Bristows LLP - True Picture

The London legal scene’s IP MVP has a long history of delivering innovations for the future.

Bristows training contract review 2022

The Firm

After a year of unprecedented challenges, the successful Covid-19 vaccination roll-out has offered rays of hope in 2021. Bristows lawyers have had a hand in this – the firm advised Oxford University on its collaboration with AstraZeneca to create one of the most commonly issued vaccines. Shaping the future is part and parcel of the Bristows package: “It’s the place to go if you want tech and IP law in the UK,” our trainee interviewees said. Advising clients like Google, Visa, Diageo and The Guardian on these specialist areas, the firm also shares work between its competition, regulatory, corporate, commercial, disputes, IT and data protection teams.

“It’s the place to go if you want tech and IP law in the UK.”

Chambers UK ranks Bristows among the best firms nationwide for IP and patent litigation, data protection and life sciences nationwide, and spotlights the firm as one of the very few IP law market leaders in London. “I really wanted a firm that’s great at IP,” a trainee who’d clearly come to the right place told us. The firm offers just ten training contracts a year. “It’s a smaller cohort,” those we spoke to acknowledged. “You’re not lost among a big number.” Bristows also has a Brussels base, though we heard “it’s more of a foothold” dealing with IP issues needing to be settled in Europe rather than a potential trainee outpost.

The Seats

Unlike at most firms, seat lengths vary at Bristows. First seats are typically six months long, followed by a series of either six- or three-month seats including a “mandatory” stint in patent litigation. Most trainees will also spend a few months in commercial IP/IT, and everything else is shaped by the needs of the firm.This structure “keeps things varied” according to trainees. Secondments to Bristows clients are also common, with the “majority of trainees going at some stage.” One source spent time in a large media agency, “seeing how a business works on a global scale.” Regular destinations include Google and Capgemini.

Patent litigation is a signature Bristows practice; standard-essential patent and FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) cases are among the firm’s specialties. The firm recently worked with Samsung as both implementer and patent owner on competition issues concerning FRAND before the European Commission. Trainees had worked on telecommunications standards for 3G and 4G networks; asthma inhaler patent cases; small modular drugs or biosimilars; cell-based therapies; and “good old-fashioned mechanical patents.” Bristows’ varied clients include Philips, the Financial Times and McDonald's; the firm recently acted for Heineken in disputes with another of the world’s largest brewers involving three patents. One trainee found themselves preparing for court applications, bundling and setting up the courtroom for ongoing litigation. “A lot of the intellectual heavy lifting was done by partners,” they said, “so I was managing the litigation rather than drafting.” Other sources had drafted letters and emails to clients, “but everything you do gets fed up and there’s lots of oversight on your work.” Calls with expert witnesses, reviewing their reports and research for technical elements of particular patents are also typical trainee tasks.

“I was taken to client meetings and a mediation in my first three weeks.”

All three strands in the commercial IP, IT, anddata protection group serve household-name clients. In transactional IP that includes Teva, Diageo and GlaxoSmithKline; LinkedIn, Amazon Web Services and Visa are data protection clients; and Bristows advises Google, IBM and Sony in IT. “As a trainee you flow between the groups and get work from all three,” sources clarified. The IP transactional team advises on deals with intellectual property elements like licensing and collaboration agreements in the biotech, medical devices and 3D printing fields. One data protection matter saw the firm act for British Airways in its defence against the largest fine ever imposed by a data protection authority in the EU. An interviewee felt data protection law is “more regulatory, so we’re doing advisory work,” with the role of a trainee including “lots of research on everything from Information Commissioner guidance to the implications of new GDPR regulations.” Fintech, adtech, healthtech and other groundbreaking tech (including AI, cloud and robotics work) make up the IT side of the practice.

At Bristows, commercial technology andcopyright disputes is “essentially commercial litigation” according to one source.The department handles traditional copyright and design disputes, as well as software copyright, liability and obligation, other digital-related litigation and brand, privacy, and data protection issues. “Our bread and butter is IP disputes,” one trainee found, “but it’s been quite varied with litigation and mediation in long-running disputes as well as a few smaller copyright or general commercial cases.” Another had worked on contracts for an airline manufacturer in a “dispute over whether engines were at specification,” plus ongoing negotiations for an IT company settling a dispute. “I was taken to client meetings and a mediation in my first three weeks,” they said. Trainees had also written research and advice notes, letters to clients, instructions to counsel and first drafts of pleadings. “If you’re interested in drafting in this seat, you can ask to have the first stab,” we heard.

“It’s really interesting working with brands you know and… seeing the work you’re doing having an effect in the world."

One of the most popular Bristows trainee destinations is brands, designs and copyright. “It’s a super interesting seat,” one beamed. “That’s where all the cool clients are.” The firm reportedly manages over 15,000 trade mark applications and registrations including the global portfolio for The Guardian, Royal Mail and the Financial Times; and acts as European trade mark advisers to Vice Media. “It’s really interesting working with brands you know and have seen your whole life, as well as seeing the work you’re doing having an effect in the world,” trainees said. Those we spoke to had worked on trade mark and copyright disputes, advertising advice and “complex jurisdictional copyright issues. I love how technical it is,” one shared. Tasks are similarly varied and include drafting cease and desist letters, instructions to counsel, pleadings and advice notes (which “might go to clients unamended”). In this seat the trainees also complete a weekly presentation to the team on new Advertising Standards Agency rulings. “It’s good practice,” one noted.

Trainee Life

It’s far from the largest law firm in London, and the Bristows culture is “definitely non-hierarchical” according to trainees. “I can tell the partners care about us; we’re not just cogs in a machine.” On the subject of mechanical processes, sources also quickly dismissed the idea of a production line of STEM students rolling through the recruitment rounds. “You get a wide range of backgrounds here,” one confirmed. “People at Bristows are often interested in tech and science, but there’s a broad range of personalities.” A more “informal dress codealigns with “the culture of the clients. Silicon Valley tech companies aren’t keen on the suited and booted look!”

Getting the gang together early, Bristows funnels trainees through the SQE as a group. The firm builds camaraderie after that via social events including weekly trainee trips to a local noodle bar, seasonal parties, internal drinks on the last Friday of every month and “cool evening seminars” on topics like bioethics and gene editing. Departments also run their own socials, like the commercial IP group’s annual ski trip.

“You work hard, but later nights are the exception.”

Our sources identified a “much better” approach to work-life balance compared to more demanding firms in the City. Bristows is “quite humane,” sources agreed. “This is a dream compared to other firms.” Do get ready to pinch yourself, as some departments (patent litigation and corporate according to sources) come with some later finishes. On the whole, departure times for trainees were around 7 or 8pm here; in other seats they could get away at 6.30pm. “You work hard, but later nights are the exception,” according to an insider. “There’s a cultural respect for balance.” Another noted: “There’s a worthwhile trade-off on the salary. We’re not far off pace from other mid-market commercial firms, but it’s a more hospitable environment.”

Why don’t you Bri-stay a while?

The firm recruits to retain, with trainee retention usually sitting around 100%. Bristows' joint managing partner, Liz Cohen, was herself a trainee at the firm! In 2021 the firm held on to nineof tenqualifiers.

How to get a Bristows training contract


Workshop deadlines: 17 October 2021 (IP Workshop for Scientists and Engineers Fast-track); 31 October 2021 (IP Workshops); 14 November 2021 (IP Workshop for Scientists and Engineers); 31 May 2022 (IP Workshop for 1st Years)

Training contract deadline (2024): 2 January 2022


Bristows offer intensive one-day IP workshops to give students and graduates the opportunity to learn more about intellectual property law and the career opportunities available at Bristows. The application process starts with a comprehensive online form where candidates can show their academic background, experience to date, and interest in a career at Bristows. This is followed by a recorded video interview where applicants can bring their application to life. “We want to see evidence of research into the firm and an authentic interest in the specialist areas that we have to offer,” says graduate talent and DEI manager Charlotte Erskine, touching on the importance of providing answers that are well structured and tailored to the firm.

The workshop offers learning opportunities, interactive case studies and networking opportunities between the attendees and Bristows’ trainees and lawyers. The workshop offers intensive exposure to the firm that allows attendees to consider Bristows as the place they may build their legal career, so the firm always advises they come along with lots of curiosity and questions.

This year the firm will be hosting four workshops in winter 2021 (including a unique workshop for STEM graduates who have already started or completed their GDL and/or LPC) and one workshop for 1st year undergraduates in summer 2022.

Training contract applications

The firm has one recruitment round in the spring, and the deadline to apply for a training contract is 2 January 2022. We will be recruiting for those eligible to start in August 2024, so all final-year students, penultimate-year law students and graduates can apply. If you are a non-law graduate completing a postgraduate course that is more than one year of study or a PhD, the firm advise applying in the final year of your study so applicants have two years to complete the PGDL and LPC (or equivalent) prior to the training contract start date.  The firm also welcome applications from graduates who have already started or completed their legal studies (PGDL and/or LPC).

Those applying for a training contract begin with a comprehensive online application form, which includes a personal statement. Candidates who clear this first hurdle will be invited to complete a video interview to accompany your paper application.

The face-to-face interview process includes two interviews with senior associates and partners of the firm, a written exercise and a problem question exercise. Applicants will also have the opportunity to meet with a current trainee in an informal setting to get their perspective on training at the firm.

Bristows LLP

100 Victoria Embankment,

  • Partners 41
  • Associates 110
  • Total trainees 20
  • UKoffices  London
  • Overseas offices: Brussels
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Charlotte Erskine, Graduate Talent and DEI Manager
  • Training Partner: Miranda Cass
  • Application criteria  
  • Training contracts pa: Up to 10
  • Applications pa: 1500
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 (preferred) 
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st September 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 2nd January 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1st September 2021
  • Workshop deadlines: 17th October 2021 (STEM fast-track workshop); 31st October 2021 (IP workshops); 14th November 2021 (STEM workshop); 31st May 2022 (1st year workshop)
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £42,000
  • Second-year salary: £45,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £72,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £8,000
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: London
  • Client secondments: Yes

Firm profile
We are Bristows, the world’s leading specialist law firm for clients that innovate. We are a European headquartered hub for litigation, transactions and advice throughout the world. We help clients grow in life sciences, technology and other dynamic sectors. We provide advice on all their legal matters and are proud to be different.

Main areas of work
We focus on dynamic, IP-rich sectors and have the expertise to solve a broad range of litigation, transactional, and advisory challenges. We have a true cross-disciplinary practice encompassing our renowned IP, competition, regulatory, corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, IT and data protection teams. The strength of each individual practice complements the others to provide a fully integrated and comprehensive service.

Training opportunities
During the two-year period of training you will spend time in each of the firm’s core practice groups, including a guaranteed seat in Patent Litigation. You will also have the opportunity to explore other areas of Intellectual Property law including Commercial IP and Brands, Designs and Copyright. Trainees typically undertake five or six seats during the training contract with a mix of three- and six-month seats. One of these seats may be a UK secondment to the in-house legal department of one of the firm’s leading multinational clients. Bristows trainees work alongside partners dealing directly with clients from the start of their training. There is plenty of responsibility and this is matched by an extremely supportive and friendly culture. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in life at the firm through charity fundraising events, sports teams, social events, community initiatives and a number of staff committees and networks.

Vacation scheme
We offer intensive one-day IP workshops (instead of longer vacation schemes) to give students and graduates the opportunity to learn more about Intellectual Property law and the career opportunities available at Bristows. The workshop offers learning opportunities, interactive case studies and networking sessions. They are a great opportunity to assess whether law as a career, and Bristows as a firm, are for you. Undergraduates in their second-, penultimate- and final-year of study and graduates of all degree disciplines are eligible for the winter workshops on 18 and 26 November. All STEM students and graduates are eligible for the 2 December workshop that is tailored to scientists and engineers.

Other benefits
We offer a flexible benefits package including: life assurance; matched pension contributions; private medical insurance; holiday 'buy and sell'; cycle to work scheme; gym membership; travel insurance; dental insurance; an employee assistance programme; and season ticket loan. Open days and first-year opportunities We will hold a workshop for first-year students on 31 March 2021.
Please apply online via our website.

Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing:
Bristows established its 'Equality and Diversity Committee' in 2007, with the aim of championing equality of opportunity and diversity in all aspects of the firm’s business. Committee members include a number of partners, associates of all levels, secretaries and business support staff. While having a diverse workforce is key to success, making sure that everyone within the firm feels included is also an important factor, so the committee recently re-branded to become 'The Inclusion Group'. This refreshed focus on the inclusion of everyone at Bristows was launched in 2020 and has offered a new lease of life to the activities that members of the Inclusion Group organise across each year. In the past year, events hosted by the group have included a Black History Month talk on the forgotten stories of black history within Britain and a celebration of the first 100 years of women in law. The firm now has a number of staff networks for LGBT+, Women and Working Families and Carers. The Turing Network for the LGBT+ community and allies was formed in 2007 and was the firm’s first employee network group. The Women’s Network was launched as part of the 2020 celebration of International Women’s Day with sponsorship from both female and male partners. The Working Families and Carers Network launched in Carers Week 2020 to provide both firm and peer support for all working parents and carers at the firm. In addition to the network groups, the firm also has an extensive Wellbeing Programme that offers support, advice and resources for all four pillars of wellbeing: mental, physical, financial and community wellbeing. This programme includes Mental Health training, nutritional advice, community initiatives and financial support resources. The firm also has a number of mental health first aiders who can offer support and direction to all employees in a time of need.

Social media

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Competition Law (Band 5)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 4)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Telecommunications (Band 4)