Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP - True Picture

New sector-focused training contracts, solicitor apprenticeships and a host of secondment opportunities made BCLP prime real estate for trainees.

BCLP training contract review 2024

The Firm

BCLP is a big name in real estate. Glance up at the London skyline and it won’t be long before your eyes fall on a building that the firm has had a hand in. The Scalpel is just one example. BCLP has worked behind the scenes of this skyscraper for years, from its development, to its leasing, and most recently, its sale for £720 million. BCLP owes its strength in property to legacy firm BLP (the C was added in 2018, courtesy of Bryan Cave, a commercial US firm). “We're still holding on to that post-merger,” says emerging talent manager Isabel Elsey, “but I think the firm is also really focusing its efforts into building our other practice groups as well.”

This focus includes practices like litigation and corporate and finance transactions. As for expertise, the firm bags top-tier Chambers UK rankings in London for its work in construction, licensing, planning, real estate litigation and real estate (£150 million and above), alongside strong rankings in corporate/M&A, employment, environment and real estate finance. Nationwide, it’s among the best for its work in rail.

The UK-US tie-up has 31 offices worldwide, with three UK bases in London, Manchester and Southampton, which work closely together. Trainees are hired mostly into London, with a few joining in Manchester too, including solicitor apprentices. The firm introduced its solicitor apprenticeships in 2015.

You can read more about BCLP Solicitor Apprenticeship Scheme here.

“One big development has been the introduction of our sector training contracts,” Elsey explains, which cover both real estate and financial transactions. Running alongside the firm’s standard TC, these sector-focused training contracts offer trainees the chance to specialise from the word go, with a smaller, sector-specific pool of seats to choose from. “For real estate, that’s the core real estate seat, real estate finance, CREF (corporate real estate funds), real estate disputes and construction disputes,” Elsey outlines. “It’s essentially a sector-focused approach to the training contract that helps to pipeline talent towards our various sectors of interest.”

The Seats

The majority of the firm’s trainees begin BCLP life in the London office, with a handful based in Manchester. “When you first start, you’re given a ‘wish list’, where you can put five seat options and rank them in order of preference,” one trainee told us. “Some seats only take second years, but they will always make a note of it when you request a particular seat.” This is done alongside a one-to-one meeting with the emerging talent team, where trainees can get an idea of their chances of getting a particular seat, and where they will likely end up. “Lots of people do sit in real estate at some stage, but it’s by no means mandatory. It’s just the nature of the beast because it's such a huge part of our practice.”

There are clientsecondments aplenty at BCLP too, with clients such as AIG and Goldman Sachs (banking and finance), Heathrow (tech and commercial), and options in real estate, insurance, and charity. The allocation process for secondments begins earlier, with trainees free to rank as many options as they would like, “which is then followed by an interview with the partner that runs that particular secondment to talk you through what to expect.”

In terms of international seats, there is a choice of Brussels (antitrust and competition law), Abu Dhabi (arbitration), Paris (real estate finance) and Hong Kong. Trainees flagged up that the Paris seat requires quite a high level of French, so bear that in mind if ‘pain au chocolat’ is as far as your French goes.

“Clients who owned multiple properties across the UK.”

As BCLP’s signature dish, real estate is the largest of the firm’s practice areas, and is split into five teams, each offering two or three spots for trainees at each rotation. These are: core real estate, real estate finance, planning & zoning, commercial construction, and CREF (corporate real estate funds). Real estate disputes and construction disputes sit within the litigation & disputes practice. In the core real estate seat, trainees saw work with “clients who owned multiple properties across the UK, and we would assist with whatever was happening to the property, whether that was installing licences, granting a lease or licence for occupation, or property management transactions.” There’s plenty of crossover with lawyers in the firm’s other departments too, particularly those working in corporate, finance, tax and risk management. In one recent deal, the team advised Tristan Capital Partners on a £420 million acquisition of a hotel portfolio from the Wellcome Trust and Queensway. “You have quite a number of ongoing transactions at any one time,” one trainee recalled, “so whatever stage a transaction is at, whether it’s the early stages or later in the deal, you’ll get exposure to a bit of everything.” Typical trainee tasks included arranging for the registration of documents and keeping clients filled in on the progress of different transactions.

Another seat within BCLP’s real estate offering is real estate finance. The firm works with lenders, borrowers and sponsors, from Barclays and the National Westminster Bank, to Tristan Capital and Kensington Row Property. “The finance seat typically involves working on deals on both the borrower and lender side,” one trainee explained. “On the borrower side, that’s typically negotiating and liaising on the conditions and precedents; on the lender side it’s checking that the borrower has complied with all of those conditions.” In one recent case, the firm advised R&F One on the financing of major real estate developments, including the 57-storey City Tower at One Nine Elms in London, at a total value of £772 million.

The general consensus among trainees was that a seat in tax was a good option for variety, with opportunities to work on transactional, advisory and contentious matters. “One of the standout things about tax is that there’s quite a few internal clients,” one source told us. “Almost every department at the firm will need responses to queries about charging VAT or whether certain taxes will be applicable in certain scenarios.” As strange as it might sound, trainees were quick to highlight the benefits that come with this: “It gives you a chance to expand your internal professional network, which isn’t something you hear about that much, but it’s really helpful, particularly in the early days of your training contract.” Tax is a slightly smaller team, so trainees in the seat benefitted from good levels of contact with both partners and clients. “I was often invited on client calls,” said one interviewee. “There’s a lot of research in tax – it’s a very law-heavy department so you’re often sifting through research and applying it to your context.” On the contentious side, trainees can expect plenty of document review, drafting instructions to counsel and drafting summaries of documents that have been released. In one recent case, the firm represented insurance company AXA on the tax implications of the £1 billion development of an office space at 50 Fenchurch Street in London.

“… there are also some fun bits like mock mediations.”

Historically, a big part of the work in BCLP’s international arbitration practice revolved around the Russian market, but since the start of the war in Ukraine, BCLP has been switching its focus to new markets. The London office is something of a focal point for collaboration on cross-border matters involving the firm’s offices in Abu Dhabi, Denver, Dubai, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, Singapore and Tel Aviv. In this seat, “you tend to have a smaller number of matters that you are working on,” one source explained. “For trainees, a lot of it will involve researching through legal library databases and preparing summaries of lengthy, heavy legal documents, but there are also some fun bits like mock mediations with a mix of seniorities.” In one ongoing case, the firm represented RusHydro in a treaty claim against the Republic of Kyrgyzstan over a series of cancelled hydro-power projects.

Trainee Life

Outside of work, “we have a quiz night, which is a huge amount of fun,” one Londoner told us. “The board of the firm is on one team and everyone tries to get a better score than they do! All the profits go to our charity of the year, which last year was Papyrus.” In terms of firm-wide events, there’s a summer and Christmas party, which most recently was “a black-tie event with a disco at The Brewery on Liverpool Street.” One observed that “there seems to be a focus on moving away from just going to the local, which is great for inclusivity.”

“The board of the firm is on one team and everyone tries to get a better score than they do!”

Among the standout features of life at BCLP is an emphasis on inclusion, according to the trainees. “The firm focuses on inclusion first,” one told us. “The idea is that, if you create an inclusive workplace, it will become much easier to improve diversity in that workplace.” The social inclusion community has held the firm’s first events around Ramadan in recent years, and during Black History Month the firm’s cafeteria provided different dishes that linked to a different African country’s national cuisine. Taking a step back, Elsey expands on the firm’s recruitment approach: “We do not have targets but we  constantly look at our assessment process to ensure the process itself isn't adversely impacting individuals from a particular under-represented background." She goes on to tell us that of last year’s trainee cohort, "55% of those we hired were individuals that came from an ethnic minority background, 45% were socially mobile, and 19% identified as having a disability." In our survey, we found that 100% of the trainee respondents said that teams were staffed diversely. “A lot of my colleagues have children, and there really is a respect of family time,” one reflected. “And there is that expectation that when you’ve worked hard, you will want to go home.”

Most trainees started their working day at around 9.30am and finished by 7pm. They said partners and supervisors were generally quick to check in and ask them about how they were managing their workload. They get one day a week to work from home, and during the other four days they’re required to be in the office. The London office is near Cannon Street, and according to one happy interviewee, “the building itself (I’m just looking into the atrium now) is very striking. We have a suspended staircase that goes all the way up, and there’s a lovely canteen downstairs which is subsidised, so it’s not too expensive.” The Manchester office, meanwhile, has just enjoyed a “much-needed” refurbishment!

It’s an old adage in the world of law that with more reasonable hours comes more modest pay. “We are not as well renumerated as some of our competitors, particularly after qualification,” one trainee commented, “but given the hours that we work and the support we get with it (I frequently get told to go home!), it just depends on what you prioritise.” Elsey adds that this is also balanced with the fact that “the increase in our maintenance loan to the London living wage has been received very well (now £20,400 per academic year).”

In previous years, survey responses have indicated that the firm’s transparency around qualification was something of a sticking point, “but they are looking to increase transparency around that by starting to talk about it earlier.” As trainees move into their third seat, there is a presentation that lets them know what the job list looks like and what to expect when it is released. At that stage, trainees are also offered training on preparing CVs and cover letters for applications, and there are one-to-one meetings with graduate recruitment a few months before the list is released to discuss “qualification options, what they think you should go for, and why.” As a general rule, “which jobs get listed depends on market demand and things like that, but I’ve never heard of there being fewer jobs than trainees.” The application pack also includes their seat feedback, before an interview process. “The format of the interview depends on the department,” one shared. “Some have a standard interview; others have you prepare a case study and interview you on that, but they tell you about that in advance of the process.” In 2023, the firm did not disclose its retention statistics.

Common ground:“The general feeling here is that it’s really friendly, and a big part of that comes from the fact that we occupy the whole building,” one trainee added. “There is something about getting in a lift knowing that you are with a colleague who's really nice.”

How to get a BCLP training contract

Vacation scheme deadlines: 14 January 2024

Training contract deadline: 31 May 2024


BCLP gets around 1,800 applications each year for its 32 training contract places via online forms that detail applicants' knowledge of the firm, reasons for considering a career in law, and general experience. The firm also asks two situational judgement questions on the form to assess candidates' ability to problem solve. The application process is the same for those aiming for a vacation scheme spot and straight-to-training-contract hopefuls.

The Emerging Talent team screen every application and in 2020, introduced a new online situational judgement test that is bespoke to the firm. Up to 90 candidates are invited to a first stage interview with Emerging Talent and/or Junior Associates, with about 45 students making it through to an assessment centre. Assessment centres include a case study involving a presentation, and a final stage skills-based interview.

Vacation scheme

Between 60%-70% of BCLP's trainee intake comes in through its vacation schemes. BCLP takes around 30 vac schemers a year, spread across two placements, held in April and June each year.

According to the firm, the two-week vac scheme provides those who are invited "the chance to gain some first-hand experience of life at BCLP and the work we do." Vac schemers are required to get "involved in everything from research and client meetings to court runs and presentations." Previous tasks have involved "advising a charity on how they could help prevent the use of the death penalty in Sri Lanka, and delivering a mock M&A pitch to a client." On top of work experience, the firm tells us that "you'll also get to attend a series of partner-led talks and workshops, have a sit-down lunch with partners and meet regularly with your supervisor." 

Trainee profile

BCLP recruit students and graduates from a diverse range of backgrounds. Targeting over around 50 universities across the UK, the firm recruits a mix of Russell Group, Oxbridge and non-Russell group students from a range of degree disciplines. According to Chloe Muir, Head of Emerging Talent, “we value individuals that are proactive, motivated and creative thinkers. Adaptability is a core quality that we look for in our trainees coupled with an ability to maintain resilience.” Mature applicants and career changers are also valued at BCLP for their prior experience. “We have trainees from a range of backgrounds such as Finance, Teaching, Engineering and Construction; all of which are areas that resonate well with our clients and present transferable skills,” Muir adds.


Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP

Governor’s House,
5 Laurence Pountney Hill,

Firm profile
We are BCLP — with more than 1,275 lawyers across 30 offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America, we are a global law firm that is built on the foundations of thinking differently.

Curious and unbound by tradition, we’re shaking up the legal space with our ground-breaking thought leadership, market-leading solutions and collaborative culture. We’re a distinctly modern law firm that was built to evolve beyond more archaic structures. And as a fully integrated international team, we provide clients with clear, connected legal advice across time zones.

The world is changing, and we need bold and inquisitive minds to help us build the future of our firm. We’re at the leading edge of legal technology and innovation, pushing ahead and forging a bold new path in law. If you’re ready to challenge the status quo, you’ll have the freedom to explore new ideas and the space to grow while drawing inspiration from a diverse range of people, perspectives and interactions.

Plus, you'll be doing interesting, varied and impactful work as part of a supportive, globally connected team from day one. 

Join BCLP, a firm to be proud of, a place to belong.

Main areas of work
The firm is structured into three large departments: Real Estate, Corporate and Finance Transactions, and Litigation and Investigations. Trainees work on challenging projects from the outset and are given a high level of responsibility. A handful of our internationally renowned clients are names such as Deliveroo, Nike, Goldman Sachs, Heathrow, EDF, BT, Deutsche Bank, Tesco and eBay to name a few.

Training opportunities
We deliver legal solutions to a wide range of major companies, financial institutions, prominent public sector bodies and private clients. As part of our team, you will be exposed to how they work, the problems they face and the opportunities they have to grow. As their adviser, they will rely on your guidance, skill and thought leadership to help them achieve their commercial objectives. The level of client contact is high for our trainees and trainees are exposed to a high caliber of clients including, Deliveroo, Nike, EBay and Heathrow. Working in partner-led teams, you’ll be exposed to a client base that includes over 50 Global Fortune 500 & FTSE 100 companies, and over half of the world's top 20 banks.

Training opportunities
At BCLP we are fully committed to providing continual, high-quality training and support to our trainees. We offer four seat rotations of 6 months, with flexible seat choices across all core departments and a wide range of practice areas in the business. Each trainee receives regular 1:1 support from the Emerging Talent team and the Training Principal, a Partner mentor to provide wider career guidance and a designated supervisor within each department. Trainees have access to individual coaching and training from the Learning and Development team, as well as quarterly ‘Lunch and Learn’ updates. We aim to continuously improve our trainee experience and accordingly run a Trainee Discussion Forum with representatives from each trainee intake to facilitate active information sharing between management and trainees. We also have an active Trainee Social Committee to ensure trainees get together outside of the office.

Vacation scheme
We run our vacation schemes in April and June for up to 10 candidates per scheme. We aim to keep our schemes very interactive. We want to make you feel like you are a trainee throughout your time at the firm, and the work you do will often make a real impact and be presented to our clients. During our vacation schemes you can also expect to attend case study workshops, complete a pro bono project and take part in a mock pitch with a real client. It is not all hard work and no play, we want you to experience our culture first hand through our speed networking lunches and social events.

Open days and first-year opportunities
We are hosting an Open Day in December 2024. These opportunities are open to candidates at any stage of their career (university level and above) that are interested in applying to BCLP.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
BCLP has a deep commitment to inclusion and diversity, supported by well-established goals, programs, campaigns and leadership engagement. We believe that diversity enriches the quality and fabric of our culture and makes us a stronger, better firm. At BCLP, we are dedicated to fostering an environment where everyone feels celebrated for their difference, is able be themselves and can contribute meaningfully to our firm’s success. We believe that no one should be held back because of their age, disability, genetic information, parental or family status, religion or belief, race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity (or expression), veteran status, or indeed any other aspect of who they are. We focus not only on the diversity of the people we bring to the firm, but in nurturing an inclusive, supportive and meritocratic environment, designed to inspire, develop and promote the trainees, associates and partners of tomorrow. At BCLP, we work with our colleagues and our clients to bring diversity and inclusivity into every aspect of our work and culture. While we recognise that we are on a journey and the work is not done, we are proud of the progress we have made so far and we are steadfast in our commitment to promote and sustain an open, inclusive and supportive working environment. BCLP’s Global Inclusion & Diversity Action Board is responsible for shaping the strategic direction of diversity across the firm. The board comprises partners and leaders from Germany, Hong Kong, UAE, the US and the UK. Reporting directly to BCLP’s Board and co-chairs, the Global Diversity & Inclusion Board’s remit is mapped across four pillars: Inclusive Culture; Leadership Accountability; Talent Pipeline; and Community Engagement. We have a number of active diversity networks, for disability, family, gender representation, LGBTQ*, mental health, and social inclusion and ethnicity. Our diversity networks ensure those from marginalised groups have a voice – raising awareness and understanding across our firm of what it can feel like if you are in the minority. Our networks actively inform and shape our approach to diversity, empowering members with an opportunity to develop new skills and to create connections with senior figures or those in different parts of our business.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Competition Law: Private Enforcement: Claimant (Band 3)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 2)
    • Environment & Climate Change (Band 2)
    • Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Asset Finance: Rail Finance (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 5)
    • Hotels & Leisure (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Licensing (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 3)
    • Sport (Band 5)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 4)
    • Transport: Rail: Planning & Authorisation (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 1)