Take a trip up the Thames and you’ll find Blandy & Blandy excelling on both private client and corporate matters.
London life isn't for everyone, what with its overcrowding, pollution and general lack of affordability. Just a 25 minute train journey from the capital, but a world away from the sweat, the strain and the smog, regional boffs Blandy & Blandy have established themselves in the Thames Valley town of Reading. Blandy has “a great reputation in the area,” representing all sorts of regional clients (including Reading University and Reading Borough Council) – and Chambers UK drives the point home. It awards the firm stellar rankings across the Thames Valley for areas such as corporate, environment and planning. The firm's licensing, employment, real estate, and litigation teams also score well, and its private client arm (which the firm was founded on) is recognised as one of the very best in the region by Chambers High Net Worth. It's now searching out new growth in a recently acquired Henley office.
“Promotes a good work/life balance.”
Being founded in 1733, the firm has plenty of history behind it. It even has its own ghost... though none of our sources had actually seen it – “and don't want to!” Instead, they'd spotted plenty of “approachability and integrity” and “a much more hands-on approach to work than at other firms, which really appealed to me. With trainees at bigger firms, their experience is more on the sidelines, whereas here you get exposure very early on.” And to cap it off, there were regular sightings of spookily reasonable hours – an elusive sight in law – prompting trainees to comment that the firm’s culture “promotes a good work/life balance.”
A few months before each rotation, trainees are asked to provide their seat preferences in ranked order. “It usually works out, as there aren't many of us,” said trainees. “The firm makes an effort to place you where you've requested. If you've missed out in the first year, odds are you'll get it next year.”
Fine and Blandy
Corporate and commercial is classed as one department at Blandy, and trainees in this seat get a healthy mix of both. On the corporate side the group wades into the mid-market, “acquiring companies, selling companies, and doing general corporate governance.” Trainees had got stuck into “drafting sale and purchase agreements, advising on partnership agreements, and drafting board minutes.” The commercial side saw an influx of GDPR work in early 2018. A source said: “There was a lot of drafting of privacy notices, cookie policies, and reviewing terms and conditions from a data protection perspective.” The team also covers IP matters like registering trade marks and “acting for clients if someone is opposing the trade mark.” There's also a sizeable amount of charity work, which includes “incorporating charities and advising on safeguarding policies.” Sources found that “the support in this team was brilliant, and the partners were great to work with.” The team works with banking clients like Lloyds and RSBC, as well as smaller regional business like consumer services provider Box Technologies, and marketing software provider Ecrebo. The firm recently advised Reading-based Science Media Partners, an international events and publishing company, on its acquisition by global events company Terrapin.
“The previous trainee in that seat had left handover notes, so I jumped into their shoes.”
A large proportion of the property team's work concerns landlord and tenant matters, which meant trainees were “drafting leases, licences to occupy, and licences to underlet – mostly for the landlords rather than the tenants.” Sources praised being able to “jump straight in and run with files. It's obviously checked by your supervisor and you can raise questions, but generally they let you get on with it.” Clients range from “big landed estates, to businesses who own various properties to let, and also individuals.” Outside of landlord and tenant work, the team covers “a wide range of commercial transactions.” This covers some secured lending, as well as acquisition and disposal of freehold and leasehold properties. “The previous trainee in that seat had left hand-over notes, so I jumped into their shoes,” one source explained. “They had just finished their training contract, so I took on their work at that level. The team were really accommodating but it was definitely very hands-on. I was immediately working on high quality work.” Matters have included advising recruiter Austin Fraser as it looked to become a tenant in Reading's newly refurbished Thames Tower (paying a rent of £510,000 per year), and advising accountancy software company TaxCalc on its move to a business park in Wokingham. It also looks after property matters for the verdant Englefield Estate.
The private client department covers probate, trusts and estate planning, and Court of Protection matters. Trainees started with “drafting basic wills, but then moved onto drafting more complex wills with trusts in them.” On the probate side, sources had “collated asset information to apply for grants of probate” as well as applying themselves. The team also administers estates in accordance with wills, and act as professional executors – “we organise some funerals, and contact utilities and financial institutions to notify them of deaths.” Sources found that “the volume and pace of work is very different to other seats. Here, you're moving from one file to the next at a fast pace.” One recalled: “I was conducting will-signing meetings on my own quite quickly. As time went on, if probate matters came in that I could manage, I was given sole management of it. It was real experience for when I qualify.”
The planning and environment team is compact, having only two partners, two solicitors and one trainee, but trainees assist on “all aspects of planning applications and enforcement issues.” That included unilateral undertakings and Section 106 agreements, as well as “drafting the grounds for appeal against enforcement notices.” The clients range from “big commercial clients, to individual clients and architects who may have had a problem with their building site.” One source had been able to “attend a Magistrates' Court in London with a client on my own,” and another mentioned “drafting construction traffic management plans for a basement development, which involved very tight regulations.” The team continues to act for the University of Reading. It worked on the extension of the Thames Valley Science Park, which involved a planning application for approximately 57,000 square metres of research and development floor space. It also negotiated a Section 106 agreement on the University's Didcot development of around 2,000 homes, schools, a leisure centre, shops and a restaurant.
“There are no difficult personalities, and no partners you have to appease or tread carefully around.” For trainees, this provided a “welcoming” culture that made their lives a lot easier. “The type of people that work here aren't as highly strung as some other firms. I feel like I know everyone already and I've made some close friends.” And as friends like to do, this bunch likes to socialise: “There are events scattered around and everyone is encouraged to attend. We have pay-day drinks after work on a Thursday, and there are various CSR events that departments run.” Such events include taking part in the annual Reading Pancake Race for Launchpad (which Blandy won, not that it's about the competition...), as well as dress-down Fridays and cake sales. Sources had found that “with CSR, it’s not just a box-ticking exercise – there’s real emphasis on CSR opportunities. Our most recent annual quiz raised close to £5,000 for charity!”
“There are no difficult personalities.”
The firm has three main offices: two in Reading, one in Henley, with a London base for client meetings. The 1 Friar Street office in Reading is “a more traditional building. It is more open-plan now, but the family team still have distinct little offices.” The other Reading office houses more of the corporate and commercial-type work. It is “completely open-plan, and a more corporate setting.” Both are located in central Reading – a stone's throw away from plenty of local pubs, as well as Forbury Gardens, where attorneys occasionally gather in the summer months for a game of rounders.
Those wishing to hang around at home base beyond their training contract should take note of the changeable chances of retention. Sources wanted to stay on if they were offered the right job, but they weren't always available. That's symptomatic of a small firm. The firm didn't retain any of its qualifiers in 2017 (though one did return for an NQ role in 2018). In 2018 two of three qualifiers were retained.
A late night for this bunch means somewhere around 7.30 or 8pm. Average hours are closer to 9am to 5.30pm for most.
How to get a Blandy & Blandy training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 30 June 2019
Work experience deadline: 31 January 2019
Blandy & Blandy usually offers unpaid one-week placements in the spring and summer. Interns get to sample a range of practices and do some legal work. The scheme is open to second-year and final-year law students, final-year non-law students and post-grads. Accommodation and travel expenses are not provided. Hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm, with an hour for lunch.
Candidates should apply via Blandy's online application form and provide a covering letter. Around 12 to 16 applicants are invited to the assessment day in July or August. There isn't usually an interview, unless the assessment day is inconclusive. Candidates are given three written exercises on three areas of law – for example, writing a letter to a 'client' based on information given. After these individual written exercises, there are group exercises which are designed to assess personality. A recent example was having to argue for or against inviting particular people to a dinner party, then deciding as a group who to invite. Another exercise was putting together a two-minute advert about the firm, based on marketing information supplied.
How can you impress?
Excellent academics are important – a 2:1 degree and decent A levels. Recruiters are also trying to find out whether you're a natural 'Blandy's person' – someone who's able to demonstrate the three core values of approachability, integrity and excellence. The firm looks for good all-rounders, so varied interests and previous work experience on your CV (anything from shelf-stacking to charity volunteering) should count in your favour.
Lawyering in the Thames Valley
Blandy & Blandy
1 Friar Street,
- Partners 18
- Associates 7
- Solicitors 30
- Total trainees 5
- Graduate recruiter: [email protected]
- Training partner: Debbie Brett, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2-3
- Applications pa: 100+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or above
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: As and Bs at A levels
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 March 2019
- Training contract deadline: 30 June 2019
- Work experience deadline: 31 Janaury 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £22,500
- Second-year salary: £24,500
- Post-qualification salary: £38,000 pa (reviewed annually)
- Holiday entitlement: 22+ days
- LPC fees: No
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Reading
The firm has provided trusted legal advice to individuals and families for nearly 300 years. Commercially, it provides a full range of legal services to clients including banks and lenders, SMEs and owner-managed businesses, charities and educational institutions, professional practices, landowners and developers and venue and event operators.
Blandy & Blandy enjoys a reputation for high-quality, high value expertise, providing a partner-led service and outstanding client care.
Main areas of work
Each trainee spends six months in four different seats and completes a professional skills course. Trainees receive the best supervision and continuous professional development.
Open days and first-year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2019
• Reading University – November 2018, November 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
Reading and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Planning (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Licensing (Band 3)