Trainees wear many hats at this increasingly international outfit: private client advisers and property pros are just two examples.
If you think you've seen enough change for one year, imagine what you'd see in 300 years. Witness to (nearly) all 300 of them is London’s Boodle Hatfield, a firm balancing tradition and modernity. “It’s a firm with a lot of history but lots of new, modern and entrepreneurial clients,”noted one trainee-come-historian. “Boodle is focusing internationally on the Middle East and America, and we’re really growing in that sense.”The firm’s core strengths are in private client and property law, but its scope is growing to help fulfil its global ambitions.
Looking back at Britain and the firm’s Chambers UKrankings, you’ll find accolades for real estate, family, and agriculture and rural affairs in London, plus art and cultural property nationwide and a top spot for agricultural law in Oxford, where the firm also has a base. You’ll need Chambers High Net Worthfor Boodle’s best bits: top rankings in private wealth disputes, private wealth law and high-value residential real estate. Alluring indeed, but trainees reckoned that “as with any place, it’s all about the people”when it comes to nailing down Boodle’s appeal – a total intake of eight or so trainees a year (four to five join each year) means “everyone’s close and willing to support one another and maintain a strong community base.”
“I keep saying it, but everyone’s so damn friendly!”
Each trainee shares an office with their supervisor, “so it’s easy to turn around and ask a question.”A slimmed-down headcount also means “you’re never doing admin jobs, you’re doing proper legal work,”interviewees suggested, but under appropriate supervision of course! “The responsibility levels come from the size of the intake.”Seat allocation comes down to informal chats with HR and “everyone gets mostly what they want. That’s another benefit of having fewer trainees.”Once they got settled into seats, trainees reassured us “you never feel lost. I keep saying it, but everyone is so damn friendly!” Everyone spends six months in four seats and is “95% likely”to do seats in property and private client. That’s half the training contract booked up, but juniors were happy: “HR genuinely takes your seat interests on board. I’ve had the perfect training contract.”While the firm has a dedicated private client team in Oxford and an office in Mayfair, trainees are all housed in Boodle’s swanky Blackfriars base.
Speaking of nice buildings, Boodle’s propertyteam offers “a wide scope”and “big variety”for trainees. The department covers commercial and residential property, as well as real estate financing; construction is a standalone team. Our sources relished “doing title reports and analyses of Land Registry titles,” enfranchisement work, “negotiating leases all the way through to completion,”drafting development release agreements, providing legal support for clients “raising capital to develop property, looking at conditions precedents, and facility agreements.”The firm’s clients include Marriott International, Bedford Estates and IBM UK’s pensions trust; Boodle recently advised financier ASK Partners on its debt facilities to property developer Groveworld, targeted for a 300,000-foot residential and commercial development. “Menial jobs tend to be in the minority and I’ve been surprised by how meaty the tasks are,”interviewees in this seat concluded.
In 2019 the firm released a report which found that more than 200 new luxury hotels are currently being developed in London, including the £1 billion-valued former US Embassy and a five-star Nobu hotel in Marylebone. “We’ve got a sub-department doing lots of work in the hotel space,”according to trainees keen to ride that wave. “It’s really interesting seeing how the asset classes operate.”In another sign of growth even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm welcomed Navpreet Atwal (formerly at Morgan Blake) as a construction partner in March 2020.
“I’ve been surprised by how meaty the tasks are.”
The firm’s private client department is also faring well, recording a 28% increase in turnover between 2018 and 2019. Bucking convention helps: “I had an image of what private client lawyers were, and the seat really did open my eyes, as in truth everyone’s very in touch with modernity and forward-thinking,” a source said. Boodle’s team specialises in UK and international wealth structures, supporting family-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and landed estates; if you’re a creative type, the firm’s growing art practice might be picture perfect. Trainees in the department are generally charged with drafting wills, powers of attorney, declarations of trust and more. “I thought it would just be wills and trusts but I’ve done a lot more including very varied work for Middle Eastern clients,” a source shared. “I’ve recently been looking at facilitating different trust structures; there’s a lot more thought required to find innovative options for clients.” When you’re working for high net worth and ultra high net worth clients, expectations can be high.
Boodle Hatfield’s corporate practice focuses on lower mid-market M&A transactions for companies, high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs. Trainees reckoned the smallish department “punches above its weight with high-value deals which we can get involved with. Each partner has a different expertise.” Pooled together, their practices span fashion clients, small companies fund-raising and start-ups. The firm has acted for property developers ASK and Falco Capital, mattress maker Sleepeezee and trampoline park operators GoJumpin. “You’re involved all the way through deals,” according to our interviewees. Their roles included drafting board minutes and ancillary documents; “you’re involved with the main documents of the deal to a lesser extent.” Trainees found restructuring and financing elements of the seat “fascinating,” and were happy to go beyond bread and butter corporate/M&A; regular cooperation with the private client and property teams (providing financial assistance “for a property development owned by a large company,” for example) also put smiles on faces.
Other practices also feed into the litigation department, which is comprised of commercial, art and property litigation teams. The last of those advises “a real mix of big estates as well as a lot of Middle Eastern property owners in London.” Boodle recently advised Grosvenor Group on a high-value enfranchisement claim in a block of flats in Mayfair. While the commercial litigation team is generalist, there’s also “a quite big art team” dealing with fraudulent purchasing, copyright infringement cases, and title and ownership disputes. “It’s nice to get responsibility for small matters,” interviewees said. “Debt recovery, taking care of pre-action steps, issuing proceedings and seeing it all the way through to hearings… you get a full overview of the process over six months in this seat.” Trainees in litigation also grappled with “lots of Section 21 notices,” research tasks, drafting settlement agreements and viewing mediations: “They’re really interesting to watch. It’s always great going to a court hearing, especially watching the barristers in action!”
Trainees can also opt to complete a seat in Boodle's family department, which picks up rankings for its related expertise in both Chambers UK and Chambers High Net Worth. The former praises the department for handling "a range of complex proceedings including nuptial agreements, child disputes and high-value ancillary relief." If that has piqued your interest, find out more about the family department on Chambers' website here.
Much like the Bar, Boodle Hatfield has a rich and very long history. Trainees assured us that the firm has kept up with the times: “I’m not necessarily aware of it being around since 1722. It’s just a very pleasant place to work.” Many were also keen to be part of the firm’s story for years to come. “There are quite a few lifers here,” one said, “which shows how the cultural dynamics help foster longevity.” We got another trainee to explain what they meant: “I was surprised by how common it was to ask a partner a question,”they recalled. “You might think you’re bothering them, but they really want to help.”
“I’m not necessarily aware of Boodle being around since 1722. It’s just a very good and nice place to work.”
Our sources were also happy to spend some quality time with the rest of their cohort, through playing in weekly netball and football teams (“who’ve been doing dangerously well”), a local schools reading group, wine clubs, gin clubs, summer cricket teams or even Boodle’s Got Talent. “It was good fun to see semi-decent to actual talent on display,”one said. “We definitely get a collaboration boost through social events.” All this implies that trainees have ample time outside billing hours, and those we spoke to agreed “there’s a pretty good work/life balance, and the hours are very civilised for the work we’re doing. It’s one of the key advantages at Boodle that I can legitimately make plans on a weeknight.”Most put in shifts running from 9am to 6.30 or 7pm on average. “The latest I stayed was helping a colleague until 8.30pm,”one happy chap declared.
Field of dreams
Qualification is “a very simple process”of voicing preferences to HR: “They then let you know if there’s space and if you’ve got a job. Their aim is to keep everyone on.”Boodle retained threeof four qualifiers in 2020.
How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 31 January 2021 (opens 1 November 2020)
Training contract deadline (2023): 30 June 2021 (opens 1 November 2020)
Application and assessment
Boodle receives around 350 to 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 Skype 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.
Boodle Hatfield LLP
240 Blackfriars Road,
- Partners 40
- Associates 40
- Total trainees 8
- UK offices London Bankside, London Mayfair and Oxford
- Graduate recruiter: Jenny Sanghera,
- [email protected]
- 020 7079 8282
- Training partner: Graham Winkley,
- [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 4
- Applications pa: 350-525
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st November 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 30th June 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 31st January 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £40,000
- Second-year salary: £42,000
- Post-qualification salary: £64,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £6,000
Boodle Hatfield is a highly successful law firm which has been providing bespoke legal services to leading families, businesses and entrepreneurs for nearly 300 years. They still act for some of their very first clients and are proud to do so. The firm has grown into a substantial practice, serving the full spectrum of commercial and private clients, both domestically and internationally from their offices in London and Oxford.
Main areas of work
The ethos of facilitating private capital activity and private businesses underpins the work of the whole firm. The interplay of skills between five major areas — private wealth, property, corporate, litigation and family — makes Boodle Hatfield particularly well placed to serve these individuals and businesses.
Trainees spend six months in up to four of the firm’s main areas: Private Client and Tax, Property, Corporate, Litigation and Family. Boodle Hatfield is well known for the high quality of its training. 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 which 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.
Two week placement in July, for which six students are accepted each year. Applicants should apply via the application form on the website at www.boodlehatfeld.com The form will be available from 1st November 2020.
GDL and LPC course fees are paid and trainees will also receive a maintenance grant whilst studying for the GDL/LPC.
In addition the benefits we offer include private healthcare, life assurance, income protection, season ticket loan, pension scheme, enhanced maternity pay, permanent health insurance, employee assistance scheme, childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, give as you earn scheme, conveyancing grant.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- 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)