This firm has been blasing a commercial trail over the past few years, but it’s still a great destination for those interested in personal legal services too.
Blaser Mills training contract review 2021
Blaser Mills Law is very clear about what it would like to do in the near future: to continue growing its commercial capabilities. This isn’t a new move for this South East outfit, which has transformed itself over the past decade from, as this trainee put it, “a traditional high street firm to a more corporate offering. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of and we are definitely winning bigger clients.” New laterals are adding something to this corporate makeover too: a regulator for the London Stock Exchange with expertise in the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) hopped on board, as did the former head of corporate and commercial at regional firm Tollers and a senior trade mark attorney (who will support commercial clients’ brands). All this commercial activity hasn’t gone unnoticed by trainees, with one noting that the “corporate and commercial team is taking up most of the work in the office!”
“It’s an exciting thing to be a part of and we are definitely winning bigger clients.”
Acting for businesses is just one half of the Blaser Mills Law mission: it also has a robust personal services offering from its more ‘high street’ days, which has been bolstered by the firm’s corporate drive of late. “There’s a lot more focus on protecting business assets,” explained one junior. A tactical move to create (as reported in the legal press) a ‘regional hub’ for its private clients saw Blaser Mills Law merge its lawyers and specialist services previously based in Rickmansworth with those in Amersham. In Chambers High Net Worth, Blaser Mills Law is ranked for its private wealth expertise, especially with regards to its estate and tax planning know-how, as well as for its Court of Protection work. In Chambers UK, meanwhile, Blaser Mills Law picks up more nods for its personal services work, in areas such as family/matrimonial, personal injury and crime, while on the more commercial side its real estate and litigation practices are gaining traction.
Alongside its High Wycombe HQ, Blaser Mills Law also has offices in Amersham, London and Silverstone. Trainees tend to be based in High Wycombe and Amersham, but are also likely to spend their time in Silverstone and London, with a fair amount of flexibility. Trainees were drawn to the more “tailored” approach to the training contract and told us that Blaser Mills Law is all about flexibility when it comes to mapping out individual training programmes. “Your first seat will be allocated at random, based on business needs,” explained one source, “but moving forward, a lot of people do more specific, focused contracts.” This means, for example, that if you’d like to qualify as a family lawyer, you can specify this with the training principal and potentially steer away from spending time in unrelated seats. We heard that a few trainees had been able to do split seats, while others had had a seat created for them if a suitable supervisor could be found.
“We’ve been targeting more City clients by expanding the London office,” a trainee said of the corporate and commercial department. According to one, “around 50% of the work now stems from London-based clients.” The department has four main focuses covering the technology sector, owner-managed businesses (especially SMEs), the private equity sector (Blaser Mills Law has been busy advising target companies on their options for attracting investment), and the motorsport industry (an area mostly serviced from the firm’s Silverstone office). To get the mood right, one trainee revealed that the head of the department had added “office chairs in the shape of racing car seats!” Two trainees can sit here per rotation and sample both corporate and commercial matters. The result? Daily responsibilities range from “drafting share purchase agreements for M&A transactions; drafting commercial contracts; reviewing terms and conditions; and reviewing racing driver contracts.” Trainees felt they got “a broad range of work,” and reported taking on restructurings and private equity investments, as well as IP matters and distribution agreements on the commercial side.
“...office chairs in the shape of racing car seats!”
Blaser’s dispute resolution department handles work for commercial clients and individuals on both the claimant and defendant sides. Chambers UK gives a nod to the contract disputes and debt recovery matters handled here, but the department has been expanding into areas such as IP, reputation management and data protection. Sector specialisms include construction and ‘consumables’, which cover the likes of alcoholic beverages, pet foods and sterile products. A recent case saw the team act for animal feed supplier AB Agri as it looked to recover payment from a customer, while another involved pursuing the enforcement of an adjudicator’s decision in the Technology and Construction Court on behalf of the liquidated company, Meadowside Building Developments. Trainees felt that they were able to get in on “all the procedural steps, like going to the court with barristers,” as well as “drafting everything from letters to clients, claim forms, instructions to counsel and witness statements.”Client contact was described as “continuous. I had my own files which I took the lead on. I’d run everything past my supervisor but as far as the client was concerned, they contacted me.”
Amersham and High Wycombe are the places to be for the private client department, which covers wills, trusts and probate matters. One source gave an overwhelming thumbs up to the seat and felt that it had helped to build up their “confidence and knowledge with impeccable supervision and autonomy.” This rave review partly came from being able to deal with clients early on: “We’d always attend the client meetings from day one and then act as a point of contact via phone and email to answer client queries and provide updates.” As well as building relationships, tasks included “drafting wills to suit clients’ circumstances,”“visiting clients at home and talking through their wills,” drafting lasting powers of attorney and letters, and “running probate files and managing trusts: there’s a lot of paperwork and calling the bank involved!”
Insiders described the culture of the firm as “relaxed, friendly and without drama.” One went on to explain that “people are hearing the firm’s name more and more now – we have more of an entrepreneurial side to us now.” Supporting this savvier angle was the trend to “work more flexibly, which has changed people’s attitudes towards the firm; when you give people that freedom, they’re more invested in growing their departments. No one dreads going in to work.” Despite the shift from a high street perspective to a more corporate/commercial mentality, Blaser Mills lawyers still get “together in the kitchen in the morning to have a coffee.” On the social side, we also heard about firm-wide seasonal shindigs, end of the month drinks and a trainee budget that’s available “for us to go out in London for dinner and a night out." There's also a budget for firm-wide socials.
The firm’s tight-knit culture shines through the training and support that’s available for trainees. “We have really good working relationships with our supervisors and the training principal,”said one source. “They sit down and take the time to explain particular details if we’re struggling with a piece of work; they are seriously patient.” Alongside these support avenues, trainees are also allocated a lunch budget to meet up with their mentor as frequently as they would like during the training contract: “Our mentor is usually an NQ who we would feel comfortable with discussing any issues that we encounter - the kind of things that we wouldn’t necessarily talk to a senior member about. For example, the other day I felt unmotivated while working remotely and I gave my mentor a call and it was nice to hear they felt the same way and we supported each other.”
“...when you give people that freedom, they’re more invested in growing their departments.”
On the subject of time spent working, trainees told us that “it’s never going to be a nine till five job, but Blaser has no ‘sit at your desk’ culture, so when you’re done, you won’t be encouraged to stay late for the sake of it.” Good hours, a tight-knit culture and a sense of entrepreneurial growth were all understandable reasons for wanting to stay at Blaser Mills Law. The qualification process occurs at two different points during the year due to the firm’s March and September trainee start dates (it's September for the majority). Sources told us that the process has become more standardised recently, but flagged that trainees do have conversations with departments to flag their preferences before the qualification period occurs. In 2020, Blaser Mills Law retained three of four qualifiers.
Sources liked the different feel of the offices: “High Wycombe has a bit more of a City vibe to it, while Amersham is more relaxed. The London office is in a great location with fun people – and there are always doughnuts!”
How to get into Blaser Mills
Training contract deadline (2023): 14 August 2021
The application form
The firm recruits its trainees two years in advance. To secure a training contract, candidates must first submit an online application via Apply4Law. On average, the firm receives around 100 applications each year.
On the application form, candidates are asked to supply all the standard information concerning their university grades and work history. If applicants meet those criteria – happy days – their application is then passed on to the training team. If not, all isn't lost. The leader of that training team, training principal Dave Matthews, tells us: “The applications of those who do not meet the academic criteria are always considered before any final decision is made, as other aspects of their application may indicate other valuable qualities or experience.”
The applications aren't judged on strict black or white criteria: a number of questions are posed to draw out some of the applicant's personality and add colour to the picture. “The questions are designed to make the candidate think outside the box,” says Matthews, “and to give us an idea of how well they will fit in with our firm.” Pay attention to these questions – they might just get you over the line. A long list of around 50 candidates is drawn up and is further whittled down to the lucky 15 to 20 who make it through to the assessment day.
The assessment day
The assessment day is held in Buckinghamshire and involves a mix of group exercises, an individual presentation and a final interview. There are also talks and Q&As with a selection of partners and current trainees. All of the exercises are observed, marked and assigned a score by a team of partners. Matthews explains: “As well as finding out whether the candidate is suitable for our firm, we want the candidate to be able to make an informed decision about the type of law firm we are and to decide that Blaser Mills Law is a good fit for them.”
The final interview
This takes place with two partners. Matthews tells us that “candidates are able to sit down and have a conversational-style interview where they can really show their true personality.” It's not exactly a walk in the park, though: the yearly trainee intake is roughly half of the number of those who make it through to the assessment day. Whether candidates have the job or not, they are informed within a couple of days.
Blaser Mills is not running a vacation scheme in 2021.
More on Blaser Mills’ family and divorce department
Blaser Mills’ family and divorce department crosses all offices and focuses on providing high net worth individuals with assistance on matters such as pre- and post-nuptial agreements (a growth area for the department), complex child arrangements and (you guessed it) divorces. A recent divorce handled by the team involved assets worth £30 million. Much like corporate and commercial, the family and divorce department has managed to split their clients 50/50 between High Wycombe and London. Trainees told us that they “hit the ground running” here and could “work directly with a partner on a case” due to the smaller size of the group. “Some of the assets were interesting,” commented a trainee when discussing the work they’d done on divorce matters. “There was a lot of going to court, liaising with counsel and writing briefs.”
Blaser Mills Law
40 Oxford Road,
- Partners 23
- Assistant solicitors 50
- Total trainees 8
- UK offices High Wycombe, Amersham, Silverstone, London
- Graduate recruiter: Apply4Law - our online application form
- Training partner: Dave Matthews, [email protected] 01494 478608
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 4-5
- Applications pa: 100
- Minimum required degree: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 March 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 14 June 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £27,000
- Holiday entitlement: 22 days
- LPC fees: No
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: High Wycombe, Amersham
Our highly regarded firm has a strong business services offering, including corporate and commercial, employment, commercial property and dispute resolution. We also have experienced private client and family lawyers, as well as specialist lawyers in personal injury, child care, residential property and criminal defence.
We offer a fresh approach to law, with a focus on not only building relationships with clients, but also building employee relationships. The success of our business, and the high-quality service we provide for our clients comes from nurturing the skills and promoting the talent and diversity of our staff.
Types of work
• Residential property and development - 22%
• Wills, trusts and probate - 16%
• Personal and serious injury - 10%
• Family and divorce (including child care) - 11%
• Criminal defence - 4%
Training starts in September with a full induction day. Trainees will have varied (four six-month) seats in both non-contentious and contentious practice areas, giving them the opportunity to gain experience across a broad range of legal disciplines in a variety of locations. From day one, trainees are given plenty of responsibility and hands-on experience, with the ongoing support from experienced training supervisors. In addition, we operate a mentor scheme that gives trainees confidential access to recently qualified lawyers who can offer first-hand experience and advice. Part of the mentor scheme includes getting the trainees together three times a year for social events.
Throughout the training contract, trainees will develop their technical skills, department knowledge and client care. Business Development is a further skill that we look to develop in our trainees, so when it comes to qualifying, they are confident to approach prospective clients and build their own client list. Trainees will have access to multiple business development opportunities, whether that be through article writing, presenting at seminars or attending networking events.
University law careers fairs 2020
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
Watford, Uxbridge and surrounds
- Crime (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 3)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)