When there's a dispute about a claim, there's a BLM.
If you want to get a snapshot of what BLM does (after reading our True Picture, naturally), kick your feet up, switch your box on and tune into BBC One’s Claimed and Shamed. The documentary investigates insurance fraud and busts bogus claims, and the lawyers at BLM often make cameo appearances as experts on the subject. But fraud is just one piece of the puzzle at this bumper insurance firm. Our trainee interviewees praised BLM’s “strong contentious offering,” representing major insurers like Allianz, Aviva, and Zurich as well as companies that get embroiled in insurance disputes, such as Coca-Cola, Specsavers and Sainsbury’s. While most of the work is litigious, trainees said “there is much more scope for non-contentious work” as the firm continues to build on its commercial advisory practice (which started in 2017 with the addition of a team of 30 from Slater & Gordon). Another major focus of the firm over the last few years has been global growth – it recently helped found a global network of insurance-focused firms. Chambers UKawards BLM top marks on the national stage for personal injury and professional discipline, plus high commendations for insurance volume claims, police law, travel, and health and safety.
It wouldn’t be hard to scout out a BLM lawyer off the small screen,with about 800 of them spread between 13 offices across the UK and Ireland. Manchester is the firm’s largest base and housed about 14 trainees at the time of our calls, as did the London office. Birmingham had six, Liverpool and Southampton each had three and Bristol housed a solo trainee. Many of our interviewees had paralegal experience at BLM or other firms before they started as trainees.
“When applying to an office, check its specific seat options,” trainees advised. “If you don’t have ties to a particular area, consider which office would best fit your career.” The London and Manchester offices offer a colourful array of seat options, while Birmingham, Southampton and Liverpool don’t have quite so many options. Second-year trainees come first in line in the seat allocation process, but business need is “the driving force behind decisions.” Some interviewees got all of their preferences while others received none at all. “It is what it is,” one sighed. We heard healthcare and professional indemnity are unofficially reserved for second-years as they tend to be a bit more popular. Trainees will most likely complete at least one ‘injury’ seat, such as abuse, motor, catastrophic injury, occupational disease, public liability, and clinical negligence.
“You read tons of reports by consultants.”
The occupational disease team defends clients against employee disease claims. Cases of noise-induced hearing loss and asbestos-related disease are areas of particular expertise. The team recently represented outsourcing company Capita and construction company Balfour Beatty in proceedings brought by the widow of a former employee who died of mesothelioma. “The work is very much medical,” trainees explained, and as such they learned a lot about the world of medicine. “You read tons of reports by consultants.” The claims are often historical, given that the causes of some diseases can go back decades – for example, exposure to asbestos may result in mesothelioma 20 years later. This meant trainees had to play an investigative role, “gathering documents from employers that don’t exist anymore.” One source got to work on an ‘aerotoxicity’ case involving “an individual that had inhaled airliner cabin air over a long period of time.” Although this is a fab seat for the curious, it probably isn’t the best choice for the squeamish. “At first it’s quite disturbing,” one admitted. “You have to read detailed medical statements about people who’re bedridden.” If trainees don’t want to work on a particular case, they can opt out with no ill feelings (pardon the pun).
The clinical negligence department handles claims that involve medical malpractice, acting on the defendant side for insurers, clinics, care homes and medical professionals. Clients include the Royal College of Nursing, Axis Capital and the Harley Medical Group. “Doctors may receive a notice from the General Medical Council saying that they are under investigation in relation to a specific incident,” trainees explained. “They then may have to go to tribunal.” BLM recently defended a GP in a £500,000 claim relating to a delayed diagnosis of lung toxicity caused by antibiotic treatment. Trainees gushed over some of the experience they got: “I was working on a high-profile case involving a doctor while it was in the public eye.” Day-to-daytrainee tasks involved conducting research into companies, doctors or press coverage of cases; meeting doctors and dentists; and attending hearings before the Medical Practitioners Tribunals Service.
Trainees in the motor seat may encounter a plethora of matters, including hire car claims, motor trade claims, liability disputes, and cases of catastrophic injury. The injuries in these claims can range from mild whiplash all the way to cause of death by dangerous driving. This area is often referred to as ‘volume litigation’ and the moniker is appropriate: BLM handles tens of thousands of motor claims every year. With cases coming thick and fast, it’s a good place for trainees “to learn the litigation process” as they’ll often see files all the way from the pre-litigation stage to the outcome. BLM recently defended Allianz in a £12,000 loss of earnings claim and a £100,000 road traffic accident claim. Trainees got their teeth stuck into fast-track claims ranging from £10,000 to £25,000 in value, as well as more complex multi-track casualty claims of over £25,000. On these cases the team deals with “assigning the responsibility for compensation,” or in other words, figuring out what caused an accident and whether anyone is liable to cough up. This process entails “going through disclosures and drawing up the relevant documents a client has to build the case and interviewing witnesses.” Complex multi-track claims often have multi-jurisdictional elements, where the subject of the claim “might have been injured abroad.”
“… fires, floods, soil movement or unusual runaway animals.”
Property damage is one of the more common non-injury seats trainees may do. The department represents clients in property damage disputes and advises on policy responses when properties are damaged by “fires, floods, soil movement or unusual runaway animals.” Goodness. The team recently represented Integro Insurance Brokers in a $7 million fire damage claim brought by a large Brazilian retailer. Trainees were entrusted with their own caseload of low-value claims. Recovery claims were super common: “This is usually where the insurance has had to pay out to the insured for damages caused to their property, but we believe someone else is at fault,” a trainee explained.
The fraud team – the one that appears on Claimed and Shamed – busts insurance fraudsters in all kinds of bogus claims, whether of travel sickness, casualty, or property damage. The team does a lot of work with Allianz. On one road traffic accident claim, the BLM team’s investigations into the claimant’s social media activities showed them attending a heavy metal concert the night of their injury and later snowboarding down black runs. “You have to question what is in front of you,” trainees told us, who enjoyed the investigative nature of the work. Sources also got to interview subjects for witness statements, practice their drafting skills and attend trials.
Every three months BLM sends a trainee on client secondment to the Association of British Insurers. “Most of the work is in-house legal work related to the policy aspect in the insurance world,” said one former secondee. The nature of the work might be heavy. One trainee for example got to grips with matters stemming from systematic child abuse: “I assisted with preparing the witness statements and summarised transcripts from children who had been abused in places like care homes or hospitals.” To go on secondment, trainees said “all you need to do is ask” – but of courseplacements are still subject to the firm’s business needs.
The working day generally runs from 9am to 6pm for BLM trainees, with some getting out just in time for Pointless at 5pm. Departmental differences occur, with the corporate seat warranting slightly longer hours: “If you have pressing tasks you’re expected to stay and finish them, but it’s an expectation rather than the rule.” But typical ‘late’ nights for trainees meant a 7.30pm finish, and the Manchester office even locks its doors at 8pm.
With such an appealing picture of work/life balance, what’s the catch? “I don’t think the salary is justified,” one trainee told us, echoing many of their peers. BLM does not have a fixed NQ salary but the starting point outside of London is £31k. While some interviewees were disgruntled about salaries, others pointed out that the firm has reasonable client rates as an insurance risk and commercial law firm and "the work the firm does determines salaries."
"Associates, partners and paralegals are like a big family."
Again and again, sources decorated the firm’s culture with adjectives such as “approachable” and “friendly,” citing interactions between different levels of seniority. “When chatting with a partner you don’t feel a wall between the two of you,” said one.This kind of atmosphere could be down to the open plan offices or the business casual dress code, but whatever it is, trainees felt “relaxed” at work. And, although the firm is large in scale, it’s done a pretty good job at creating a cosy feel: "Associates, partners and paralegals are like a big family."
Even so, we heard the firm “isn’t crazy social,” although each department gets a budget to plan the occasional outing. Trainees highlighted activities like ping pong, bowling, pizza and crazy golf. The London office had a bit more going on: “We work close to Liverpool Street and sometimes have dinner at PizzaExpress,” one told us. The Manchester cohort has long been split between two offices, but those days are numbered as the two are soon to become one in new premises at Two New Bailey Square, a new business district in Salford. Trainees said: “The move will bring everyone closer together.” We heard the new office has a few fancy facilities and an outdoor terrace on each floor (don't forget your factor 50). The Birminghamoffice is nestled by the Cathedral and has recently undergone a jazzy refurbishment. “We have a break-out area to socialise in,” trainees told us. “It’s open plan and much brighter. We also have a great view on the top floor.” Trainees described the Leedsoffice as a much more quaint and “modest space," but in 2020 the firm announced it would close its Leeds and Bristol offices, with staff moving to work remotely.
“If you’re having trouble digesting details on a case you’re encouraged to go and speak to your supervisor.”
Due to the specialised nature of the work, trainees were reliant on supervision and support at the firm. Right from the off at the trainee induction programmein Manchester, trainees said it’s made clear that “if you’re having trouble digesting details on a case you’re encouraged to go and speak to your supervisor.” Trainees also have monthly meetings with their supervisors to run through feedback and questions. We heard some groans that HR “isn’t the best at keeping you in the loop,” with some trainees being ghosted altogether: “Sometimes I’ve not received a response at all to my queries about the training contract.” Sources figured this could be down to some recent changes in HR and the fact that the team is based solely out of the Manchester office.
Trainees are contacted as they approach qualification time to run through their options and go over how the process works. NQ positions are published six months before qualification and trainees can apply to as many departments as they wish with a CV application. If there is more than one applicant for a particular vacancy, trainees then go through an interview process. Retention has historically been shaky, and in 2020 BLM held on to 11 of 23 qualifiers.
Want cutting-edge tech? Rest insured: the firm has a digital conferencing platform called BLM Innovations Forum that offers video links for anyone involved in a case and enables the sharing and editing of online documents.
How to get a BLM training contract
Training contract deadline: April 2021
Application form and online testing
The online application form asks for standard academic and work experience info, as well as posing a few more pointed questions. Expect a question on why you want to join BLM, and something to test your commercial awareness. The firm received around over 2,000 initial applications in 2018.
After an initial sift of these applications, candidates participate in the second stage, which consists of an online Watson Glaser critical thinking test. The test is designed to assess your ability to logically analyse, deduce and interpret information – all skills that will be used during your training contract and future career.
The firm's assessment centre comprises a strengths-based interview with a partner and recruiters; a written scenario question; and an individual presentation. Around 50 candidates make it through to this stage per application round.
For the presentation, candidates are sent the title a week in advance – expect it to be something related to the firm itself.
The recruitment process for the vacation scheme and the training contract is the same. Those who choose to take the vacation scheme route will not have to complete any further assessments after the placement, and instead will be made an offer for a training contract based on the feedback from their two weeks at the firm.
BLM re-launched its vac scheme in 2016. In 2017 the scheme was expanded and now lasts two weeks and is available in several of the firm's offices. The firm aims for around half of trainees to be recruited via the vac scheme.
Vac schemers spend their time sitting with current trainees and can express an interest as to which team they'd like to spend time with. As well as work experience there will be networking events, social events and on the last day an informal final meeting, which is more of a chat to address outstanding questions rather than an interview.
Who fits the bill?
The current trainee group hails from a diverse range of universities, from the Russell Group to plate-glass and post-1992 institutions. There's a good 60/40 female/male split in the trainee group (which you would expect given two-thirds of LPC grads are women).
All our interviewees had a notable maturity to them – none expected or wanted hand-holding from the firm. BLM trainees also need to be stress-resistant as a lot can be thrown at them in the course of a week – for example, you might need to drop everything to attend a trial and have to do the work you were planning for that day another time. Trainees are supporting dozens of cases at any one time, so being good at planning is vital. Oh, and some knowledge of the insurance industry won't hurt either.
BLM has something of a history of recruiting trainees from its own paralegal pool and hiring individuals who've paralegalled elsewhere. Given the sensitive and complex nature of the work and the requirement that trainees handle their own caseload, this makes sense. However, our sources noted a rise in external recruitment in recent years. So if you don't have paralegal experience, but are still keen on BLM, it's worth applying now more than ever.
One thing to note for those who do have paralegal experience: BLM doesn't encourage its trainees to qualify early with time to count. “It's not a blanket no, but we don't promote it,” says emerging talent manager Matt Akin. “We see our training contract as a valuable learning experience, and we don't want to devalue the two-year contract by making it a tick-box exercise.” In circumstances where trainees have been given time to count, it has been based on business need.
42 King Street West,
- Partners 222
- Assistant solicitors 149
- Total trainees 35
- UK offices Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, London, Birmingham, Southampton, Bristol, Belfast, Cardiff, Derry, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow
- Graduate recruiter: Chloe Lawrence
- Training partner: Michelle Penn
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 20
- Applications pa: 2000
- Minimum required degree grade: We do not screen on academics
- Vacation scheme places pa: 15
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: TBC
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: TBC
- Vacation scheme applications open: TBC
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: TBC
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £31,000 (London), £22,000 (Regional)
- Second-year salary: £32,000 (London), £23,000 (Regional)
- Post-qualification salary: £45,000 (London), £31,000 (Regional)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton, London
- Client secondments: Various options
BLM is an insurance risk and commercial law firm with both a domestic and international focus. We now work with an increasing number of clients, across more lines of business, in more locations throughout the UK and Ireland as well as across the world, than ever before. Our philosophy is to deliver positive outcomes for our clients and help them make their businesses more successful. Fundamentally we are helping them to reduce the time and money spent on managing risk and resolving disputes, whilst offering a practical, commercial and solutions driven approach to non-contentious business law.
Main areas of work
We operate in 12 key markets: brokers; care; construction & property; general insurance; healthcare; leisure & hospitality; Lloyds & London market; manufacturing; public sector; retail; TMT; transportation & logistics. We have established a deep-rooted presence in the general insurance sector, the London Market and amongst brokers. We also have a significant presence among corporate businesses many of whom are multi-national, the public sector and the health and care industry.
Our two-year trainee solicitor programme has been designed to maximise your potential. You'll complete four six-month seats, giving you exposure to a variety of teams across the business. You'll also gain the experience and develop the skills required of a qualified solicitor within insurance law. You may also have the opportunity to spend time on secondment. Throughout your programme you will work with our partners and associates on a variety of cases from low to complex, highvalue claims, from initial investigation through to trial. You will have all of the support that you need from your assigned supervisor and our in-house talent development team. Partners encourage early responsibility and expect trainees to manage workloads autonomously and as part of a team. We will provide a supportive and friendly working environment and you can expect clear opportunities for career progression and a broad scope of challenging and interesting work.
BLM’s vacation scheme gives you the opportunity to spend two weeks in one of our offices. You’ll be paired up with one of our current trainees and will have the opportunity to really get to grips with what we do ‘day to day’. You’ll work with our partners and associates too, contributing to live cases and be given real responsibility.
Pension, private medical insurance, discounted gym, childcare vouchers, life assurance, season ticket loans, employee assistance programme.
University law careers fairs 2020
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
We are committed to developing, maintaining and supporting a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion for our workforce. We seek to sustain a working, learning and social environment in which all our people can achieve their potential and are valued, recognised, supported and celebrated. In 2019 we were proud to have been ranked in a list of Top 50 UK employers for inclusiveness, a definitive list of UK based organisations that promote inclusion at each level of employment within their organisation. The list represents those companies which promote all strands of diversity including age, disability, gender, LGBT, race, faith and religion. We were also the first law firm to officially sign up to The Inclusive Behaviours in Insurance Pledge, an initiative set up by Lloyd’s of London and Zurich to demonstrate the insurance industry’s commitment to creating a “culture where inclusive behaviours become the norm and where everyone is accepting of diversity.” We are committed to creating an inclusive workplace which reflects the diverse nature of the communities in which we work. We know that embracing difference contributes positively to a flourishing workforce.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounds
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 3)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Health & Safety (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
- Health & Safety (Band 2)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 4)
- Insurance: Volume Claims (Band 2)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Police Law: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
- Professional Discipline (Band 1)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Defendant) (Band 3)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)