This mid-sized London outfit hasn’t spent 250 years doing the same old work.
Opening the Fladgates
In the two and a half centuries since its inception, Fladgate has worked for a true smorgasbord of clients, encompassing everyone from world-famous individuals (like Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln), to unique retailers and adventurous investors. These days the firm is associated with “a good balance of big, interesting clients and more entrepreneurial ones.” As evidence, our trainee sources highlighted work the firm has done “on blockchain and cryptocurrencies.” The firm recently advised Argo, a tiny crypto-mining company which rents out its computing power to customers, on its London Stock Exchange listing. If that weren’t enough to catch your eye, Fladgate has been pursuing some serious growth: the firm hired 36 new partners between 2015 and mid-2019.
The firm’s property and corporate work is its strongest. Chambers UK ranks the firm’s corporate work in the lower mid-market as some of the very best in the capital. In real estate, the firm has significant expertise in the hotel and leisure sector. And, to boot, the firm is no stranger to international work. Of course, the firm hasn’t abandoned its legacy completely – Fladgate still does more than its fair share of private wealth work. In fact, the firm’s chairman, Richard Reuben, puts it this way: “The firm’s private wealth and entrepreneurial client base is really our core. Having clients who are the owners of businesses is an important part of how we operate. The mid-market is our place to be. We are very happy in that space.”
If you ignore US firms in London, Fladgate sits at the smaller end of the spectrum of commercial London firms. This drew many of the trainees we spoke to. “It’s small enough that you get to know everyone and get a good level of responsibility, but big enough that you get an interesting variety of work.” The size also meant sources felt “more like part of a team, like I was somewhere I could learn, be valued, and gain experience.”
Handbags and Fladrags
Trainees usually have to do a seat in each of the firm’s core areas: litigation, corporate and property. But that’s not as limiting as it sounds. “There are some more niche corporate seats, for example, that would count as core corporate, like funds or CSI [commercial, sports and IP].” Trainees are allocated their first seat by the firm, then for subsequent seats “you have meetings with HR and can voice what your interest is.” Sources reflected that “you’re not necessarily going to get your first choice every time,” but admitted that “HR are quite good at making sure you get your preference eventually.”
“You work with a lot of partners.”
In property, trainees praised their “exposure. You work with a lot of partners,” and one source explained that “you have your own caseload which you run with supervision.” The matters making up trainees’ caseloads included “residential sales and purchases” as well as leases and licences of properties in clients’ portfolios. Running these deals required trainees to “sort enquiries, and draft the licence, lease or rent deposit deed.” The team works with a number of property developers: they recently advised residential developers Strawberry Star on the acquisition of a 6.9 acre development site in Luton, which has planning permission for a 200-room hotel and 685 new homes, and Hodson Developments on the acquisition and financing of part of the planned new town at Chilmington Green, Ashford. There are well-known corporate clients too, including Paul Smith and Penguin Random House, who used Fladgate when agreeing the lease of a new London office.
Corporate covers M&A, capital markets and cross-over work from the firm’s property department. Venture capital work features, with the firm working for both investors and ambitious start-ups. One interviewee recalled being “involved in the preparation to float a client’s business on the London Stock Exchange, and then actually getting to go to the Stock Exchange.” Generally speaking, most trainees had had experience in drafting the ancillary documents and running CP checklists. “Depending on the partner and the size of the transaction, you can get more involved in the actual share purchase agreements,” said one source. “There’s less exposure to the big documents on large matters – I wasn’t drafting the share purchase agreement – but you can liaise with clients.” The team recently advised Fore Fitness, which trades as easyGym, on the £24.7 million sale of 13 of its sites to The Gym Group, and also advised Zouk Capital, 83 North and others as they sold their 40% stake in iZettle, a Swedish payments company, to PayPal. PayPal purchased iZettle for a total of $2.2 billion.
One interviewee described commercial, sports and IP as “the most varied seat I’ve done. You could be drafting IP licences one minute, managing sports contracts the next or drafting terms and conditions.” Unfortunately, it’s not the most common seat. Those lucky enough to work within it could see diverse clients such as professional boxer Josh Taylor, mindfulness app Headspace, or Harry Potter themed merchandiser Platform 9 3/4 Retail. “You’re getting to work with interesting clients that provide unique opportunities, and I was learning more about clients’ businesses than I had in other seats. It requires thinking outside the box.” On the sports front, Fladgate was appointed to the Scottish Professional Football League’s legal panel in 2018, while a recent IP matter involved acting for luxury glasses brand Cutler & Gross on a worldwide licence agreement with Paul Smith.
Available litigation seats include general litigation, construction, and property litigation. General litigation can include breach of contract claims, shareholder disputes, and fraud. Cases are often international: one recent case centred on the disputed ownership of a Constable painting which the Rijksmuseum Twenthe (Fladgate’s client) acquired; another had lawyers advising Yida Zhang on his development company’s role in funding what has been dubbed by critics as a ‘Chinese colony’ in Antigua. Property litigation lawyers meanwhile recently acted for the trustees of the estate of the first Lord Brocket on disrepair and breaches of tenant covenant at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire. Other clients include Toys R Us and Odeon Cinemas. Trainees found that these teams weren’t always bustling. “There aren’t many big cases on at the moment,” said one. That could lessen responsibility a fair bit. One trainee summarised their tasks as “drafting letters before claim, emails, then a bit of research and time spent figuring out deadlines for the court process.”
See ya later Fladgater
Fledgling Fladgate folk had nothing but nice things to say about their colleagues: “Everyone I’ve talked to has been very open if you have questions, which is consistent across the departments. It’s a core part of Fladgate.” The only area sources felt the firm lacked in, however, was the social side. A summer party (previously a Thames boat trip, this year, at the Savoy) was seen as the highlight of the social calendar. Beyond that, we heard: “It’s not the most social firm. When we have socials, they’re very good but they’re few and far between.” The office is mere metres from two pubs, so “if you want to go for a drink you can organise them. But people generally have their own lives and want to get home to other things.”
“Everyone I’ve talked to has been very open if you have questions.”
The firm makes it (relatively) easy to get home too, as sources described their working hours as “really very good.” We’d have to agree if we consider the torturous labour inflicted by many City firms. Of course, different seats can vary. Some mentioned 12-hour stints in corporate – “from 8am until 8pm” – but emphasised that “once the transaction is over you get some reprieve.” Generally, trainees worked for “a few hours more than nine to five, but it’s not ridiculous.” Sources judged that “they promote a work/life balance, and you do actually get that here.”
When the qualification process comes knocking, second-years receive an email detailing the NQ jobs on offer. Generally, people have a conversation with HR before the jobs are listed so that the firm can get an idea of what people are considering. Trainees can apply for more than one job, but all require an interview. “There’s a bit of competition for roles because they usually only release five or six jobs, but the firm has done as good a job as they can at retaining trainees in the past.” In 2019, the firm kept on four of its six qualifiers.
Fladgate’s office isn’t far from Covent Garden, everyone’s mum’s favourite London tourist trap. Trainees reckoned the proximity to “Lincoln’s Inn Fields, nice restaurants and nice places to get drinks” made it an excellent choice.
How to get a Fladgate training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): June 2020
The initial application
The first stage requires candidates to complete an application form via Apply4law. The firm looks for a minimum of ABB at A level and a 2:1 degree, although recruitment manager Nicola Thomas notes that “we look at each application on its merits, so if an application is outstanding this may occasionally outweigh a minor academic hiccup.”
The form includes several questions “designed to give applicants the opportunity to stand out and show what's different about them.” Work experience is important: “We prefer candidates who have managed to squeeze in a good range of legal work experience and ideally some office or other commercial experience alongside their academic studies.”
The assessment centre and interview
The firm receives around 400 applications a year. About 40 to 50 candidates per intake are invited to an assessment centre. “We're aiming to give people a chance to shine,” says Thomas. The day consists of individual and group tasks designed to test written communication, intellectual ability and interpersonal skills. Demonstrating a high level of commercial awareness is key for a Fladgate trainee. “Our clients are largely entrepreneurs, so trainees need to be able to empathise and understand their needs,” comments Thomas.
As well as having the right academic credentials, being “confident and very organised” is essential. “It is important that trainees are competent multi-taskers who enjoy direct client contact.” Around 20 candidates are chosen to go through to the interview stage. There's usually just one interview and it's held with a mixture of partners and HR. After that, it's decision time.
Nicola Thomas advises: “Read your application over and over again to eliminate careless errors. White spaces are okay, because we like concise answers rather than masses of written text, and they make it easy to read. And remember that the application is to Fladgate, so tailor your application to the firm and don’t make the mistake of copying information containing the name of another law firm!” She adds: “We are looking for future partners, so candidates should show us that they are bright, ambitious, confident, commercially minded individuals who want to be at Fladgate and identify that this is somewhere they can flourish and succeed.”
16 Great Queen Street,
- Partners 81
- Assistant solicitors 65
- Total trainees 12
- UK offices 1
- Contact Hayley Webster, [email protected], 0203 036 7139
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: January 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2022: start of July 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £38,000
- Second-year salary: £40,000
- Post-qualification salary: £67,000
- Holiday entitlement: 26 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance loan pa: £6,000 within London and £5,000 for regional study
Main areas of work
The firm has a strong international dimension based on multi-lingual and multi-qualified lawyers working in London and complemented by access to an extensive network of overseas lawyers. The firm operates specialist teams which serve continental Europe, India, Israel, South Africa, the US, Russia/CIS and the Middle East.
The firm’s principal departments comprise corporate (which includes tax, private capital, restructuring, employment, sport, IP and technology), dispute resolution (including matrimonial) and real estate (which includes planning, construction and real estate litigation). These are supported by specialist cross-departmental teams that provide co-ordinated advice on a range of issues.
The firm has a modern culture and an open-door policy where trainees are given early responsibility and encouraged to achieve their full potential.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Construction: Purchaser (Band 5)
- Construction: Supplier (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 3)
- Sport Recognised Practitioner