With a high street culture and “City ambitions,” this firm is calling out to those who want to buck the capital trend in Buckinghamshire.
B P Collins training contract review 2024
Whether it’s a cosy high street firm or a big-city corporate powerhouse, where a firm sits in the market matters. “Having worked at both, I wanted a middle ground,” one trainee recalled, “high street firms can be a bit quiet, but there is a pressure that comes with City firms. B P Collins is very much a high street firm with City ambitions.” For trainees with grand ambitions of their own, there’s a lot to relate to. The firm was founded by Brian P Collins when he was just 27 years old, and with six practice groups covering dispute resolution, employment, corporate/commercial, family, private client, and property, “we offer a rounded training experience,” Jacqui Symons, HR manager at B P Collins tells us. “We’re a good practice for trainee candidates to look at if they're not quite sure where they want to qualify.”
"You might touch on some property litigation, you might spend time in the criminal courts with a criminal solicitor, or you might conduct police station interviews..."
Dispute resolution makes up the largest percentage of the firm’s work, followed by real estate, then corporate/commercial and family. In fact, B P Collins bags top-tier Chambers UK rankings in the Thames Valley in corporate M&A, crime and environment, alongside impressive accolades in employment, litigation, and real estate. There’s also a top-tier family/matrimonial ranking in Watford, Uxbridge and surrounds to boot. The firm is also top in private wealth in the area according to Chambers High Net Worth. All of B P Collins’ trainees are based at the firm’s Gerrards Cross HQ in Buckinghamshire, but there’s plenty of opportunity to work from the London and Thame (Oxfordshire) offices if it tickles your fancy.
The training contract at B P Collins is split into four five-month seats, with trainees then returning to the seat they hope to qualify into for their final rotation. When it comes to seat options, trainees submit two teams that interest them during the application stage, “but it’s an ongoing conversation that continues with regular contact with HR.” As a general rule, trainees’ first choice was more or less guaranteed, with their second choice a likely destination at least at some stage during their training contract.
As the largest portion of the firm’s practice, the dispute resolution team at B P Collins is split into five sub-teams covering commercial, construction, criminal, property, and contentious probate. Chances are, as a trainee you’ll touch on aspects of most if not all of the sub-teams: “Of course, that means your day-to-day could drastically change depending on which sub-team you were working on,” one trainee mused. “The reason for this is that you’ll quite likely get pieces of work from more than just your supervisor,” another recalled, “so you might touch on some property litigation, you might spend time in the criminal courts with a criminal solicitor, or you might conduct police station interviews, there’s real variety.” Typical trainee tasks included the likes of drafting letters of advice and letters of claim, taking notes in client meetings, and bundling. Among the department’s client base is the likes of the National House Building Council (NHBC), Biffa Waste Services, Kawasaki Motors UK, and Toshiba Medical Systems. As one source put it: “In disputes, the chances are that you won’t get as much responsibility as you might in other seats, you can’t really just fire off an email to the other side because it might end up at the front in court! So everything has to be checked.”
As another of the firm’s largest practices, real estate is another seat that offers trainees a fair amount of variety. The day-to-day in real estate involves both residential and commercial work, although it’s the residential side that trainees will get to know best: “The residential side will take you through the steps of the transaction from start to finish, because they run through a little quicker,” one trainee explained; “on the commercial side, you come in at different points in the transactions because they tend to last a lot longer. But you do get variety, you won’t spend time on just one or the other.” As you might expect, on the quicker residential transactions, trainee life moves at a fast pace: “You’ll spend time on things like drafting leases or reports, and getting in contact with the Land Registry,” one source recalled, whereas on the commercial side, “it’s more negotiating and drafting leases, often coordinating that with business purchases, which involves some crossover with the corporate team.”
The general consensus among trainees that had spent time in the corporate/commercial team was that you should expect to hit the ground running. With particular expertise at the firm in the waste management and renewable energy sectors, one recent matter saw the team at B P Collins advise Utonomy – a company developing technology to reduce the environmental impact of gas distribution networks – on its raising of almost £5 million in funds. “It’s a mixture of M&A deals and project management,” one trainee explained, “reviewing documents, running files, and generally building up an understanding of how these transactions work.” Given the technical nature of the seat, trainees told us that there was a higher proportion of more formal training than in other seats: “The team attends a seminar every month, no matter how busy we are, so the partners really prioritise it there.”
“The sensitivity of the work means that there are more face-to-face meetings with the client."
B P Collins’ family offering covers everything from prenuptial agreements and ending a marriage to child custody arrangements or child protection orders. Due to the nature of the work, trainees found that their time in the department involved more client-facing work than elsewhere: “The sensitivity of the work means that there are more face-to-face meetings with the client to update them as we move through the process,” one trainee told us. In terms of the day-to-day, trainees in the seat will find themselves in court hearings fairly regularly: “With this comes a lot of the standard drafting, whether that’s drafting instructions to counsel, witness statements or preparing court bundles,” one source remarked. “There’s a lot of research too, but in this seat especially, partners will take the time to sit down and explain concepts to you, because it’s important work for the families involved.”
For Jacqui Symons, prospective candidates should think about cultural fit first and foremost: “From your sole practitioners in the high street to the huge magic circle firms and everything else in between, there is huge breadth in the types of firm you can train at,” Symons tells us. “A lot of students are put on a conveyor belt into the City to do corporate work without realising that there are a whole host of different options.” While there are a great many people suited to it, Symons adds, there are others who will feel more fulfilled elsewhere: “You might be one of those people who would have a much more fulfilling career at a different size firm. So, think creatively. Approach your local firms, go in and have a chat, and see what’s on your doorstep.”
"There’s a great vibe among the juniors."
B P Collins moved into its purpose-built Gerrards Cross HQ in 2020, an open-plan office with a hub that offers free breakfasts and pastries once a week. “There’s pods on the side if you need some time to decompress, but there’s a great vibe among the juniors,” one trainee was quick to point out. “We work quite closely with the paralegals, who are a similar age, we have Thursday night drinks, and when it’s someone’s birthday, one of us will bring in a cake or doughnuts or something like that.”
When it comes to hours, trainees at the firm reported working between 9am and 6pm on average, though the hours can be longer in contentious seats: “I have had a couple of 10.30pm/11.00pm finishes during busier times, but that’s certainly not the norm.” Office time varied from team to team too, from 25% of the week in-office to more or less every day. “Being so close, I do feel like people have an itch to scratch when it comes to London,” one source mused. “When you get wind of the salaries, and messages start coming in on LinkedIn, you can begin to get people being drawn away one or two years-post qualification. But that’s not a reflection on the firm, people just want to try something different.”
Final-seat trainees will return to the department they hope to qualify into. As one trainee put it: “They ask at both the mid-seat and the end of seat review where we are looking to qualify; it’s not binding, but it helps give them an indication that they can then work towards.” Aside from the review process, it’s up to trainees to indicate where they are hoping to qualify and initiate those conversations. While “it can be left quite late before you’re given an answer around whether you’re going to be kept on or not,” sources spoke of a good track record when it came to being offered their qualification spots of choice. In 2023, two out of three qualifiers joined as NQs.
B P(odcast) Collins
B P Collins has its own podcast – The Criminal Maze – in which criminal solicitors at the firm discuss the complexities of the justice system, and chat to professionals within it.
How to get a BP Collins training contract
Work experience deadline: 31st March 2024
Training contract deadline: 31st March 2024
B P Collins recruits four or five trainees each year. To apply for a training contract, applicants must submit a written covering letter along with their CV. "This helps us identify those who are really interested in joining B P Collins specifically as a handwritten letter requires a great deal of effort and thought," says HR Manager Jacqui Symons.
In terms of the letter content, the firm expects to learn "why a candidate is interested in applying to B P Collins in particular. We put a premium on attention to detail, so spelling, grammar and the structure of the letter are really important to us. We are also looking for well-rounded candidates who can demonstrate other interests beyond work and studies."
Interviews and assessment day
Successful candidates are invited to complete online assessments and an online screening interview, which are held between March to June. A successful candidate assured us that "it really isn't scary at all. I was just asked standard questions about myself, my motivations and my interest in the firm."
Those who pass the online assessment and screening are invited to attend a full-day assessment. Candidates are required to deliver a short, prepared presentation on a subject of their choice, which is followed by a short Q&A session. Candidates are then quizzed on the presentation. Topics of past presentations have included the optimum time at which to place a bid in an online eBay auction (12 seconds before the end apparently!), the life of Andy Warhol and why Boris Johnson is such a canny politician.
The morning finishes with in-tray and group exercises, followed by lunch and an office tour conducted by current trainees. Finally, candidates are interviewed by two partners and/or senior associates. One eventually successful candidate told us: “It's gruelling but they're good at putting you at ease.” The firm lets candidates know if they have been successful within one week. Senior partner Simon Deans concludes: “We are looking for people who are personable, loyal, good-humoured and self-motivated. Our aim is to provide excellent training with a view to preparing trainees for successful and rewarding careers.”
The firm’s work experience programme is extremely popular and highly rated as it provides hands-on exposure to different areas of law over the course of a week. Typically, more than 60 candidates apply for placements at B P Collins. Up to 20 are interviewed and selected to attend placements between May and September each year. A student who completed a placement said that the firm "makes a real effort to get you as involved as possible – some of us even got to go to court!"
Applications for training contracts and work experience placements are dealt with separately so you will need to complete one for each if you are interested in both opportunities.
B P Collins LLP
20 Station Road,
A lifecycle law firm
Helping people and businesses achieve their goals and peace of mind.
B P Collins LLP is an award-winning law firm that was established in 1966 and now has over 60 lawyers, with modern offices based in Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire, Thame in Oxfordshire and the City of London.
Its headquarters are located in Gerrards Cross which is surrounded by beautiful countryside and within 20 minutes commuting distance of London Marylebone. It is a very affluent area, conveniently located to serve the extremely active business communities of West London, Heathrow, Uxbridge, Slough and High Wycombe.
B P Collins’ teams of legal experts provide advice and support to both businesses and private individuals across a range of corporate, employment, real estate, dispute resolution, criminal law, family law and wills, trusts and probate matters. Its lawyers are dedicated to delivering the best legal advice through solving problems, managing risk and adding value.
The firm’s reputation continues to grow and the LLP is recognised as a regional heavyweight, top ranked by independent legal directories. Most services are ranked in tier one with many of its lawyers being recognised as either leaders in their field or next generation lawyers.
Lexcel accredited, B P Collins’ commitment to enduring relationships with clients, whether a private individual or thriving business, that lead to a delivery of an outstanding legal service.
Main areas of work
• Corporate and commercial
• Dispute resolution
• Private client (wills, trusts and probate)
Trainees are given early responsibility which includes plenty of client contact and professional work. There are regular meetings between the supervisors and trainees to monitor progress as well as a review meeting with the training partner both midway through and at the end of each practice group seat. Trainees are encouraged to participate in social and community events and initiatives. The firm has a very high trainee retention rate.
The firm is considering the new SQE route to qualification which it will be introducing to run in parallel with the traditional two years’ training contract.
The scheme offers a genuine opportunity to gain hands-on experience within a regional law firm with a day spent in each practice group to gain an insight into the work involved in each team. The scheme plays an important role in identifying future talent offering a great opportunity to future trainees to find out if it’s the right firm for them. Placements are usually for one week from May through to October each year. Applications are accepted in early 2024.
University law careers fairs
National Law Fair at University of Law
National and Regional Law fair at BPP University
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 1)
- Crime (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: up to £10 million (Band 2)
Watford, Uxbridge and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)