AG combines regional expertise, a commanding national presence and growing international ambitions.
‘Bun venit la firma.' That's ‘welcome to the firm' in Romanian, a greeting all AG newbies can expect to receive as they're whisked off to the land of Dracula for a week upon starting their training contract. This welcome excursion is one of the better ice-breakers out there, according to trainees who reported that “by the time you fly back you're best friends with the people from your intake.” It's a gesture consistent with the firm's “down-to-earth, friendly and accessible atmosphere. Even the interview process was a relatively relaxed process. I didn't feel overly scrutinised.” There's more, as a still-startled interviewee remembered: “One of the partners even called me mate, which I then reciprocated!” Still, we wouldn't advise you high-five and fist-bump your own interviewers...
Addleshaw's reputation as a firm with a “great national presence and strong breadth of practice areas” make places here much coveted. Sources emphasised that the breadth of work on offer means that trainees “have had really varied training contracts. Some of us have done a training contract without any contentious seats, whereas others have nearly all contentious seats.” A ton of top Chambers UK rankings in everything from real estate to restructuring and insolvency means that trainees won't be wanting for top quality work wherever they sit, either: “I see the work we are doing and our place within the market as approaching the high end. We have ambitions to be a top law firm and we are not far outside of that.”
“One of the partners called me mate.”
The firm's London base might “not be quite magic-circle level,” but those based in the firm's Leeds and Manchester offices were keen to emphasise Addleshaw's status as a “leading Northern firm.” They also had moving into two brand new state-of-the-art offices to boast about. “I peeled the plastic fresh off my desk,” one source relished. A commanding Northern presence has been bolstered further by the firm's merger with HBJ Gateley, whose Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh offices come with some highly-regarded real estate, restructuring/insolvency and corporate capabilities. While the merger certainly solidifies AG's position as a leading national firm, trainees were more hesitant to validate its international credentials: “It's definitely aiming to be international, and going forward it would definitely like to be more established in the market. However, it currently feels like it's lacking international collusion between the offices. There isn't much international work, and it still feels like a UK-centric firm with some international satellites.”
Despite this, the firm regularly dispatches trainees to its international bases: Oman, Hong Kong and Dubai. One source placed in HK cited it as “an amazing opportunity. The work/life balance is very good because there isn't a complete workflow” – further evidence, perhaps, that the firm is still finding its feet on the international stage. “While international secondments are quite competitive, requiring you to voice your interest from the outset,” client secondments are more readily available. AG's rapport with the banking world sees trainees sent to in-house legal banking teams all over Blighty, where they do everything from digitisation projects on apps to customer meetings and contract reviews.
“There's no strong sense of hierarchy or stereotypically scary partners at the top of the food chain.”
The first seat is allocated automatically, and after that it's a case of simply submitting a list of preferences to graduate recruitment who “are good at keeping open a dialogue and making sure you are in the best place you can be. If you can put forward an argument as to why you want a seat, I'd be very surprised if you didn't get it at least the second time around.” Most of our sources were content with the system, as they usually get at least two of their preferences.
Are you (Godd)'ard enough?
AG's banking department is the product of a fusion between the firm’s real estate finance and leveraged/corporate lending teams. Now they’ve tied the knot, “it's a massive department with a lot of work on offer.” Thanks to a “flexible preferences system, you can state which supervisor you wish to work with so you can focus in on either of the two areas.” Working on the real estate finance side “is a good way to do property work with a banking filter. You could be doing anything from small deals that you can do the due diligence on independently, to doing project management on large-scale transactions involving 200 properties.” In leveraged finance, insiders felt the practice provided “a great opportunity to work collaboratively across all the departments, and is a good alternative to a seat in corporate if you still want to work on high profile, high value transactions.” The team recently acted for online gambling operator GVC Holdings on the debt financing of its £1.12 billion acquisition of bwin.party Digital Entertainment. Meanwhile, real estate colleagues worked on the financing of 15 four and five-star hotels, including London's Montcalm's Marble Arch luxury hotel.
For all those who would prefer to leave the finance side to banking boffins, a seat exclusively in real estate is also available. This practice was recently beefed up by lateral partner hires from KWM last year. Sources in the London office reported “working on huge shopping centre and warehouse purchases across the UK,” while up in Leeds, insiders “helped negotiate green leases and licences of alteration, assisted in the development of brown fields and worked alongside the planning team." Meanwhile, the Manchester team has worked with property business Bruntwood on the development of over 500 apartments in line with the government's objectives to increase housing stock and meet local demands for quality housing.
Business support and restructuring, known as BSR – so named “because of the negative connotations around insolvency” – is divided into three sub-teams: real estate (again), corporate and litigation. Trainees heaped praise on this popular seat for its ability “to offer a taste of everything within the six months” and a “high amount of responsibility.” A trainee summed up: “One week, I helped close a corporate deal on Tuesday and was in court from Wednesday to Friday!” Another reported “being whisked off to a board meeting with partners on the first day.” On the contentious side, some trainees had taken notes at large insolvency court hearings. On the corporate side, they'd conducted security reviews and evaluated companies' assets. In real estate, they'd helped to manage auctions of “anything from single properties to huge portfolios in order to pay off bank debt.” Acknowledged as national leaders outside of London, BSR lawyers have attracted the top dogs of the financial world to their doors, including KPMG, Deloitte, HSBC and Santander.
As at most firms, “you either love or hate corporate! Many people struggle with the workflow as it goes from being relatively quiet to extremely busy.” For one poor soul, the seat left them “with a mouth ulcer and unbrushed hair for a week!” For those willing to give it a try, a mix of private M&A, funds, real estate (yet again!), private equity and regulatory work is on offer. Trainees are often left to do “discrete tasks on big deals,” such as drafting non-disclosure agreements and managing completion documents. Lawyers have been particularly busy on the M&A front, for example “working on a big merger between JD Sports and Go Outdoors,” while others had advised Europe's biggest dental care provider, mydentist, "who were going round snapping up all the other dentist outlets around the country.”
The litigation team's collective expertise covers everything from civil fraud, international arbitration and IP to corporate, insurance and financial litigation. As in banking, trainees can either sit as generalists or can home in on a more specific area. An “inevitable amount of bundling” awaits, but trainees also get stuck into things like drafting witness statements and attending witness interviews. "We had one client recently who was accused of bribery which spanned multiple jurisdictions. I got to attend some serious interviews." Other casework of late has included advising Swedish oil firm PA Resources in a potential investment dispute with the Republic of Tunisia; representing e-cigarette company Totally Wicked in its challenge to the EU's Tobacco Products Directive; and helping multinational drinks company Diageo defend a claim by software company SAP for alleged licensing breaches and potential copyright infringement.
Skedaddle to socials
Trainees were happy to elaborate on Addleshaw's “accessible, down-to-earth atmosphere” when we talked about culture. “I imagine lots of firms would describe themselves as happy and friendly, but I'm not sure they would have that in the midst of super-complex cases which we do here. There's no strong sense of hierarchy or stereotypically scary partners at the top of the food chain,” trainees explained. This is made more noticeable by the offices' new open-plan layout: “Partners are very much in and among us – you sit in a pod with a partner and an associate, so the exposure is great.” There's also a dress-down policy throughout July and August to keep things a little more casual: “Not having to wear a full suit puts people at ease and gives a more relaxed ethos. Alongside all the new facilities, it makes working here a little more cheery.”
Interviewees struggled to tell us how long the average working day is, but most agreed that “generally you can leave at 6/6.30 in most departments, providing you're not busy.” They also agreed that it's busy most of the time. “Corporate is not a career choice, it's a lifestyle choice,” one trainee declared after experiencing a particularly savage week of 4am finishes. “BSR is similar to corporate in that you get big peaks and troughs. You may get companies call up saying they are running out of money, so you need to move quickly, which means long hours.” Banking was the third seat flagged as a “particularly busy transactional seat,” where 12-hour days were not uncommon. Other seats such as real estate – “less susceptible to peaks and troughs but more consistently busy” – had less gruelling hours, and insiders were keen to emphasise that “you can't go under the radar if you've been doing horrendous hours. It is recognised. You are compensated for food and a taxi home and sometimes partners will take us for a celebratory lunch after a completion. Plus it's very rare to be working weekends.” Pay-wise, “while we feel adequately compensated, there is a conscious view that we put in a considerable amount of hours.” Others were more candid in their criticism: “It's a general gripe that people aren't incredibly happy with pay – especially at the associate level." Some also took issue with the trainee salary in London being 50% higher than elsewhere, but they did concede that the overall rate was consistent with other Northern law firms.
“I was given Chelsea tickets to go with an associate and two clients, which was a massive perk.”
A vibrant social life continues after the trainees return from Romania: many felt the “firm goes all out arranging events.” The Manchester cohort's summer party in 2016 took place in the city's trendy Castlefield conservation area, while Leeds employees headed to the posh Queens Hotel. Back in London, partners were busy performing a Spice Girls dance routine for the real estate team's away day... we heard the MoneySuperMarket advert is comparable. Insiders also highlighted the firm's efforts to “encourage trainees to get involved with client development. I was given Chelsea tickets to go with an associate and two clients, which was a massive perk.”
AG wastes no time when it comes to qualification: “They sort it out very early as they do all the internal stuff before looking for external candidates. In a way it makes it difficult to qualify into your last seat because you also have to make that decision very early on.” Yet forothers, “the fact they do it so early on is a massive plus. It gives you three months to look elsewhere if you're not successful.” Other than that, prospective trainees can expect a “straightforward and informal qualification process.” Fortyout of 49 qualifiers stayed on in 2017.
"We're definitely looking to grow," said eager trainees. "The deals coming through at the moment are bigger than they've ever been!"
How to get an Addleshaw Goddard training contract
Training contract deadline (2020): 31 July 2018 (opens 1 April 2018)
Each year the firm receives around 2,000 vacation scheme and direct training contract applications combined. At the initial application stage, an HR source tells us, the firm looks primarily at “academics and the passion to pursue law as a career.” The firm chooses vac schemers directly from their application forms. Meanwhile, following a preliminary phone screening, around 90 of those applying directly for training contracts are invited to one of several assessment centres.
The firm is currently reviewing the set-up of these assessment centres, but we're told the day still includes a partner interview, a group exercise and a technical assessment. A current trainee had this to say of the day: “I hadn’t been in an office environment before, but I didn’t feel any undue pressure. Everyone was pretty relaxed and approachable throughout.” From here, training contract offers are made for applicants via this route.
The vac scheme
The firm runs two vacation schemes in each of its three offices: one at Easter and one in the summer. The Easter scheme lasts for one week and each of the summer scheme last two weeks. There are around 60 places available in total. Students are allocated to a different department for each week and usually asked for preferences beforehand.
Former attendees praised the vac scheme as “an excellent opportunity to experience real, unsanitised work,” with one even telling us their experience was “pretty much representative of the kind of work I do now as a trainee. For example, I got to take a crack at the first draft of a witness statement, alongside bits and bobs of admin.” Our sources' advice for impressing? “Relax a bit, show your personality, and don't be afraid to go speak to as many people as possible, at all levels.” Social activities include dinners as well as outings like pizza-making classes or virtual golf tournaments.
Attending a vac scheme automatically includes an application for the training contract. The firm makes its offers directly off the back of a candidate's performance on the vac scheme.
“We value social mobility and understand that not everyone gets to go to Oxbridge,” says head of resourcing Gun Judge. Sources agreed that being “personable, approachable and sociable” are crucial qualities for prospective trainees. Our HR source emphasises that “candidates need to link their passion for law with why they want to work at this firm over others,” adding that “those who are unprepared certainly don't impress.” Indeed, as one solicitor involved in recruitment remarked: “It's weird when people haven't really researched the firm. They sometimes don't know that we have multiple offices or the kind of matters we work on. The difference is evident between those who have done masses of applications and those who've really concentrated on a few.”
In addition to its law fair visits at Oxbridge and a handful of Russell Group universities, Addleshaws holds several open days to meet and greet potential applicants.
The Manchester legal scene
Addleshaw Goddard LLP
60 Chiswell Street,
3 Sovereign Square ,
One St Peter's Square,
- Partners 240
- Total trainees 85
- UK offices London, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen
- Overseas offices 5
- Contacts [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 37
- Applications pa: 2,000+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 70
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 April 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 31 July 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 30 September 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 30 December 2017
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £37,000 (London); £25,000 (all other UK offices)
Main areas of work
During each six-month seat, there will be regular two-way performance reviews with the supervising partner or solicitor. Trainees may have the opportunity to spend a seat in one of the firm’s other offices and there are a number of secondments to clients available. Seated with a qualified solicitor or partner and working as part of a team enables trainees to develop the professional skills necessary to deal with the demanding and challenging work the firm carries out for its clients. Practical training is complemented by high-quality training courses provided by both the in-house team and external training providers. A trainee buddy programme is in place with the trainee predecessor for the first seat. All trainees have a mentor for the duration of their training contract and beyond.
• Duration: two weeks
• Location: all UK offices
• Apply by 30 December 2017
• Assessment centres for our placement schemes start mid/late January