A plethora of property and private wealth prowess awaits trainees at “a place where you feel valued as an individual.”
Cripps training contract review 2022
The Garden of England – otherwise known as Kent – is bountiful. It has rolling pastures, beautiful coastlines, and most importantly, hosts a thriving regional legal scene. Nestled in the heart of Tunbridge Wells is Cripps: a “relatively full-service, medium-sized firm with a good reputation” which also has “a great working culture that wants its trainees to excel.” Let’s start with its size: 2018 saw legacy firm Cripps merge with Chelsea’s Pemberton Greenish, creating a firm with a larger trainee cohort, a larger overall headcount, and broader practice area offerings. The combined firm currently recruits into its Tunbridge Wells base.
Its reputation? Our colleagues at Chambers UK see the firm as a significant player in the South. Its planning, professional negligence, and real estate litigation practices are given top-end rankings, with similarly commendable accolades awarded for its mid-market corporate/M&A, private equity, construction, employment, real estate, and more. The firm’s family and agricultural/rural affairs practices also receive top scores in Kent, and Chambers High Net Worth considers the firm a ‘national leader outside London’ for private wealth law.
“They care about their people here… I know my voice is being heard.”
And finally, its cultural qualities. “They care about their people here… I know my voice is being heard.” While most sources championed cultural dynamics, some identified a few common merger-related teething problems. Former name partner Damian Greenish left the firm last year, which some found personified this chapter of change. Going forward, most felt optimistic about creases being ironed out. “The virtual pandemic era has helped bring teams together actually, for work and socials over Zoom. It’s a slow process to merge all these different aspects but we’re getting there.”
In normal times, trainees do four seats of six months apiece, however the class of 2020 saw periods of furlough which resulted in some shortened/extended seats. Prior to starting, incomers pick five preferred departments for their entire training contract. “Not everyone in my intake was happy with their seat allocations,” one source said. “It’s a minor point, but I would want to choose my seats as the contract goes on rather than choosing up front.” However, most found that “they allocate seats quite well and are good about trying to accommodate swaps if available.” There are no compulsory seats, although sources noted that it’s likely “most will do one property seat,” as well as a stint in a contentious department.
Commercial property is divided into yellow, blue, and green teams; trainees typically sit with a supervisor within one of these teams but they can still gain experience across all three areas (the divisions aren't strict for the department's lawyers either). The yellow team is based in CPG's London Victoria office and acts for many landed estates in the city. The blue team focuses on development and planning matters, while the green contingent has an expert handle on all things tied to real estate investment and finance.The department works with both commercial and residential developments, acting for clients such as Endurance Land, EKC Group and Hermes Real Estate. One matter saw the firm advise Runnymede Borough Council on asset management matters for its Addlestone One development in Surrey. “The bulk of my work was land registry,” one source said. Other sources gained wider exposure in reviewing leases, drafting statutory declarations and “long reports on title for clients wanting to develop.” Sources also appreciated receiving “quite a lot of client exposure during that seat where I was given a lot of responsibility to run with small matters.” Folks in Tunbridge Wells noted matters they worked on were “usually in this area, but we do still get work from across the country, as well as more London clients now.”
“I was emailing the client a lot and other teams in the firm for their input. It was nice to take charge on a project.”
The firm’s corporate department covers mid-market M&A, banking and finance, private equity and employment matters. Healthcare remains a big focus, as well as other sectors including tech, media, advertising and childcare/education. “We’re doing lots of work for nurseries as well as food and drink clients at the moment,” one noticed. One matter saw the firm advise shareholders of the Sahara Group, an audio-visual technology company, on its sale to Boxlight Corporation for £74 million in cash and stock considerations. Cripps also acts for clients like The John Lyon School and Berry Bros. & Rudd, and has recently increased its international scope, dealing with matters in the US, France, and Spain. Trainees kept busy with ancillary documents, disclosure and most aspects of the due diligence process, as well as drafting articles of associations and shareholder agreements on smaller corporate matters. By the end of the seat, one mentioned “I was emailing the client a lot and other teams in the firm for their input. It was nice to take charge on a project.”
In commercial dispute resolution, solicitors work on contract disputes, shareholder disputes, insolvency and restructuring-related litigation, as well as technology disputes and professional negligence claims. “Food and beverages is a big sector,” according to one source, as is work for advertising, media, retail, and technology clients. The firm recently acted for a charter airline in a claim against a national airline for breach of contract for wrongful termination. Work for clients such as Eurotunnel / The Channel Tunnel Group, University of Kent, and Holiday Extras keeps a “fairly small team consistently busy.” One source was involved in a “big trial,” helping with disclosure exercises, while another mentioned finding a virtual trial “very interesting, with lots of responsibility liaising between counsel and drafting witness statements.”
Private wealth involved “lots of deed-drafting and dealing with the administration of trusts and wills” for – you guessed it – high net worth individuals. Sources drafted LPAs, drafted inheritance tax reports, and also attended estate planning meetings with clients using Cripps Life – a service “for those want their finances dealt with if they’re losing capacity.” One junior added: “There’s also a fair amount of research; I spent a week researching a very niche area of inheritance tax. It can be quite complex.”
“The firm advertises itself as a nice place to work and it’s true. People are very friendly, and no one’s really demanding or unpleasant to work with.” This collegial approach reportedly runs through all degrees of seniority, while the smaller trainee cohort also helped to bolster relationships. Others added: “It’s not cutthroat here either. Even though we do London-quality work, there isn’t a ‘City’ mentality insofar as it’s quite a fun place to be.”
“Partners are often the ones saying ‘Let’s go to the pub’ first.”
An active sociallife is a key part of the fun at CPG. An internal event called ‘Flashmob’ sees trainees putting on surprise events “to lift people’s spirits.” We heard the group performed in orange morph suits during the firm’s Christmas lunch and does “silly things” like a ‘secret Cupid’ leaving Valentine’s Day messages on people’s desks. (Although we should note that these events haven't been happening while most folks at Cripps work remotely due to the pandemic). A Friday drinks trolley, department lunches, and weekly drinks kept trainees wistfully reflecting on pre-pandemic life. “Partners are often the ones saying ‘Let’s go to the pub’ first. I think they enjoy going out to have fun more than the trainees!” Although some admitted socialising had “dried up somewhat” during lockdown, others actually found “the Microsoft Teams and Zoom era has helped in bringing teams together and getting to know the London team better.”
There’s time for such frivolity partly because the “work-life balance is so positive.” One noted that “the latest I’ve had to work to was 10–11pm, but I can count those moments on one hand.” Another added that life is “very much a 9am to 6pm. I was expecting to work a lot more hours!” These more regional-typical working schedules are understandably offset by regional remuneration. However, trainees agreed “it’s very competitive by regional standards,” and most appreciated that salary was offset by a “fantastic work-life balance.”
The qualification process split opinion. Some dubbed it “informal and murky,” with one source “not really knowing how it works.” Others spoke with greater insight: “I wouldn’t say it’s unclear. We’re asked to pick our area around a month into the final seat. I know what I wanted and have spoken to the relevant people.” The overriding message? He who asks, gets. One source summarised: “More info would have been great; you have to ask the questions yourself.” Despite its informal approach, sources agreed “they make a real effort to keep you on.” In 2021, the firm retained six out of nine trainees.
“The firm advertises itself as a nice place to work and it’s true.”
How to get a Cripps training contract
Paralegal apprenticeship deadline: mid-March 2022
Training contract applications
Cripps receives around 186 applications for the ten training contracts it offers each year. Candidates submit an 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. First-stage candidates are also required to complete a Watson Glaser critical thinking test. Around 20 candidates typically pass this stage and are invited back for a final interview, typically with two partners.
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.
The trainee cohort joining the firm in September 2024 will be the first cohort to follow the SQE programme which has been put together in conjunction with BPP University. 100% of course costs will be covered as long as the candidate attends the BPP programme offered. Full details on the website.
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 the People Team 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,” senior people manager Sarah Miles 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,” Miles informs us. The firm generally asks for aspiring trainees to have a 2:1 degree and a minimum BBB at A Level, although this is set out a as a guide only. “Good grades are valuable, but we also look for commercial awareness and practical problem-solving skills,” Miles 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.”
Interview with managing partner Gavin Tyler
Chambers Student: How has the year gone for the firm?
Gavin Tyler: It was better than we feared a year ago. We rewrote the budget, cut profit and income projections, but income and overall turnover – maybe a little down, maybe a little up – has been an improvement on what we expected. Last year wasn’t good for profit, as we spent money shutting down in King’s Hill and restructuring the IT and so on; things all hit at once. Brexit also hurt us quite badly, particularly on the real estate side, which was impacted quite heavily. It has improved significantly though. We’re small number in number and there’s natural wastage, but the last six months has been very busy, and we are recruiting now; the wheel for talent is spinning.
CS: What practices have been performing particularly well?
GT: Corporate has gone very well and private wealth has stood up a lot stronger than expected, as has residential property. We tend to focus, particularly in London and Tunbridge Wells, on the high-end market and that has been really buoyant. We expected a downturn, but it didn’t happen; everyone’s been flat out. Commercial real estate felt the pain as much as anyone, it’s a bit more volatile. It’s the first to slow down when economic factors bite but also the first to come back as well, and we’ve seen a jump in recent months with investor clients getting back on the horse. There’s still a big shortage of houses and they’re driving things forward. It got caught with supply chain issues last year, and development slowed, but very much back at 100% gunning.
CS: What does the next year look like for the firm? Are there any specific plans for growth? Am I right in saying the firm are moving to a new office in London?
GT: A lot of uncertainty. We expect a lot of things to remain similar, with things unlocking in Autumn. Economic effects of Brexit will work their way through, with leisure and retail slowly getting going. First half of year will carry on as it is now, but we’re hoping for a mini-boom in the second half of the year as confidence comes back with a lot to look forward to. New London office, going public in a number of months, hopefully starting fit out week after next and hoping to be in the first week of May.
CS: What challenges come from merging two firms? Some trainees noted that there’s still some cultural creases being ironed out?
GT: I think biggest challenge I think was for lawyers who were used to working in smaller units. Being part of a larger organisation now, with the process and rules required in bigger firms is needed, with less freedom to make it up as you go along. Our view was learning to understand the London market. 40% of our clients have London postcodes, and they used us as regional firm as it’s a different type of law firm with different types of cost. But London has a slightly different way of working where it’s more relationship based, and client based around partners and dependent on that relationship rather than joint CRMs or parts of firms acting for certain clients. Medium sized London firms are slightly less specialised, with lawyers knowing more about more things. Whereas in a larger firm you’ve got expertise in different fields; a residential conveyancer doesn’t need commercial or development work because we have a team doing that, whereas London developing selling off flat would deal with that themselves, so it’s understanding those differences but that’s ancient history now and things are running smoothly.
CS: You mentioned last year about putting people over profit, what has that looked like during multiple lockdowns?
GT: That has helped us a lot; people trust us as partners and leaders. Our bulletins have brought great feedback. What we have done for our people has been so much more than other firms who put people on furlough and didn’t speak to them for six months. We used the scheme but we kept in regular contact and did rotating furlough – month out, month back – so we weren’t losing contact. It’s a people business and without them you go nowhere. That’s held us in good stead. Profit is an outcome always and looks after itself if you get everything right; profit for the sake of profit works in the short term but you can’t cut your way to profit, it’s about sustainability, more than just a place to work, it’s about being part of something bigger.
CS: Pandemic aside, are there any other broader trends/challenges affecting life at the firm? Whether politically, economically, culturally, or otherwise.
GT: No more so than other firms in the market, but the disruption of types of providers out there. Firms are taking external investment, being listed on AIMs market, like Knights and Gately. A benefit of that investment is in IT. The pandemic has accelerated the use of IT in the legal profession by about five years. Got in DocuSign almost overnight; in the past we’d have done a small, controlled pilot and reviewed in a series of meetings, but managed just to do it and it’s been absolutely brilliant and saved so much time in transactional working. It was a headache before but now electronic signatures and you’re away it’s a game-changer. We’ve been striving for paperless working and again while working from home, people know you don’t have to print and hard file copy everything. It’s been great, I don’t know what we’ve saved in paper but it’s a lot!
CS: What advice would you offer to students about to begin their legal careers?
GT: It’s about being clear about what you want from your career and the type of law you want to do because it is now a very competitive marketplace. It’s tech, client and service driven now, and so much more than just imparting legal knowledge and helping people; you’ve got to advise, communicate, and being a chameleon in the ways, needs, and wants of a client. Probably harder now than when I came into the profession where lawyers were just thought of as very bright people, we don’t have the aura anymore. We used to be respected as we were just solicitors but now you’ve got to earn it and engage and not just hide behind your knowledge; you have to communicate in a new and more developed way. Technology has meant things are available now online; doctors will tell you that patients know what’s wrong with them coming through the door. Now it’s working out what there problem is rather than what they come to you with.
- Partners: 63
- Associates: 99
- Total trainees: (1st+2nd years, as of 1 October 2020) 20
- UK offices: Tunbridge Wells and London
- Graduate recruiter: Annabel Goh, Emerging Talent Manager, email@example.com; 01892 506063
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 10
- Applications pa: 180
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 (guide only)
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: three ‘Bs’ at A Level (guide only)
- Vacation scheme places pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: January 2022
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: July 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £28,000 (with a London allowance for London seats)
- Second-year salary: £30,000 (with a London allowance for London seats)
- Post-qualification salary: £42,500 (Tunbridge Wells), £53,000 (London)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: no
- International and regional
- Three month M&G Secondment
Cripps is one of the country’s leading legal practices serving corporate, real estate and private clients. With offices in Kent and London, the firm offers a flexible team of more than 450 people to deliver exceptional service to its clients. The firm builds, equips and continuously strengthens its teams, investing in the best talent and technology to deliver this service.
Main areas of work
Agriculture and estates; banking and finance; charities; construction; contentious trusts and probate; corporate and commercial; dispute resolution; education; employment; environment; family; food and drink; healthcare; information technology; intellectual property; media and entertainment; partnerships; planning; private client; professional negligence; property development; property litigation; real estate; restructuring and insolvency; retail; social housing; trusts and personal tax.
We offer a comprehensive induction programme and ongoing training throughout the two-year contract. Support is provided regularly through structured reviews and on-the-job coaching. We offer a four-seat training contract providing genuine hands-on experience. Levels of responsibility are high with many trainees managing their own files under supervision.
We offer a 2 week summer vacation scheme in our Tunbridge Wells office during which students will experience three different practice areas.
Applications are invited from second year or third year law undergraduates or students currently studying the GDL.
Many vacation scheme students later join us as trainees but we do not recruit solely from this cohort.
Benefits include pension scheme and season ticket loans. We also provide an uplift in salary while undertaking a London-based seat as well as the associated travel costs between our Kent and London offices.
University law careers fairs 2021
BPP National Law Fair, 13 October 2021
BPP Regional Law Fair, 27 October 2021
University of Sussex and University of Brighton Careers Fair, 3 November 2021
University of Surrey Virtual Law Fair, 10 November 2021
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Diversity, equality and inclusion are more than simply words. Every person is, by definition, unique; we recognise people’s individual needs and do everything in our power to fulfil their aspirations.
We have active programmes around encouraging and nurturing diversity and inclusion, and have had a longstanding track record on ensuring equality.
We treat everyone we work alongside with dignity and respect and our policies on harassment, maternity and paternity leave, help uphold the importance of equality and inclusion in our culture.
The diversity of our team makes us more capable, responsive and, above all, human. We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer – our diversity enables us to better serve our clients and to create better solutions for them.
We are fully committed to fostering a truly diverse business that reflects the community and society we inhabit. To underline this commitment, we have signed the Law Society’s Charter on Diversity, which promotes diversity and equality across the entire legal profession.
You can read our equality, diversity and inclusivity policy here and our anti-slavery policy on our website.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
National Leaders (outside London)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- 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)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)