This firm’s vast private client work in London and the surrounds is sure to leave you speech-less.
Charles Russell Speechlys training contract review 2024
If we were going off first impressions, we would say CRS makes a pretty strong one. When clicking on the firm’s homepage for the first time, sliding tiles of a family happily strolling through a field greet you, as well as an ornate chandelier, along with the words: “knowing what matters.” And that would be the private client work the firm is known for. Trainees clearly got the memo too, as one told us that: “I knew the firm did good quality private client work, and the work is impressive given it’s a relatively small firm.” Chambers High Net Worth confirms this, as CRS dominates the rankings for private wealth law and private wealth disputes in both the UK and internationally. The firm also gets top marks for ultra-high net worth family work, high value real estate and immigration matters.
“It is full-service firm, so although I had an idea what I would like to do, there is an opportunity to do other things as well that wouldn’t limit my career too early on”
But CRS is no one-trick pony. In fact, Chambers UK dishes out top billings to the firm for its corporate/M&A and real estate work in its London office. In the South West, CRS’s family, agriculture affairs, construction, employment, litigation(commercial and real estate) and restructuring & insolvency practices receive plenty of praise too. The range of work on offer was another point of note for interviewees: “It’s an all-service firm, so although I had an idea what I would like to do, there was an opportunity to do other things as well that wouldn’t limit my career too early on.”
The firm’s UK bases include London, Guildford and Cheltenham. Though there are also eight overseas offices across Europe and the Middle East, along with a base in Hong Kong. This international element clearly swayed some interviewees: “the international offices appealed to me. Firstly, for the chance of secondment, but also being able to collaborate with offices as there is a lot of multijurisdictional work,” confirmed one trainee. Secondments are only on offer for London trainees and opportunities depend on business needs, though some places on offer include Geneva, Paris, Zurich, Dubai and Hong Kong. CRS also started taking training contract applications to its Hong Kong office for the first time this year. But for those who’d prefer to stay in the land of tea and crumpets, the firm takes on 26 trainees across its UK offices, and over half of them can be found in the London base. The remainder are equally spread between Guildford and Cheltenham.
When newbies first join, they listen to presentations on the teams and what work they can expect to do if they were to join them. Then, trainees rank their top three to four preferences. We heard that “second years tend to get priority,” but due to the smaller cohort, “everyone has open discussions about their preferences which gives everyone the best chance to get what they want.” There are no compulsory seats at CRS, expect for the standard requirement to sit in litigation. Overall, trainees were positive about seat allocation, as “people normally get their first and second choice.”
Tax, trusts and succession (commonly known as TT&S) is a magnet to those eager to deal with the firm’s high net worth clients. Although the clients themselves are, unsurprisingly, confidential, we can confirm that they are very wealthy and based across the globe. One trainee described the matters as a "melting pot of different areas.” Though work typically ranged from “preparing wills, inheritance tax planning, probate and tax advice.” One interviewee told us that “there is generally a range of drafting, like preparing wills and trusts, and some estate admin.” They added that “the team is never not busy!” Another source mentioned that “it’s much more technical than other areas of law, so you’re encouraged to do as much technical research as you want.” Though the key aspect of this seat was the client contact: “I enjoyed building personal relationships and gaining their trust. Obviously, no one wants to think about when they die, but we are there to help them through the process of estate planning.” This group also does work in charity law work centred around “grant letters and agreements and preparations for board meetings.” Reflecting on their time in the team, one insider told us that, “you’re exposed to challenging and complex matters, not shut in a corner with basic work! You can navigate your own way.”
When life gives clients lemons, the private wealth disputes team help them make lemonade (hypothetically, of course). This team handles disputes over wills and trusts, creating “some real responsive litigation work.” Trainees mentioned working on a lot of contested probates - Which, in simple terms, is where two parties dispute how a person’s estate is distributed after they pass away. A key moment in this seat for one source was going to a trouble table meeting for a trust dispute “which shows the team is willing to get trainees involved when they can.”
“The project management in real estate was valuable. I managed and ran matters on my own.”
CRS’s real estate seat offers both contentious and non-contentious work. On the transactional side, clients are “primarily commercial.” The most recent include representing leisure giants David Lloyd, on their acquisition of a new club in London. The team also advised Biomed Realty on a joint venture agreement with Babraham Research Campus Limited, for the development of a 40,000 sq ft purpose-built life sciences building. Like many transactional seats, day-to-day trainee work involved a lot of case management: “The project management in real estate was valuable. I managed and ran matters on my own with appropriate support.” And it doesn’t stop there. Other sources spoke of “negotiating and agreeing terms of a lease, reviewing certificates of title and lots of ancillary drafting.” The team recently transitioned to London, and insiders were sure that “the team is bettering now more than ever.”
On the flip side is the real estate disputes team. One trainee admitted that “I didn’t want to do litigation, but the exposure to when things go wrong and learning how to manage clients in intense situations is great as emotions run quite high.” Top skills trainees developed in this seat were “managing communications with outside clients and external bodies, as well as learning how to reprioritise things as matters develop.” The work covers a “wide gamut” for both commercial and residential properties. Recent clients include the Church Commissioners for England, Eton College and Stonegate Pub Company. CRS also defended wagamama in a case brought against it by a subsidiary of Legal & General, connected to the Arndale Centre extension in Eastbourne.
Another contentious seat trainees could be found in was commercial disputes resolution. This team isn’t particularly focused on one area, but one source told us that “we can do anything from 100,000 pounds to multimillion pound national work. Any kind of dispute that comes across the desk is different.” Recently, CRS acted for Greggs in a £150 million insurance claim triggered by the Covid-19 crisis, before the High Court. Trainees in this team got tasked with “doing legal research across industries”, as well as “completing document reviews and preparing witnesses statements.” For some trainees, they even got to “have a go at running the smaller claims!” The team was also praised for its “cross-office model. As you are finding yourself working across England and Europe on cross-border matters”.
“The culture is really good,” led one Guildford trainee. Adding that “there is a really strong focus on not just the work but building the team attitude too.” Those in Cheltenham praised the close-knit space: “it's a smaller office than the others and because of that, I know everyone. If I walk in the lift, I tend to know everyone in there.” Over in the London office, trainees commended partners for their approachability, “not only about work, but about the industry and their experiences which is useful.” Generally, folks in the regional offices seemed to be in the office more than those in London who were said to “have more of a home life.” The blanket policy is that everyone is expected to be in the office three days a week. But one source did concede that, “in some teams, the work is paper-heavy, so you might have to be in four to five days a week.”
For those that were in the office often, they got us up to speed with all of the social events on the calendar. The social and sports committees got people involved in team-building activities. For example, one source told us that “I hadn’t been at the firm long, and I got involved in a tennis tournament where I networked internally and externally.” We heard of other ball games like softball and rounders events. But for the sports averse, the firm holds a Bake-Off event, where trainees can let out their inner Paul Hollywood.
CRS also do a good job with diversity on the recruitment front. “They don’t look at what school you went to, so everyone isn’t just from private schools and Russell Group unis,” mentioned one trainee. Other efforts noted by sources included “a huge amount of work with Career Start, to help people get into a corporate environment” and “diversity events like International Women's Day. They held those talks during work hours and encouraged everyone to listen to them. For the firm it was important enough to justify taking an hour out of the working day.”
“There is no expectation to stay late and if you have evening plans, it will be rare that I will have to cancel or postpone.”
Trainees told us that hours are consistent, with 8.30am being a typical start, along with a 6.30pm finish. Naturally, this did shift around depending on which team trainees sat in. Though, one interviewee shared that “I would say over my whole training contract, my hours have been fair.” Another noted that “there is no expectation or culture of having to stay late, it will be rare that I will have to cancel or postpone evening plans.” Trainees kept this in mind when it came to talking about the salary.The amount was said to be “on market” overall, however, some interviewees felt that “the NQ salary could be better. We have lost a few people to Bristol firms, as there are just as accessible with the same hours and work.” But ultimately, the lower hours and work life balance meant that sources “can’t complain too much!” On top of this, the firm recently increased salaries in the Cheltenham office.
When qualification comes round, final seaters are kept in the know with all of the key dates and information about the process. Trainees are encouraged to reach out to their preferred teams and have conversations about their interests. One trainee suggested “asking recent NQs about their journeys to get insight qualifying into the team.” The technicalities of the process involve submitting a CV and cover letter for the role and there is usually an interview too. “It did feel formal leading up to it, but it's more like a discussion where they ask you more industry-wide questions,” noted one second-year trainee.
Time to russell up some business skills: The CRS business school helps trainees to brush up on time management and organisational skills. There’s even a programme specifically aimed at women for career progression.
How to get a Charles Russell Speechlys training contract
- APPLY HERE
- Placement scheme deadline: 15 January 2024 (opens 2 October 2023)
- Training contract deadline (2026): 15 January 2024 (opens 2 October 2023)
- Open day deadline: 15 November 2023 (opens 15 September 2023)
Each year, the firm recruits around 25 trainees across its offices in London, Guildford, Cheltenham and Hong Kong. About half its future trainees are picked up from the placement scheme and half from the direct training contract route. The firm encourages you to “please apply for what suits you best rather than what you think we want! We also encourage candidates to come to either an in person or virtual open day to get to know us.”
The application process
All candidates – whether they're applying for the placement scheme or directly for a training contract – complete the same application form. When reviewing the forms, the firm are looking for “talented individuals who are aligned with our values of being Authentic, Collaborative, Committed and Forward Looking, along with a client centric approach and commitment to driving high standards. Its also key to have a focus on your own personal development and champion an inclusive culture ,” says early talent manager, Joanna Stevens.
How much work experience is necessary? “We appreciate it’s been harder to gain work experiences over the past few years, but it helps to have some legal experience whether in person or virtually. There are lots of ways you can get this through joining virtual insight sessions or completing modular online programmes. These can be used to showcase why law is the right career for you and give examples of the sorts of things you’ve enjoyed. Non-legal experiences are just as important to highlight the transferable skills you've learned and how they're useful – customer-service skills, for instance, help with developing client relationships.”
Following the application form, candidates will be shortlisted to complete a video interview. “Here we want to see more of your individual personality and why you’re keen to join us. We also want to understand your broader commercial acumen and international outlook as this is a big focus for us as an international firm,” explains Joanna.
For those that have applied for a placement scheme, successful candidates will then be offered a place. During the scheme candidates are required to take part in the assessment centre that ascertains their suitability for a training contract. For those that have applied directly for a training contract, an invitation to attend an assessment centre is offered upon successful completion of the video interview.
All candidates experience the same assessment centre, which is made up of a mix of group and individual tasks. The assessment centre includes a face-to-face interview and other exercises which are designed to assess potential and identified performance criteria.
People come to us from a variety of backgrounds and degree disciplines, with a range of views that combine to give Charles Russell Speechlys its distinctive perspective on the law – the assessment centre is designed for candidates to showcase their best self and also to get to know the firm in return. Joanna explains “our aim is for candidates to come out the other side having enjoyed the day and feeling that they have showcased their best self. Hopefully you’ll have got a real sense of our people and culture. We want to get the best out of you and are never there to catch you out.”
Joanna also highlights “We are able to make adjustments for those who require it so encourage you to get in touch with our Early Talent team if you think this might apply. It’s important to us that you have the right arrangements to perform at your best. So if you aren’t sure, it’s always best to ask and we are happy to help.”
The placement scheme
Placement schemes take place in all UK offices across April, June and July and in Hong Kong over the summer. Those who make it through to the scheme spend time in either one or two practice areas. Candidates can list preferences on a form and the Early Talent Team will do its best to accommodate their choices. According to Joanna Stevens, Early Talent Manager, the scheme is like “a very mini-training contract. We try and give candidates as much exposure as possible: they'll attend client meetings and do real fee-earning work, like research on a case or checking through a document.” Candidates have a supervisor, though “they might not be the only person giving them work. They also have a trainee buddy for the whole period.” There are also social events to get a real insight into our people and culture.
At the end of the scheme all candidates receive detailed feedback on how they have performed both during scheme and on the assessment centre. “It’s a two-way process,” says Joanna; “we also like to receive feedback from the students so we can continually work to improve our schemes.”
- Spring 2024 – 2 – 12 April 2024
- Summer 2024 – 3 – 14 June 2024
- Spring 2024 – 15 – 19 April 2024
- Summer 2024 – 8 – 12 July 2024
- Summer (1) 2024 – 24 – 28 June 2024
- Summer (2) 2024 – 1 – 5 July 2024
- 30 November 2023 – London In-Person Open Day
- 5 December 2023 – Virtual Open Day (to cover all offices)
- 6 December 2023 – Guildford In-Person Open Day
- 13 December 2023 – Cheltenham In-Person Open Day
- 9 January 2024 – London In-Person Open Day
- 10 January 2024 - Virtual Open Day (to cover all offices)
Charles Russell Speechlys
5 Fleet Place,
Our ability to understand people makes us who we are. Our Firm is built on establishing trusted, personal relationships with our clients. Relationships that matter. We are an international law firm with a focus on private capital, at the intersection of personal, family and business.
We offer legal services across the private capital space and a broad range of integrated advisory, transactional and contentious services. The results are deep and trusted relationships that deliver meaningful value.
We are here to guide our clients through your most pressing challenges and rewarding opportunities. We do this by getting to the heart of their needs to bring them the best-fit solutions.
Our Firm is headquartered in London with offices across the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Whether your business operates in a single country or across borders, we’ll put together your perfect team – pulling from our sector and geographical expertise and our partnerships with the best law firms across the world covering 200 legal jurisdictions.
There are some recent changes to the way Solicitors qualify and we have given a lot of thought as to how we can continue to support you throughout your training contract. Our preference is for candidates to undertake the Solicitors Qualifying Exam going forward, however our Training Contract will also support those who have already commenced or completed the LPC. Please note, we will only sponsor the SQE going forward.
Both pathways are designed to give you the best possible training with the firm and encourage you to develop the key legal and business skills to enable you to become a successful lawyer.
I have started or completed the LPC at point of offer
If you have already started or completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at point of offer, you will be able to qualify under the existing route:
• Completed law degree / Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and started / completed LPC already.
• 2-year ‘Recognised Period of Training’, also referred to as a Training Contract. You will not need to sit the SQE exams or accrue ‘Qualifying Work Experience’ as outlined in the new route to qualification. .
I have not started or completed the LPC
If you haven’t started or completed the LPC at point of offer, you’ll undertake the new SQE route:
• Post-Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) – for non-law students. See further details below.
• SQE LLM - Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam preparation courses and exams – you’ll do both SQE 1 and SQE 2 as well as our SQE Plus programme which will contribute towards a Masters in Legal Practice (LLM). See further details below.
• 2 years of ‘Qualifying Work Experience’ with the firm.
Non law students – Post-Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDip)
We have partnered with The University of Law to provide all of our post-graduate courses.
If you have not studied a law degree, we will sponsor you to complete your Post-Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDL). This will replace the previous version of the GDL course. This 9-month programme will cover all the foundation subjects covered in a law degree and will begin to prepare you for the SQE exams.
We appreciate that full time study isn’t feasible for everyone so we also offer a 20-month part time option which we would be happy to discuss on a case by case basis to accommodate your circumstances. Following that discussion, if you prefer to study part time, you’ll be able to choose the approach that works best for you from a range of weekend, evening and online options.
If you have already started or completed the old version of the GDL, we will accept this form of the course.
Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) Courses and Exams
Once you’ve completed your law degree or PGDL, we will then sponsor you to study for and undertake the SQE. You’ll undertake the SQE preparation course with The University of Law and sit exams as below: • SQE 1 Preparation Course – September to January
• SQE 1 Preparation Course – September to January
• SQE 1 Exam – January
• SQE 2 Preparation Course – February to April
• SQE 2 Exam – April
• SQE Plus programme – May to July
Our programme with The University of Law includes the SQE Plus Programme – you’ll chose modules from our CRS Elective Modules list to study in more detail. This will prepare you well for practice at the firm by focusing on our areas of specialism, alongside developing practical legal skills. The SQE 1, SQE 2 and SQE Plus programme combines together so you’ll be studying for a Masters in Legal Practice (LLM).
As we recruit two years in advance, the Early Talent team will be here to support you before you start and throughout your training contract. We keep in regular contact and organise Early Talent events throughout the year for our current and future trainees which provides a great opportunity to network and get to know those you will be working with. By the time you join us, you’ll recognise a few familiar and friendly faces, and it will already feel like home!
While at the firm, both routes will consist of 4 x 6-month seats, giving you the opportunity to experience a range of different practice areas and engage in high level work with both private and commercial clients. We provide a practical learning environment for Trainees where emphasis is given to early responsibility and supervised client contact.
We actively encourage our Trainees to go on either a client or international secondment. These opportunities help you build a wider skillset and see things from a client’s perspective, or enhance your international outlook by gaining exposure to work in a different jurisdiction. Secondments vary depending on business need, but our current client secondments include a private equity fund manager, a commercial bank, and an in-house commercial team for one of our large construction clients. Our international secondment opportunities include Private Client in our Swiss offices, or a mixture of practice areas in our Hong Kong, Dubai or Paris offices.
We also encourage you to get involved beyond the day to day work through our Responsible Business activities, whether that’s through our pro-bono practice, volunteering with our CRS Foundation, or getting involved in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. You can find out more in our Responsible Business reports on our website.
Throughout the Training Contract there are regular catch ups and reviews between Trainees and supervisors to support your development and ensure you are continuing to receive a broad range of quality work.
Your legal training will also be supplemented by our CRS Business School which has specific development programmes for each stage of your career, including the Ignite programme which is designed for Trainees to build professional and commercial skills.
Furthermore, as part of our Sports and Social Committee offering, you could get involved with a range of additional activities from Football or Netball to Yoga or Tennis. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it doesn’t matter – its about connecting with your colleagues and taking part.
Deciding which law firm is right for you is not always easy. Our Placement scheme will help you to feel fully informed and allow you to experience our culture for yourself.
Our Placement Scheme provides a chance to spend time at Charles Russell Speechlys and see exactly what we do on a daily basis.
You’ll spend either 1 or 2 weeks in our office depending on which Placement scheme you apply for. Each week is spent in a different practice area where you will carry out real fee earning work that could include attending client meetings and going to court.
Support is always close at hand, with a current trainee as mentor and an associate as sponsor for each placement. You’ll also meet a variety people, either at organised social events or as part of your day to day interactions, and this will give you a real insight into the culture of the firm.
During your time with us you’ll be automatically considered for a Training Contract and will take part in an assessment centre which will be reviewed along with your performance during the Placement Scheme.
All our placement schemes are paid at £420 per week in London, and £382 per week in Cheltenham and Guildford.
2024 Vacation Scheme dates will be as follows:
• Spring 2024 – 2nd – 12th April 2024
• Summer 2024 – 3rd – 14th June 2024
• Spring 2024 – 15th – 19th April 2024
• Summer 2024 – 8th – 12th July 2024
• Summer 1 2024 – 24th – 28th June 2024
• Summer 2 2024 – 1st – 5th July 2024
• June 2024
Applications open: 2 October 2023
Applications close: 15 January 2024
We know it’s important to focus your applications towards law firms that fit with you rather than adopting a scattergun approach. It’s key to get as much information as possible and a feel for the firm before applying.
Come along to an Open Day to find out more about life at our firm. You’ll hear about what life is like as a trainee and from associates and partners across the firm about the breadth of work that we do. The Early Talent team will also be on hand to answer any questions you have about our Training Contract application process. Applications are open to first year university students onwards and can be made by submitting an application form through our application portal - https://charlesrussellspeechlys.app.candidats.io/roles
Reasonable travel expenses will be covered and lunch provided for in-person open days.
Please note, you can apply for Training Contract and Vacation Schemes separately after having submitted and attended an Open Day.
2023-4 Open Day dates will be as follows:
30th November – London In-Person Open Day
5th December – Virtual Open Day (to cover all offices)
6th December – Guildford In-Person Open Day
13th December – Cheltenham In-Person Open Day
9th January – London In-Person Open Day
10th January - Virtual Open Day (to cover all offices)
Applications open: 15 September 2023
Applications Close: 15 November 2023
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
Guildford and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 3)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 2)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Planning (Band 5)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 2)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
- Charities (Band 4)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 3)
- Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 3)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 4)
- Immigration: Business (Band 3)
- Professional Discipline (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Sport (Band 2)