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 (nearly 20% of trainees did one last year).

The six-seat (rather than the typical four) trainee rotation model is highly-regarded, with the training – rated A* in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 — 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, received an A* themselves in our survey for their mutual supportiveness. They 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 2018-19 survey data shows that Burges Salmon’s average leave the office time has got later, but not hugely so, extending from 6:44pm last year to 6:57pm. 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 — recently upping its newly qualified solicitor salary in the city to £50,000.

The raise comes despite two consecutive years of falls in profit per equity partner (PEP), which now stands at £430,000 – down from a high of £523,000. The effect of this has been felt on the firm’s trainee intake which has been reduced to 20. The good news is that revenue hit a record high this year, reaching £90 million, teeing the firm up for a likely PEP comeback next year.

Deadlines

Winter Vacation Scheme 2018 (Bristol)

This scheme runs from 10-14 December 2018
Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 02/11/2018

Apprenticeship Open Evening (Bristol)

The open evening takes place on Thursday 8 November 2018

Presentation Evening (Bristol)

This takes place on 22 November 2018 from 6–8:30pm
Applications close 12/11/2018

Presentation Evening (London)

This takes place on 5 December 2018 from 6–8:30pm
Applications close 12/11/2018

Spring Vacation Scheme 2019 (Bristol)

This scheme runs from 1 – 12 April 2019
Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 11/01/2019

Summer Vacation Scheme 2019 (Bristol)

The first scheme runs from 10 – 21 June 2019 and the second scheme runs from 24 June – 5 July 2019
Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 11/01/2019

Paralegal Apprenticeship 2019 (Bristol)

To commence September 2019
Applications open 05/11/2018
Applications close 18/01/2019

First Year Law Insight Day (Bristol)

This Insight Day takes place on 17 April 2019
Applications close 22/03/2019

Non-law/Graduate Insight Day (Bristol)

This Insight Day takes place on 15 April 2019
Applications close 22/03/2019

Training Contract (Bristol)

To commence September 2021
Applications open 01/10/2018
Applications close 31/07/2019

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A*
Peer support
A
Partner approach-ability
B
Work/life balance
A
Tech
A
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 2018-19 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £35,000
Second year trainee salary £36,000
Newly qualified salary £50,000
Profit per equity partner £430,000
GDL grant £7,000
LPC grant £7,000

Hours

Average arrival time 08:51
Average leave time 18:57
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 2018-19 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 6%
Chances of client secondment 19%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 20
Latest trainee retention rate 96%
Offices 2
Countries 1
Minimum A-level requirement AAB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Diversity

UK female associates 56%
UK female partners 19%
UK BME associates 5%
UK BME partners 3%

Burges Salmon does not break down data regarding BME employees but overall 4.3% of lawyers are BME.

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words