This is the CMS profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main CMS profile.
International giant CMS boasts over 80 offices in 44 countries worldwide, offering an opportunity for adventurous apprentice hopefuls to train at a firm with an impressive global reach. CMS lawyers practice in one of eight specialist sectors: energy & climate change; financial institutions; infrastructure; life sciences & healthcare; real estate; media & communications; consumer products, and hotel & leisure. And, with the potential for a whopping eight different seat rotations throughout the apprenticeship, recruits can expect an interesting and varied training programme. Apprenticeships in 2024 are offered in CMS’s Sheffield office at Charter Square and in its smart London HQ which is just a stone’s throw from London Bridge.
Coming into the apprenticeship route following a short stint at uni, one third year CMS recruit recounts her route into the firm. “I originally went to uni to read law, but due to the pandemic all of the teaching was online, so I didn’t get much value out of the experience.” Opting, instead, to take a gap year and reconsider her options, she applied for the solicitor apprenticeship at CMS. “I was already certain when I was at school that I wanted a career in law, so I saw the apprenticeship scheme as a way to take the first steps towards that.”
Despite it being “quite scary” to walk into an international law firm as a teen, the CMS induction programme made another apprentice we spoke to feel “so much more at ease.” From their first day, rookies are in safe hands. The two-week initial induction programme takes newbies through the practice areas, the social clubs and charitable initiatives at the firm, as well as skills-based workshops such as client communication. One recruit notes how, “the induction programme is a really positive and useful experience – it gives you a detailed understanding of how the firm works and what to expect as an apprentice, including the support available to you, as well as setting you up with some practical skills before your go into your first seat”.
Diving into the details, the CMS offering boasts a bumper eight seat rotations. Recruits rotate annually around different practice areas for the first four years before moving onto a ‘training contract’-style rotation for the final two. During their “TC” years at CMS, seasoned apprentices rotate seats every six months whilst completing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). With so many seat rotations, hopeful solicitors can look forward to a holistic experience of the many aforementioned practice groups at the firm. Also, for those with an already budding interest in one particular area of law, we are told that the firm tend “to accommodate preferences as far as possible”, giving rookies an enviable opportunity to direct the course of their career at this international behemoth.
In terms of the workload, rookies need not fear being thrown in at the deep end. “The level of responsibility you’re given really varies depending on where you are in the programme,” one insider reveals. “As an apprentice, each seat tends to start off slow and steady with the more administrative tasks whilst you find your feet but, by the end of the year, you are typically working on more complex work and at trainee-level”. Whilst apprentices are guided with firm hands to start with, responsibilities ratchet up in the later years of the apprenticeship.
By the fifth and sixth years of the programme, one insider reveals, you can even expect some newly qualified or associate level work. And, whilst you may need to work hard, you also get to play hard too. Despite hours ramping up significantly for apprentices at similar firms in later years, apprentices at CMS can expect to work very standard 9-5.30 hours, even during the training contract rotations. “If anything,” one insider reveals, “the fifth- and sixth-year apprentices are even more likely to finish at 5.30 than the more junior apprentices, given the additional pressures of the SQE.” But, fired up with free coffee from the London office’s ground floor barista bar, apprentices will have no trouble getting their heads down.
Although working full-time four days a week and studying towards a degree in tandem can have its challenges, “it’s manageable albeit more difficult in the lead up to exams,” one apprentice explains. But with support from the firm, who appear very conscious of their apprentice’s time, and a healthy dose of revision tips and support from apprentices in the years above, it’s “not too overwhelming”.
One rookie, having spent time sitting in corporate, insurance and real-estate, says “it’s been great to have a real mix of transactional and contentious seats”. Corporate and real estate are two of the biggest teams at CMS, so, she says “it’s been amazing to have a whole year in both of those, especially when you compare it with the trainees who only spend six-months in each practice area”. We heard that apprentices at CMS also have the opportunity to go on secondment, and one apprentice is “excited to start a six-month in-house banking secondment”. Impressive stuff for a third-year apprentice!
And, the social life at CMS is not too shabby either. When they’re not grabbing lunch together or nipping down to the Thames for some fresh air, apprentices have monthly dedicated socials to bond, most recently heading to Puttshack for a few games of mini golf. “It becomes like your uni cohort,” one recruit shares. “It’s such a good atmosphere, and a lot of us are close friends.” Apparently, there are loads of clubs and societies at CMS, such as “sports teams, a choir, and other social activities, such as chess”. Also, “there’s a wide range of diversity and inclusion networks to get involved with as well as pro bono work and volunteering opportunities available”. One lucky apprentice even jetted off to Spain for the CMS netball tour. In fact, there’s no need to get uni FOMO on the apprenticeship because, “there are so many social opportunities at CMS that it’s really up to you how much you want to get involved”.
Overall, citing the huge number of social activities and seat rotation opportunities, one interviewee tells us, “I would highly recommend the solicitor apprenticeship programme at CMS”.
This is the CMS Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read CMS’s full Legal Cheek profile here.