellent”, albeit not particularly numerous, secondments — to Burges Salmon’s international alliance firms in Copenhagen, Brussels and Paris — also come highly recommended, particularly for speakers of the local languages. Client secondments to big name companies including John Lewis and EDF Energy are becoming more common (15% of trainees typically do one each year).

The six-seat (rather than the typical four) trainee rotation model is highly regarded, with the training — consistently top-rated in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey — described as “top-notch and well-structured with lots of help and resources available” both in respect of “the law and personal development”. High levels of responsibility are a theme, with supervisors said to be “keen to get trainees involved in substantive work and ensure we get a varied and broad experience.”

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Trainees, meanwhile, are said to be “very friendly and will step in to help [each other] out if you are very busy”. It helps that many join the firm as friends. “Completing the LPC with the majority of my intake before starting at BS meant we were able to get to know each other in a less formal setting to begin with,” one tells us. Partners have “a genuine open door policy” and “the ones you click with want you to love working here as much as they do”.

To add to the utopian vibe, Burges Salmon has one of the most delightful offices out there. “I love it, I feel inspired every time I walk in the building,” exclaims one rookie. The office is nestled by the river just a couple of minutes walk from Temple Meads railway station, from which London (where the firm has a smaller office) is an hour and 45 minutes away. Business train trips to the firm’s second office in the capital are in first class — even for trainees.

What’s more, the Bristol canteen is apparently better than many top restaurants — and good value too. A weekly ‘cake trolley’ augments the culinary experience. And even the firm coffee is said to be nice. Burges Salmon also boasts among the lowest commute times of any major UK outfit — a higher proportion of its junior lawyers walking to work than any other. This may not be unrelated to its buoyant social life. “The firm’s events are always really well done with good food, lots of alcohol and everyone gets involved — from a senior partner dressing as Mick Jagger to an NQ doing a James Bond tango with another partner,” reports a trainee. Another tells us: “I’ve just been to an escape room experience and cider tasting and I’m heading off to our summer party/festival at the zoo tonight with wine tasting next week…next question?”

Where tensions sometimes arise is where the high-level work carries similarly high-level expectations. Indeed, to some extent the firm is a victim of its own success in this respect. The “hours are getting longer and longer”, an insider tell us, with another adding: “I don’t doubt that the hours are generally better than City firms, but there does seem to be a number of trainees on any given day in late into the night.” Others note that hours vary widely between departments and tells us that when they do leave late that partners “are very appreciative”. Legal Cheek’s survey data shows that Burges Salmon’s average leave the office time is creeping towards 7pm. This is mitigated to an extent by a flexible working push that has seen all of the firm’s lawyers given new Surface Book laptops, and a recent pay rise.

With London lawyer remuneration rises starting to filter out of London, Burges Salmon has made sure that its young lawyers continue to be the joint highest earners in Bristol — upping its newly qualified solicitor salary in the city to £50,000.

Partners have also seen a pay rise this year, with profit per equity partner (PEP) increasing from £430,000 to £443,000 — a figure that remains down from a 2015 high of £523,000, partly due to investment in, among other things, a new Edinburgh office (opened in May but not offering training contracts for now) and new lawtech infrastructure. Revenue is up again, rising by 5% from £90 million to a new record high of £94.6 million.

Deadlines

Legal Cheek Event in Bristol

30 October 2019
Applications open 30/09/2019
Applications close 29/10/2019

Winter Vacation Scheme

This scheme runs from 9–13 December 2019
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 31/10/2019

Presentation Evening (Bristol)

This takes place on 21 November 2019
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 20/11/2019

Presentation Evening (Edinburgh)

This takes place on 28 November 2019
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 27/11/2019

Presentation Evening (London)

This takes place on 5 December 2019
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 04/12/2019

Spring Vacation Scheme

This scheme runs from 14–24 April 2020
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 10/01/2020

Summer Vacation Scheme

Scheme 1 runs from 8–19 June 2020; scheme 2 runs from 24 June – 5 July 2020
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 10/01/2020

Open Days (Students and graduates)

The first Open Day takes place on 31 March 2020; the second Open Day takes place on 2 April 2020
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 20/03/2020

Training Contract

To commence 2022
Applications open 01/10/2019
Applications close 26/06/2020

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A
Peer support
A*
Partner approach-ability
A
Work/life balance
B
Tech
B
Perks
A*
Office
A*
Canteen
A*
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019–20 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £36,000
Second year trainee salary £37,000
Newly qualified salary £52,500
Profit per equity partner £443,000
GDL grant £7,000
LPC grant £7,000

The above salaries are for Bristol.

Hours

Average arrival time 08:55
Average leave time 18:39
Annual target hours 1,450
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019–20 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. First year trainees’ annual target hours are 750.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 15%
Chances of client secondment 15%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019–20 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 22
Latest trainee retention rate 100%
Offices 3
Countries 2
Minimum A-level requirement ABB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

All Burges Salmon trainees are based in its Bristol headquarters.

Diversity

UK female associates 55%
UK female partners 20%
UK BME associates 4%
UK BME partners 2%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words