Bates Wells - True Picture

Seeking a CSR-centric firm with a “warm and fuzzy” culture? Make a date with Bates.

Bates Wells training contract review 2022

The Firm

“People here aren’t driven by a pay cheque. We’re driven by making meaningful, socially conscious change,” declared one source when asked to define Bates Wells. It was the first UK law firm to achieve B-Corp status, meaning it’s a for-profit business that is meeting high standards in its social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability (and has got the independent certification to prove it). This status is visible in all sorts of different ways at the firm: even the soap in the office bathroom is made by a company whose entire workforce is visually impaired.


Roughly 65% of all BW’s clients are charities or social enterprises. Some names you may be familiar with include Barnardo’s, MIND, Children in Need, The Royal Parks and Samaritans. Before taking on a new client, a panel of partners gathers together to decide whether the client’s business is in keeping with the firm’s ethics. Bates also has a particularly active pro bono practice, with lawyers working on high-profile issues including representing Uber drivers in their highly publicised workers’ rights case.


"We’re driven by making meaningful, socially conscious change."

Those who “didn’t want to just be a face in the crowd” were drawn to Bates’ small trainee intake, which meant “you can build a rapport with everyone.” It may have just the one office, but that’s not stopped BW from raking in the Chambers UK rankings: unsurprisingly, its charities and immigration groups are top-ranked nationwide, alongside its real estate expertise in London. Further accolades go to practices like media & entertainment and corporate/M&A, though more niche groups like electoral law and professional discipline also rank highly. 


The Seats

The seat system is somewhat unconventional: trainees do two six-month seats in first year and three four-month seats in second year. Rookies set out their preferences for seats one and two separately, then do the same for their three second-year seats towards the end of first year, ranking the options from one to five. The immigration and corporate/commercial seats are only available in first year, whilst undertaking a seat in ChaSE (charity and social enterprise) is encouraged (trainees can even do a repeat seat in this department). Public & regulatory is only available in the second year.


ChaSE is the largest department in the firm, so trainees were pleased to be part of “what the firm is best known for.” These folks “deal with any issue that a charity or social enterprise might face.” Daily tasks revolve around registering charities, which sees trainees draft applications to The Charity Commission. It’s a heavily regulated sector, so there’s a fair amount of liaising with the Commission too. Updating Companies House filings, reviewing trustee constitutions and attending board meetings also forms a large part of the seat, all of which resulted in high levels of client contact. The data privacy specialists sit within the ChaSE group, so trainees also got involved with charities’ data audits. The transactional side involves advising on mergers between charities, spin-outs and setting up subsidiaries. Trainees here enjoyed “lots of client contact” while also feeling suitably supported. The team recently assisted the City of London Corporation with the establishment of the London Community Response Fund, a COVID-19 support fund for charities and community groups in the capital.


"I got to work with some big celebrities!”

During their stint in immigration, rookies were heavily involved in department know-how sessions: “The pandemic started whilst I was there, so I had to keep on top of the latest changes in the law and update the team. Trainees are essential to the department.” The group covers two types of immigration: business and personal. The former involves helping companies obtain and maintain sponsorship licences and assisting employees with visa applications. Bates Wells advised The Alan Turing Institute on immigration options for bringing people to the UK to take part in its programmes. “We also deal with ‘innovator visas’, which are for people who are internationally recognised as leaders in their field. I got to work with some big celebrities!”


On the personal side, trainees draft visa applications to the Home Office and handle appeals if the application gets rejected. “I dealt with some interesting human rights issues,” one recalled. Home to just four fee earners, this is the smallest team in the firm, meaning trainees felt they “got the most responsibility in this seat.” That said, it’s a good seat for cross-departmental collaboration; the team works with the corporate group on immigration aspects of M&A deals and, of course, the employment group.


“It’s so helpful to see both sides of cases and to work with a mix of people, especially those who are under-represented.”

There’s a 50-50 split of contentious and non-contentious work in employment. So far, rookies had helped provide strategic advice and advised on redundancies and termination agreements. They also found “there’s quite a bit of corporate due diligence” in this seat. On the litigious side, the group represents both claimants and respondents: “It’s unusual for a commercial firm like ours to work on the claimant side, but it’s so helpful to see both sides of cases and to work with a mix of people, especially those who are under-represented.” The firm works on “a whole host of disputes, including whistle-blower claims.” For example, the firm represented the Center for Global Development in the high-profile tribunal hearing brought by Maya Forstater, whose contract was not renewed after she posted gender-critical views on Twitter. For these type of matters, trainees typically handled the bundling: “It takes up a fair bit of time but we’re also involved in the meatier work, like preparing witness statements.” One source added: “I like the academic side of law, so I enjoyed researching case law and analysing the issues.”


The disputes team “deals with disputes in literally any area of law,” from copyright infringement to charity disputes (although certain fee earners focus on areas that are more niche). The firm recently advised an individual on her Supreme Court case concerning a $360 million grant from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation to establish her charity, Big Win Philanthropy. One source recalled: “I didn’t realise how many weird and wonderful types of courts and tribunals there are. I dipped into a bunch of different sorts of cases.” In terms of tasks, another source was pleased to find they weren't “just emailed tasks to do, I was actively involved in cases.” Interviewees had attended calls with counsel and taken part in initial discussions with clients: “I’d set out their options and give some initial advice.” Compiling exhibits for court and discrete research tasks are also common.


Trainee Life

“We’re a close-knit firm so I’ve never been scared to approach anyone,” one interviewee assessed. Trainees thought the open-plan office encouraged this flat hierarchy: “Nobody has a private office, so it feels like there aren’t any boundaries between trainees and senior lawyers.” During lockdown some felt trainee camaraderie was tougher to maintain, though sources scored the firm highly for maintaining partner and client interaction. Trainees get primary and secondary supervisors in each seat, while the latest intake were also given NQ ‘buddies.' Bates also encourages fee earners and non-fee earners to socialise through its Coffee with a Colleague scheme: “They match you with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily come across and you have coffee together.”


On the diversity front, sources were pleased to see “we have a lot of women in senior positions,” but also noted “we don’t have many ethnic minorities in senior positions so more could be done there, but it’s high on the firm’s agenda.” Efforts so far included signing up to Rare Recruitment's Race Fairness Commitment, as well as the Halo Code campaign pledge. 


Our interviewees praised the firm for “pushing a healthy work-life balance.” The odd late night occurs here and there, but for the most part trainees work a steady 9 to 5: “The vast majority of people don’t want trainees to work late. If you send email outside of regular business hours, someone will check in on you.” Bates has also encouraged its people to take an hour away from their desks each day during remote working. The firm also achieved high scores for addressing mental health: “We have multiple mental health first-aiders and the firm’s signed up to programmes which support mental wellbeing, like Help@Hand" – a virtual wellbeing service.


"Most of the partners trained here.”

The qualification process could be improved, according to our sources, who wanted a more concrete structure. Trainees intending to stay at the firm submit their top three departments. HR then asks the departments if they have NQ jobs available, then asks trainees to confirm their preferred destinations. Each department has their own interview or assessment process (note that interviews only take place if more than one person applies for a role). Trainees were encouraged by the fact that just over 70% of NQs were retained in 2020. “I can’t think of anyone who qualified here then left. In fact, most of the partners trained here,” one reflected. In 2021, the firm retained five of six qualifiers.

Bates’ rates

Bates recently launched ‘Decision Tool’, a free platform for non-profits that are facing financial difficulty due to Covid-19. Users answer a series of questions, then get a tailored report on their next steps.

How to get a Bates Wells training contract


Vacation scheme deadline: 31 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Training contract deadline: 1 June 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Training contract places: 6

Training contract applications: 700


Bates Wells is “passionate about making a positive social impact, so any experience that demonstrates that commitment, either personal or professional, is impressive.” Volunteering or working with non-profits is valued, whilst recruitment & trainee development manager Francesca told us: “We’re also interested in the clubs or societies candidates have been involved with at university and beyond to see how they align with our values and wanting a career in law.”

Those applying for a training contract directly need to show some commercial experience on the application form. Prior legal experience isn’t a pre-requisite for the vac scheme: “That’s what the vacation scheme is for!”

Application process

There are three stages to the application process. Firstly, candidates complete an online application form on the firm’s website which covers academics, experiences and motivations: “We also work with Rare and utilise their contextual recruitment tool, which is built into the application form; and take mitigating circumstances seriously when reviewing applications, so if there is anything we should be aware of please include it on your form.”

Candidates that meet expectations complete a Watson-Glaser test, examining critical thinking skills – they have about a week to complete it. “We then look at the test score and re-review the application to see if we went to progress to the next stage,” Francesca explains. “If they’re applying for a vacation scheme they have an interview with 2 recruitment panel members, which range from associates to partners; if applying directly for a training contract they’re invited to a full assessment day.

“Be sure to keep up-to-date with current affairs and have an opinion about what is going on in the world before you come and speak to us,” Francesca suggests. Those who’ve been successful during a vac scheme or assessment centre will then be interviewed by the firm’s managing partner and senior partner around late July and will find out the decision in August.

Top tip: “Candidates who do well at our interviews are able to express their opinion on a range of issues; they’re engaged on the world around them and can show that they want to be part of a firm who is committed to making a positive social impact. Those who perform less well during our recruitment processes have not researched enough about the firm and the space we operate in.”

Bates Wells recruits from both its vacation scheme and direct training contract applications, in addition to considering internal employees.

The vacation scheme

The firm typically runs two schemes in the summer. The process took place virtually again this year due to the covid-19-enforced lockdown. As 2021’s programme was virtual, “candidates were given time to engage with departments directly that they were interested in, as well as engage in different tasks across the firm.” Vac schemers will complete a number of tasks including a written assessment, usually lasting 2 hours. Candidates on the direct route assessment day will complete the same test before an interview.

The vacation scheme also comes with various workshops and presentations, plus social activities and potential client meetings: “You’ll be involved with our Diversity and Inclusion Forum as well as gain a better understanding about the Impact Economy.” Francesca concludes: “We receive a high volume of applications for our schemes and although we recruit on a rolling basis we do read every application submitted – yours can stand out by showing genuine motivation to all things Bates Wells.”

Trainee profile

“Trainees join the firm because they’re interested in the nature of our work and are impressed by the clients we work with,” Francesca suggested. “They’re also committed to making a positive social impact, whatever that might be! Trainees are excited about the high-quality training offered and getting involved in interesting work from the early stages of their career. Being part of a smaller cohort also means it’s easier to build up relationships with one another and feel part of one team and firm.”

How wide is the scope of the firm's recruitment drive across the country? “Prior to Covid-19 we would travel to different events across the UK to meet potential applicants,” we heard. “You may have seen us giving away bamboo toothbrushes as a means of reducing the amount of plastic often seen at careers events! This year we will join events both remotely or in-person where possible.”

Bates Wells

10 Queen Street Place,

  • Partners: 33
  • Associates: 82 (including PSLs, consultants, Trademark Attorney)
  • Total trainees: 12
  • UK office: London
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiters: Francesca Evans
  • Email:
  • Tel: 02075517939
  • Training partner: Malcolm Headley
  • Email:
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 6
  • Applications pa: please only submit 1 live application per recruitment round
  • Minimum required degree grade: Ideally, we are looking for candidates that have achieved 2:1 or above at university, however, we do not screen anyone out of the process automatically on grades as we are interested in reviewing the whole application. We work with Rare recruitment with their contextual tool, and we also take mitigating circumstances seriously. We also like to see what you have been doing since university if applicable.
  • Minimum UCAS points or A level: ABB or above (or equivalent)
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 12
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 1st June 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 31st January 2022
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £38,000
  • Second-year salary: £40,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £65,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days (bank holidays provided in addition and an extra Bates Wells day of annual leave; there are also two volunteering days available each year)
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £7,000 if studying in London; £6,000 if studying outside of London
  • We will communicate our approach to the SQE shortly, please review the Bates Wells website
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: n/a Overseas seats: n/a
  • Client secondments: ad hoc secondment opportunities

Firm profile
Making a profit is core to all businesses but our goal is to combine this with a real social purpose. Our values are pivotal to us, they shape our decisions and the way we live and work.

We focus on positive social impact as much as we focus on being a successful law firm. Our top tier legal advice is coupled with a real desire to drive change and we were the first UK law firm with B Corp certification, awarded to businesses that balance purpose and profit.

Today, our clients are diverse – from corporate household names, to public bodies, to start ups. We’re also the firm of choice for thousands of charities and social enterprises. We continue to lead the market we helped to shape.

Bates Wells challenges what is possible in legal expertise delivery.

Main areas of work
Bates Wells is best-known for our expertise in advising charities, we have the largest dedicated charity and social enterprise team in the UK. However, we also have a focus on corporate and employment law, as well as real estate, arts and media, immigration, litigation and public and regulatory law.

Training opportunities
When you join us, you’ll be ready and willing to bring your ideas and the best of yourself, but in the cockpit rather than as a passenger.

Over the two years of the training, you’ll do two six-month seats in the first year, followed by three four-month seats in the second year.

All trainees do seats in charity and social enterprise, and we’ll help you to choose the seats that will best prepare you for your preferred career path.

You’ll have a dedicated supervisor in each seat, who’ll make sure your work is relevant and varied, with training where necessary.

Vacation scheme
Our summer placements are a great way to make your mark — and could lead to a training contract. By applying for a vacation scheme, you’re guaranteed to be considered for a training contract. You don’t need to apply for both the vacation scheme and the training contract — you only need to choose one.

We accept applications for Law and Non-Law university students, but please make sure you are eligible to begin a training contract in 2024 when applying. Applications for vacation schemes close January 2022 so be sure to apply before the deadline, and note we recruit on a rolling basis.

Summer vacation scheme 1: Monday 6 June — Friday 17 June 2022
Summer vacation scheme 2: Monday 20 June — Friday 1 July 2022

Other benefits Life insurance, private healthcare, cycle to work scheme, gym, employee assistant programme, pension, profit sharing scheme, recognition scheme, season ticket loan, wellbeing weeks, access to complementary therapies, volunteering days, agile working, extra day of annual leave (usually in December) as well as many more.

Milkround events:
6 September 2021 12-4pm: Bright Network Festival
- 5 October 2021 2-4pm: Legal Cheek Law Fair
- 14 October 2021 4.30-6pm: Bright Network University Series
- 18 October 2021 12-1pm: All About Law Presentation – Introduction to Bates Wells & Charity Law
- 19 October 2021 2-4pm: All About Law Networking with trainees and graduate recruitment
- 21 October 2021 2-3pm: All About Law Group Q&A: B-Corps & the Impact Economy
- 27 October 2021 2-4pm: QTaster – Queen Mary University of Law Welcome to Bates Wells
- 2 November 2021 12.30-3pm: INN Group Event
- 10 November 2021 2-5pm: BPP Law Fair
- 23 November 2021 Time TBC: London Law Fair
- January 2022: An event with Law City – more information to follow

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
How we treat each other day-to-day is underpinned by our Purpose and Values and our Code of Conduct and Dignity at Work Policies demonstrate our commitment to this. We also require all new joiners to complete our Equality and Diversity training before they start and our partners and employees undertake further inclusion training on an annual basis.

We are happy to hold ourselves to wider scrutiny, either as required by law, for example Gender Pay Reporting, or being active members of programmes which promote inclusivity within the legal sector. We are signatories of the Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Charter and the firm has actively participated in the Law Society’s Women in Leadership Law project with the recent release of our co-authored practical toolkit for women in law.

We strongly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to reach their full potential whatever their background and having a diverse team and an inclusive culture is integral to our success. We are signatories of the Halo Code Agreement, Race at Work Charter and Race Fairness Commitment.

Our Management Board appointed a Diversity and Inclusion Forum (DIF), led at senior partner level and supported by HR, which include volunteers at all levels of seniority across the firm. Their remit is to reflect our values by striving to have a positive impact on our clients, our people and society by: (a) creating a workplace enriched by diverse talent, views and thinking; and (b) striving to be leaders for change in the legal profession and society in relation to diversity and inclusion issues.

Working alongside and with DIF, is our Employee Forum. By raising topics of interest, they can be brought to the partnerships’ attention, discussed and taken forward. 

The health and wellbeing of our people is a high priority for the firm and so we have established a number of different initiatives and continue to innovate in this space.

We have encouraged training a number of Mental Health First Aiders, including Senior Partners, who are available to support employees, in addition to an Employee Assistance Programme.

Bates Wells also holds Wellbeing Weeks each year providing our people with access to nurses and nutritionists to discuss health issues, exercise and healthy eating. It’s also a time to connect with our colleagues and participate in activities that would not be on offer every day, like welcoming therapy dogs to the office! Whilst working remotely we have continued with wellbeing weeks, but coordinated virtual activities and events.

We promote wellbeing by operating a cycle to work scheme and giving free access to cycle storage and changing facilities, offering access to subsidised gyms, in addition to webinars. We have an Employee Assistance Programme as well as Private Medical Insurance, which has a range of resources through Bupa such as Help @ Hand or counselling. There is also Bupa Support, which can be used for family members that need to speak to someone on their mental health line.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Employment: Employee & Trade Union (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer: Third Sector (Band 1)
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
    • Charities (Band 1)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 3)
    • Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 3)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 1)
    • Immigration: Human Rights, Asylum and Deportation (Band 2)
    • Immigration: Personal (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Theatre (Band 2)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Electoral Law (Band 2)
    • Professional Discipline (Band 3)