If you want to be a lawyer but long for a proper work/life balance, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that seems like a far-away dream. But there are training options outside the magic circle and US firms that allow this – albeit with considerably lower pay. Hewitsons is a good example of such a firm. Figures from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 show the average leave the office time for Hewitsons rookies to be a refreshingly early 5:43pm. The flipside to this is that trainees earn a comparatively small £23,500, increasing to £37,500 when they qualify.
The past few years have seen successive growth for the firm, notably following its £16 million merger with London-based Moorhead James in 2015. Hewitsons currently offers 12 training contracts per year between its Cambridge and Northampton offices with a potential seat placement in the firm’s Milton Keynes or London office.
The firm’s main office is in picturesque Cambridge. Working in this famed academic city is clearly a very different experence to life in London, with one insider pointing out “everyone knows each other in Cambridge, it’s all very chill.” Another adds: “Being in central Cambridge is the best perk” – a tribute to the city’s beautiful scenery and relaxed-lifestyle. The firm has cultivated a client base that is a mix of medium-sized and larger companies. In the former category are businesses which mainly produce work in the agriculture, private wealth and employment sectors. In the latter there are multi-million pound acquisitions and large fund raisings. Gambling.com Group, Nuformix, a pharmaceutical company, and Amino Technologies, an interactive entertainment provider, are all clients.
Trainees at Hewitsons have a chance to really sink their teeth into the work, an opportunity that is not always the case at larger firms. As one rookie explained: “I deal with the same breadth and complexity of work as my supervising partner, which is very challenging but also very interesting.” The training at the firm is also commended, with trainees particularly appreciative of the direct partner supervision: “The partners I was supervised by were top notch across the board and included some inspirational female role models.” Trainees have a decent amount of contact time with partners and are encouraged to ask questions “so that we neither waste time nor cock up” – which makes sense considering the level of responsibility these rookies have.
Helped by its comparably small size, there is a collegiate atmosphere where trainees support one another. “If being supportive means going to the pub together a lot then we are all very supportive,” one quips. Being outside London makes this easier as one interviewee explains: “Can work late when there is a deal on, but in Cambridge everyone lives a short cycle ride from work (and the pub).” As well as being close to the pub, Hewitsons’ Cambridge location has been described as “ideal”, situated an “equal distance from the river Cam and from H&M” – perfect for scenic lunches or a quick shopping spree. Hewitsons doesn’t have a canteen, leaving trainees to source their own grub. One trainee notes that they’ve been “racking up the advantage card points from all the Boots meal deals”.
What you won’t get at Hewitsons is much in the way of secondments – Legal Cheek understands that client secondments are rare and the firm’s absence of international offices means there are no placements abroad. However the firm extends its international capabilities as a member of LawExchange, an independent network of law practices in countries across the globe. In addition to being a resource for legal advice across jurisdictions, LawExchange encourages a programme of exchanges between member firms.