You’ll find oodles of private client work and a new leader at the helm of the bite-sized Boodle Hatfield.
Boodle Hatfield training contract review 2024
As the old saying goes, good things come in small packages. As one of the smaller firms in our guide, Boodle Hatfield keeps to cosier dimensions, and quite deliberately. “Clients go across the departments,” one trainee explained, “so they might buy a house, and then come in and get married and get a pre-nup, then they might sort their will out. So they will use the firm for all these different things, and it really brings everything together.” For trainees at the firm, this was precisely the draw: “The benefit of Boodle Hatfield is that the well-rounded seat options are all quite interconnected.”
With a total headcount of around 100 fee earners between two offices in London and one in Oxford, Boodles’ family feel on the inside is reflected in its core areas of strength – private client, real estate and business. In fact, the firm bags Chambers High Net Worth rankings in London crossing all three areas. It stands out among the best for private wealth disputes, high-value residential real estate, and work with family offices and fund structuring. Nationwide, the firm is particularly strong in art and cultural property law.
Keeping it small, just four or five trainees join the ranks each year. While there is the option for trainees to undertake a private client and tax seat at the firm’s Oxford office, “most of us are based at the Blackfriars office” in London, one trainees explained. “We do have an office in Mayfair too, but that’s mostly used to meet with clients.”
“They aren’t resting on the history of the firm.”
At 300 years old, Boodle Hatfield is on the more venerable side. but “while it’s a traditional firm with one half of the client base a relatively traditional client base, they aren’t resting on the history of the firm.” Trainees pointed to the firm’s strong gender diversity by way of example, not just at the trainee level but among the firm’s senior positions too. Women make up almost half of the partnership, including the firm’s new senior partner Andrea Zavos, who took over from Sara Maccallum in 2023 (Maccallum held the position for 8 years!). “The representation of women is fantastic,” praised one. “I have a lot of female role models here.”
When it comes to seat allocation, it’s a relatively informal affair, made up of a conversation with HR prior to joining to chat through seat preferences. “Because it’s not a massive firm and there are only five departments, you can sit in as a trainee, it’s quite an open conversation throughout your two years,” one source told us. While not strictly compulsory, a lot of trainees begin life at Boodle in a property seat, “just given the size of the department, which is our largest.” Chances are trainees will sit in private client too, with contentious options limited to litigation and family.
“…the sorts of things you don’t really learn about at law school.”
As Boodle Hatfield’s largest department, private client & tax (PCT) is one of the more popular seat options for trainees drawn to the firm’s reputation for this kind of work. PCT is split into a contentious and non-contentious team, and trainees are likely to get a taste of both at some stage: “It’s quite hard to describe a normal day in private client because it’s always very different. The clients are an incredibly diverse bunch that have a whole host of issues that they need advice on,” one told us.Typical trainee tasks included drafting wills, attending client meetings, and assisting with tax and succession advice. “A lot of the advice on these sorts of issues can be very intricate, and you can spend a lot of time with your head in a book trying to find specific rules,” one source explained. “There’s more of the rule-based academic work than there is in property, which is much more transaction-driven. It’s more a case of asking, ‘What is the law, and how does it apply to this case?’”
As the second largest department at the firm, the work in the property team is split into three areas: residential, commercial, and agricultural. “On the residential side, we act for the landlord in landlord/tenant disputes and manage property sales for clients,” one trainee explained. “The commercial side covers some of the larger transactions, from small retail properties all the way up to multimillion office blocks in London.” While trainees can get involved with drafting leases and Land Registry applications on these high-value properties, it’s likely that you’ll start on a slightly smaller scale. “A lot of the work they get you doing as a trainee is garage leases,” one trainee recalled, “it’s actually a really great place to start, because the principles are more or less the same for any other lease. You learn the process, so that when it comes to a multimillion property in London, you know the foundations.” In fact, the freedom for trainees to run with these smaller files (under appropriate supervision) was a big selling point of the seat for the current cohort: “Obviously it’s small numbers, but you learn very quickly about things like getting the invoices, the sorts of things you don’t really learn about at law school.”
The familydepartment at Boodle handles “some finance work, children’s work, divorce and prenuptial arrangements.” The firm is particularly well known for its expertise in matrimonial law, but also areas of children’s law such as leave to remove cases, child abduction, financial remedy and financial support work, and advising on disputes involving children on the autism spectrum. “At the start of the seat there will be lots of admin work, creating quite standard documents and note taking,” one trainee told us, “but as you move through the seat you’ll come across some quite complex financial problems, and there is the chance to go to court to sit in on some hearings too.” Another recalled that “you can get a lot of responsibility in family. It’s a busy team, and you are straight in there dealing with matters and liaising with counsel.” If you’re interested in this area of law, you can hear directly from the experts at Boodle in the firm’s Surrogacy Landscape Podcast, which looks at how surrogacy has historically been seen as a taboo subject, and delves deeper into how attitudes are changing.
Trainees that had sat in litigation described the team as covering a mix of work, from property litigation to contentious art law. “I spent some time working in property litigation, which is acting for some of the same clients you might come across in the property seat,” one trainee told us. “One example would be working with the big estates on landlord/tenant disputes, whether that’s someone not paying their rent or not complying with their obligations under the lease.” As you might expect in a litigious seat, there’s plenty of the bread-and-butter research and bundling tasks, but trainees were quick to tell us that there was always plenty of room for involvement in a case: “We would often be emailing people ourselves, and it felt really good to be playing a part on the ground.”
“…it underpins a lot of the work that we do in all other areas.”
When it comes to corporatework at Boodle, “it underpins a lot of the work that we do in all other areas, particularly private client,” one source remarked. “If you’re putting structures in place for clients, a lot of the time a company will be involved,” they explained, “so it really helps to get an idea of things like board minutes and filings. It just helps to paint that picture in the background.” Whether it’s the incorporation of companies or research into overseas entities, trainees in the seat can get exposure to a variety of work. Trainees also told us that there is a small employment team that falls under the corporate banner that some of the firm’s current cohort were able to dip into too.
“I wouldn’t say you are let off the leash,” one trainee commented, reflecting on their time across seats, “but you are allowed to get on with it. There’s a great reciprocal trust there that you will do things properly, and in turn, your supervisor will be more than happy for you to come to them if you need help with something.”
In that regard, sources found “one thing that’s been great is that the partners are very open to helping where they can, so it’s a good environment to work in.” The rule for trainees is four days a week in the office, moving down to three at an associate level: “We are sat with a partner, so they are quite keen on us being in the office to see them work and learn from that. If they can just swivel their chair and say something, it’s a lot more effective than calling or emailing.”
There’s also a formalised training programme on offer. “In each department, there will be once or twice weekly refresher sessions,” one source explained. “These are held in a meeting room and they function like lessons, where a professional support lawyer will walk you through how something works, and how to navigate it.” This is supplemented by a general encouragement to make use of library resources to catch up and do some extra reading where you can.
“There’s an atmosphere of people being relieved to be here!”
The firm also has a name for a more palatable pace of life. “People come from magic and silver circle firms for the work/life balance,” one observed, “so there’s an atmosphere of people being relieved to be here!” Hours at the firm are certainly at the more reasonable end of the industry average, particularly for a London firm: “I’m usually in between 9 and 9.30am, and out between 6 and 7pm,” was the general consensus. “The firm has delivered on its culture of working hard while you’re here, but not sticking around too late,” one elaborated. “The latest I’ve ever worked is 9pm, you never work at the weekend, and if a partner emails you late, there’s never the expectation that you will respond before the morning.”
Trainees felt that while the salary was “decent given the hours that we work and the time we are expected to be online,” what's more, the firm recently bumped up its NQ salary to £83,000.
Come qualification time, sources emphasised the informality of the process: “It’s a discussion with HR, a conversation about where you would like to qualify, before the firm goes away and decides where its business needs are.” In 2023 the firm retained four of five qualifiers.
Boodle Hat-trick:“Trainees sit together at lunch, so you quickly become close,” one told us. “There’s also a football team on Tuesdays, and a wine club on Fridays.”
How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 31 January 2024
Training contract deadline: 19 June 2024
Application and assessment
Boodle receives around 400 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, he added that 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. As one put it: “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."
The interviewers at Boodle Hatfield are always keen to find out why the individual wants to train at the firm. 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. Kirkhope also recommends "doing your research, knowing the firm you're coming to, and understanding 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.”
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.”
Boodle Hatfield LLP
240 Blackfriars Road,
Boodle Hatfield is a law firm which has partnered with individuals, families, property owners and businesses for 300 years, and there is a good reason for that. It is our interest in and our ability to truly understand our clients and their individual needs that has enabled us to provide a high quality service for as long as we have.
Through booms, downturns and recessions, we have worked alongside our clients in all manner of situations. No matter what they are dealing with – critical family events, crucial company issues, a new business venture, investment decision, or more – clients can rely on us to offer a blend of exceptional legal expertise with a forward-thinking approach. It is the reason we have such an outstanding reputation.
We are based in London and Oxford and support clients from all over the world. Thanks to our long history, and strong values, we have built up a network of prestigious, trusted professional firms across the globe who we work closely with when cross-border advice is needed. So no matter where our clients are they can rely on us to support and guide them.
Main areas of work
Whether it is advice on property, business, family or private wealth issues, we provide the right guidance to enable our clients to succeed today and in the future.
We focus strongly on teamwork. We have deliberately kept at a size where we all know each other, support one another and enjoy working together, whilst still providing clients with the wide range of legal expertise that they require. The interplay of skills between five major areas — private wealth, property, corporate, litigation and family — makes Boodle Hatfield particularly well placed to serve high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families and their businesses.
Trainees spend six months in up to four of the firm’s main areas: Private Client and Tax, Property, Corporate, Litigation and Family. Trainees benefit from experiencing a range of the firm's practice areas during their training giving them the opportunity to develop a broad knowledge and network ahead of qualifying.
Boodle Hatfield is well known for the high quality of its' training. We run a comprehensive induction for our trainees which is supplemented by both internal and external training opportunities and on the job learning.
All trainees are involved in client work from the start and are encouraged to handle their own files personally as soon as they are able to do so, (with the appropriate supervision). The firm’s trainees therefore have a greater degree of client contact than in many firms with the result that they should be able to take on more responsibility at an early stage with the appropriate level of supervision. Trainees are assigned a supervisor in each seat and are given formal appraisals every three months that are designed as a two-way process and give trainees the chance to discuss their progress and to indicate where more can be done to help in their ongoing training and development.
We offer a two week placement in July, for which six students are accepted each year. In addition to the exciting on-the-job experience students will get, they will also participate in interactive case studies run by Associates from each department. By the end of the placement with us participants will have had the opportunity to learn about the firm, met people in all areas of the business, developed skills and knowledge that will be useful during their legal careers; and had a fun time whilst doing it all. We also arrange a number of social activities alongside their cohort and colleagues to complement their experience with us.
Please look at our website to read more about the experience from previous participants: https://www.boodlehatfield.com/trainee_services/vacation-scheme/
Applicants should apply via the application form on the website at www.boodlehatfeld.com. The application form will be available from 1st November 2022.
PGDL and SQE or LPC fees are paid and trainees will also receive a maintenance grant whilst studying for these courses.
In addition the benefits we offer include private healthcare, life assurance, income protection, season ticket loan, pension scheme, enhanced maternity and paternity pay, employee assistance scheme, childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, give as you earn scheme, staff introduction bonus, conveyancing grant, wellbeing programme.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Family/Children Law (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 3)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 2)