A London outfit with Boodles of community spirit, private wealth and property prowess, where “trainees get to build lasting relationships with clients and actually enjoy life.”
Boodle Hatfield training contract review 2022
“From junior lawyers to senior partners, Boodle Hatfield was the friendliest firm I met during the entire application process,” a trainee recalled of their time spent researching firms. Another agreed: “I spent half an hour chatting to their representative at my uni law fair and they spoke to me like an equal. Even on the vacation scheme, everyone asked my opinion even though I obviously wasn’t a lawyer.” Spending time with Boodle Hatfield’s lawyers helped future trainees realise “the firm has a really strong client base,” and not just in the private client sector that it’s perhaps best known for. “There was lots on the corporate side which I really wanted to get my teeth into,” one noted.
Boodle picks up Chambers UK rankings for real estate, property litigation, agriculture and art law alongside Chambers High Net Worth accolades for private wealth management and disputes. After maintaining a single London office for a whopping 299 years,the firm set up shop in Oxford in the 90s. Then in 2014, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, cut the ribbon on a second London base in Bankside. The Grosvenor family were the firm’s first ever clients and – 300 years later – still appears on the roster. Now that’s a long-term client relationship.
“This is a firm that works hard to promote women.”
Despite its long history, Boodle isn’t stuck in the past: London non-City firms typically perform the best when it comes to female representation and Boodle Hatfield is no exception. Over half the firm’s equity partners are women and that includes the (managing) senior partner. “It’s a really great place to work as a woman,” female sources told us. “This is a firm that works hard to promote women.” In 2020, four out of five partner promotions went to female lawyers.
All trainees work from London, although there is potential scope to do private client in the Oxford base. Seat allocation is pretty informal: newbies tell HR what they want their training contract to look like when they first arrive, then confirm or change their preferences for each subsequent rotation. Secondments aren’t really a thing at trainee level.
The firm’s growing private client group has made multiple internal and lateral partner hires recently. More work has come from Middle Eastern clients who have a presence in the UK, “so although we’re not an international firm, we do have an overseas reach.” Drafting wills, declarations of trusts and lasting power of attorney documentation for high net worth individuals, trainees found this seat is also relatively research-heavy. “Our clients are often dealing with specific circumstances, so trainees need to research esoteric points of law,” they explained. Boodle’s team specialises in UK and international wealth structures, supporting family-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. This is one of the largest departments, so trainees often work for lots of different partners.
Private clients also feed work into the property group in the form of family-owned landed estates administration. Trainees get to deal with clients directly on these matters: “We handle the day-to-day. That doesn’t mean we’re getting the cleaners in – it’s the legal side of dealing with property portfolios.” The department also handles commercial and residential property, plus real estate financing, all of which is open for trainees to get involved with. “Clients called me directly within the first month of my training contract,” one revealed. “It was an intense start, spending the majority of my time undertaking quite serious legal work and not just filing documents.” Our sources reckoned “Boodle punches above its weight when it comes to property – we’re often against big commercial firms.” The firm does indeed represent major companies including UK property giant Wates; this is BH’s largest department and some trainees complete two seats here.
“Clients called me directly within the first month of my training contract.”
Construction is technically a separate seat, but our interviewees considered it part of the property offering. The small team size means trainees get heaps of responsibility: “I got to run a few projects myself where I’d check the progress of all documents, chase other parties and keep the partner up to date. It built up my confidence for the rest of my training contract.” There’s less black letter law involved in construction than other property work: “It’s very commercial and there’s a lot of negotiating involved,” especially where NDAs, building contracts and collateral warranties are concerned. Trainees scored this seat highly for direct client contact, whilst those who’d come after a stint in property were pleased to “continue building on foundations I’d laid.” Pun intended?
As well as litigious private client work, the litigation groupdeals with disputes ranging from property litigation to contentious art law. One of our sources spent time “on a fraud case, questioning whether or not a piece of art was genuine. We were trying to get assets back after a deal went wrong.” Boodle’s clients include The Bedford Estates and IBM’s UK pension fund. Research is a typical trainee task here too, as well as good old bundling, but there are also opportunities to attend client meetings and go to court: “There was a period when I went to loads of hearings, often just with the partner.” Sources suggested litigation is a good seat to start in “because having several court deadlines to keep up with makes you super organised. It’s definitely the busiest seat so I felt like my work was genuinely appreciated.”
Rookies can head to the family department to get experience in matrimonial and children issues. The group has earned a ranking in Chambers UK, which considers the firm to “punch above its weight with an enviable international client base of high-earning professionals.” Boodle Hatfield’s corporate practice focuses on lower mid-market M&A transactions for companies, high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs. The firm has acted for property developers ASK and Falco Capital, mattress maker Sleepeezee and trampoline park operators GoJumpin. Trainees are responsible for drafting ancillary documents and board minutes. Since the slowdown in deals during the pandemic, this group has been doing a fair bit with their employment colleagues.
Virtual quizzes and escape rooms helped maintain a sense of firm community during 2020 and 2021’s lockdown periods. Boodle turned what could have been drab ‘town halls’ into interactive affairs: “They asked us to bring in photos of our pets dressed for Easter.” Bunny ears all round! On the CSR side, “We get involved in local projects around Southwark. Our office is in Bankside, so we work with Better Bankside to try and improve the area.” The firm has also participated in local schools’ reading schemes (currently on hold due to Covid) to help children whose first language isn’t English, “and has recently tried to increase virtual fundraising for our designated charity Redthread.”
Our survey respondents generally scored the firm well for remote mentoring and training: “Everyone was very sympathetic and responsive. I called my supervisor multiple times a day and they were never too busy for me.” Before the pandemic, trainees and supervisors shared offices; when working from home became the norm and questions over a coffee became impossible, deputy supervisors were appointed to provide extra support. “The firm’s thinking about the return to office working,” sources revealed in early 2021, suggesting the dual supervisor approach may continue as “there will probably always be one in the office whenever you are.” It wasn’t just supervisors lending a helping hand: “All the senior lawyers are really approachable. I was interested in a particular seat so an associate in that department set aside 20 minutes to talk about it – they genuinely care about trainees.” The firm told us that it aims to have everyone back in the office 60% of the time from September 2021, but of course individual discretion still applies.
“Boodle is very concerned about us having a work-life balance. It doesn’t fit that stereotype where everyone works until midnight every day.”
“The firm puts a lot of effort into maintaining good mental health,” interviewees suggested. “They’ve run regular catch-up chats throughout the pandemic, and monthly seminars on maintaining good mental, physical and financial wellbeing.” As a part of that, “Boodle is very concerned about trainees having a work-life balance. It doesn’t fit that stereotype where everyone works until midnight every day.” Teams often collaborate on matters and “each department will work really hard to help the others involved,” but trainees were relieved that “nobody forces you to work all hours. We don’t stay in the office for the sake of it.” We heard from some that the shift to remote working meant longer hours, “but any change inwork-life balance was self-inflicted.” Our trainee sources averaged 40-hour weeks, which is quite a lot fewer than at many firms; we’d also highlight that Boodle pays higher salaries than non-City London rivals.
Qualification is a straightforward affair: trainees rank their department preferences and have an informal discussion with HR about where they would like to qualify. The firm then does some number crunching to see where there’s space and – where possible – offers trainees jobs in their desired groups. Over 80% of those we surveyed intend to stay at the firm indefinitely, and the firm’s maintained a solid 80% or so retention rate over the past five years. Boodle retained all four of itsqualifiers in 2021.
Noodles on Boodle
“Boodle is very open to new ideas,” sources explained. One trainee recently started running a Russian language course, complete with firm-sponsored lunch.
How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Training contract deadline (2024): 19 June 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)
Application and assessment
Boodle receives around 450 applications a year for its vacation scheme and training contract combined. Both direct training contract and vacation scheme applications begin with an online form. Once it's submitted, applicants can add updates until the submission deadline – for example, further work experience placements or exam results.
Vac scheme applicants face a Zoom interview with HR to land a spot. Once on the scheme, they have another two interviews for the training contract: one with HR and another with a pair of partners. These take place on the same day, either during or after their placement, and there is a verbal reasoning assessment involved. Direct training contract applicants also face these latter interviews and test during an Assessment Day.
How to wow
When it comes to selecting future trainees, “academics are very important,” HR director Katie Kirkhope tells us, “particularly as a solicitor progresses and becomes more senior. The work we do is complicated, and clients expect the highest quality.” This is a point that is echoed by Training Principal Graham Winkley, when asked what sort of person would thrive at Boodle Hatfield in a recent interview he commented those with "academic ability and the intelligence to process some complicated issues that will come across their desk." Indeed, the firm maintains relationships with some long-established clients, so a potential Boodelian also needs “good interpersonal skills to gain the confidence of clients,” we're told. “Trainees in the property seat in particular run a lot of their own files with the appropriate supervision and support, and they've got to be able to ring up a client or the other side, and be confident in what they're doing.”
Winkley goes on to say: "The key thing as a trainee from day one is the way you connect with clients… What we are looking for is a person who can articulate complex ideas and an opinion in a user-friendly manner for their client."
Graduate recruiter Jenny Sanghera says "The interview process at Boodle Hatfield is as much for the candidate who is deciding whether Boodle Hatfield is right for them as it is for us. Our interviewers want to have a good conversation during the interview and are always keen to find out why the individual wants to train at Boodle Hatfield, but it isn’t just this they are looking for, as they are also interested in getting to know the person as an individual. Questions aren’t designed to catch candidates out but do be prepared to have a sensible discussion on a question or point rather than giving a pre-prepared answer, also be prepared to talk about anything you put on your application form. Kirkhope also recommends "do your research, know the firm you're coming to, and understand the types of work it does.” At the same time, she reminds us, “you can't be someone who's afraid to seek guidance, advice or clarification when necessary. Additionally, we are looking for our candidates to demonstrate both an interest in and ability to build both their personal and professional networks. This is an important attribute for trainees to develop and carry through their careers.”
The firm usually offers six spots on its fortnight-long vac scheme. During their placement vac schemers visit two departments, though those keen to sample another one can request to spend an afternoon shadowing a lawyer there. “We aim to give them exposure to as much work as possible,” says Kirkhope. “We want to bring vac schemers into the day-to-day life of a lawyer here. Joining a law firm is a big decision, and we want to find people who'll join and stay for a long time.”
Social outings like treasure hunts and table tennis or crazy golf excursions dot the calendar during the vac scheme. There's also a development session on presentation delivery and a debate to participate in during the scheme.
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 4)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 3)
Oxford and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 2)