“Great salary and good quality work, but without the expectation that you stay in the office all hours” — the words of Michelmores’ mole. It’s a compelling offer for grads on the training contract safari, so long as they’re happy to live in Exeter.
Well, that used to be the case, but the firm’s expansion in London and Bristol means new opportunities. Still, 80% of Michelmores staff are in the Devon city, and most of its trainees are based there too.
Michelmores divides its work into three departments: private wealth, real estate and finance & investment. Like some other regional firms, it does a strong line in sectors that would baffle City slickers: it boasts of having the largest team of agriculture solicitors in the country, for example, and also tackles local government and education work. Retail, manufacturing and energy feature as well. In 2017, the 60-partner outfit ditched its clinical negligence practice in order to focus on what it does best: usually a good sign.
Less usual, perhaps, for a regional firm with big ambitions, Michelmores isn’t the product of a series of mergers. The firm was founded by a chap called Michelmore in 1887 and has grown organically from there. Nowadays it’s “going paperless” and posted revenues of £37 million in its most recently disclosed financial results. More importantly from the point of view of potential trainees, its retention rate was 100% in both 2018 and 2019, although the 2021 result has come in at only 70%. Having said this, it seems that there’s no Hunger Games played here: “We really support each other and there is no competitiveness between us”.
The firm does a decent line in blogging, including contributions from trainees featuring gems such as, “A healthy respect for what you don’t know is useful; primitive humans were right to fear the dark because it probably had a panther in it”. You’ll find this and other pearls of wisdom on the Michelmores trainee Twitter account.
HR-approved praise is one thing, but Michelmores trainees are also pretty glowing when they speak in confidence. One insider tells us that “Michelmores provides brilliant training. A lot of effort is put into ensuring that each seat is useful and you get a valuable experience”. Another adds: “Really enjoyable, solid and varied experience to date. Very well-rounded training, from the acute commercial and legal knowledge gained from our sector approach to the more ‘human’ side, e.g. wellbeing, resilience, leadership etc.” Not exactly the dirt-dishing we were hoping for, but fair enough.
The firm rates highly for partner approachability. “I have worked in all three offices”, another trainee says, “and everyone has always been approachable and friendly. The open plan offices really help with that because the partner and senior team members are sat at the next desk.”
Another thing worth knowing is that only Exeter-based trainees get a chance to spend a seat at the firm’s “very swanky” third office in London, an opportunity not open to those recruited through the Bristol branch (they go to Exeter instead). There’s more information about which seats are available where on the Michelmores website, although note the mildly ominous “seats available will depend on business need” caveat. Bear in mind as well that the Exeter office is a bit out of town, not slap in the middle.
But, as per one rookie: “Working at the Exeter HQ/living in the South West means that in the summer months you are home in time to catch an evening surf or run/cycle along the quayside or coastal paths.” Sounds idyllic. Others tell us there’s an on-site (and subsidised) gym and café, and that the firm has taken steps (small and large) to improve its green credentials in recent years. Improvements have been made to “the garden areas around the Exeter office to create a better wildlife habitat”.
The firm’s basic tech is considered “reliable”. In terms of AI, we’re told Michelmores operates basic coding packages for various work streams, but relies upon third parties for more detailed scripts, such as disclosure review platforms. Its IT has been “up to the task” in the wake of Covid-19 and move to remote-working, with work levels “sustained in most areas of the firm”.
Notable deals include advising Gemalto on its successful bid to manufacture British passports after Brexit, the Met Police on buying the freehold of its counter-terrorism hub, and the owners of Leyton Orient FC on selling the club to the guy who runs Dunkin’ Donuts. Michelmores also has a smattering of international clients, despite having no international offices — with the odd opportunity for trainees to spend time abroad with them.