This is the Burges Salmon profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Burges Salmon profile.
A prominent Bristol-based firm, Burges Salmon is not to be overlooked by those seeking a legal career in the West Country. Nearly unique in handling predominantly top-tier City work from its regional headquarters, the firm is considered an excellent place to enjoy “the best of both worlds,” according to our spies. While maintaining smaller outposts in London and Edinburgh, the firm is looking to directly recruit apprentices into its Bristol base. The opportunity offers a chance to explore the firm’s various practice areas, including banking, corporate, commercial, employment, dispute resolution, private client, real estate, and specialised practices such as defence, ESG, sport, and tax.
“I stumbled across the programme,” one novice shares, discussing how and why she chose the apprenticeship route. “I knew I wanted to pursue law, but I wasn’t convinced that university was the right path for me. At the time, I was playing elite-level hockey for GB, and balancing elite sport with university life didn’t align well, especially socially and with study schedules. What I needed was something that could accommodate my sport and help me kickstart a career.”
Then, the opportunity for an apprenticeship arose. “I kept thinking it was too good to be true! The chance to earn a degree while working was a significant draw for me, along with the salary and the ability to balance work with my sport.” For this apprentice, now in their sixth year, the decision has undeniably paid off. “I’ve pursued hockey, earned a degree, progressed towards qualification, and bought a house without student debt. What more could you ask for!”
Regarding why this junior joined Burges Salmon, the list of reasons is extensive. “The firm doesn’t only invest in you as an apprentice and a future lawyer but as an individual. This was evident to me, particularly regarding my involvement in sports. The firm was completely flexible and supportive whenever I needed time off,” she explains. Overall, the firm is said to be “very people-focused” from the outset. “Before even joining, we were given office tours and the chance to speak with trainees about the firm and their work,” shares one insider. As a mid-sized firm, there’s also a “more personal feel throughout,” allowing rookies to build strong relationships within their cohort and teams.
“While profitability is important, the firm doesn’t foster a hire-and-fire culture. The hours targets set for apprentices are just that — targets, not requirements. The emphasis is on development and learning rather than merely meeting billable work,” a source states. This approach is popular among rookies, with the firm “recruiting to develop and retain” apprentices, dedicating “a lot of time and energy to training and support”.
“The work-life balance is excellent,” another adds. “Although handling a lot of City work means we’re not on a regular 9-5 schedule, our hours are far better than most comparable City firms, offering a better quality of life outside of work. Additionally, the pay is now extremely competitive with the City, especially considering the cost of living. In simple terms, you get the best of both worlds: top clients, incredible opportunities, and a solid salary—all without working excessive hours.”
New recruits immediately join the dispute resolution or real estate groups, working within the client support team. Here, rookies work closely with two or three “buddies” to acquaint themselves with the fundamentals of legal practice and the firm’s operations. Subsequently, career development is described as “exponential” by insiders. Rookies start with a two-year paralegal qualification, followed by four years of solicitor studies. During this time, they rotate seats annually for the first four years, followed by six four-month rotations with trainees to complete their training. Apprentices, like trainees, submit preferences for these rotations.
Throughout the programme, “the firm is flexible with changing seats, given the small cohort, allowing for a very personalised programme”. For instance, one rookie mentioned the firm extending a secondment opportunity and altering the trainee rotation to accommodate a soon-to-be solicitor’s preference to remain in a specific seat for more than the typical four months.
Not all work is conducted from Bristol. One apprentice mentioned undergoing various secondments, including eight-months working in London for a client. Although international secondments aren’t offered, apprentices can expect client placements throughout their programme as opportunities arise. “One significant advantage of doing secondments during an apprenticeship is the ample time available,” says a rookie. “Unlike in a training contract, where a secondment might limit your time in a firm’s seat, we have six years to explore the firm’s practice areas. So, there’s plenty of time for six- or 12-month secondments without sacrificing the chance to decide on a qualifying seat.”
When not working at Burges Salmon HQ or with clients, apprentices reportedly enjoy a vibrant social life. “We have a large cohort of people of similar ages — apprentices, paralegals, trainees, and junior associates. There are ample opportunities to socialise with individuals of all seniority levels within the firm,” shares an insider. For those who relish big events, the firm hosts regular large charity dos for the entire firm, along with Christmas parties and other celebrations. “Overall, we’re a very social firm, and there’s hardly ever a dull moment,” one source tells us.
Additionally, the firm offers a range of corporate social responsibility (CSR) opportunities, pro bono cases and initiatives, the chance to visit local schools, and a paid charity day each year for lawyers to contribute to any cause they support. One rookie also speaks highly of the large fundraising social events that take place throughout the year.
For those seeking to bolster their applications, one interviewee offers three pieces of advice. Firstly, “figure out where and how you want to work. Identify your interests beyond law and then look at firms holistically to determine the best fit for you, rather than solely being driven by the firm’s reputation.” The insider emphasises thorough research: “Ensure you’ve thoroughly investigated your options and can support your decision with solid reasons for pursuing a particular route.”
After making this initial decision, “identify your unique selling point (USP).” Whatever it may be, the rookie advises finding something that distinguishes your application and makes an impression on recruiters and during interviews. And once you’ve secured a spot, “embrace the firm. Be proactive and seize the available opportunities. Six years is a significant period, so make the most of it,” they advise.
This is Burges Salmon’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Burges Salmon’s full Legal Cheek profile here.