TLT is consistently highly rated for training and quality of work, thanks to an ethos that encourages young lawyers to take on high levels of responsibility. Expect plenty of client contact if you begin your career here, insiders tell us.
“As a trainee I have been given a lot of responsibility (e.g. running my own files or taking the lead on specific parts of larger matters, such as leading the DD on large corporate transactions),” reports one TLT rookie. Others describe receiving a “high level of supervision” without “being micro-managed”, and are encouraged to “try and find answers yourself”.
This tricky mix is fostered by a culture that is unusually down-to-earth for a corporate law firm. Partners are so approachable and friendly that it’s “unnerving”, we are told. “I feel I can talk with any of them, be it about work matters or the results from the football on a weekend,” says one trainee, while also praising the open-plan office. This chatty atmosphere among fee earners “allows you to ask questions without fear”, another trainee adds. As with any firm, some superiors come across “a little intimidating”, one novice notes, “but most are very willing to give you their time”.
Trainees can also expect to receive support from their cohort. “The other trainees in my intake are great, lovely people to get to know and we’ve definitely helped each other through in the inevitable trickier moments,” reveals one insider. Others have found “no evidence of any rivalry or competitiveness,” with one trainee instead stressing, “we are all genuinely friends”.
It’s an approach that is clearly working financially, with revenue up 13% from £87.6 million to £98.8 million in what is another year of consecutive growth for the firm. Profit per equity partner was last reported as £225,000. Reports of strong performance are particularly impressive considering that TLT recently changed leadership – electing its first new managing partner in 19 years. Long-time incumbent David Pester, one of the most respected legal bosses in the business, was replaced last October by former TLT corporate head John Wood. Pester, now TLT’s head of strategic growth, is credited with transforming the firm from a relative unknown into a major law brand since he took the helm way back in 2001.
TLT now has seven offices, including a City of London base near St Paul’s, the headquarters in Bristol and an overseas outpost in the Greek port of Piraeus. The firm is also ambitiously looking to broaden its cross-border services for clients by forming strategic alliances with firms in key European countries, the US and India. In June, TLT struck its first-ever alliance after teaming up with Netherlands firm Holla, which will provide a convenient gateway to other countries – especially after Brexit.
TLT’s original formula, concocted by Pester, worked by undercutting global law firms on certain aspects of banking transactions, which it then handed to teams of young lawyers in Bristol, Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow. But as time has gone on TLT has become a significant banking & finance player in its own right, with its London office growing in clout. TLT also has major real estate, employment and general commercial practices that serve a mixture of local and national clients. Star clients include Barclays, Lloyds, the BBC, EDF Energy and Boohoo.
The work can be tough, but it’s rewarding. There’s “sexy work for interesting clients”, which includes “assisting drafting complex bespoke contracts” and pretty extensive project management, alongside more standard typically trainee-level work. Where it differs from global law firms is in how TLT makes it fit within relatively reasonable hours. Most trainees and junior lawyers barely exceed nine hours on a typical working day and rarely work weekends. “I feel I have time to myself outside of work and can enjoy a social life,” says one trainee. While busy periods may require the odd late night, trainees are often told to come in later the next day or are given time in lieu. “It’s not a pushover here, but workloads are generally manageable,” a trainee tells us.
Helping with this is TLT’s increasing use of legal technology, which the firm is becoming “more serious” about. “It is getting more advanced. We are starting to use more AI technology which has helped speed up a lot of typically menial tasks,” reports one trainee. In 2018, the firm launched FutureLaw, a £500,000 fund to test technology more quickly before providing them to clients. In the same year, TLT backed the launch of the Barclays Eagle Labs, a London-based incubator that can accommodate up to 100 lawtech-minded entrepreneurs, and partnered with US lawtech company LegalSifter, which uses AI to organise and negotiate contracts. The firm still has some distance to go, however, with its in-house tech tools described as “just above average” that don’t “always work properly”, while “general day-to-day IT can sometimes be a hindrance to completing work quickly”.
The firm’s reaction to the global pandemic was received positively by most trainees. Some remote working rookies have praised the “big focus on communication”, increased amount of contact and support from their superiors. That said, the firm was “a bit slow out the blocks” with providing additional equipment (such as second screens) and “IT could be upgraded”, we’re told.
Perks is another weaker point. “They’re not something you’d move firms for,” says one trainee. Some decent freebies — including free entry to Bristol Zoo, private healthcare (which includes an Apple watch), subsidised gym membership, plus a health insurance scheme that awards goodies like cinema tickets and Starbucks coffees to those who meet their step count targets — fail to make up for the fact that pay in the firm’s main Bristol office lags behind local rivals. And there are continuing gripes about the lack of canteens at the firm’s offices.
Chances of going on client secondments are growing, but trainee destinations have included Zopa Bank and Iceland Foods. “It was a great experience and has served me well for the future of my career,” says one trainee.
The firm has now completed the final phase of the renovation of its Bristol headquarters. The previously “bland and monolithic” 1970s-style office block at 1 Redcliff Street is now looking very different thanks to its major refurb, boasting “incredible” views of the city – especially from the new client suite on the 15th floor. The recent London office refurb is also “really nice” and reportedly comes with free coffee and contactless payment vending machines. We’re told that offices come with “everything you could want” – except, unfortunately, microwaves. “Staff have genuinely learned to eat their meals cold,” one respondent grumbles.