Founded in 1770, Payne Hicks Beach boasts a rich history and a prestigious list of clients. Nestled in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, surrounded by trees, tennis courts, and top law firms and chambers, Payne Hicks Beach handles a broad mix of private client and commercial work.
Renowned for representing high-net-worth individuals, it’s no surprise that the firm’s specialisms span estate and succession planning, citizenship and immigration, family, children, divorce, surrogacy, landed estates, senior executives, and entrepreneurs. The firm’s commercial practice also has an individual focus, with lawyers working on employment, family offices, corporate immigration, and entrepreneurial matters alongside more typical corporate, commercial, dispute resolution, and property work.
Four training positions are on offer at the firm, where rookies can learn from leaders in their field. The partnership includes, for example, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, LVO, the lawyer who battled it out in the divorces of, among others: the Duke of York Prince Andrew and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, then Prince of Wales (and now King Charles III) and Princess of Wales Diana, Sir Paul McCartney and Heather McCartney, Claire and Thierry Henry, and most recently Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Princess Haya bint Hussein.
“The quality of training and supervision at Payne Hicks Beach is excellent,” chimes one junior, noting how they “have always felt well supported and encouraged.” “The quality of the training is very high,” confirms another, “and trainees are given a significant amount of work and responsibility throughout their contract, coupled with the support of more senior members of staff.” With the firm taking on just four recruits each year, and with each department typically having only one trainee at any given time, it’s hardly surprising that the lucky few are given “a lot of responsibility.” “People make an effort to involve juniors,” adds another recent recruit.
Trainees can expect to complete four seat rotations of six months each and are given the choice of six core practice areas. The firm seeks to accommodate trainees’ preferences where possible. The seats on offer are: private client, family, company and commercial, property, dispute resolution, and citizenship & immigration.
Both during these seats and beyond, juniors can expect to do “highly interesting work”, with only the “odd tedious task” spaced between a workload that “tends to be varied and interesting”. Put simply by one happy recruit, “I am not sure you would get better work anywhere else.” This high-calibre caseload stems, according to one rookie, from the firm’s reputation. “The firm’s reputation means that it receives interesting work from interesting clients. Particularly in the family department, there is rarely a dull day.” Another junior tells us that “the quality of work is the highlight of our TC.”
Considering the location of Payne Hicks Beach’s office, it’s a bold statement to make. Located in the heart of London’s historic legal district, barely five minutes away from the Royal Courts of Justice, the firm’s office sits in 10 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. Described variously by trainees as “a beautiful and inspiring place to work”, “beautiful surroundings”, and simply “beautiful”, it’s a big pull factor that “most people seem to love coming into the office for”. While there are grumblings that a canteen or social space wouldn’t go amiss in the historic building, and that one or two rooms could do with some TLC, rookies are overall positive about the location and its “well-designed and professional meeting rooms”.
To top off the in-office experience, we hear the PHB bunch are supportive and very friendly. “We all really root for one another,” one rookie says, talking about his fellow trainees. “The trainee intake is small and as a result, each cohort is very close,” adds another. In fact, without exception, junior lawyers at the firm describe each other as “extremely supportive”, “particularly close”, “very supportive”, and “friendly and supportive”. While we’re not sure whether this is the cause of such friendliness, or the effect, one rookie adds that juniors “don’t feel in competition” with one another, as the firm has plenty of work and opportunities to go around the small cohorts.
Whatever is making these rookies so happy has clearly rubbed off on supervisors and partners too. We hear that “partners always make time to discuss work and answer questions”, and that they are, overall, “very approachable”. One junior even went as far as to describe their superiors as “friendly and down-to-earth”, words that might send shudders down the spines of partners at many other city outfits. The only thing missing, rookies tell us, is a mentorship scheme to pair up recruits and more senior lawyers.
One possible cause of this unanimous friendliness could be the range of social events that the firm puts on for its lawyers. Whether you prefer cricket, tennis, sailing, wine tasting, or quiz nights, much like the client services on offer, the firm has something for everyone.
Despite the exciting workload and clientele, we’re told that rookies have a “very good” work/life balance. While there are “occasionally some long days”, the average stint sees recruits leaving the office between 6-7 pm. And, even when juniors do have to stay online for some extra hours, “the work is always appreciated”. Summing up the firm’s attitude, one rookie says, “as long as the job is getting done and we come in for the three days a week, we are trusted to manage our time”.
It can’t all be picturesque views, supportive superiors, and inspiring clients, however. Our insiders also told us that while the perks and tech available are on the up thanks to some recent boosts, there is still room for improvement. The same is true, we’re told, of the work-from-home kit offered by the firm.