Following a merger with property pedigree Pemberton Greenish, it’s no wonder trainees feel it's an “exciting time” to be at Cripps.
Ready salted Cripps
It’s been a big year for Tunbridge Wells. Well, for its biggest law firm Cripps, at least. The firm announced in December 2018 that it would be merging with Londoner Pemberton Greenish, adding clout to both its real estate and private client practices. The addition of Chelsea-based Pemberton Greenish means that the newly merged firm will have a combined turnover of over £45 million and headcount of 450, including 119 partners. The merger process was completed in May 2019, with the firm now called Cripps Pemberton Greenish, and at the time of our calls trainees were decidedly perky about the firm’s future, telling us: “It’s really exciting to see new clients coming in, and there are plans to have the option to do seats in London in the future.” Going forward, the firm will take on nine trainees a year in Tunbridge Wells, Kings Hill and London (where there will be five seats), with the option of moving between offices.
Managing partner Gavin Tyler tells us: “We’ve gone through an unprecedented period of growth over the past six years, in order to increase our scale and enable us to meet client demands.” So why the merger with Pemberton Greenish in particular? “It was all about the shared values and culture,” Tyler tells us. “I spent the best part of three years trying to find the right fit.” Keep reading to find out more about being the right fit at Cripps.
“There are plans to have the option to do seats in London in the future.”
Cripps (pre-merger) is currently regionally ranked by Chambers UK for several property-related areas – real estate, real estate litigation, planning and construction – as well as other commercial areas like banking, corporate and litigation; it's also top-ranked by Chambers High Net Worth for private wealth law. Pemberton Greenish was Chambers ranked for property litigation and high-value residential property.
While Cripps has something of a focus on property and private client, it offers a range of seats which appealed to self-confessed “indecisive” trainees. At the end of summer, the firm sends first-years information about the seats on offer, and trainees reply with their five top preferences. “You find out all of your seats right from the beginning, which is helpful for planning,” we heard, although trainees noted that “if you want to swap with someone it’s very flexible.” While there aren’t any compulsory seats, the firm’s property focus means trainees are likely to spend time in at least one of its property departments.
Shake your Cripps
There are two seats available in the commercial property department: one focuses on planning, construction and investment work, while the other focuses on corporate real estate and residential development. The team recently advised a consortium of housebuilders including Bovis and Taylor Wimpey on buying land for a 1,880-unit development at Whiteley in Hampshire. It also helped French fashion brand Sandro on its acquisition of a new store on London's Regent Street, for which the rent is £1.2 million a year. One source reported being able to get involved in “major disposals of commercial properties, as well as landlord and tenant matters and a bit of development work.” Another told us they’d “drafted and completed a licence to alter on behalf of a landlord, as well as doing typical tasks like drafting licences to assign and carrying out SDLT [stamp duty land tax] returns.”
Contentious property issues are covered by the property disputes team; its clients include the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and property investor M&G Real Estate. The team recently advised the owners of Milton Keynes' largest shopping centre on company voluntary and insolvency processes for several of its shops, including House of Fraser, Jamie's Italian, Byron Burger, Carluccio's, Mothercare and Supercuts. Trainees described “serving notices in relation to protected tenancy under the 1954 Act, advising private clients on disputes relating to boundary issues, and dealing with lease disputes for bigger institutional clients.” There’s also a sub-team which covers contentious construction work, and trainee tasks here include “compiling court bundles, drafting instructions to counsel, and preparing particulars of claim.”
The construction team has clients like Crossrail, South East Water and the University of Kent on its books. It’s currently advising Slough Borough Council on the £1 billion regeneration of the town, including a library, football stadium and leisure centres. Trainee workloads include “drafting professional appointments, collateral warrantees and contracts, plus working with architects and other professionals to try and get the best deal for clients.” Sources noted that there are only four non-contentious construction fee earners, leading to an “immersive” experience.
“Clients have become more varied since the merger.”
Cripps’ private client department advises on tax, trusts, succession planning and the administration of estates for high net worth individuals and their families. We can’t give examples of the work due to the secretive nature of the practice, but trainees enjoyed “the variety of work on offer, which means if you don’t enjoy something you can just try something else.” Sources also described “a lot of drafting experience – I’ve drafted wills, deeds of appointment, probate applications and tax forms.” One source told us: “Clients have become more varied since the merger. It’s a real mix of individuals and trustees, as well as quite a few high net worth farming families in Kent.”
Contentious private client issues end up in the firm’s specialist disputes team. It covers things like wills disputes, administrations and executor disputes, as well as financial negligence. “I’ve been to a few hearings in London,” a trainee told us. “I’ve been given my own files to run and have done initial work like writing letters of claim and collecting background information from clients.”
Those who had spent time in the family group had a full-on experience, with more than one describing attending court within their first couple of weeks in the seat. The group covers divorce and finance as well as work with children. One source recalled “supporting clients and explaining how processes work, as well as sometimes being able to go into the advocacy room and take notes while observing.” Others described “standard jobs like bundling and preparing papers, as well as collecting evidence and taking notes. You’re completely trusted with clients – often you’re not even accompanied by a fee earner.”
Read my Cripps
“The fundamental thing about being here is that people actually enjoy working with each other,” one source reflected. “Everyone has different personalities but we all get on and respect each other.” Another interviewee told us that this sense of “inclusivity” was partly down to the firm’s bonus scheme, which means all employees get a bonus so “everyone has the incentive to work together.”
We heard that trainees are encouraged to get involved with organising social events including end of quarter drinks and an annual summer ball, as well as plenty of trips to the pub on a Friday. Cripps trainees also told us that they’d had the opportunity to meet people from Pemberton Greenish, and some had already spent a few days working in the London office. They added: “The firm’s been very transparent about the whole thing. There’s a merger page on the intranet, and they’ve personally responded to trainee queries, which shows how much we’re valued here.”
“There’s a merger page on the intranet, and they’ve personally responded to trainee queries.”
As well as plenty of on-the-job training, sources told us: “There’s a professional support lawyer who sets up loads of compulsory and optional sessions. When you start a seat, you get training and an induction, and there are always people you can ask questions.” The training contract kicks off with three weeks of training, and we heard about visits from “experts on things like SDLT, mortgages and claims. And there are three training days on leases coming up.” One second-year reflected: “I’ve never felt like I’ve been mollycoddled or spoon-fed. I’ve always been tested, but I’ve never felt I was left alone.”
All our sources reported civilised working hours, with an average working day of around 8.30am to 6.30pm. Most agreed that “it’s rare to leave after 7pm.” They also liked the firm’s Tunbridge Wells office, which is on the edge of the town centre and was built in 2016. The office houses “complete IT support, transcription tools and a post-completion team, so we’re very well looked after.” Another source added: “The office is very slick – it looks like a London office.” Speaking of which, we heard Cripps' digs in central London next to Cannon Street station are “great for client meetings.”
Managing partner Gavin Tyler says Cripps has its eye on advancing technologically “to change how we do things and maximise the benefits of technology.”
How to get a Cripps Pemberton Greenish training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 31 July 2020 (opens 1 December 2019)
Vacation scheme deadline (2020): 30 April 2020 (opens 1 December 2019)
Training contract applications
Cripps receives around 160 applications for the ten training contracts it offers each year. Candidates submit a CV, covering letter and application form. “There are no bizarre questions; it simply asks why you want to work for Cripps and what you can offer them,” insiders told us.
The firm shortlists 40 or so candidates for the first stage interview, which is held with two associates and the recruitment advisor. Around 20 candidates typically pass this stage and are invited back for a final interview, this time with a partner and the managing partner, and then the head of HR.
At this point contenders undergo a blind test. “The content is a closely guarded secret, but it won't be a legal question,” managing partner Gavin Tyler confirms.
Cripps runs a two-week vacation scheme every summer for second and third-year undergraduates or those studying the GDL. There are only a few spots up for grabs (six in total), so superb academics are a must. Applicants are required to submit an online application form, then undergo one interview with two members of HR, followed by further questions posed by two associates.
Participants spend their scheme rotating through three practice areas, completing an assessment after each rotation. “We would like those on our scheme to experience working with people at different levels,” head of HR Emma Brooks says, “so they will have exposure to partners, associates and trainees during the programme.” On the social front, standard activities like firm-led lunches and drinks take place. Cripps doesn't recruit trainees directly off the back of its vacation scheme, although students are encouraged to submit a training contract application afterwards.
When it comes to stand-out applicants, “excellent academics are our starting point, but we also look for strong verbal and communication skills,” Brooks informs us. Aspiring trainees need a 2:1 degree and a minimum BBB at A level. “Good grades are valuable, but we also look for commercial awareness and practical problem-solving skills,” Brooks adds. “If you can demonstrate that you want a long-term career with us and really want to work with us, you'll catch our attention.”
She goes on to tell us that “practising your interview technique is crucial. Interviewees should behave professionally but also be themselves. Make sure you research the firm thoroughly and are clear on your reasons for applying to Cripps in particular.”
Cripps Pemberton Greenish
- Partners 64
- Associates 119
- Total trainees 16
- UK offices Tunbridge Wells, Kings Hill and London
- Overseas offices None
- Graduate recruiter: Ashley Evans [email protected] 01892 506328
- Application criteria:
- Training contracts pa: 10
- Applications pa: 150-160
- Minimum required degree grade: 2.1 or above
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: BBB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 December every year
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 31 July 2020
- Vacation scheme: [Cancelled]
- LPC fees: 100% funded via BPP from 2021
- GDL fees: No, but Cripps can access a discount if with the BPP
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Tunbridge Wells, Kings Hill, London Chelsea
- Overseas seats: No
- Client secondments: Yes – subject to needs of clients
Main areas of work
• Corporate: 23%
• Dispute Resolution: 17%
• Private Client: 17%
University law fairs 2019
• University of Sussex
• University of Surrey
• University of Southampton
• BPP Law School
• University of Law
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
National Leaders (outside London)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Healthcare (Band 5)