As the NHS rises to meet unprecedented challenges, this public sector and healthcare-powered firm plays an important role too.
“I wanted to work in Bristol but didn't want to be in a regional office that missed out on high-value clients,” a trainee told us. Enter Bevan Brittan, a UK top 100 law firm that recruits ten trainees a year between its offices in London, Leeds, Birmingham and HQ in Bristol. BB’s best known for advising public sector clients and “works closely with many NHS trusts, having built an excellent reputation for healthcare work. The firm is an industry leader in public sector law.” Bevan Brittan is growing its private sector practice too, but if you’ve got no taste for public sector work – especially healthcare, which makes up 50% of the firm’s docket– then look elsewhere in Chambers Student.
If health and public law do tickle your pickle, then you’ll struggle to find a better firm to train at: Chambers UK rates the firm top nationwide in clinical negligence, healthcare and local government, as well as in the North East, Yorkshire and South West for social housing. “Trainees work across offices on projects, which runs fairly smoothly,” insiders shared. For those situated outside of the HQ, “it’s very clear that Bristol is the head office. HR are all based there, and if you’re not you’ll only deal with them over the phone” (although HR does visit each office at key times like qualification).Some sources felt left out of Bristol-centric internal communications, but Londoners gave two thumbs up to a recent office renovation there: “We went from two floors, where we were at our own desks in separate departments, to one floor all hot-desking. It’s been a big change with much more mixing of teams.” Renovations to the Bristol office were underway at the time of writing.
“…works closely with a number of NHS trusts, having built an excellent reputation for healthcare work.”
HR centrally coordinates seat allocation for the whole firm, which caused some headaches in other offices as “they can be pretty slow to let us know what our next seat will be.” According to the firm, this happened most recently because there were more seats available than trainees to do them. Second-years rank three preferences for each rotation, before first-years make their picks. That didn’t limit them too heavily: about half of surveyed trainees got what they wanted in their first two seats. Many departments are larger in Bristol and London than Birmingham or Leeds, and trainees can move offices to do a particular seat if they’d like. “The firm is good for that,” one regional trainee confirmed, “but they don’t want people applying to one office, hoping to do multiple seats in another.”
Bevan Brittan is built on four main departments. Clinical risk breaks down into clinical negligence and healthcare and regulatory subgroups. Commercial and infrastructure (C&I) includes commercial, corporate, construction, commercial health and energy teams. In litigation and regulatory (LAR), trainees will find litigation, employment and procurement. Then there’s the property department, including transactional property and property litigation teams. Though there are no compulsory seats, over 70% of our trainee sources had sat in clinical negligence.
Much of the firm’s clinical negligence practice is defence-side for NHS trusts and foundations, as well as insurance providers. Examples of recent cases include a patient who suffered a double amputation due to a rare vascular condition, bringing a claim against their local NHS trust for not considering a vascular case; and a claimant suing for damages and surrogacy costs after doctors failed to detect signs of cervical cancer from multiple smear tests and biopsies over several years. Trainees said their experiences in the seat ranged “from attending case management conferences at the Royal Courts of Justice” to “organising high-value claims involving multiple experts and witnesses.” Clinical negligence got mixed reviews overall – while all found their work on cases interesting, some trainees were left wanting for client and partner contact and felt they got “a lot less responsibility than in other seats. Everything is very closely checked – possibly too much.” That perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise given how high-stakes this practice area is, and others had an “amazing experience,” with opportunities to draft based on expert advice.
“In clinical negligence, your client is actually the insurer. In HCR, you’re working directly with the NHS.”
The firm’s healthcare and regulatory (HCR) team has a non-contentious practice, working with NHS and private providers. “We do a lot of inquest investigations,” trainees explained. Lawyers here also “protect vulnerable people” in Court of Protection cases; and provide regulatory and consultancy advice to 59% of NHS providers and 33% of UK clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).Sources explained that “in clinical negligence, your client is actually the insurer. In HCR, you’re working directly with the NHS.” Bevan Brittan has helped NHS foundations and trusts up and down the country, recently advising the West London NHS Trust on a ten-year contract with a CCG to act as the single provider of various community health and care services. Trainees told us they enjoyed “day-to-day contact with NHS clients,” taking instructions and drafting orders. They were unanimously pleased with the training and partner contact available, in meetings or telephone conferences.
While some departments work with almost entirely public sector clients, there’s more of a balance between public and private in employment, including some independent healthcare providers. Bevan Brittan advises the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), Northern Devon Healthcare, and local councils and NHS trusts on employment issues; the firm’s Bristol office outshines London in the Chambers UK rankings, but their practices are fairly similar. Trainees found they had “quite a lot to manage” in their employment seat. “I wasn’t just sitting around and bundling – there was some of that, but I also got to prepare advice notes and attend tribunals,” one shared. “I had to figure out how to complete certain responsibilities by myself, which was quite exciting; there’s a nice variety of tasks.” Recent cases include defending three NHS trusts against race, religious and disability discrimination allegations brought by a former work placement student; and the PCA on proposed limits to involvement of ‘Kolpak’ cricket players in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The property team in Bristol is best known for health-related work and comes to the aid of local government and housing associations with property queries; borough councils and NHS trusts make up most of the firm’s London clients. “I was trusted with more substantial tasks here than in other seats,” an insider remarked, which makes sense as matters aren’t as life-or-death as other areas of the firm’s practice. “It’s been a particularly helpful seat in terms of training and development.” BB has repeatedly advised the Canal & River Trust, including on the sale of its wholly owned subsidiary British Waterways Marinas Limited to private equity investor LDC for an eight-figure sum.
Sources revealed that while “everyone is really lovely” at Bevan Brittan, “trainees don’t socialise much.” We didn’t need to do much detective work to learn why – for one, the firm encourages having a life outside its walls. “If I was in the office beyond 7 or 7.30pm, my supervisor would come in and ask if I was overloaded,” an insider suggested. The lack of a social scene is also down to geography – the firm recruits ten or fewer trainees a year across four offices. “People come to this firm for the clients it works for,” sources concluded, happy to sacrifice regular nights out for quality work and the chance to eat dinner at home.
“Senior solicitors, as well as dedicated support staff, have shown that they are there to support us.”
Female sources declared they “don’t feel hindered by the firm’s structures or culture,” and a relatively relaxed approach to flexible working was popular with all. There was less of a consensus on ethnic diversity – some argued that “visibility-wise it’s quite diverse and the firm clearly has good intentions,” though others felt that (like many other law firms) Bevan Brittan is “largely white middle class,” with room to improve on the diversity front. Mental health initiatives scored good reviews from trainees who described the firm as “proactive. Senior solicitors, as well as dedicated support staff, have repeatedly shown that they are there to support us.”
“The unspoken message is that the firm wants to retain everyone,” interviewees agreed. “Qualification comes up in everyday conversation.” At the time of our calls, some were nervous about the upcoming qualification process: “We’d like some more information. Speaking to trainees in the year above, it sounded pretty stressful, not knowing where jobs were or if there would be interviews.” Bevan Brittan treats the process like a job application: trainees submit a CV and cover letter, before two interviews with partners. The firm retained eightof tenqualifiers in 2020, with one fixed-term contract.
Gonna take my trainees to the old town court
Trainees told us they got permission from the firm to attend trials they weren’t staffed on, purely for the experience. “They disregarded my targets for two weeks, so I could go,” one said.
How to get a Bevan Brittan training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 28 February 2021 (opens 31st October 2020)
Training contract deadline (2023): 30 June 2021 (opens 31st October 2020)
The application form
Initial applications for a training contract or vacation scheme are completed online, and around 750 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 don't meet these criteria), the firm is keen to accept your application if you have at least three years' commercial experience.
The assessment day
Shortlisted training contract applicants are invited to an assessment day at the local regional office. The agenda includes a variety of assessments (including a written exercise) and a partner interview. Bearing in mind the challenges facing the public sector “you really need to show you can think outside the box,” one former vac schemer told us. “It's about being commercial, appreciating that it's a 'dig your heels in' moment and showing that you could be the sort of lawyer that will nurture client relationships to business coming in.”
The vacation scheme
Bevan Brittan runs one-week vacation schemes in each of its offices. After an initial induction and various exercises in Bristol, when vac schemers meet different partners, they go to their chosen office and spend a few days in two departments. Students are buddied with a trainee and have their own supervisors, 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 during their time in the two departments and get feedback, which forms part of their final assessment. They also undergo an interview with a partner and HR.
The vac scheme is paid and students receive complementary train tickets to attend the 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 whether they are really sure of 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'd expect and have gained a lot of hard 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.”
With the firm keen to take on more private sector clients that operate in the public sector, commercial experience can also really boost your cause. Training partner Steve Eccles elaborates: “We're taking on an increasing number of private health providers as clients and would like to continue to boost that area. In addition, more than ever before, NHS bodies are having to operate as commercial entities and run themselves as viable businesses. Those clients therefore look to us to provide legal advice that is commercially savvy as well as being legally accurate, so we'll need people with good commercial understanding to better understand those clients' needs and meet their requirements.”
Diversity is also an important consideration, and the firm takes part in the Pathways to Law work experience scheme in conjunction with the University of Bristol and the University of Law. There are also informal work experience arrangements with local schools in Birmingham and London.
1 Queen Street,
- Partners 75
- Assistant solicitors 192
- Total trainees 19
- UK offices Bristol, London, Birmingham & Leeds
- Contacts The Graduate Recruitment Team [email protected] com
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 10
- Applications pa: 500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or three year’s relevant commercial experience
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 31st October 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2022 and 2023 deadline: 30th June 2021
- Vacation scheme applications: 31st October 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 28th February 2021 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: Competitive
- Second-year salary: Competitive
- Post-qualification salary: Competitive
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Bristol, London, Birmingham and Leeds
Bevan Brittan is a UK-Top 100 national law firm providing a comprehensive range of legal and advisory services to over 300 private sector businesses as well as being a market-leading firm within health and social care, housing and local and central government. Bevan Brittan is a UK-Top 100 national law firm providing a comprehensive range of legal and advisory services to over 800 businesses as well as being a market-leading firm within health and social care, housing and local and central government.
Main areas of work
Based in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and London, our award-winning teams provide commercial, corporate, property, regulatory, employment and litigation (commercial and clinical negligence) legal advice.
The training contract is made up of four, six-month seats. During each seat, the core of your training will be practical work experience in conjunction with an educational programme. The training is aimed at developing attitudes, skills, legal and commercial knowledge which is essential for your career success. You are encouraged to take on as much work and responsibility as you are able to handle, which will be reviewed on a regular basis with your supervisor. The firm is friendly and supportive with an open-door policy along with a range of social, sporting and cultural activities.
Our award winning summer vacation scheme takes place in June each year with places available across the offices. The scheme is open to second-year law students, final-year non-law students and graduates. During the placement you will spend a week in two different departments enabling you to gain first-hand experience of two different practice areas, getting a real taste of what life at Bevan Brittan is like. You’ll be given real work to do and formal feedback on how you’ve done by each member of staff you work for. In addition to this there will be the opportunity to meet current trainees and network with people across the firm to find out more about the work and culture at Bevan Brittan.
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, cycle to work scheme, and an on-site gym.
University law careers fairs 2020
• University of Law, London, Bristol and Birmingham BBP
• University of Bristol
• University of the West of England
• University of Exeter
• University of Birmingham
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
- Employment: Employer: Healthcare (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Social Housing (Band 3)
National Leaders (outside London)
- Social Housing (Band 2)
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 (Band 2)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Healthcare (Band 1)
- Healthcare: Mental Health: Providers (Band 2)
- Local Government (Band 1)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 4)
- Public Procurement (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 5)