Farrer & Co LLP - True Picture

This is Far(rer) and away a top firm for those with an interest in private wealth law and a curiosity for commercial opportunities too. 

Farrer & Co training contract review 2022

The Firm

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you’ll know that it’s been quite a period of upheaval for the Royal Family. For many, the developments in the Royals’ lives provoke speculation and many a conversation, but for Farrer & Co any headline-hitting occurrences could mean work. After all, Farrer has worked with the Royal Family since the 18th century and is officially known as the ‘Queen’s Counsellors’. How’s that for an example of this firm’s much revered private client capabilities?  When it comes to representing high net worth (HNW) and ultra high-net-worth (UHNW) individuals, you’d be hard pressed to find a firm that’s better: Chambers High Net Worthawards the firm seven rankings (five of them top-tier) in areas including private wealth, private wealth disputes, defamation/reputation management, and high-value residential real estate.

However, Farrer is far from a one-trick show pony. While its private client and family work often steals the limelight, there’s an array of other areas to sample at Farrer. When it comes to sectors, Farrer’s work in the education, charities, arts, publishing and real estate realms comes to the fore in Chambers UK. If you’re after more commercial practices, then Farrer also gains rankings for its lower mid-market corporate/M&A, commercial and corporate litigation, employment, commercial contracts and partnership work among other areas.

“Private clients are significantly more interesting to me than large faceless corporates!”

Farrer’s “traditions, work-life balance, friendly atmosphere, well-respected training contract and retention rates”were all major drawcards for this interviewee. For another, who was invested in the private wealth side, it was the clients on offer: “Private clients are significantly more interesting to me than large faceless corporates!” For others, the firm’s six-seat training contract stood out, as “it would enable me to try my hand at a greater variety of work before deciding where to qualify.”This trainee, meanwhile, said they were tired of trying to “distinguish the top firms,”which are “pretty much the same shade of corporate grey.” For them, Farrer stood out as “one of the few firms that can truly boast of its own impressive uniqueness.”

The Seats 

Whatever your reasons, if Farrer is where you see yourself, then take note that you will get a well-rounded experience, as trainees are required to complete one seat in each of Farrer’s four core practice areas: property, private client, commercial and contentious. The first seat is allocated based on business need, but trainees do have one guaranteed seat of their choosing during the training contract. The final seat isalways a repeat of a stint in a department you’re likely to qualify into, leaving three seats up for grabs, which trainees submit preferences for throughout the training contract. We mostly heard positive things about seat allocation, although a few trainees indicated they’d like a bit more transparency in the process in future. Sources liked the variety that a six-seat training contract afforded them, but noted that “after four months you’ve just mastered it, and then you’re thrown into a completely new seat – it’s a double-edged sword.”

“...from celebrities to members of the aristocracy to entrepreneurs.”

Private client work is still a significant part of the firm and the department generates 17% of Farrer's overall revenue. Sources said they’d encountered “a range of clients – from celebrities to members of the aristocracy to entrepreneurs.” The firm’s HNW and UHNW clients can call upon its expertise in defamation/reputation management; family; immigration; private wealth disputes; private wealth law; and real estate. Trainees worked on mix of assignments from “immigration matters and wills and probate work to onshore trusts and wealth structuring frameworks.” There are also international domicile issues to get involved in. This source concluded that a seat here is “really broad, client-focused; looks at all the different aspects of a client’s life and assets, and tailors the approach to what they might need.”

On the immigrationside, the team works on a range of matters including asylum, unlawful detention and human rights issues. More recently, the team has given a fair bit of Covid-19-related advice in relation to international travel and visa issues. In the disputes space, the firm highlights its work on tax, trusts and estate cases, which can have values stretching into billions. In private wealth, matters involving tax, succession planning, trust formations and estate planning are all handled by the team. Alongside HNW and UHNW individuals (including entrepreneurs), the firm also acts for trustees, property investors and developers among others. Matters in real estate, meanwhile, mostly revolve around high-value purchases for individuals.

“...you’re guiding clients through the divorce process at different stages.”

The firm’s familyseat involves “a lot of matrimonial and divorce work – with the latter you’re guiding clients through the divorce process at different stages.”Other matters that had occupied our sources’ time included pre- and post-nuptial agreements, financial remedy applications, and wealth planning assignments (typically involving tens of millions of pounds plus). The seat was flagged as one that could come with longer hours, but alongside that came the chance to “attend court and conferences – you get to experience a lot of client contact and what it is like to work in tandem with barristers. It’s not a sink or swim situation – you get the support and oversight from supervisors and partners, but they trust you to communicate with clients.”Interviewees felt that “of all the seats, family is the one where you’re given most responsibility.” Trainees said that tasks covered “managing and drafting documents, completing research tasks, attending all the calls with counsel and clients, and working out the logistics of the trial.”

Farrer’s corporatepractice receives plenty of recognition for its expertise in the mid-market. Unsurprisingly, the firm is well thought of for its private and family-owned entrepreneur work in this area, but also does work for companies and organisations like BMJ Publishing, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the London Business School and Somerset Capital. The team recently advised UK venture firm Hambro Perks as it acquired Ombu, which had (at the time) a portfolio of seven fast-growth tech companies. “They get you involved in as much work as possible from the outset,”one trainee reported, “so they invite you to client meetings and involve you in calls. You get to take notes and do a lot of drafting, which is a great way to build up your skills.”The mid-market scope meant that this source was able to “run some of my own matters with close supervision. I did a few different private equity investments, but also worked on a large transaction where I took on the classic trainee role of coordinating the deal. We also have a partnership practice, so I got involved in making changes to various partnership agreements.”

“...you might be drafting an employment contract, assisting with a tribunal, attending conferences with counsel or doing a piece of research on an employment-related question that has come up.”

Another popular seat was employment, which sources liked for its fast pace and “human element to the work.” The team works across an array of sectors, including banking and financial services, retail, media, education, museums and galleries, and sports. Employer clients include the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), Imperial College, and The Natural History Museum. Some had encountered more work on the tribunal side, which involved “preparing documents, drafting claims, liaising with clients and really getting stuck into the case.”There’s also a safeguarding element to the department, where “we deal with claims of misconduct, both on the employment side and in other aspects too.”Another highlighted that “there’s quite a broad spread of work to get involved in: you might be drafting an employment contract, assisting with a tribunal, attending conferences with counsel or doing a piece of research on an employment-related question that has come up.”Overall, this source felt that “you get quite a lot of responsibility and draft various documents. You also get to liaise with the clients directly a lot of the time.”

Trainee Life

“The culture of the firm couldn’t be further away from old-fashioned,”one source emphasised, counteracting some of the stereotypes that cluster around firms with significant private client/private wealth practices. “There’s a broad client base that you don’t hear about as a student,”our interviewee continued, adding that the mix of “entrepreneurs, businesses, schools and universities” also go some way to shape and inform the culture at Farrer. Another chipped in: “When I went to other firms that were more corporate but less ‘traditional’, they had more conservative cultures. Here there’s very little hierarchy. You can stop and chat, and if you’re new to a team your supervisor schedules a coffee with all the members of the team.”

“...there aren’t the kind of late nights you hear about at big City law firms.”

Speaking about perceptions around the ‘type’ of person that works at Farrer, sources said that “it’s more old-school higher up the chain, but I think it’s definitely becoming more and more a place for everyone.” One interviewee noted that “future trainees are coming through the Aspiring Solicitors initiative,”which aims to increase diversity in the legal profession. In 2021, five of Farrer's ten new trainees were Aspiring Solicitors members. Overall, interviewees felt that “there are regular D&I things going on,”such as “active bystander training, where we were coached on how to call out certain behaviour.”Sources were also full of praise for the firm’s approach to mental health: “There’s a counsellor who you can have three free sessions with. These are completely confidential, and anyone can use them.”

Of those surveyed, the average recorded hours in the previous week came in at 44.5, which is below the London average of nearly 50. Sources confirmed that while the firm “obviously expects the work to get done, there isn’t a facetime culture.” The standard hours were said to run from 9am until around 7pm, and while these remain “fairly consistent,”there are times when trainees stay later. “I’ve never finished past 11pm,”said one source, “so there aren’t the kind of late nights you hear about at big City law firms. I think the contentious departments, like family or litigation, have the more taxing hours.”The general rule is that “if someone is giving you a task later than 5.30pm they’ll usually say, ‘Don’t do this tonight, do it tomorrow.’”

On the social side, working from home meant online “quizzes, team drinks and catch-ups.” When people were in the office, we heard of weekly drinks taking place, though sources said that some departments were more social than others. Other social activities involved “various sports clubs, cooking competitions, and language classes.”

Farrer must be doing something right, because nearly 70% of those surveyed said they wanted to make partner. The good news is that Farrer’s retentionis typically very high, with nineout of ten qualifiers retained in 2021. The qualification process is relatively informal: “We receive a list of which teams have positions open and how many,” a trainee explained. “Then we speak to the training principal about our preferred option, which then goes to the department.”If the department is happy with the application, then the trainee is hired. However, “if there are several applications then each trainee writes a personal statement, and the department makes their decision.” 

And finally… 

Trainees said “there are many opportunities to do pro bono work, which include advising for TrustLaw and attending the Mary Ward Legal Centre. We also run various charity initiatives and fundraising challenges.” 


How to get a Farrer & Co training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 31 January 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)

Training contract deadline (2024): 15 July 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)

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 recruitment and development 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." From here, the top 90-100 vacation scheme applicants who impress are invited to an assessment day that involves a group and written exercises.

Meanwhile, the lucky 40 training contract applicants who make it through the first round 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.

Vacation scheme

Farrer & Co hold three two-week vacation schemes, one at Easter and two in summer, taking on ten candidates at a time. Each vacation schemer is assigned a trainee buddy, 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, as outlined above.

How to wow

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.

Given the firm's abundance of private client work, as well as family and employment law, “applicants need to have a certain sensitivity and be sympathetic towards individuals,” partner Jonathan Eley points out. “Our clients expect confidentiality and discretion at all times, so candidates who recognise the importance of that will certainly get a tick in the box.”

Farrer & Co LLP

66 Lincoln's Inn Fields,
Website www.farrer.co.uk

  • Partners 80 
  • Assistant solicitors 214
  • Total trainees 20
  • UK offices London
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Claire Roche graduaterecruitment@farrer.co.uk
  • 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
  • Sponsorship 
  • 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.

Firm profile

Farrer & Co is synonymous with the highest quality legal advice and service. We advise individuals, families, businesses, financial services, educational and not-for-profit organisations on every aspect of the law, wherever the need arises.

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

We provide a range of specialist, high-quality legal services to businesses, charities and institutions, private individuals and families. Our clients include banks, major businesses and media groups, as well as schools, charities, high net worth entrepreneurs and landed estates. We work to provide a seamless and integrated legal service for every client. Our aim is to solve the difficult issues that matter to its clients, whether those are complex transactional, reputational, regulatory, constitutional or personal issues, or a combination of them. We pride ourselves not only on our technical ability and commercial acumen, but on our ability to provide practical, versatile and cost-effective solutions to our clients' legal requirements. Our clients operate across the world, with activities and assets in multiple jurisdictions. As a result, the majority of our work has an international element, giving our lawyers worldwide experience in their specialist areas.

Training opportunities

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.

Vacation scheme

We have three vacation schemes: one at Easter for two weeks and two summer schemes for two weeks each. Paid £300 per week. Around half of our trainees are recruited through our vacation scheme.

Other benefits

Flexible benefits scheme, sporting teams/clubs, season ticket loan, 25 days’ holiday, group income protection, group life assurance, company doctor, subsidised gym membership, subsidised yoga/pilates, pension scheme, private medical insurance after three months, well-person checks.

Assessment days and first-year opportunities

100 of the best vacation scheme applicants are invited to one of three assessment days held in late February/ early March each year.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
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.

Social media

Twitter @Farrer_Co
Instagram: @Farrer_Co

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Employment: Employer: Third Sector (Band 2)
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (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 4)