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, which cleans up for quality of work in the 2018–19 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Insiders give the West Country outfit an A* rating, with particular emphasis on the lack of magic circle-style drudgery.
“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. In mitigation, loyal trainees point to 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’ll generally leave on time: the average leaving time is a life-enhancing 6pm. It depends on the seat and what the different practice groups have on, of course, but you might get lucky: “I’ve only stayed past 7 once in the past year”, one trainee boasts. 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 £27,000 — around 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”. Core business is four particular industry sectors: Banking & Financial Services; Media & Technology; Retail, Leisure, Food & Drink; and Property, Infrastructure & Construction. 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 means everyone is supportive and really friendly”. Another grateful recruit says that his trainee group is “very supportive” and the firm’s mentoring program “really makes a difference”. 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: turnover at the firm has grown 80% in the past five years, reaching £43 million. You might not be getting an international secondment here, but the firm is certainly going places.