Have a gander at AG if you want to work for prestigious clients in an amiable atmosphere.
Goddard's own country
Trainees didn't faff about when asked why they chose Addleshaw Goddard. Based in London, Manchester and Leeds, but also boasting overseas offices in Oman, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, AG is something of a rare beast: “A commercial-focused City-standard firm with a Northern culture.” Many sources picked up on the down-to-earth vibe. “I wanted to go to a place where the clients and the work were top-notch, but here I found that they also emphasised an approachable, accessible culture. I went to assessment days at various firms, including magic circle ones, but Addleshaws combined interesting high-quality work with a grounded outlook. I genuinely feel that AG will train me to be a better lawyer.” Another told us that “even as a paralegal here, I felt I fitted in. Sometimes paralegals don't feel like they're an integral part of the team, but I was always included. The support is excellent. People pushed me to progress and wanted to see me do well.”
AG focuses on eight sectors: digital; energy and utilities; financial services; health; industrials; real estate; retail and consumer; and transport. In addition to chalking up dozens of nationwide Chambers UK rankings, AG is also denoted a top-spot national leader outside London for its banking, corporate, employment, IT, IP, litigation, pensions, real estate litigation and restructuring practices. Pretty mint. Want further proof of its fine fettle? In 2015/16, the firm's revenue rose by 5% to £202 million and it was appointed (and in some instances re-appointed) to the legal panels of big-name clients like National Grid, Dixons Carphone, British Land, Siemens and outsourcing company Serco.
"People pushed me to progress and wanted to see me do well.”
At the time of our calls there were 35 trainees in London, 22 in Manchester and 21 in Leeds. Before they start, trainees are asked for a general first seat preference. Subsequently they fill in a form before each rotation with four preferences. Sources appreciated that “HR try hard to keep everybody happy, and because there aren't too many of us they're in tune with how we want our training contracts to progress.” Overall, trainees were pretty happy with the system and had bagged their favoured seats.
Deep sea(t) diving
Addleshaws' banking department used to be split into two teams: real estate finance and leveraged finance/corporate lending. Now, “the teams are merged.” Sources who'd sat in this newly synergised seat told us that “you're really expected to step up and handle a lot of responsibility. I was attending completions on my own within the first month and had a go at drafting pretty much all the banking documents except for the facilities agreement. To be in your first seat and let loose drafting a debenture is quite brilliant! ” Managing the conditions precedent checklist is another trainee duty. Clients include Barclays, HSBC and The Co-operative Bank, and on the real estate side London's lawyers recently advised Clydesdale Bank on a £31.3 million debt facility that will help to finance the development of a swish new hotel in the heart of the City.
The corporate team comprises 70 London lawyers and a further 60 up north. Transactions range across the energy, real estate, retail and financial sectors and the team's gaining strength in gaming and leisure work. Recently, solicitors advised gambling company GVC on its high-profile £1.1 billion takeover of bwin.party, seeing off competition from 888 to create a sports betting giant. The team also helped beverage purveyors Britvic to acquire Brazilian soft drinks company Ebba for £114 million. Nationwide, Sainsbury's and sugar supremo Tate & Lyle also appear on the books here. Sources who'd sat here recalled working on “a few large M&A deals plus a lot of private equity deals. I drafted ancillary documents like board minutes and got stuck into the sale purchase agreement (SPA). The amount of drafting was brilliant, as was the client contact! On a certain deal I went to the client offices to explain the implications of some documents – it was a great experience.” Delving into due diligence is also par for the course here.
Trainees highlighted the commercial department as a particularly popular destination. “It's quite a diverse department – there's IP, IT, a big outsourcing team and general corporate support work all bundled into one. As a trainee you get exposure to all types of work. My supervisor did a lot of IP work and naturally that filtered down to me. I drafted licences and agreements of sale, transitional service agreements, outsourcing agreements, data sharing agreements – the best part was the exposure to drafting all those different documents.” There's also scope to get involved in research and take instructions over the phone from clients. British Airways, adidas, Aviva and Bupa all grace the department's client roster. AG's commercial lawyers are currently advising a subsidiary of the Danish government on the procurement elements of a €5 billion, 19 km undersea road and rail tunnel between Denmark and Germany.
Within litigation, trainees are placed in subgroups like real estate and commercial litigation. The latter has a particularly wide scope, handling everything from health and safety investigations and money laundering to media spats and international arbitration. Tasks range from bundling, taking meeting notes and researching points of law to filing court applications, arguing at case management conferences and booking mediators. “You're not just viewed as a mere trainee – if you want NQ-level responsibility then they'll give it to you.” Of late, litigators have been defending GlaxoSmithKline against more than 100 claims from people who suffered symptoms amounting to personal injury when trying to discontinue their use of the antidepressant drug Seroxat. Lawyers have also acted for Barclays Bank in an attempt to recover partner capital loans lost during the collapse of law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf. Other clients include the Leipzig Water Authority and Royal Mail.
“You know the result half an hour before it hits the news.”
Many of our sources had sat in BSR. Sounds mucky! Well it stands for 'business support & restructuring.' Why? “Because insolvency is a dirty word! It sounds much better when you call it BSR!” The department is split into three areas – real estate, corporate and litigation – and trainees can sample all of them. A source on the contentious side of things “got involved in a really large insolvency case that was all over the news! I went to court a lot and made notes. I went to the decision hearing as well, which was really cool, because you know the result half an hour before it hits the news.” Other typical tasks include drafting letters, witness statements, claim forms and filing documents at court. Some sources had been “part of the insolvency side of property transactions. I assisted with an auction sale of a property by carrying out conflict checks, taking notes on conference calls and drafting sales documents.” Appointing administrators and doing security reviews for banks might also be on the menu. Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and Santander are just a few of the big-name clients you might work for here.
Meanwhile, trainees in real estate tend to “work on discrete parts of larger matters as well as running smaller, lower-value files where you can deal with the client directly. For example, I've worked on new leases for units of a shopping centre, and drafted licences for alteration and to underlet. It's also important to build up relationships with contacts like managing agents and surveyors.” As you'd expect, the clients here are “mainly institutional investors, big commercial landlords and multinationals with offices all over the place. Plus there's tenant work for large companies.” In Leeds clients include Schroders, Aberdeen Asset Management and British Land, and lawyers here recently acted for developer Muse on its £250 million overhaul of Rolls-Royce's production facility in Nottinghamshire.
“We receive a good level of support and feedback,” satisfied trainees reported, though one added: “As a trainee it's important to understand that you need to take initiative when seeking out feedback. You're dealing with people who are a lot busier than you. However, if you prompt them then most people are happy to put some time in the diary on an informal basis.” In addition, “there are always people to ask for help if you ever feel unsure about what's happening.” How is the workflow organised? “You get work from everybody in the team although often a lot of matters will come from your supervisor. My current supervisor is always asking me what I've got going on and whether or not I'm completely swamped.”
Trainees were forthright about the demands placed upon them in terms of hours. “It really depends on the department. You might do steady nine-hour days in smaller departments like employment and pensions, but in corporate you could be working much longer than that,” said one Londoner. Another concurred: “Corporate gets very busy in November and December, so you don't get much sleep!” Apparently, “if you do stay late it doesn't go unnoticed. We get food and taxis back home and they've just introduced a reward scheme in which you get a £100 Amazon voucher if you go beyond the call of duty. They recognise people who put a real shift in.” However, everyone we spoke to stressed that “you don't have to be at your desk for the sake of it if there's nothing to do.”
As we mentioned earlier, interviewees raved about the AG culture. “When I thought about going into law I was put off by the idea of stuffy partners and a scary atmosphere. It sounds like such a cliché but it's so friendly here. Everyone is willing to get you involved and have a chat. I can't praise it enough.” In the London office “there's a strong Northern contingent which I think – as a Northerner – adds to the friendly, inclusive feel! Everyone is very hard-working and of course there are occasions when you might get a bit stressed, but everyone seems happy to be here and mixes together well.”
Before they start at the firm, trainees spend a week in Romania together building houses for Habitat for Humanity. “We spent an intense week with each other so by the time we came to start the training contract we were firm friends.” As such, “we often get together for lunch and organise drinks.” We heard that London trainees had recently been up to visit their Manchester counterparts for “some big nights out.” All the offices have a social committee and each department organises its own events, including annual away days. For instance, the corporate and commercial lawyers recently descended on a “hotel in Leicester with large grounds where we held a sports day.” Activities included “egg and spoon races, a big table football game, throwing hoops over things...” The social calendar also features firm-wide gatherings at Christmas and in the summer. “They really do make an effort to make sure people feel appreciated,” declared a London source, who spoke fondly of a funfair-themed summer knees-up with “a ferris wheel, a photo booth and dodgems. You can bash your supervisor!”
"You can bash your supervisor!”
Sources in Leeds and Manchester were looking forward to moving into brand new, open-plan offices within the next year. “Ours is going to feature a large atrium, a canteen and a patio outside that'll be great in summer,” a Yorkshire trainee told us. Down in the City, the office is “glass-fronted and suitably impressive.” Trainees were particularly taken with the “huge cafeteria” which offers “loads of choices. We have fish and chip Fridays and a Mexican day every other month with fajitas and burritos and all that jazz.” Coffee and “nice cakes” come courtesy of an on-site Costa.
What makes an AG trainee? Well, “there's definitely not a type, but genuinely nice people do well here. You can't be sycophantic or take yourself too seriously, but obviously you need to be hard-working and diligent at the same time.” It's also worth noting that several of our interviewees started out as paralegals at the firm. The qualification process begins in mid-April, when the firm releases a list of vacancies, and “is all done by the middle of May.” Second-years rank their choices and submit their CVs, which the firm considers alongside their performance evaluations. In 2016, 24 out of 31 qualifiers were kept on.
It's possible to complete an overseas seat in the firm's Dubai, Oman and Hong Kong offices. Alternatively, trainees can apply to spend a seat with one of AG's clients. Register your preferences early, as these sojourns are snapped up quickly.
How to get an Addleshaw Goddard training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2017): 30 December 2016
Training contract deadline (2019): 31 July 2017
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,
PO Box 8,
100 Barbirolli Square,
- Partners 177
- Trainees 70
- Total staff 1,350
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Closing date for 2019 Candidates must complete our online application at www.addleshawgoddard.com/graduates by 31 July 2017 to begin September 2019 or March 2020
- Training contracts pa 30
- Required degree grade 2:1; BBB at A level (excluding General Studies)
- Starting salary
- £37,000 (London)
- £25,000 (Leeds/Manchester)
- Overseas offices Dubai, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar and Singapore
Main areas of work