Public sector work combined with a great work-life balance keeps the bunch at Bevan Brittan smiling.
Bevan Brittan training contract review 2024
“Bevan Brittan are main players in the healthcare industry and have always been,” said one proud trainee. “The firm’s biggest clients are in the public sector, like the NHS.” Indeed, the NHS is a key client for the firm, along with local authority bodies in areas such as housing and construction. It was the “human aspect” of working with these kinds of clients that drew trainees in. “Public sector work means people actually want to work together to help the client rather than compete with each other, said one.
Clinical negligence is Bevan Brittan’s biggest and brightest star according to Chambers UK, and the firm is held in high regard for its work in social housing, public law, and local government. Regionally, the firm performs well in employment, real estate, construction, public procurement and IT in the Southwest and London. Bevan Brittan’s HQ is found in Bristol, with additional offices in Birmingham, London and Leeds. All offices house trainees, but most join in Bristol.
“… people from all walks of life, such as council workers, ex-police and people with PhDs.”
Trainees said this human element carried over into the recruitment process: “People aren’t being assessed by grades and statistics,” they said. “The firm focuses on the individual and what they can bring.” In fact, our interviewees felt that “the firm is great at hiring people from all walks of life, such as council workers, ex-police and people with PhDs, so there are lots of different life experiences”under one roof.One trainee shared with us: “I am a career changer, and the public sector focus really drew me in so I could use my previous experience in the training contract.”
The process of seat allocation begins with trainees ranking their top six preferences out of the 25 seat options, along with comments on why they’re interested in those areas. As is typically the case, second-years’ choices are prioritised over the first years, but for one lucky trainee, “I got all my top choices for all my seats, so it does depend!” Trainees also get a chance to split a seat midway through each round, either between two teams in the same department or two teams that work closely together.
“… looking at legal principles in a medical context.”
Clinical negligence is definitely the talk amongst trainees. A seat here isn’t a given, but trainees highlighted that “the team's size and its importance at the firm means it is likely you will have one seat in there.” In fact, the majority of the trainee list has completed a seat here! The team typically does defence work for NHS trusts across the UK on a wide range of claims out of small injuries like broken noses up to large and serious cases concerning cancer misdiagnoses and birth injuries. For example, the firm recently represented St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in a spinal injury claim regarding a procedure that left the claimant paralysed. The team represents private healthcare providers too and recently defended a knee surgeon, along with insurance company CNA Hardy, against negligence claims regarding a professional footballer’s knee injury. Trainees pointed out that this seat is “very procedure-heavy” due to its complex nature. Typical daily tasks involved “connecting and discussing with experts in the area, and looking at legal principles in a medical context.” So, due to its technical nature, “trainees' involvement is small at times,” but this was counteracted by the fact that “the work is incredibly interesting, and I definitely came out of it wanting more...”
The property seat encompasses social housing, planning, housing management, property litigation and commercial property for public organisations, local authorities and charities. There are lots of local councils on the client list, which the firm has guided through housing developments and regenerations of public spaces. For example, the firm advised North Somerset Council on its £15 million development of affordable and sustainable homes in Nailsea. The group also represents the NHS Property Services on the majority of its property work across the nation (with hundreds of matters on the go at any given moment) ranging from small disposals up to major hospital redevelopments. On one matter, “a client had about 150 estates and wanted to bring all of that information together into a spreadsheet and work out what was registered,” a trainee recalled. There’s also “a fair amount of drafting experience” for trainees here. Overall, “the seat is sought after because the team is friendly and approachable. It was great to build relationships with the partners and the clients.”
“We’re seeing more construction claims coming through.”
Construction is split into contentious and non-contentious work. On the non-contentious side, trainees got to learn about construction contracts, and some got to try their hand with drafting. In the Southwest, the team advised Places for People, a property management company, on two deals with a housing developer for 470 new homes in Sussex and Exeter. Meanwhile, the London team advised the City of London on the £330 million redevelopment of the Smithfield Market as a site for the new Museum of London. As for the disputes side, “I was interested in how topical the work is,” said one. “There are new safety acts [like the Building Safety Act], so we’re seeing more construction claims coming through.”
We found a lot of interest in the energy and resource management seat – “the work is incredibly interesting and topical; how could you not enjoy it?” enthused one. “The work is generally centred around the Environmental Act, and” – no surprises – “normally for a local authority client.” The team handles a lot of waste work, like advising Birmingham City Council on its plan to manage waste in the city and develop its infrastructure and recycling centres. The work that trainees do depends on which supervisor they’ve been assigned to. While the team is relatively small compared to clinical negligence and property, trainees enjoyed some cross-team collaboration. They also admitted that “because the work is complex, you don’t do many substantive tasks.” On the plus side, they got involved in business development work, like writing articles and attending conferences, which isn’t always something that juniors get to do.
At the start of the training contract, trainees gather in the firm’s HQ in Bristol for presentations, networking and an overnight stay. The Birmingham office just moved to a snazzy building on Church Street, and “it is incredible!” praised one Brummie. “We now have a terrace, a great kitchen and a communal area for coffees and catch-ups.” Down south, the London office is based in the St. Pauls area – “it has recently been done up and it now has standing desks, multiple screens and a really modern look.”
The London office also got praise for its monthly socials with drinks or lunches, community engagement and sports events. “The lunches are always themed and most recently it was sandwiches and strawberries,” said one attendee. Throw in a cup of tea and you can’t get much more British than that! Other social events included picnics in the park, Eurovision and football sweepstakes, Halloween drinks and pumpkin carving in the spooky season, and a visit to the Christmas market for the Birmingham lot. Trainees can also get involved with the firm's Coffee with...’ series, where once a month, people at the firm are randomly partnered up for a chat and networking. “This is helpful to meet people,” trainees praised, “as the flexible working policy means you don’t always get to meet everyone.”
The current remote working policy is flexible, so everyone has the choice over when they go into the office (bar court days and any in-person meetings, of course). Trainees said they generally went in once or twice a week, but “the firm is constantly monitoring the situation and does surveys to get an idea of people’s preferences. At the moment, most people want to work from home.”
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, “the firm could be doing better in representation,” but trainees acknowledged the firm was making efforts, particularly around the inclusion aspect. “I have never hidden who I am at work,” said one trainee. Network groups at Bevan Brittan underpinned this sentiment – these include LGBTQ+ people, disability, East Asians, new and expectant parents, working dads, supporting family's with special education needs, menopause and a South Asian Heritage group. Trainees recently attended an event for South Asian Heritage Month: “We had a cook-off and talks about the future for South Asian heritage lawyers which was well attended and incredibly insightful.” There was also training on inclusive language and a recent talk on name pronunciation (“I noticed that after this, people put pronunciations in their signatures”.)
Trainees also pointed out that there were pro bono and CSR opportunities available in all offices. Birmingham works with a legal advice clinic on community and housing issues, for example, and each office picks a charity every year to work with. The Bristol office has had the Great Western Air Ambulance as it’s charity of choice, while this year it’s and 1625 Independent People, a charity that supports young, homeless people in the Southwest.
“I have worked an odd few 9pm finishes, but I can count them on one hand.”
If there is one thing Bevan Brittan is known for other than its public sector work, it’s a good work-life balance. And the trainees confirmed that this is still very much the case. “The work-life balance here is incredible! I have worked an odd few 9pm finishes, but I can count them on one hand,” said one trainee. The average start time among our interviewees was around 9am and they were usually all clocked off between 5 and 5.30pm. “You get real autonomy over your hours,” enthused one trainee. And what happens if you’re caught working late? “One partner noticed I sent an email late and reached out the next day to see how things were going to ensure I wasn’t being overworked,” said one interviewee.
Bevan Brittan didn’t disclose its salary this year, and among our sources there were mixed reviews. Outside London, one told us, “I am happy with the salary and the benefits,” whereas one of their counterparts in the capital felt that “the salary is definitely an elephant in the room! I would love to see the salary increase to match other City firms.” But this was followed by the rationale that “we get a great work-life balance and people take a pay cut because they enjoy working at the firm.” The trainees were also glad to hear that the salary is reviewed every year, and the salary is shared with them before an NQ offer is made.
A few weeks into the fourth seat, trainees receive a list of available NQ jobs for qualification. They have to prepare their CV and cover letters for the teams they'd like to apply to from the list and send them to HR. Trainees can expect to interview for the role with partners from the team. Interviewees were encouraged by the most recent round, in which all qualifiers stayed on at the firm as NQs. Those who were leaving after qualifying said it was down to “lack of job availability” in their preferred group, but that they had been very eager to stay at Bevan Brittan, “because people really do work their way up from the bottom here.”
Say Yes to Bevan: “People have been here for 20 to 30 years, which is great to see as a trainee.”
How to get into Bevan Brittan
The application form
Initial applications for a training contract or vacation scheme are completed online, and around 800 people apply for training contracts each year across the four offices. “The application form is geared towards gauging your understanding of the firm's target market,” we were told by trainees. “One of the questions referenced how the public sector is under the cosh and asked how the firm's strategy should aim to hedge that challenge.”
A level grades matter: the firm wants applicants who have attained a minimum of ABB (with flexibility depending on experience/circumstances). A 2:1 is also essential. Alternatively (if you do not meet these criteria), the firm is keen to accept your application if you have at least three years' commercial experience.
The recruitment process
If you are successful in getting to the next stage in the recruitment process, you will be invited to complete a short pre-recorded video assessment. The firm uses this as an opportunity to get to know candidates a bit better, but allows them to complete the video interview in their own time.
The vacation scheme
Bevan Brittan runs a two-week vacation schemes in each of its offices. After an initial induction and various exercises in Bristol, they go to their chosen office and spend the rest of the scheme in one department, really embedding into the team and experiencing what life is like as a solicitor. Students are assigned a supervisor and a buddy, with whom they work closely on live matters and set tasks. One former vac schemer remembered: “I was made to feel like one of the team, and there was no sense that lawyers were censoring their behaviour because I was there. I was involved in key strategic discussions, and they even moaned about the quality of the tea in front of me! I liked that honesty.” There are social events, too, and vac schemers always go out for drinks and dinner with the trainees in their office.
Vac schemers are assessed throughout the vacation scheme and get feedback, which forms part of their final assessment. They also undergo an interview with partners and the Early Talent team as well as taking part in a group task
The vac scheme is paid and students receive financial support to attend in-person inductions / assessment activities in Bristol. You may earn more on another firm’s scheme, but if this firm is on your target list then do make a beeline for this scheme. “Although the firm doesn't recruit exclusively from its vac scheme, it's definitely a considerable boost to your application,” revealed one trainee.
On both the vac scheme and during the training contract application process interview questions cover why trainees want to come to Bevan Brittan, and their interest in the public services sector. “The firm does tend to take on people with experience in the area,” revealed one trainee. “There are plenty of people here who have worked in the civil service or local government. Occasionally, we get former medical professionals looking to change career. Most of the candidates on the vac scheme are a little older than you would expect and have gained many skills in and around the public sector. Given that public service work is Bevan Brittan's key focal point, that understanding and experience really helps.”
Bevan Brittan LLP
1 Queen Street,
Bevan Brittan is a UK-Top 100 national law firm providing legal and advisory services to businesses across construction, energy & resource management, higher education and financial services sectors, complementing the firm’s market leadership within housing, local government and health and social care. The firm has award-winning legal and regulatory teams based across its offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and London.
The teams work within one of four departments: Health & Care - Resolution and Regulatory, Commercial & Infrastructure, Property and Litigation, Advisory & Regulatory (including Employment).
Bevan Brittan is named among 'The Times Best Law Firms 2023' and has achieved top-band rankings in 2023 Chambers UK directory as well as a strong set of results in the 2023 Legal 500 UK directory.
Our training contract programme is made up of four, six-month seats. From the outset you will be supported to be your best and given real responsibility; taking part in client meetings, legal research, drafting and attending court hearings. During each seat, the core of your training will be practical work experience in conjunction with a variety of development opportunities, aimed at equipping you with the skills and knowledge to help you succeed. You will be supported by helpful, friendly and collaborative colleagues at all levels, and have the opportunity to get involved in a range of social, sporting and cultural activities.
Our summer vacation scheme takes place in June/July each year with places available across the offices. The scheme is open to second or final year law students, final-year non-law students and graduates. During the placement, you will spend two weeks in one of our departments where you will get involved in high quality and interesting work alongside our experienced lawyers. You will work closely with your assigned supervisor on live matters and tasks, and receive regular feedback to help you really develop your skills as a future solicitor. There will be many opportunities to hear more about other departments and teams in the business, network with trainees and other colleagues across the firm and even test out your skills at presenting a client pitch! Finally, you will undergo an interview with two partners and a member of the Early Talent team.
You will receive 25 days annual paid holiday, the option to purchase up to one week additional holiday, a pension with a 5% employee contribution, private medical insurance, permanent health insurance/income protection, a range of voluntary benefits including season ticket loans, childcare vouchers and a cycle to work scheme.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
- Employment: Employer: Healthcare (Band 1)
- Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 3)
North East & Yorkshire
- Social Housing (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Social Housing (Band 1)
- Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Public Sector & Charities (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Public Sector Clients) (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 3)
- Inquests (Band 2)
- Local Government (Band 1)
- Mental Health: Providers (Band 2)
- Public Inquiries (Band 2)
- Public Procurement (Band 2)
- Social Housing: Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Social Housing (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 5)