If there’s one thing solicitors-in-training loathe, it’s spending four or five years learning the law only to sweat over a hot photocopier for half their training contract. No such worries at West Country outfit Foot Anstey.
“[I am] given a generous amount of responsibility and client contact, while still being provided with plenty of support and supervision,” a chuffed insider tells us. We hear particularly good things about the firm’s private equity team. Other trainees tell us “everybody has time for you” and “the training has been excellent”. What more could any lawyer ask for?
Well, maybe a canteen, which Foot Anstey lacks. That’s understandable, given that it has half a dozen separate offices scattered around the South West as well as a London outpost — the “beautiful” and “swish” digs in Bristol are particularly highly commended while we are told the other offices are “fine, pretty standard”. You’re not becoming a lawyer for the food anyway. Loyal trainees were keen to point out the regular deliveries of fresh fruit and office treadmills — you might leave the office fitter than when you arrived. Unless you’re the person scoffing all the Plymouth office’s “bomb-ass Rocky Road”.
And you won’t have to spend all night in the office. This depends on the seat and what the different practice groups have on, of course. Corporate and banking tend to get a bashing, but one trainee says they “log off at a very reasonable hour in the evening and spend plenty of time enjoying everything the South West has to offer”. Another trainee boasted they had “only stayed past 7pm once in the past year”. The work/life balance at Foot Anstey seems extremely reasonable in hours and attitude as a trainee tells us: “I have always been encouraged to prioritise making time to get outdoors, exercise and look after my mental health.” That sound you’re hearing is jaws hitting the floor over in the City.
On the flip side, they aren’t paying City wages. First year trainees can expect to earn £31,500 — a little over the national average wage, in fact.
Training-wise, you can expect “the chance to work across a wide range of transactions [and] gain varied experience”. The core business is made up of eight industry sectors: banking and finance; media and entertainment; energy; private equity; private wealth; retail and consumer; retail financial services; and developers. We’re told that “a lot of effort is put into trainees” and that you’ll “be pushed out of your comfort zone regularly”.
At Foot Anstey, the relatively small trainee intake of 19 “means everyone is supportive and really friendly”. Another grateful recruit says that their trainee group is “very supportive” and the firm’s mentoring programme “really makes a difference”. However, it can be “hard to socialise with trainees as they are split across offices, but they all get together a couple of times every year”. Apparently, the social scene in “Bristol is much better than Plymouth”.
The social life seems to dry up after your training contract, mind you: “Trainee socials have a large budget and there is something organised every quarter”, but post-qualification it’s mostly about the Christmas party.
Again, this is partly down to having multiple offices. What the firm may lack in the sesh department it makes up in perks: everyone loves Lifestyle Hour, an hour a week on firm time to do whatever you like. “I like to use mine to leave early on a Friday,” one trainee told us while sipping a mojito in her hammock. Flexible working opportunities are excellent, and you can buy and sell annual leave days. As one trainee puts it: “The best perk is not having to work silly hours.” Those with an eye for a deal will dig the discounts for local shops, which drive down the un-London-y cost of living further still.
One trainee jokes that the partners range in approachability from “curtsying in their presence to limited banter”, but mostly it’s a pretty chilled vibe. “Senior lawyers and members of the partnership are extremely friendly and approachable. The culture is very warm, and there is no distinct hierarchy,” one young lawyer praises. “The partners are very invested in the quality of the trainee experience,” the trainee continues with another commenting “everyone is very approachable”. The partners might even join you down the pub on a Friday night — a mixed blessing, potentially, but definitely works if they’re buying.
They can probably afford a round or two. The firm has had consecutive growth in previous years and this has continued, with the latest figures available showing a 9% rise in revenue to £47.2 million. Revenue has more than doubled since 2010, with corporate and real estate being significant contributors to this growth. In 2017 the firm opened new offices in Bristol and Southampton and won work with Cath Kidston, Flybe and Princess Yachts in 2019. The firm also advised on the £1.6 billion Pivot Power electric vehicle recharging network — the world’s biggest.
Pre-Covid, only one trainee reported getting to go abroad, as “international travel is mostly for post-qualification”. Client secondments are, however, available to the likes of Flybe, EDF Energy and Computershare. The firm also has its ‘Virtual Trainee’ programme where trainees work part-time in-house with a client.