Druces is an attractive firm for those looking for “normal working hours,” broad exposure to work, and an intimate trainee intake.
“I felt a bit like Goldilocks when trying to figure out which firm to train at,” one of our Druces interviewees told us. “I didn’t want an enormous firm like those in the magic circle, but equally I wasn’t interested in something as small as a boutique or high-street firm.” If we were talking porridge that would leave one perfect middle option. But in the world of law, that still leaves hundreds of firms that fit the bill – so let’s get more specific. “I knew I wanted to stay in London but maintaining a good work/life balance was also super important to me,” one interviewee elaborated, while another added: “I didn’t want to be in a hyper-intense corporate atmosphere.” Finally, trainees were unanimous in wanting a “balanced firm, with a broad commercial offering.” Now that sounds more like Druces.
“We’ve been around since 1767 which means we’re doing something right!”
The firm is made up of 50 lawyers who cover several legal disciplines including corporate and commercial law, dispute resolution, employment, real estate and private client. And while sources acknowledged the firm wasn’t necessarily the biggest name in the City – one sadly recalling that “there were a few people that didn’t recognise our name during the London Legal Walk” – they felt it was taking some positive steps to improve its profile. “The merger with Ronaldsons has added some AIM partners to the firm and we’ve also had lateral hires in our corporate and private client departments,” sources pointed out, adding that “it’s encouraging seeing growth in the firm when you are early in your career.” The changes seem to be paying off as in 2018 the firm made it into The Lawyer’s coveted list of the top 200 UK law firms. Moreover, many trainees were encouraged by the firm’s long history: “We’ve been around since 1767 which means we’re doing something right!” The firm doesn't currently have any Chambers rankings, but... watch this space.
Rookies need not stress over seat allocation at Druces because it’s all sorted from the get-go. “If you start in March,” one source explained, “your first seat will be in real estate, then litigation, then corporate and finally private client. Those joining in September also start in real estate, but do private client next, before going to corporate and ending in litigation.” We heard some minor gripes over the lack of choice, some feeling that it “would be nice to be able to say if you wanted to work in a more specific area within the umbrella groups,” but overall sources felt it was a positive setup. “It gives you a very well-rounded training contract in areas that often overlap,” one source said. “If there is a property element in a dispute for example, you are at an advantage because you've had experience in property.” Another added: “It also removes the competitive element of seat allocation and any scope for disappointment.”
The core four
Druces’ private client team is made up of four partners who cover all the main work streams including estate planning, probate, tax optimisation, asset protection and charities. Individual client names can’t be disclosed for confidentiality reasons, but the firm does dish out advice to private banking and wealth management group Kleinwort Hambros and Directors UK, the professional association for film directors. “I had a lot of contact with counsel,” trainees told us. “I did work to do with trusts so was often in contact with them, getting their opinion on how best to distribute the trust in question.” On the contentious side, another described working on “a doomsday scenario after a trustee had died. I was drafting all the witness statements and preparing the bundles for court.”
“One of the things that attracted me to the firm was its syndicated property investment work,” one trainee explained, when we talked real estate. “It’s quite unusual work which you don’t study on the LPC. A big part of the work involves supporting partners on purchases of new freeholds and overseeing the leases of the property.” Sources were pleased to report that “it’s not all just working for corporate machines either; there’s work for individuals as well.” These are mainly in the form of right to light cases which trainees take ownership over. “You’re mainly negotiating with surveyors and developers over the amount of compensation the client is entitled to based on the encroachment on their property's right to light,” one source informed us. Real estate finance work is also available here: this sees the firm representing a number of banks including the British Arab Commercial Bank, Bank of China, and Sharia bank BLME. The firm has recently advised the latter on 12 transactions relating to property development and refurbishment financing, leaning heavily on its Sharia law expertise.
“You shoot off an email and normally have a reply within minutes.”
Trainees encounter a mixed bag of work in Druces’ corporate department. “There’s traditional M&A work, but I’ve also worked on a few banking transactions, AIM deals, employment matters, commercial agreements and GDPR work,” one source relayed. Trainee responsibilities are just as varied: sources reporting doing everything from drafting subject access requests and sale of goods agreements to conducting due diligence and reviewing conditions precedent checklists. Sources also observed: “It’s a big change from private client where you could be waiting for days for a reply from HMRC to advance a case. Here you shoot off an email and normally have a reply within minutes – it’s a lot faster paced!” Recently the team advised the Pickstock Group on the £7.1 million sale of the 75-bed St Martin’s Grange care home to investment manager BlackRock, and advised on the closure of a $25 million bond financing for oilfield operator Technology Enhanced Oil.
Clients of Druces’ disputes department range from Credit Europe Bank to the Dogs Trust to auctioneers Phillips. “The work is mainly split between residential property and commercial disputes,” one source explained, adding: “My seat in real estate really helped out when dealing with things like hostile lease renewals and enfranchisement work.” Another described their involvement in “a big shipping dispute which went to the Court of Appeal. I did the prep bundles, liaised with counsel on the skeleton argument, and assisted in selecting an expert who we needed. It was just me and an associate on the case, so I had a lot of responsibility.” The firm recently helped the liquidators of a wine investment company (yes, that's a thing) with a Companies Court application allowing it to sell £14 million worth of wine as part of the administration of the company.
Off the bat
Sources were keen to distance themselves from the long hours culture that characterises most City firms. Druces is a firm where “nobody bats an eyelid if you leave at 5.30pm,” trainees said, adding that “nobody is leaving their jackets on their chairs or keeping their screens on to make it look like they’re working.” One interviewee estimated that “during my busiest period in corporate I was averaging 9am to 7pm.” Trainees need not worry about switching off either: “While on holiday you might check your work emails once a day to make sure nothing is melting down because of you, but you’re never going to be battered with emails.”
Our interviewees felt the firm’s size lends itself naturally to cohesion. “There are lots of social events throughout the year which nearly everyone attends,” one source shared. “That means that you know everyone in the department you move to before every seat change making it easy to settle in.” Recently the firm’s ‘fun committee’ organised trips to Flight Club, Swingers Crazy Golf and Dabbers Social Bingo. “The office also has a table tennis table,” sources told us. “Sometimes we have tournaments and order in pizza. But there are also events for people who don’t want to go out and drink. For example, the firm often puts on theatre trips.”
At the time of our calls in late May, trainees were midway through the qualification process. “The firm is quite keen to keep people on,” one source felt. Despite two trainees leaving the firm last year “because there wasn’t any space in the departments they want to qualify into,” both were offered positions to stay on. In 2018 the firm kept on two of three qualifiers.
Druces' office is in an "excellent location, right next to Liverpool Street and Moorgate stations."
How to get a Druces training contract
- Partners: 21
- Associates: 33
- Total trainees: 4 (2 x 1st seat, 2 x 2nd seat)
- UK offices: London
- Graduate recruiter: Teresa Randles, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Minimum A levels: AAB or equivalent
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st April 2020
- Training contract deadline 2021: 31st July 2020
- Salary and benefits Salaries:‘Under review’
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- Sponsorship LPC fees: No
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
Druces LLP is a City law firm, based in Finsbury Circus. Our approach has been guided by what clients have told us is important to them. The four principles are as follows:
•We are a partner-led firm which means that our clients are guided, from start to finish, by a close-knit team led by one of our partners, in whichever legal discipline a matter requires
•Clients tell us that the size of our firm works in their best interests. We are able to field nimble teams of lawyers who are attentive, well informed about the client and give our clients a consistent experience, from matter to matter
•We provide clear, concise, legal advice. That advice will always be practical and tailored
•We regard our clients as individuals and take time to understand the very specific issues that they face, whether that is as part of a commercial organisation they work for or as a private client in their own right
Main areas of work
The firm specialises across a variety of corporate and private client disciplines, focusing on Corporate & Commercial, Banking & Finance, Property, Private Client, Tax, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Employment and Business Turnaround, Rescue and Insolvency. Our goal is to provide our clients with an expert, Partner-led service across the full range of their legal requirements.
We want to see bright, creative minds join our expanding team. Druces values people skills and creativity as much as high marks and academic achievement. Trainee recruitment is an important process for Druces and we invest a lot of time and energy in the process as it gives us the opportunity to recruit individuals who we hope will grow with our firm and contribute to its ongoing development.
We want to recruit dedicated and committed individuals who want to contribute to the continuing success of Druces and develop extremely rewarding careers. Druces therefore will work with you and help you to become the most astute and commercial lawyer you can possibly be. As part of your development as a trainee within the firm, you will spend 4 x 6-month seats in the following practice areas; Real Estate; Litigation & Dispute Resolution; Private Client; and Corporate & Commercial.
Druces provides opportunities for much more hands-on experience and one-on-one attention from our highly experienced solicitors. Each trainee has a seat mentor and a dedicated 2-year mentor who will be points of contact throughout the training experience to allow each trainee to gain a first-class legal grounding and access to experienced, talented, approachable and collegiate lawyers.
Group Income Protection ; Death in Service (x4 salary) ; Enhanced maternity leave ; Eye tests and contributions to glasses if necessary ; Flu vaccinations ; Season ticket loans ; Cycle scheme ; Bonus scheme ; Employee referral scheme ; Free mortgage advice ; Attendance scheme ; Discretionary day off at Christmas (office closure) ; Healthcare ; Taxis home after 9pm. Fun Committee (organise Firm socials): Theatre trip ; Christmas party (previous examples – Flight Club, Dabbers Bingo)