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 “lots of hands-on work and direct client contact” if you begin your career here, insiders tell us. Rookies are known to “always be given a breakdown of the task and best way to approach it along with a template” and enjoy attending internal group training sessions. “I’ve spoken with senior lawyers at other firms who were genuinely shocked by the quality of work I have been responsible for,” reports one TLT rookie.
A third-seater details: “Regardless of the department, the levels of responsibility have been very consistent throughout. Your opinion is really valued and members of the team take out time to explain things to you even if they’re busy. I have also had scope to present my own ideas and provide suggestions which is fantastic and gets me into the habit of making decisions at such a junior level which will no doubt help shape me into a well-rounded lawyer.”
All this comes down to the fact that there is “a really encouraging culture within the firm” where trainees “receive as much or as little support as needed no matter what seat you are in”. Aided by the absence of private offices, 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 means rookies can ask “questions you feel a little daft asking of anyone no matter how senior they are,” another trainee adds.
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. Another explains at length: “Trainees across all cohorts and offices come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are very different in that sense but we all share the same qualities: supportive, ambitious and genuinely nice people to work with. Trainees who have been in the seats you are currently in also regularly offer guidance and tips throughout your rotation which makes navigating the seat a lot more manageable. All trainees are very approachable and there is a real sense of camaraderie.”
It’s an approach that is clearly working financially, with revenue up a whopping 31% to £144 million, smashing the firm’s 2025 revenue target of £140 million three years ahead of schedule. Profit per equity partner has also made a big jump from £600,000 to £840,000. This strong performance demonstrates the ability of TLT’s new leadership. In April 2020, the firm elected its first new managing partner in 19 years with long-time incumbent David Pester, one of the most respected legal bosses in the business, being replaced 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 January 2021, TLT struck its second alliance with the Belgian firm GSJ advocaten, after teaming up with Netherlands firm Holla in June 2020, 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, Sainsbury’s, Lloyds, the BBC, EDF Energy and Boohoo. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, this year TLT’s corporate, clean energy and litigation departments were the biggest contributors to its strong financial results.
This all bodes well for the quality of work with one sharp-eyed rookie pointing out that “the firm are landing more high profile clients and deals. Within the space of one year of my training contract, I can definitely see the calibre of work increasing”. There’s already “sexy work for interesting clients” though, which includes “assisting drafting complex bespoke contracts” and pretty extensive project management, alongside more standard typically trainee-level work.
But with this new momentum has come some damage to the firm’s reputation for having relatively reasonable hours compared to international City law firms. This spy explains: “Work life balance is very unpredictable at times and is department dependent. My seats in Corporate and FSDI were definitely where my hours were longer and working from home means expectations to work later are there. Across the firm, all teams are getting noticeably busier with more work which means long hours are increasingly becoming the norm.” That said, there is more flexibility than other firms with “no expectation to be in the office” following the firm’s announcement that it would allow a ‘fully flexible’ working strategy in 2021. In order to make this possible, TLT has invested multi-million sums hiring more than 400 support staff.
Helping with this is TLT’s increasing use of legal technology, which the firm “are investing heavily into”. “It is getting more advanced. We are starting to use more AI [artificial intelligence] technology which has helped speed up a lot of typically menial tasks,” reports one trainee. This consolidates on earlier progress when the firm launched FutureLaw, a £500,000 fund to test technology more quickly before providing them to clients in 2018. 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.
“Definitely room for more perks though,” stresses one newbie, which seems to be a weaker area for the firm. There are some decent freebies including free entry to Bristol Zoo, private healthcare (which includes an Apple watch), subsidised gym membership, free clipper tea, coffee machine coffee and snacks in the office, team drinks plus a health insurance scheme that awards goodies like cinema tickets and Starbucks coffees to those who meet their step count targets. But this all fails to make up for the fact that many feel the pay is lagging behind market rates, especially in London where NQs bag £75,000.
Chances of going on client secondments are growing, and trainee destinations have included Starling Bank, NatWest, Santander and Iceland Foods. “It was a great experience and has served me well for the future of my career,” reports 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. There was much praise for the Manchester gaff which, we are told, is a “great modern office” in the heart of Spinningfields. 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” with new coffee machines creating a real buzz across the firm’s various outposts. Caterers also apparently come in for certain days, such as scones for the Jubilee, perhaps a concession to the lack of microwaves that have caused grumbles in the past. And last, but certainly not least, TLT has moved into a new sustainable office development in Glasgow. This flagship gaff is actually the first net zero office building in the city!