Life at Boodle is never dull when you can canoodle with oodles of Mayfair millionaires.
Not many law firms can claim to have been advising a client for nearly 300 years. But Boodle can. In 1722 it was founded by the Grosvenor family’s 18-year-old estate manager (he was called Robert Andrews – the funkily named Eddie Boodle came into the picture 45 years later). Fast-forward almost three centuries and Boodle’s still working on anything and everything for the multibillion-pound Grosvenor Estate, which owns much of Mayfair and Belgravia. Trainees told us “it’s really cool in a nerdy kind of way” to work for a big landowner like this – “I’m not sure my friends would get it though!” The firm also works with other big estates and has a good reputation for advising wealthy private clients in London and beyond. There are also property, corporate and litigation practices. Boodle earns rankings in Chambers UK for private client, real estate, family, agricultural and art law work, plus gets top marks from Chambers High Net Worth for high-value residential property and private wealth disputes.
“Everything has a personal angle to it.”
While the firm's big estate clients like Grosvenor and Bedford are businesses, many of Boodle's clients are individuals, and even in corporate “everything has a personal angle to it,” as many clients are entrepreneurs. Trainees told us they enjoy working with individuals and families because it means you get to “help someone with something that has a tangible outcome or effect, rather than just working with faceless corporations.”
Boodle HQ is a “big glass building,” a new office south of the Thames with “amazing views of amazing sunsets” that the firm moved to in 2014. The firm used to be based in Mayfair and hasn't turned its back on the area, still maintaining a pied-à-terre here for client meetings. There’s also an office in Oxford, where the firm is ranked for agricultural and private client work. All trainees are based in the South Bank office in London but can go to Oxford for a seat too. The trainee intake is pretty small so retention naturally goes up and down a bit: in 2018 all five qualifiers were kept on.
Do not pass go, do not collect $200
At the time of our calls trainees said the allocation of their first seat was “pretty random,” but we hear things have changed since: trainees are now asked for their preferences before they start their training contract and in mid-seat conversations with HR. After that, “conversations go on above your head and you get told where you're going next.” Many people grab their first choice, but it’s not unheard of for people to get their second choice multiple times.
Boodle’s property department has around 30 lawyers and trainees who do a seat here cover residential, commercial, estates and finance matters. Interviewees told us residential work includes “selling landed estates and those big gorgeous houses with lots of land!” The clients include wealthy Brits with trophy houses in London and the countryside, as well as individuals from abroad. Lawyers act for individuals “buying, selling and leasing and do other general property work.” Commercial property clients include Marriott International, the IBM Pensions Trust and wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd. For all types of client, trainees are expected to “go through all the basics of property registration and be the middle man between clients and all other parties like agents, surveyors and structural engineers.”
"Landed estates and those big gorgeous houses with lots of land!”
Meanwhile, we heard that estates is “effectively the Grosvenor seat!” Trainees here estimated about 90% of their time was spent working for “the best estate in England.” (It's certainly one of the most valuable, reckoned to be worth around £12 billion.) This homogeneity doesn’t mean the work is boring: trainees have “ten to 20 files on the go at any one time.” That sounds pretty stressful, right? Don’t worry, “it’s not as bad as it sounds – once you get used to it, it’s quite procedural.” Trainees here rated the fact that “you get to build a relationship with the people at Grosvenor,” handling licences to alter, underlet or assign. The other 10% of the work is for other estates, such as the Bedford Estate, which owns a lot of Bloomsbury. Overall in property seats, trainees are “definitely expected to run their own files” under supervision, bagging ample client contact and drafting experience.
But is it art?
Private client and tax is “the seat everyone’s after!” Working within a 25-lawyer team, Boodlings here help out individuals and families “who have lots of money and are wondering what to do with it.” This includes drafting wills, establishing and managing trusts, and tax planning. Trainees rated the “human touch” to the seat and the opportunity to “get a lot of experience and meet some great people.” The clients include rich folk developing their multimillion-pound properties and Middle Eastern clients with property in the UK who need help with taxes and wills. One interesting aspect of this last type of work is “taking into account Shari'a law in wills – it’s interesting to see and work with the differences.”
"Working with entrepreneurs and start-ups, helping them get in that first round of investment."
Boodle trainees told us the eight-lawyer corporate department deals with “some standard corporate work, like companies doing shareholders' agreements, joint ventures and restructurings.” So far so normal, but sources told us there's also “the more unusual stuff: helping to organise loans for the purchase of fine wines or pianos; assisting individuals lending items to museums; and working with artists and fashion designers.” The art section of corporate is divided into three strands: galleries and dealers, collectors, and auction houses. Another type of work involves “working with entrepreneurs and start-ups, helping them get in that first round of investment to get them up and running.” The team recently advised cybersecurity insurance agent Ascent Underwriting on a private equity investment from Preservation Capital. Other clients include Abu Dhabi precious metal trader ADS; French mattress maker Adova; parking app JustPark; comparison website WeShop; trampoline park operator GoJumpin; events venue owners Clarenco; and The Sofa & Chair Company (we presume you can guess what they do). Trainees here can expect to manage client phone calls and meetings, take board minutes and draft parts of documents. Corporate trainees were keen to point out that the seat has “become popular in recent years – the department’s doing really well and it’s really busy.”
A seat in the 12-lawyer litigation team can be “quite daunting” for new starters as there’s “a lot of autonomy with big court deadlines.” Interviews said the department does “mainly property litigation,” including rent arrears, lease renewals and things like acting for the tenants of a multi-purpose commercial and residential building whose landlord disappeared leaving them unable to maintain or leave their properties. The department also handles commercial litigation. Daily trainee work here includes “chasing tenants for rent arrears – depending on how serious it is that could mean sending a letter before claim or issuing a statutory demand.” The department is “boosting its art practice,” we heard. Lawyers recently acted for four street artists in a copyright infringement case after their art was featured in a British Airways advert without their knowledge or permission.
The whole ca-Boodle
Trainees share an office with a supervisor who is usually a partner. “You quickly get on with these very senior people," one trainee reported. "You can always go to them for help or advice and you don’t feel like there’s a hierarchy.” Training comes from senior mentors and each department also runs monthly or fortnightly training session at lunchtime on things like landmark cases and new laws. We heard that luckily “it’s not a waste of your lunchtime – they’re really helpful!”
Most trainees average 9.30am to 7pm each day regardless of seat, but family has a reputation for late stays – i.e. the odd 9pm finish. The hours aren’t the only sociable thing at Boodle. “It’s cliché but everyone is so friendly," gushed one trainee. "You can chat to people at the tea station, and I feel like I could ask anyone anything.”
Team bonding events include alcohol-based dos and things like trampoline dodgeball (not at the same time, we hasten to add). There are also events to raise money for charity such as skydiving, abseiling, the Boodle Bake-Off and everyone’s favourite: Boodle’s Got Talent. Biannually, trainees put together performances in groups and compete BGT-style. “It’s all for charity – but it’s also for the laughs!” grinned one interviewee. Among dances, songs and a magic show, the winning act in 2017 was some second-years who rapped Eminem’s Lose Yourself, but with law-based lyrics.
Boodle Hatfield has a growing art law practice and a blog to go with it. Check it out at artlawandmore.com.
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How to get a Boodle Hatfield training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 30 June 2019 (opens 1 November 2018)
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.” 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, and they've got to be able to ring up a client or the other side, and be confident in what they're doing.”
Kirkhope goes on to say: “We want somebody who's able to think, to form opinions, to explain why they think that. When candidates come to interview they need to have confidence in their abilities, and be ready to have a sensible discussion in which they explain why they think something rather than just giving a pre-prepared answer. 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 skills like teamwork and presentation delivery.
Interview with Sara Maccallum, Boodle's Senior Partner
Chambers Student: Are there any highlights from the past year you think are important to mention?
Sara Maccallum:We’ve had a very busy year which is in itself a highlight. Many of our core areas are growing with our lateral hire programme continuing – we’ve got a new partner in the family team, making it much more possible to have a continuing trainee role in family, a new partner in our Property department and most recently we welcomed a new partner into our Private Client and Tax department. These lateral hires are in addition to our own home grown candidates who are promoted to partner, which is also very important to the firm.
Another of our focus areas which is growing well is our arts practice and we welcomed a commercial arts lawyer who deals with auction houses and so on to the arts team – he was made partner in November . It’s good to see our areas growing and be able to give greater experiences for trainees.
CS: What should students know about your firm’s strategy and what you want to achieve? Where will the firm be in two or three years, when our readers are ready to join?
SM:There’ll be no dramatic changes. We’re very good at private client and property and the surrounding services for those: we’ll maintain and grow our presence in those areas. We’ll still be a sort of firm people dealing with wealth owners and wealth makers, rather than executives and so forth. You need to grow of course, but we’d be saying in 3-5 years that we’ll be looking at 40 partners and a £30m+ turnover.
The size we are is what makes the culture we love. In terms of size of firm our trajectory is steady. If we become a massive organisation that would start to erode. Our growth mostly comes organically from people who join us – there’s nothing better than seeing someone join as a trainee then all of a sudden I'm shaking their hand telling them they’re a partner! That’s the most fantastic feeling.
Boodle Hatfield LLP
240 Blackfriars Road,
- Partners 34
- Associates 46
- Total trainees 8
- UK offices London Bankside, London Mayfair and Oxford
- Graduate recruiter: Jenny Andrews, [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: 1 November 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 30 June 2019
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 31 January 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £40,000
- Second-year salary: £42,000
- Post-qualification salary: £62,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
Main areas of work
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.
University law careers fairs 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 3)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 4)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
Oxford and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 2)