A Southeast firm with plenty of private client clout, real estate expertise, and a beehive on the roof – can it be true? Cripps don’t lie.
Cripps training contract review 2024
For those who want to avoid the humdrum of the capital without straying too far, you might consider Cripps. This regional firm is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the capital in Tunbridge Wells. “I wanted a firm that was ranked highly, but still small enough to know everyone,” said one such Goldilocks seeking their perfect porridge.
Let’s start with the former part of the equation. Chambers UKrates Cripps as a leader in private wealth law outside of London, while its real estate practice is strong in the South. In Kent, it’s top-ranked in family, along with agriculture, IP, planning, professional negligence and real estate litigation in the South.
“Big real estate clients.”
We’ve covered rankings, so how about the size? The firm’s lawyer headcount totals around 180, so it’s by no means a small firm, but with only ten trainees joining the ranks each year, “everyone knows your name.” All of the newbies are based in Tunbridge Wells, but depending on their seat, they may have the opportunity to spend time in the London office, as this interviewee happily attested: “I frequently travel up to London.” Boosted by a recent rebrand and a snazzy new logo, the current crop of trainees thought “it's a very exciting time to join the firm!”
Ahead of joining, incoming trainees join the firm for 'Hello Day,' where they receive a list of all the seat choices and are asked to rank their top five choices. From there, the firm allocates seats and supervisors for the entirety of the training contract. “The seat you get in your third or fourth rotation is normally one you qualify into,” one insider tipped off, “so I picked like that.” A strategic approach! But what if you change your mind? “There is scope for movement,” trainees reassured us. “And there is an open spreadsheet where you can view any gaps of seats you can go to, so it is transparent.” There is also a client secondments to M&G Real Estate up for grabs.
As we mentioned, Cripps is rated top in the county for family law. One thing trainees in this seat weren’t lacking was client contact. “There were loads of client meetings and I was present to make attendance notes,” said one trainee. These meetings could be “very emotional” due to the nature of the matters – divorces and separations, child arrangements, and alternative dispute resolution for high-net-worth clients. Day to day life saw trainees “attending court hearings” and “preparing files for court, like bundling and form filling.” As one detailed, “I filled out lots of financial forms” and “sat in some mediations and arbitrations.” Take note: this is a contentious seat adhering to “courts and their deadlines,” so the uber organised will thrive here.
Another hot seat is commercial property, the firm’s largest team. It’s divided into three sub-groups: green, blue and yellow. A soothing colour scheme, but what does it mean? The green team is focused on investment and finance, whereas the blue team’s core work is planning and development matters. Both of these are based out of Tunbridge Wells. Over an hour away in London, the yellow team specialises in commercial property, including landed estates. Trainees join one of said colours. The firm represents “big real estate clients” like investment firms Kennedy Wilson and Cadogan. There are a fair few clients in the leisure space, like The Seahive, which the firm represented in its purchase of a site in Kent to build a surf wellness resort – sign us up, please. Trainees found they “worked on a broad variety every day.” With the green team, one did “a mix of asset management, like license work and construction acquisition, and development work.” One key feature to note about this seat was the training: “There’s lots of training on things like drafting leases.”
“Lots of wills and complex trust documents.”
Keeping it transactional, corporate was another popular seat. This is Cripps’ second biggest team, accounting for about a quarter of the firm’s revenue. In a recent deal, the team represented Berry Gardens (fun fact: the UK’s biggest berry supplier) on the sale of its packaging and distribution entity to Driscoll's, a California-based berry seller. It was also one of the firms advising Chromalloy Gas Turbine on its international reorganisation before the sale of three subsidiaries. Unlike the private wealth side, “the clients are way bigger than just Mr and Mrs Smith, so you do end up doing more of the smaller tasks.” Over time, trainees can build up to more: “I ran a couple of small transactions which meant I was the main point of contact and was running disclosure and due diligence calls with the smaller clients.” Being outside the City, trainees felt they weren’t missing out on anything and told us proudly: “The Tunbridge Wells team is lovely, and the partnership is full of ex-City partners who moved for a better quality of life.” There’s even a bit of cross-border work for “a few clients in France.”
Trainees found a welcome “slower pace” in private wealth, which advises high-net-worth folks on managing their money, businesses, property, and other assets. This includes the likes of tax and succession planning, and there’s also contentious work here. Interviewees got involved in “lots of technical drafting” with “lots of wills and complex trust documents.” It was “great for a first-seater,” because newbies were “given a lot of time to work on things.” Clients are confidential of course, so without naming names, we can tell you that the firm recently advised a business owner on their assets and property across the US and UK. The team often works closely with the family practice when, for example, supporting clients with child arrangements.
Trainees described Cripps as “friendly and enjoyable to work at” overall, noting that “the London office is typically busier”than its Kentish cousin. But “there has definitely been an improvement in creating a one-firm one culture.” To give you a snapshot of some of the social highlights, we heard the Cripps cohort had recently played darts and gone on an outing to Bounce for a friendly game of ping pong. The headline act? “There’s a big firm summer party that happens every year.”With soirees like these in the calendar, “my trainee cohort is very tight-knit and close, which makes it fun.” So, it comes as no surprise that “you can always find trainees in the pub across the road” at the end of the working day!
“A ridiculously good work-life balance.”
While we’re clockwatching, let’s talk about hours. “The firm has a ridiculously good work-life balance,” trainees beamed. On average, trainees started between 8.30 and 9am, and wrapped up anywhere between 5 and 6.30pm. This looks like a typical working day in the UK, but it’s under what you’d see in the likes of many bigger firms or City players.
The difference carries over into the remuneration, which is £30,000 for first-year trainees rising to £58,000 on qualification (£70,000 for those who join the London office as NQs). For a few of our interviewees, “with the rise in the cost of living and other firms raising in the market, it is a worry.” Others reasoned that “the firm has the work-life balance, and we know what we are getting ourselves into.”
“A beehive on the rooftop…”
So, where are trainees spending these hours? Well, according to sources, trainees are expected to be in the office most of the time. In reality, we heard, each team has its own preferences, with some trainees only going in a few days a week and others expected to be in every day. In Tunbridge Wells, “the office has three floors with a kitchen on each one, communal areas, and garden patios on the roof.” One source was buzzing to tell us about the office’s quirk: “There’s a beehive on the rooftop for our environmental committee initiative, which is so cool!” We couldn’t bee-lieve it! “The London office is a lot smaller with only one floor,” by contrast. “The location in Victoria is great and it has beautiful showers, a dry-cleaning service, and a great canteen.” No bees, though, so Tunbridge Wells has the edge in our bumble opinion.
Moving swiftly on. For those approaching qualification, it’s “quite informal.” Vacancies are released during trainees’ penultimate seat. From here, they let the HR team know their preferences for qualification. Last year, “family was most popular, but it has always been a mix.” Interviews come next. “Mine was totally informal as I had kept an open dialogue with the team who I wanted to qualify with,” one successful NQ-to-be advised. In 2023, the firm retained 12 out of 15 trainees.
Getting to grips with Cripps: The firm’s Future Lawyers programme provides ongoing training sessions on soft skills.
How to get a Cripps training contract
- Training contract deadline (for September 2025 and 2026): TBC but likely no later than February 2024
- Paralegal apprenticeship deadline: TBC but likely March 2024
Candidates who are interested in our programmes are advised to check our website where application deadlines and full details of the application process will be published in September.
Training contract applications
Cripps receives around 200 applications for the ten training contracts it offers each year. Candidates submit an application form and around 20 candidates are invited to an Assessment Day.
The Assessment Day format is currently being reviewed but will include psychometric testing, case study exercise and competency based interview.
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 in the summer. To be eligible to apply you must at least be in the penultimate year of a law degree or the final year of a non-law degree. There are only a few spots up for grabs (six in total), so we are looking for people who are really keen to pursue a career in the law and align with our values. The recruitment process consists of an Assessment Day which will include a short interview and team activities
Participants spend the scheme rotating through three practice areas. They also complete a research task and a group challenge across the two weeks and present their findings to an audience on the last day. “We would like those on our scheme to experience working with people at different levels,” seniorpeople and talent 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.
Cripps welcomes candidates from all backgrounds. “At Cripps we take pride in who we are and celebrate our differences” says Annabel Goh, Emerging Talent Manager.
Ideal candidates will have a genuine interest in Cripps and our key areas of focus: commercial real estate, corporate and commercial law, and high net worth private clients.
The firm is also looking for candidates who align with the firm’s purpose and values and want to ‘be the difference’ for their clients and colleagues.
Candidates are also expected to have strong verbal and communication skills along with commercial awareness and practical problem solving skills.
Cripps no longer have any academic requirements apart from a first time pass in the LPC or SQE. “Your grades will just form part of a picture along with your other achievements and experience” adds Goh.
Candidates are also advised to prepare well for the Assessment Centre. “Research the firm thoroughly, be clear about why you are applying to Cripps and practise your interview technique” says Goh.
Cripps also runs a successful legal apprenticeship programme which has been offering candidates an alternative route into a legal career since 2018.
Recruitment is via an Assessment Day and successful candidates join a two year paralegal apprenticeship programme which begins in September each year. This is delivered in conjunction with BPP University and following completion of the programme, apprentices will be awarded the BPP Paralegal Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship as well as a Level 4 Certificate of Higher Education (Law and Legal Practice).
The firm also run a solicitor apprenticeship programme which enables apprentices to qualify as a solicitor without going to university. Solicitor apprentices are recruited internally from those completing the paralegal apprenticeship programme. It is a four year programme in addition to the two years spent as a paralegal apprentice.
Cripps is one of the country’s leading legal practices serving corporate, real estate and private clients. Headquartered in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, with an office in London, the firm offers a dedicated, integrated 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. Cripps’ purpose is to ‘be the difference’, harnessing the collective energy, empathy and expertise of its people to make a positive and long-lasting impact on people’s lives and business.
Banking and finance; charities and non-profit; commercial contracts; commercial dispute resolution; construction; corporate advisory; creative industries; employment; family; inheritance disputes; intellectual property; investment and funds; leasehold enfranchisement; mergers and acquisitions; planning; private client; professional negligence; property development; property litigation; real estate; real estate finance, investment and asset management; residential property; restructuring and insolvency; retail, leisure and hospitality; shareholder disputes; technology; wealth structuring; wills, trusts and probate.
We offer a comprehensive induction programme and ongoing training throughout the two-year contract. Technical training is delivered by our team of professional support lawyers. Soft skills / business skills are delivered by internal and external speakers through our Future Lawyers Programme. 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.
We welcome applications from law and non-law graduates.
To be eligible to apply you must at least be in the penultimate year of a law degree or the final year of a non-law degree. Many vacation scheme students later join us as trainees but we do not recruit solely from this cohort.
Benefits include pension scheme, private healthcare, life assurance, group income protection, 25 days annual leave, season ticket loan, charity day, birthday leave, summer ball and Christmas lunches, employee assistance programme with 24 hour counselling service. 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 of Sussex Law Fair, 08 November 2023
University of Kent Law Fair,02 November 2023
University of Surrey Law Fair, 08 November 2023
University of Birmingham Law Fair, 08 November 2023
University of Southampton Law Fair, 15 November 2023
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. As of June 2023, we have included our existing wellbeing team into our EDI offering, resulting in having better oversight about all activities across the firm. We have the following strands and each has a board sponsor and leader: Gender, Disability, LGBTQIA+, Faith, Race and Ethnicity, Social Mobility, Parents/Carers and Wellbeing.
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, 2023
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (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)