Mayfair-born Boodle might be nearly 300 years old, but it’s looking to the future to grow its clientele of uber rich families, entrepreneurs and businesses.
Much adoodle about Boodle
Established in 1722 by the Grosvenor family’s estate manager, Boodle Hatfield is steeped in oodles of history and has maintained its reputation for dealing with wealthy clientele in London and beyond. It’s got top-tier rankings in Chambers UK for its private client expertise and full marks from Chambers High Net Worth for its high-value real estate panache in London.
The majority of the work at Boodle goes on in its “prettyplush” newly built offices in Blackfriars on the South Bank, but it hasn't given up its original digs in Mayfair; the pied-`a-terre still comes in handy as a place to hold client meetings, and there’s also an Oxford office which scores top rankings for its high-end agricultural and rural affairs practice. Alongside its stellar private client and property teams, Boodle also boasts corporate and litigation practices to supplement the needs of its moneyed clientele.
“We're branching out.”
But how will Boodle be looking to meet the evolving needs of its gilded families, businesses and entrepreneurs? Well, it recently expanded its capabilities to serve clients from the Middle East by hiring two Arabic-speaking lawyers from private wealth rival Charles Russell Speechlys. In addition, several trainees told us about the firm's intention to work with more entrepreneurs and key intermediaries – like surveyors and private banks – and increase its emphasis on the arts: Boodle has been busy advising Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett on the creation of a new music venue in Southwark; it’s also found an unexpected niche in street art, and recently worked on a case involving a piece by Banksy himself; the litigation team secured the piece for public display once more. Otherwise, trainees in litigation found themselves often supporting private and corporate clients.
Trainees were keen to let us know that “even though we're branching out, our traditional work and core values remain.” Indeed, many of our sources were “attracted by Boodle's history and long-term relationships with families, plus the prospect of working with individuals and not within a blue chip environment.” One added: “I wanted to work with private clients at a smaller high-tier firm; I wasn’t interested in large firms where you’re more of a cog in a machine. Here you have a genuine role to play as a trainee.”
Most trainees are based in London, but there are opportunities to do a private client and tax seats in Oxford. We heard that first seats are primarily allocated based on business need: “It's a bit of a lottery, but after that the firm tries to cater to us as much as possible and people usually get their preferences.” After the first couple of months, trainees meet with HR to discuss where they would like to go for their next three seats. Given that property is Boodle's largest department, our sources expected to do at least one – possibly two – seats here. Most were pretty happy with this system: “I had some concerns about my first seat, but the departments are very interlinked, so it was good to get relevant experience before doing the seat I wanted to qualify into.”
Boodle’s property department is “the powerhouse of the firm.” It handles a mixture of residential and commercial work, with private capital backing up a hefty chunk of the department's transactions. As well as the Grosvenor Estate which is known for its Mayfair properties, Boodle also has a long-term relationship with the Bedford Estate, which owns much of Bloomsbury: “The work with estates like Bedford mostly revolves around the general running of the estate via things like licences and leases.” Other key clients include American hotel hotshot Marriott International, IBM UK Pensions Trust, private wealth investors LJ Capital and UK wine merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd.
Residential property “is about 50% agricultural (buying and selling farms and related commercial buildings) and 50% buying and selling properties in London.” The commercial property team, meanwhile, “establishes funds, structures loans and works with major lenders on projects like prime office buildings.” Overall, trainees reported less supervision in a property seat: “I’ve helped to sell quite a few properties, and have more or less had free rein doing so” – with appropriate supervision, of course. Typical tasks include “drafting licences, leases and transfers of title; negotiating with the other side's solicitors; and handling all the Land Registry paperwork.”
Trainee Boodlers told us that “it’s a really interesting time to be in corporate because the team’s growing a lot. We cover the full range of corporate work like M&A, commercial contracts, refinancings and restructuring of assets, but also a lot of niche things, like art-related work.” The art section of corporate is “divided into three strands: galleries and dealers, collectors and auction houses.” In this team trainees can expect to master “consignment agreements, pro forma contracts and, well, proofing!” In the more mainstream corporate arena, “tasks can involve anything from researching to long drafting tasks to learning how dividends are paid or how board meetings are run.” On the M&A side, Boodle has an eye on start-ups and younger businesses: “The team is highly regarded for deals under £50 million and under £10 million in particular. We help new entrepreneurs with M&A.” More established clients include property fund management company Fletcher King and swish business meeting-space providers London Clubhouse. The corporate team recently advised sunglasses brand Zanzan on its latest round of equity fund-raising.
“It’s quite emotionally charged and your client is very dependent on you.”
A seat in family is “usually very popular,” and often involves financially complex cases for high net worth individuals in the UK and further afield. Expect a whole host of tricky assets to contend with, like pricey art collections that need to be divvied up during a divorce. Trainees had got to grips with drafting divorce petitions and assisting with preparations, including “the production of 'Form E,' within which all property and financial interests are declared; our clients are very wealthy so this is usually pretty complex work!” Given the contentious edge to the work here, there's plenty of opportunity to visit the courts: “You usually get to go around twice a month.There’s a lot of contact as we're getting bundles ready and writing letters to the other party.” Our sources gave this seat a thumbs up as “it’s different to other areas; it’s quite emotionally charged and your client is very dependent on you – you’re able to make a difference to people’s lives.” What’s more, trainees were keen to emphasise that “the team prides itself on working for women in particular. It’s regarded as being at the forefront of changes in the field, and we’ve worked on some big cases that are changing the discipline of family law for the future.” Boodlings were also eager to get the word out that “family is looking to grow even though it is still a fairly small team.”
Over in private client and tax “we perform more of a traditional advisory role for an entire family or the trustee for that family – our clients will come to us with any old problem.” That could include questions concerning inheritance tax, wills or the administration of trusts. “You're drafting a lot of trust documents, wills and letters. Tax-driven planning is especially interesting as there are often multi-jurisdictional elements.”
Most trainees agreed that “while there are busy periods, the hours are pretty good. People are usually out by seven, and the latest I’ve ever stayed is 10pm.” The hours aren’t the only sociable thing at Boodle: “We’re known for having a friendly, non-hierarchical structure. It’s nice because you can make yourself a cup of tea and have a chat with whoever you see.” Trainees share an office with a supervisor who is usually a partner: “Your supervisor is the first port of call, and they’re so knowledgeable that just witnessing their processes and methods is invaluable. It’s a culture that really facilitates learning.”
Outside of working hours there are firm-wide events in the summer and at Christmas, as well as departmental socials: “We’ve done crazy golf, 'trampoline dodge ball' and wine tasting. There are also a lot of next generation events that trainees are encouraged to go to with other intermediaries because the firm wants growth to come from the bottom up.” With four out of five qualifiers retained in 2017, Boodle appears to be sticking to its word. “There's no formal procedure – we just had a chat with HR and within two weeks we found out!”
Boodle performs particularly well when it comes to promoting women among its ranks: 47% of its partners are female.
How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Training contract deadline (2020): 31 July 2018
Application and assessment
Boodle receives around 500 to 550 applications a year for its vacation scheme and training contract combined. Both direct training contract and vacation scheme applications begin with an online form. Once it's submitted, applicants can add updates until the submission deadline – for example, further work experience placements or exam results.
Vac scheme applicants face a Skype interview with HR to land a spot. Once on the scheme, they have another two interviews for the training contract: one with HR and another with a pair of partners. These take place on the same day, either during or after their placement, and there is a verbal reasoning assessment involved. Direct training contract applicants also face these latter interviews and test.
How to wow
When it comes to selecting future trainees, “academics are very important,” HR director Katie Kirkhope tells us, “particularly as a solicitor progresses and becomes more senior. The work we do is complicated, and clients expect the highest quality.” Indeed, the firm maintains relationships with some long-established clients, so a potential Boodelian also needs “good interpersonal skills to gain the confidence of clients,” we're told. “Trainees in the property seat in particular run a lot of their own files, and they've got to be able to ring up a client or the other side, and be confident in what they're doing.”
Kirkhope goes on to say: “We want somebody who's able to think, to form opinions, to explain why they think that. When candidates come to interview they need to have confidence in their abilities, and be ready to have a sensible discussion in which they explain why they think something rather than just giving a pre-prepared answer. Do your research, know the firm you're coming to, and understand the types of work it does.” At the same time, she reminds us, “you can't be someone who's afraid to seek guidance, advice or clarification when necessary. Additionally, we are looking for our candidates to demonstrate both an interest in and ability to build both their personal and professional networks. This is an important attribute for trainees to develop and carry through their careers.”
The firm usually offers six spots on its fortnight-long vac scheme. During their placement vac schemers visit two departments, though those keen to sample another one can request to spend an afternoon shadowing a lawyer there. “We aim to give them exposure to as much work as possible,” says Kirkhope. “We want to bring vac schemers into the day-to-day life of a lawyer here. Joining a law firm is a big decision, and we want to find people who'll join and stay for a long time.”
Social outings like treasure hunts and crazy golf excursions dot the calendar during the vac scheme. There's also a development session on skills like teamwork and presentation delivery.
Boodle Hatfield LLP
240 Blackfriars Road,
- Partners 34
- Associates 41
- Total trainees 9
- UK offices London Bankside, London Mayfair and Oxford
- Graduate recruiter: Jenny Andrews, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7079 8282
- Training partner: Graham Winkley, email@example.com
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 4
- Applications pa: 350-450
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2017
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 31 July 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 31 January 2018
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £38,000
- Second-year salary: £40,000
- Post-qualification salary: £60,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
Main areas of work
University law careers fairs 2017