B P Collins LLP - True Picture

"I struck gold here" – trainees at B P Collins think they get better bang for their Buckinghamshire.

BP Collins training contract review 2021

The Firm



London – that nucleus of legal power and prestige – while crucial for some, is really not the be-all and end-all, says our research. The trainees at B P Collins eschewed the trainee cliché, saw there was life beyond the glass towers and the sweaty Tube journeys, and chose this celeb-crammed corner of Buckinghamshire instead. “It’s a very good firm with a great quality of work,” encouraged one source. “You don’t have to sell your soul to the City: I struck gold here.”

“Being so close to London, you get much of that quality work without the pressure, expectations or stereotypes of the City.”

A glance at Chambers UK shows there’s gold aplenty. This Gerrards Cross firm stands tall in the Thames Valley rankings, in particular for corporate/M&A: lower mid-market, employment, environment, litigation, and real estate work. The firm also attracts praise for its family/matrimonial work in Watford. “Being so close to London, you get much of that quality work without the pressure, expectations or stereotypes of the City,” mused one source. Plainly, this is a robust regional firm with national reach. “It has an amazing presence and recognition regionally,” enthused one source. “Friends from other big City firms know our name.”

2020 will usher in a new chapter for the B P folks as they join two previously separate offices in Gerrards Cross under one roof. “We’re in two buildings at the moment, and it can feel disjointed at times.” Another added: “They’re conscious of that with the move and want to fix it.” B P also boasts a small office in London for meeting clients and hotdesking, but trainees don’t sit there. Our sources were excited that the move “will bring new cohesion.” 

The Seats



The firm’s training contract follows a rather novel structure: juniors do four five-month seats followed by a four-month stint, usually returning to the department they want to qualify in. “It’s a good way to get your feet back in the door,” told one source, “and good to remember having not done something for a number of months.” Despite not all trainees beginning their contracts together – starting dates vary – our sources noted this was not a hindrance: “We have a WhatsApp group, and as soon as someone new joins we always include them and give them the tips of the trade.” Trainees are also asked to rank their seat preferences, which couples with informal chats about where newbies want to sit.

“At the beginning, you’re tested and building trust. But towards the end of the seat, I felt like an NQ.”

Choices aside, every trainee is required to sit in the firm’s property department. This is “the biggest team,” where trainees have the opportunity to do both commercial and residential property. Interviewees attested to greater exposure and “more independence” on the residential side. “I was somewhat running my own files by the end,” highlighted one junior. “I had lots of responsibility with freehold sales and purchase.” The local residential client base will naturally include high net worth individuals, as well as the odd celebrity. “Towards the end, you can do the searches or draft the first reports on title. At the beginning, you’re tested and building trust. But towards the end of the seat, I felt like an NQ.” Commercial property work tends to be more “piecemeal” and “harder to be involved in as deeply” due to the scale of the transactions.

In corporate and commercial, “the firm specialises in environment and waste,” so much of the client base operates in that sphere. Juniors reported drafting board minutes, articles and resolutions. Sources also noted “a little bit of franchising and buying” as well as M&A work for small and medium-sized enterprises. One junior noted their highlight: “I attended a client meeting last week to go through disclosures on an SPA and I was told I needed to be familiar with the data room. Everyone was looking at me for data and what was sufficient for disclosure.” A firm of this size isn’t inoculated from wider trends: “I got unfortunately timed during my time in this seat due to the elections and Brexit, so there was a pause button being pushed with deals and I didn’t have the best exposure.”

“You get new enquiries in from anyone and you never know what to expect when picking up the phone!”

“You get a wide range of work in dispute resolution,” as the team covers “general commercial disputes for varying sized companies.” The group also does a healthy amount of contentious probate and property litigation. “I was fortunate enough to work on some meaty cases,” beamed one junior. “One commercial dispute blew well out of proportion with four or five defendants on the other side.” Juniors reported an air of spontaneity in the seat: “You get new enquiries in from anyone and you never know what to expect when picking up the phone!” To be expected though is the inevitable bundling. Beyond this, we heard of trainees preparing for hearings, drafting letters, issuing claims and “going to one hearing, which is always so interesting.”

A softer side is required in the family department: “Generally, family is working with people finalising divorce and financial proceedings, prenuptial agreements, and then any children stuff as well,” articulated one trainee. Juniors reported “a lot of client-facing work with lots of sensitive topics.” Understandably, “it can be quite emotional, especially when working on children matters. But it’s incredible to get a nice result and be able to support them.” Pragmatism is also required: “I went to a couple of hearings and worked with a QC, which was good. I also went to court for defending a divorce case.”

“…it can be quite emotional, especially when working on children matters. But it’s incredible to get a nice result and be able to support them.”

In private client life is, unsurprisingly, “very client-heavy. We have meetings all the time for will instructions, drafting lasting powers of attorney, and trusts work.” Juniors noted a “good deal of home visits” for “some wealthy clients, which provides some interesting experiences.” Beyond “lots of drafting responsibility,” sources also noted “probate work, which was good to be able to follow through.” Akin to previous departments mentioned, juniors spoke of less lawyerly traits required: “You’re dealing with someone writing their will or estate so it’s comforting for them for you to be approachable with chats often totally outside the legal world.”

Trainee Life



Size isn’t everything. “In a firm with 900 people, you’re just a face in a hall,” noted one junior. “I love that I can name everyone here and say ‘hi’ in the stairwell.” This camaraderie and connection proved infectious: “It’s a very friendly firm. There’s no one you avoid in the corridor!” Another added: “Everyone’s switched on and it’s never dog-eat-dog.” Trainees chorused: “We’re not a high-street firm!" and revelled in the connection with senior ranks: “I don’t find speaking or going to any partners intimidating at all. There’s not much of a hierarchy.”

“I love that I can name everyone here and say 'hi' in the stairwell.”

In considering the firm’s location – “which is quite homogenised” and “dominated by white, middle class people” – interviewees spoke candidly of B P’s diversity efforts. “I think it would seem easy to think the firm’s an old regional firm with white male partners.” Thankfully, “the majority of partners are women,” which “is great and encouraging as a female trainee.” We also heard the firm offers a supportive and flexible approach to “working part-time or accommodating if you have families.”

On the note of flexibility, “it’s not an all-consuming existence here.” Regular enough 9-5.30/6.30 days keep trainees sweet, with some exceptions: “There are late nights and weekends but it’s never thankless, and you’re compensated with days in lieu.” One junior straddled varying strands of opinion: “There’s a lot expected of you as a trainee and the salary doesn’t quite reflect that, but it’s not like we’re working crazy hours or anything like that. I’m not expecting a London salary, but you have to play it off against the good work/life balance.” One junior found greater brevity: “Yeah, I think I’m compensated fairly.” We did hear rumours that a pay review is due.

“I’m not expecting a London salary, but you have to play it off against the good work/life balance.”

Open dialogues abound with mid and end-of-seat reviews, “where you discuss concerns, highlights, what you enjoyed and want more of.” Juniors commended the firm’s supervision efforts, and that “they definitely want me to succeed.” While “some supervisors are a bit more hands-on than others, they’re good at giving feedback,” and “the HR team let us know that the door’s always open.” Be it open or closed, the door to qualification seems clear: “We’re encouraged to talk among ourselves regarding application. It’s good as it doesn’t feel like school or being hand-held.” Succinctly, “the policy is that you take it upon yourself.”

How to get a B P Collins training contract



APPLY HERE

Work experience deadline (2021): 31 March 2021 (opens 1 January 2021)

Training contract deadline (2023): 31 May 2021 (opens 1 March 2021)

Initial applications

B P Collins recruits two to three trainees each year. To apply for a training contract, applicants must submit a written covering letter (typed is fine) 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 lot of effort and attention" says HR Manager Jacqui Symons.

In terms of the 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 attend group test sessions and screening interviews, which are held between May and September each year. 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." Nine of those interviewed are selected to attend a full-day assessment in the autumn. This includes presentations from senior partner Simon Deans, and training partner David Smellie. Candidates 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 24 hours.  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 a long career as a lawyer at the firm.”

Work experience

Typically, more than 60 candidates apply for placements at B P Collins, also with a handwritten covering letter and CV. Up to 20 are interviewed and selected to attend a one or two-week placement between May and October 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,
Gerrards Cross,
SL9 8EL
Website www.bpcollins.co.uk

  • Partners 15
  • Associates 35
  • Total trainees 7
  • UK offices Gerrards Cross
  • Overseas offices None
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Mrs Jacqui Symons, HR manager
  • Training partner: David Smellie, [email protected]
  • Application criteria  
  • Training contracts pa: 3-4
  • Applications pa: 60
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: As and Bs at A level
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 25p/week
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1 March  2020
  • Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 31 May 2020
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1 January 2020
  • Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 31 March 2020
  • Salary and benefits  
  • First-year salary: £26,400
  • Second-year salary: £27,400
  • Post-qualification salary: £40,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 23
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Contribution
  • GDL fees: No
  • Maintenance grant pa: No
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Gerrards Cross
  • Overseas seats: None
  • Client secondments: None

Firm profile



 

A lifecycle law firm

Helping people and businesses achieve their goals so life becomes easier.

Established in 1966 and with over 60 lawyers, B P Collins LLP is an award-winning law firm based in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Heralded a ‘regional heavyweight’ and top ranked by independent legal directories, its 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. Celebrating 50 years in 2016, the firm has built its reputation helping successful people with significant assets achieve peace of mind. Its lawyers are dedicated to delivering the best legal advice, through solving problems, managing risk and adding value. Lexcel accredited, B P Collins’ commitment to and enduring relationships with clients, whether a private individual or thriving business, ensure delivery of an outstanding service. Most lawyers have worked in London, but have opted to work in more congenial surroundings where they can enjoy a higher quality lifestyle. Gerrards Cross is a very pleasant town surrounded by beautiful countryside, but within 20 minutes commuting distance of London Marylebone. It is an affluent area and we are conveniently located to serve the extremely active business communities of West London, Heathrow, Uxbridge, Slough and High Wycombe.

Main areas of work



• Commercial and residential property
• Corporate and commercial
• Employment law
• Family law
• Litigation and dispute resolution
• Criminal law
• Private client

Size
Partners: 15
Associates: 36 non partner qualified solicitors
Total Trainees: 7
UK offices:1

Training opportunities



The firm aims to have up to eight trainee solicitors at different stages of their training contracts at all times. Trainees complete five months in four different practice groups of their choice. The final four months is spent in the practice group in which the trainee intends to specialise. The firm has a partner with overall responsibility for all trainees and each practice group has its own supervisor who is responsible for day to day supervision. 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 marketing events. The firm has a very high trainee retention rate.

Application Criteria
Trainingcontracts pa 2/3
Applications pa 50
Minimum required degree grade 2.1
Minimum UCAS points or A levels A’s & B’s at A-levels
Vacation scheme places pa 35

Vacation scheme



The firm welcome applications for our work experience placements from law under-graduates and graduates and non-law graduates who have completed their Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Our scheme offers a genuine opportunity to gain hands-on experience within a regional law firm. The scheme identifies potential recruits and also offers the opportunity to future trainees to find out if we are the right firm for you. Placements are usually for one or two weeks from May through to October each year. Application accepted early in 2021

Dates and deadlines Training contract applications open 1 March Training contract deadline, 2021 start 31 May Vacation scheme applications open 1 January Vacation scheme 2020 deadline 1 March Open day deadline Law Insight day TBD

Salary and benefits First-year salary 26,400
Second-year salary 27,400
Post-qualification salary 40,000
Holiday entitlement 23 days 

Open Days



Law Insight Day: Our Law Insight day is open for A-level or equivalent students, non-law undergraduates / graduates and law students. The day is designed to help give you an insight into the various areas of law and consists of 15 minute presentations by trainees on the practice groups they are training in and a mock trial exercise conducted by one of our lawyers.

University law careers fairs 2020
National Law Fair at University of Law
National and Regional Law fair at BPP University

Contacts
Graduate recruiter: Jacqui Symons, HR Manager
[email protected]

Training partner: David Smellie
[email protected]

Facebook: @BPCollinsSolicitors
Twitter: @BPCollinsLaw
Instagram: @BPCollinsLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Crime (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)