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 have responsibility to run my own deals with my supervisor’s support,” a chuffed insider tells us, “and I’m encouraged to delegate to the support assistants as much as possible to avoid doing any admin work.” That’s corroborated by a second Legal Cheek mole, who’s pleased to report that she’s “never asked to sort out mail or photocopying”. Another current trainee tells us: “I am nearing qualification and pretty much spend most of my week doing interesting legal work for clients with successful businesses.” 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. 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. It 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 “usually gets home at a decent time to go for walks on the beach”. Another trainee boasted they had “only stayed past 7pm once in the past year”. 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 £30,000 — just over the national average wage, in fact.
Training-wise, you can expect “a mixture of on-the-job and formal training in a wide range of practice areas”. 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 small trainee intake [the firm takes on 12 each year] 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 sec revealed to us that they have organised trips to places like GoApe.
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. 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. “It is really easy to approach the superior members of the team, who are often your supervisors,” one young lawyer points out. “I’ve never had an awkward (silent) coffee break,” says another. 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 a 9% rise in revenue to £47.2 million. Revenue has more than doubled since 2010. Corporate and real estate were 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. Recently, the firm 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”. A few trainees per intake are able to get themselves working at a regional airline, international retailer and banking clients. The firm also has its ‘Virtual Trainee’ programme where trainees work part-time in-house with a client.