Private client is a main course at Farrer & Co, but trainees here are also served generous helpings in the media, education and charities sectors (plus a much appreciated side of “eccentricities”)...
Farrer & Co training contract review 2024
If you’re interested in the world of private wealth and all its trappings, Farrer & Co is one name you need to know. Having been on the scene for over 300 years, this venerable firm has carved out “one of the best reputations” for steering its uber wealthy clients through the complex legal issues that can arise from having a lot of money to manage. The firm is certainly considered among the best of the best by Chambers High Net Worth for private wealth work (including disputes), high-value residential real estate, and art and cultural property. It’s also got enviable strength in handling family, immigration and defamation matters for high net worth individuals.
“A feeling that you’re part of something that has a lot of history.”
Private client expertise may be what the firm is best known for, but it does have a commercial side. Trainees described “the most ridiculously diverse client base.” Along with high net worth individuals (think successful entrepreneurs, celebrities, and even nobility), you’ll find museums, publishing houses, charities, schools, and universities on the books at Farrer & Co. The firm picks up another bundle of rankings from Chambers UK for its expertise in agriculture and rural affairs, employment, charities, education, and publishing. If this spread of accolades and clients makes you think the work here might be quite juicy, you’re not wrong: “Three of our matters were on the front pages one week!” And for trainees, working at such an old firm “trickles down into creating a feeling that you’re part of something that has a lot of history before you and will have a lot of history after you.”
Trainees can expect to spend at least one of their seats in each of the firm's four pillars – property, contentious, commercial and private client. Trainees do six seats in all, and the first seat is typically allocated before they start at the firm. From there, they can express their preferences. We heard the most popular seats tend to be family, private client, and dispute resolution. “Teams that are less popular tend to be things like banking and financial services, so the slightly more commercial ones,” because “if that’s where your heart is, Farrer isn’t the first place you apply. But the clients are still weird and wonderful.” But “for any trainee, you have to accept that you’re going to have to sit in teams you haven’t chosen” on occasion.Trainees are given one “wildcard seat” over the course of the training contract – “one choice that you are, in theory, guaranteed.” For their last seat, trainees repeat a previous seat in the area that they hope to qualify into.
“You’re helping people at a really important period of their lives, so it feels very meaningful.”
All the newbies we spoke with “absolutely loved it” in the private client seat. “It’s very interesting, particularly when you see the relationships people have developed with the firm” over the years. “It’s very personal – a trusted adviser type of relationship.” Here, the team guides clients through wills and probate, trusts, estate planning, and lasting powers of attorney issues. “Day to day, you might be drafting a will, writing an attendance note on a client call, working on a probate, liaising with an estate agent, authorising transfer of assets, or researching an abstract area of private client law.” On that last point, we heard “it’s quite academic in nature. It’s work that requires years and years of experience, so I like the idea that you’re constantly learning, even beyond your training contract.”
Trainees who sat in family told us, “You’re helping people at a really important period of their lives, so it feels very meaningful.” The team is on the smaller side but the matters are “really quite varied,” covering the whole spectrum of children cases and divorces, often with hundreds of millions of pounds at the centre. As one trainee summarised, “I might spend one morning researching case law, and the afternoon looking into rules around divorce in another country – clients have assets all over the world.” On the more “mundane” side, trainees might be asked to “weed a file and take out irrelevant documents.”
The size of the employment department (around 40 people and two trainees)means “you get a lot of work, and a wide variety of work.” The team handles contentious and non-contentious matters for employers, trade unions, and senior executives. The British Airline Pilots’ Association is a key client – Farrer acts for the union on all of its employment matters, from individual claims up to class actions. With clients like Imperial College and the Independent Schools Council, there is a fair amount of work in the education sector, including “reputation management with top private schools,” or advising throughout disciplinary processes with teachers. Elsewhere, the firm supports “sporting bodies and religious institutions” with advisory work, like “writing policies and making sure they’re up to date.” For trainees, there is “lots of drafting of official documents,” be it contracts, settlement contracts or witness statements. Trainees enjoyed tribunal work and “lots of calls with clients.” And of course, there’s a bit of bundling involved for court too.
“High-profile celebrity clients.”
Farrer’s propertypractice is split between residential and commercial property, and trainees can sit in either. In residential property,“you have a higher caseload and more responsibility over the work you do. There’s lots of client contact” to get key documents like leases signed, and “you might have to talk to insurance brokers on insurance needed for the property.” Property doesn’t always have the most exciting reputation among law students, but Farrer’s wealthy clientele offers a touch of glamour, with trainees getting to visit homes in affluent neighbourhoods like Kensington. “I got to go to a famous person’s house and have a brief chat with them,” one trainee divulged, adding, “It was interesting to get to charge for that!” There’s also work on rural properties and land ownership: “We had to get out ancient title deeds for a family who own a piece of land but couldn’t figure out exactly which parts they owned.” It’s not all red carpets and detective work. A more typical task would be reviewing local searches for properties clients are purchasing and drafting a report on title (a document that goes to the mortgage lender). On the commercial side,clients include cultural bodies like the British Library and the V&A, developers such as Highbridge Properties, and the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince William’s estate).
Established in 2015, the “up-and-coming” immigration team steers both corporate clients and individual skilled workers through all kinds of business immigration matters. Visa applications are a biggie that trainees got involved in. An example could be “housekeepers for wealthy households – you need to figure out how to sell that to the Home Office with a lot of documentary evidence.” As a result, trainees found themselves drafting letters to the Home Office for things like passport applications and British citizenship applications, “once you’re trusted.” The team also acts for “high-profile celebrity clients” who need global talent visas to work in the UK. This involves working with bodies like the Arts Council to get their official endorsement of the individual (we’re picturing a more formal version of Britain’s Got Talent, probably with fewer buzzers).
Trainees were positively beaming about work-life balance at the firm. “It’s so good!” one trainee grinned. “The latest I’ve ever worked was around 9.30pm, and that was just because I wanted to get on top of my work.” Relative to the hours, trainees “definitely” felt compensated. With a first-year salary of £42,000, “you’ll be paid less than you could be” at larger, commercial firms, “but your weekends are your own.”
“It gives more barristers’ chambers vibes.”
There’s a two-day minimum expectation to be in the office, although a couple of interviewees told us they felt a bit of an “unwritten expectation” that trainees come in more, “but you’re not going to be forced through the doors!” This lot didn’t need much persuasion to be in anyway – apparently the office is well worth the trek. “There’s a big coffee culture with our new café!” praised trainees. “It’s a real social hub.” Not only is it an easy way to “grab a partner for ten minutes,” but “the discounted food is amazing.” Rumour has it “we’re getting a sushi restaurant downstairs…” Almost. The firm now houses a restaurant that services an array of cuisines, with a themed menu each day!
From the outside, “Farrer distinguishes itself from the faceless grey glass boxes some people work in,” one chuffed trainee told us. “It gives more barristers’ chambers vibes.” Looking out over Lincoln’s Inn Fields, “its setting is beautiful – it’s an area of London that’s deeply rooted in the legal system, so you often see barristers traipsing around wearing wigs!” Like the Bar, which is known for having a strong sense of tradition, “Farrer has its eccentricities that it wants to hold on to, like unusual clients that turn up and make everyone’s lives interesting for a bit.” We also heard the firm throws a party in the car park, “which is good to get people together.” In other words, “we have a definite identity where it doesn’t feel like a corporate place to work.”
But trainees at Farrer & Co were clear: “They’re dispelling this image of stuffy, old queen’s or king’s lawyers.” While trainees noted that “gender diversity is good, more could be done in terms of people from ethnic minorities. Like all firms, Farrer recognises that.” The firm has a diversity team and Farrer has teamed up with Aspiring Solicitors to help build diversity from the ground up, so those coming in for “work experience are always a diverse cohort.” The firm also offers both solicitor and non-solicitor apprenticeships for ambitious go-getters.
“Even the most intimidating partner is approachable!”
Trainees described “an inclusive feel” in the office. “You can talk to NQs up to partners very easily – and they want you to ask questions. Even the most intimidating partner is approachable!” Across the board insiders felt that “you’re not just there to do the grunt work. The firm is very conscious not to give you too many admin tasks. They take a vested interest in developing you as a trainee.” All combined, “it’s an attractive place to spend the rest of your career – people stay for, like, 30-plus years!”
But first, qualification. When it comes to applying for an NQ position the firm has made things “a little more transparent. It used to be done without due process but now you have to do a personal statement and they’ll make a decision based on that.” Trainees are given a list of teams that are hiring and can apply to as many of those as they’d like. In 2023, the firm retained nine out of ten qualifiers.
A Farrer cry from the corporate world
Trainees are expected to get stuck into assisting associates at the Mary Ward Legal Centre, offering free advice to people who live and work in London.
How to get into Farrer & Co
Training contract deadline (2026): March 31 2024
Solicitor apprenticeship deadline: February 14 2024
Applications and interviews
Both those applying for the vacation scheme and those applying directly for a training contract are asked to answer a set of questions and send a cover letter.
Graduate and solicitor apprentice adviser Claire Roche tells us the content and structure of the covering letter play an important part in the assessment process. “Ideally, we want the letter to be well constructed, matching their skills to our specific requirements and outlining what attracts them to us in terms of our practice areas and training programme.”
40 training contract applicants make it through the first round and are invited to an interview with a partner and senior associate, which generally lasts around an hour. Current trainees recalled the experience as “interesting and free-flowing,” with one telling us, “It felt like they were really trying to get to know me and were prepared to challenge me on certain points to see if I could back up my opinions.” Candidates are also asked to complete a written exercise.
Around 30 go on to a second interview, which takes place with two partners. Candidates are given a brief scenario to read through and comment on at the beginning of the interview, before moving on to a more general discussion about their application. Second interviews usually last around an hour and a half.
Once applications are in, the top 90-100 vacation scheme applicants who impress are invited to an assessment day that involves a group and written exercises.
Farrer & Co hold three two-week vacation schemes, one in the spring and two in summer, taking on ten candidates at a time. Each vacation schemer is assigned a trainee buddy and a partner mentor, and sits with a different team each week. Our sources recalled that they’d been treated “just like trainees,” having drafted board minutes, conducted research and been taken to client meetings. Alongside such tasks, vac schemers are given a group case study to work on over the course of their visit.
To make the most of their vac scheme, Roche advises candidates to “show a real interest in the firm and a desire to work here. At the same time, remember that it’s also a chance for you to find out about us.”
Completing the vac scheme doesn’t automatically entitle candidates to a training contract interview but those who are granted one skip straight to the second interview round.
This opportunity is open to individuals looking for an alternative to attending university.
At the end of this six-year apprenticeship, subject to satisfactory character and suitability, you will be a fully qualified solicitor, registered with the SRA.
All tuition fees will be paid, and you will earn a salary whilst you are training and gaining your qualification. In addition, all future apprentices at Farrer & Co are also eligible to receive a Starting Work Bonus to assist with either relocation costs, travel costs, lunch costs, or purchasing office attire ahead of receiving the first salary payment.
If your application is successful, you will be invited to participate in a virtual interview. Shortlisted candidates will then attend an assessment morning (involving a group task, interview and short written exercise) before the firm selects its two Solicitor Apprentices. Adjustments are available, if required.
How to wow
For the vacation scheme and training contract the firm asks for a minimum 2:1 degree and ABB at A levels (or equivalent) but will consider exceptional mitigating circumstances for academics below this. Beyond that, “when selecting our future lawyers, we look for ambition, commercial awareness, discretion, clear and agile thinkers, open-minded individuals, resilience and analytical ability,” according to Roche.
For apprentices the minimum academic requirements are five GCSEs, including Maths and English (Grade C/4 or above) and ABB at A Level (or equivalent qualifications) but the firm will consider mitigating circumstances for academics below this.
Given the firm’s abundance of private client work, candidates who recognise the thread of the individual running through all departments will do well, as will an interviewee who is aware of the breadth of the expertise within the firm. “As a firm we are bubbling with interesting and interested people who are real experts in their fields and we look after a hugely diverse range of clients, with often unique demands. We therefore need candidates to show intellectual curiosity, an ability to think on their feet and not to be fazed by the unknown,” says partner Bethan Waters. She adds, “We expect our trainees to get the basics right, so those who consider carefully the questions we ask them and provide thoughtful, focused answers will do well.” A respect for the firm’s history and its future ambitions is also key. “Ultimately we are looking for colleagues to whom we can entrust our clients and this very special firm.”
Farrer & Co LLP
66 Lincoln's Inn Fields,
- Partners 80
- Assistant solicitors 214
- Total trainees 20
- UK offices London
- Graduate recruiter: Claire Roche firstname.lastname@example.org
- Graduate recruitment partner: Jonathan Haley
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 10
- Applications pa: 1110
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: ABB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 30
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 9 July 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 31 January 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £40,000
- Second-year salary: £42,500
- Post-qualification salary: £72,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant: £7,000 per year of study
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Client secondments: There are a number of opportunites for secondments on qualification.
Our clients present us with complex and varied challenges. Whether that’s a complicated family trust issue, a multinational corporate transaction, or an emerging threat to their reputation, they need clear thinkers who can advise on the best solutions, fast thinkers when speed is of the essence and agile thinkers who can produce a fresh approach to get the job done.
Main areas of work:
Our training programme involves each trainee in the widest range of cases, clients and issues possible in a single law firm, taking full advantage of the extensive array of practice areas at Farrer & Co by offering six seats, rather than the usual four. This provides a broad foundation of knowledge and experience and the opportunity to make an informed choice about the area of law in which to specialise. A high degree of involvement is encouraged under the direct supervision of associates and partners. Trainees attend an induction programme and regular internal seminars. The training partner reviews trainees’ progress at the end of each seat and extensive feedback is given. We have a very friendly atmosphere and host regular sporting and social events.
Assessment days and first-year opportunities
Farrer & Co is committed to fostering diversity and inclusion in relation to its members, clients and the community. We believe that every person in the firm has a responsibility to ensure inclusion and dignity at work.
We recognise the importance of creating an inclusive environment in which people can progress and fulfil their potential. We are committed to ensuring that all our people are employed, trained, compensated and promoted solely on the strength of their ability, qualifications, experience and merit.
We value the wellbeing of our people and pride ourselves on being a supportive employer, taking reasonable and practical steps to help them to balance their careers with other aspects of their lives. We think this is reflected in the fact that we have an exceptionally low staff turnover.
Diversity and inclusion enriches the culture of the firm and means that we are better positioned to continue to provide a first-class service to our clients.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer: High Court Litigation Spotlight
- Employment: Employer: Third Sector (Band 2)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 5)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 2)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 1)
- Charities (Band 1)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 5)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)
- Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 2)
- Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 1)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)
- Partnership (Band 2)
- Sport (Band 5)