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Meet the lawyer flying the flag for Bristol’s thriving legal scene

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By Sophie Dillon on

Simmons & Simmons’ Caroline Turner-Inskip reflects on the wide-ranging benefits of building a legal career in the South West

Simmons & Simmons’ Caroline Turner-Inskip

“I went to university in Bristol, fell in love with the city, and couldn’t really imagine my career anywhere else,” says Caroline Turner-Inskip, real estate partner at Simmons & Simmons. Turner-Inskip entered the legal world like many bright-eyed graduates, spending time as a paralegal before completing her training contract with a national law firm. However, it wasn’t until several years later, now a fully-fledged associate, that she joined the ranks of Simmons & Simmons.

“I was about five years post qualified as a real-estate lawyer when Simmons came onto my radar through the opening of its new Bristol office in 2012,” she says. “I saw this as a great opportunity to be part of something new and growing. There were only seven of us on day one if you can believe it! I remember coming into the office and thinking — ‘oh my God, what have I done?!’”

With a current headcount exceeding 300, the growth rate at Simmons & Simmons’ Bristolian arm is undeniably impressive. “Witnessing this growth over time as one of the early recruits to the office has been absolutely wonderful,” Turner-Inskip explains. In the early days, Turner-Inskip found the focus a bit too London centric. However, she explains to Legal Cheek Careers that the intention behind opening the Bristol office was never to create a support hub detached from clients. Instead, it was meant to — and now is — an integral part of the firm’s UK offering.

Having made partner in 2018, Turner-Inskip’s career is a testament to her ability to ascend through the ranks and cultivate a thriving career beyond the City. “Last year, I was lucky enough to take on the role of head of Bristol which is amazing — this office feels like my baby because I’ve been here since day one. Now, we’ve really got a sense of who we are, a grounding, we’ve moved towards being a genuine one team offering in the UK,” she says.

Having been a part of the legal scene in Bristol for over 25 years, we were eager to hear Turner-Inskip’s thoughts on the advantages of being a lawyer in the Southwest. “I’m London born and bred, so I love the Capital. But, what Bristol gives you — and particularly at Simmons — is access to exceptional, high quality and international work in a city that has all the benefits of being outside London,” she says. “Bristol is small and compact. I live seven miles outside of the city and there are cows in a field next door! So, you can have the city on your doorstep and have access to all that comes with that whilst also being able to live and breathe in an (often) nicer environment.”

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The experienced lawyer is also keen to emphasise the connection-building potential in Bristol. “Your community and your network are more available in a city like Bristol. It can sound like an odd thing to say but everybody knows everybody, which can be equally terrifying, but it’s also an incredible way to build professional connections,” she explains. “Whereas network building in London can be a taller task given its size, building the community aspect of your career in terms of being known and being connected is more available here,” Turner-Inskip continues.

“I look at what work you can do at Simmons, and it doesn’t matter which office you’re in; the work that I’m doing in Bristol is identical to the work I’m doing sat in London,” says Turner-Inskip. “At Simmons, there’s no ‘Bristol work’ – it’s not delineated that way, like other firms. I get City quality, international legal work living in a city which I love.”

Shifting the conversation to a key consideration for lawyers and law students in choosing the location of their careers, we ask Turner-Inskip about an often-sensitive subject — money. Given the financial gap between salaries in London and salaries in the regions, we’re keen to find out how Simmons & Simmons is addressing this in Bristol. “The reality is that at the point you come to qualify, for many people it will have been quite a long journey. You will have most likely acquired a chunk of debt in that process. If you look at it in a black and white way, it can be challenging when you consider baseline salary, particularly if you don’t have a connection with a particular location,” she says.

Find out more about opportunities in Simmons & Simmons’ Bristol office

“However, there’s a real recognition at Simmons of the need to look at how we ensure our people are remunerated at the rate they should be,” she explains. On top of its impressive £73,000 salary for newly qualified associates, Simmons introduced its ‘Bristol Market Adjustment’ in 2020. This adjustment means that Bristol-based lawyers can earn an extra 20% of their base salary (in addition to the usual bonus scheme) for meeting their billable hours metrics. “For somebody who is contributing to the firm in the way that the talent here does, this essentially brings their salary up so that it is a market leading salary and a good London alternative. So, you really get the best of both worlds in Bristol!” says Turner-Inskip.

“Suddenly, if you’re the type of junior lawyer who wants to tackle City-level work, why would you not want to do it outside of the Capital, in an incredible city, and still be compensated accordingly? she says. “The regional financial differential has now become a narrower decision factor for Simmons’ recruits.”

Turner-Inskip also emphasises that further up the ladder, the compensation difference between London and Bristol disappears entirely. “Unlike some of our competitors, we do not have a ‘London’ weighting scheme for partners – all of our partners, no matter which region, are paid on the same scale” she tells us. “The opportunity for career development here is incredible, even though many junior lawyers don’t necessarily look that far ahead!” We have had a number of partner promotions in Bristol, within our corporate, litigation, real estate, employment and tax teams.

Find out more about opportunities in Simmons & Simmons’ Bristol office

Training opportunities in Bristol have surged in recent years, driven by the increasing presence and expansion of major firms in the city. Simmons is among them, having recently upped its training contract offering in Bristol to 12 positions, with six NQ roles available this year. “Bristol-based trainees have the exact same opportunities as those in London,” Turner-Inskip stresses. “So, we’ve got Bristol trainees who are out in secondment in Hong Kong and Dubai at the moment, and client secondments are also readily available to our trainee cohorts.” Trainees can explore a full suite of practice areas in Bristol spanning corporate, real estate, funds, regulatory, dispute resolution, digital business, IP and more. “Bristol is not a blocker to promotion nor a blocker to the opportunities that working in an international law firm brings,” she says. Despite its smaller size compared to the London office, she is eager to highlight that this brings its own advantages for trainees and junior lawyers.

“You have the ability when you sit in a smaller office of a larger firm like ours to have quite a personal impact. Your ability to make your voice heard, and the additional opportunity to put your ideas out there is fantastic; you can be a part of the fabric of the firm,” she explains.

Being part of the fabric of the firm for Simmons & Simmons in Bristol also means widening the net when it comes to fostering genuine diversity and inclusion, Turner-Inskip is keen to highlight. In this vein, Simmons has partnered with Bristol-based social enterprise Babbasa which is dedicated to supporting young people from ethnic minority and less economically advantaged backgrounds excel in their careers. Unique to its Bristol office is also the Simmons’ ‘Balance for Aurora’ committee. According to Turner-Inskip, this committee provides a platform for discussion on gender equality, LGBT+ issues, race and ethnicity, neurodiversity, social mobility, and more.

“Our objectives are to increase collaboration between fee earners and business services, raise awareness of important issues, create a cultural shift towards greater equality and understanding of diversity, and to enhance the profile of our Bristol office,” she explains. “We believe that our commitment to diversity and inclusion not only makes us a stronger firm but also contributes to the vibrant, inclusive community that makes Bristol such a fantastic place to live and work.”

Bringing the interview to a close, I ask Turner-Inskip to summarise why trainees and juniors should look beyond the bright lights of London and consider Bristol as their legal home? “Bristol is one of Simmons’ most profitable office in its entire global network. This is because it’s a great legal hub with great talent, and we’re excited to see its growth continue.”

Find out more about training with Simmons & Simmons

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