Property and private client form the backbone of this small London outfit, which also has a niche art law practice.
Ye olde Boodle
Training principal Graham Winkley describes Boodle Hatfield as "a firm which has been in existence for centuries, serving a large number of long-standing clients as well as developing an exciting new roster of entrepreneurial and overseas investor clients.” You're spot on Graham. The firm, best known for serving traditional estates and private clients, is currently on a mission to widen its client base. That includes doing more and more international work: the firm recently hired several partners focused on working for Middle Eastern private clients, plus specialists in other areas.
“A firm that has a focus on working with individuals.”
Boodle also continues to advise the multibillion-pound Grosvenor Estate, which owns much of Mayfair and Belgravia. Chambers UK ranks Boodle for its private client, real estate, family, agricultural and art law work, while Chambers High Net Worth also recognises it for residential property and private wealth disputes. The firm has corporate and litigation practices too and serves businesses as well as private clients, but a typical Boodle trainee told us: “I wanted to work for a firm that has a focus on working with individuals and has personal relationships with long-standing clients rather than faceless corporations.”
Boodlings also loved their “swish office building with lovely views across the Thames and South Bank.” Spread over two floors, the office has a traditional layout with trainees sharing a glass office with their supervisor – “the more senior person sits by the window with a view,” one trainee grinned. The firm also has a pied-à-terre in Mayfair for meeting private clients and an office in Oxford – trainees are able to venture to the university city for one of their four seats. The firm’s small trainee intake results in a smooth NQ process, and in 2019 three out of four qualifiers were kept on.
Trainees gladly welcomed the compulsory contentious seat, since “both litigation and family are massive parts of the firm.” Rookies are asked their seat preferences before they start their training contract and at mid-seat meetings with HR. It helps that “Boodle only has five major departments [private client, family, property, litigation and corporate], so trainees get to do a seat in almost all the firm's areas of expertise.”
Boodle’s property department handles residential, commercial, estates, construction and finance matters. Trainees informed us of a change of structure within property – “rather than it being split into residential and commercial subgroups, the firm has bridged the gap to create a generalist seat, allowing trainees to experience a range of work.” Sources found the level of responsibility “refreshing and liberating.” Trainees are expected to run their own files, with supervision – “we draft lease reports, go on site visits, draft and agree constructions documents, and are on the phone to the Land Registry.” Those doing residential property help with sale purchases, and advise on takeovers. Commercial property clients include Marriott International, the IBM Pensions Trust and wine merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd.
“The majority of the work in the estates seat is to do with the Grosvenor Estate.”
We heard that “the majority of the work in the estates seat is to do with the Grosvenor Estate – working on new lease licences and lease enfranchisement claims.” Acting mainly for one client sounds a bit homogeneous, but trainees welcomed the opportunity, saying that doing a generalist seat in property provides the appropriate skills necessary to succeed in an estates seat. Trainees here are also able to dip into work for the Bedford Estate, which owns a lot of Bloomsbury.
Private client and tax acts for wealthy individuals who “have a huge amount of money and have no idea what to do with it.” The firm's practice covers trusts, wealth management and tax advice. This team also advises the Grosvenor and Bedford estates. Sources informed us of how interesting the matters are as you have the opportunity to research an individual’s “thought process as to why they’re making a particular decision.” Day-to-day tasks include drafting wills, establishing and managing trusts, preparing disclosures and bundling – “trainees have the responsibility for pushing things forward.”
The firm’s corporate clients include property investors ASK Partners and Falco Capital, mattress maker Sleepeezee and trampoline park people GoJumpin. Trainees said they have to be more on the ball about technicalities in this seat as clients are more business-savvy here. Sources describe the team as “outgoing and having a real drive to make it, bring in new business and work with different types of businesses.” As a trainee you might be told “hey, here are 17 documents that I want you to draft and get agreed with the other side – you’ve got a week to get it done.” Interviewees told us they get exposure to working on shareholder agreements for family businesses, property joint ventures and art law matters for galleries, auction houses and collectors.
Sources noted that “corporate and litigation tend to have longer hours, but overall the hours are pretty consistent.” Across seats trainees find themselves averaging 9.30am to 7pm each day, which they appreciated.
The litigation department has three main strands: property litigation, commercial disputes and art litigation. Trainee tasks consist of debt recovery, running landlord and tenant disputes, and drafting letters to the other side. Interviewees enjoyed being given the autonomy to run their own files with “the right level of supervision.” In one bigger piece of litigation, lawyers recently advised the Grosvenor Estate on a multimillion-pound dispute over the use of a party wall next to a Grosvenor-owned garden during a property redevelopment. The firm is known for its booming art litigation practice, which trainees can get stuck into. Lawyers recently advised street artist Stik on a copyright infringement case related to a public artwork in Hoxton Square and a dispute over a mural he'd painted in Gdańsk, in Poland, which turned up for sale cut to pieces in London. Trainees also mentioned art disputes over everything from commercial contracts to forged antiques.
Thinking about what it's like to work at Boodle, trainees praised the firm for its inclusivity and for supporting women in the workplace with good maternity policies and promotion of women up the ranks. The firm has a female senior partner, two-thirds of the management committee are women, and overall 45% of partners are women – “it’s unheard of really!” exclaimed one source. Another said: “If you want to stay here long-term, the firm will support your family life and you won’t have to choose one or the other.” Trainees did agree that there is work to be done when it comes to the representation of minorities among its lawyers. Like all law firms, Boodle is lookng for top quality candidates, but sources were hopeful that graduate recruitment’s decision to look beyond school results and the requirement to have been to a Russell Group university will prove a “refreshing approach to graduate recruitment and increase diversity.”
“Wine and cheese nights are an excuse to finish on time on a Friday.”
Interviewees also agreed that “the firm really puts an emphasis on making sure that the supervisors are the best they can be.” Sources did notice a slight, but welcome, difference between teams, with increased supervision in private client, while those in property were able to take ownership of their own files. Overall trainees reported relaxed relationships – “I did my work with no pressure at all on how to perform tasks in a certain way,” one said. Training is split between informal training from senior mentors and department-specific training sessions at lunchtime. “The lunch and learn sessions are super helpful, especially the property-specific ones,” trainees told us.
Sometimes of course, you want lunch without the educational requirement (graze and laze?). “Wine and cheese nights are an excuse to finish on time on a Friday and head to the communal area to mingle,” one source shared. Litigation has the reputation for being the “fun department,” whereas private client is more serious. Giving an example of the firm's more 'fun' side, one source mentioned a partner’s birthday celebrations which consisted of a surprise meal and “everyone wearing T-shirts with his face printed on them.” The firm also hosts an annual charity event which ranges from abseiling to the much-anticipated 'Boodle’s Got Talent'.
Each trainee gets a buddy from the year above to answer questions and help them settle in.
How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 30 June 2020 (opens 1 November 2019)
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 33
- Associates 47
- Total trainees 8
- UK offices London Bankside, London Mayfair and Oxford
- Jenny Sanghera, [email protected] 020 7079 8282
- Training partner: Graham Winkley, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 4
- Applications pa: 350-450
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Vacation scheme places pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st November 2019 Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 30th June 2020 Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2019 Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 31st January 2020
- 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 2019.
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.
University law careers fairs 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 3)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation Recognised Practitioner
- 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 3)