A small trainee cohort gets plenty of quality time with entrepreneurial clients at this champion of the mid-market.
Fladgate training contract review 2022
We’re all bored of Zoom quizzes by now, but our trivia skills have come a long way. Here’s a humdinger of question for you – what connects Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, YO! Sushi and Monster Energy? That’s right, they’ve all called on the legal services of Fladgate. “Traditionally we’ve been known for our lower to mid-market M&A work,” trainees explained, but they were also keen to point out that the firm's disputes group "has been earmarked for growth," and highlighted the firm’s “expertise in niche areas such as sports law and online gaming.” As for Abraham Lincoln, the firm had already been around for 100 years by the time the US president called on it in the mid-180ss to help set up the Smithsonian Institution. Talk about a rich history.
“You’re able to work directly with business owners and directors. I’ve come across some real characters…”
A varied batch of Chambers UK rankings includes strong showings for mid-market corporate, real estate and banking finance. Fladgate also acts for wealthy private clients, and members of its team score Chambers High Net Worth rankings. “We’re full-service but without being crazy expensive, which is attractive to many clients,” one source said of the firm’s USP. “Often they’ll start in one department and quickly end up using the services of another.” Trainees reckoned the firm’s clients “tend to be more entrepreneurial” than at larger London rivals. “We don’t do much for big listed companies, more those that are up-and-coming, as well as large-scale institutional clients.” Many saw this as a big plus: “You’re able to work directly with business owners and directors. I’ve come across some real characters, from restaurateurs to fintech guys.”
Fladgate has just one London office, but nearly 40% of the firm’s business comes from non-UK clients, and in departments such as finance "well over half your work as a trainee will have an international element," we heard. Recruiting just a handful of trainees each year, the firm can offer them “higher responsibility and more partner access,” according to insiders. Fladgate launched its first vacation scheme virtually in 2020 – it’s hoped this will move to in-person when it becomes safe to do so.
The firm typically likes trainees to do three seats across its core areas: disputes, corporate, and property. Interviewees did stress that’s “not set in stone” and there is flexibility to explore smaller groups like CSI (commercial, sports and IP), employment and private wealth – though these seats are more difficult to secure. Trainees pick up a firm-allocated first seat and discuss their following postings with HR prior to each rotation.
“There are clients who are constantly emailing and calling me directly.”
We were told that litigation has been one of the busiest areas of law through the Covid-19 pandemic period. “It’s mainly commercial litigation, but the firm’s also building its arbitration team,” one source told us. “I’ve engaged with a huge range of cases from energy disputes and directors' conflicts to aviation and insolvency litigation.” Fladgate recently represented over 100 personal search companies in a claim to recover payments made to water and sewerage utility companies in England and Wales; and acted for Betamax in an arbitration appeal dispute with the Government of Mauritius’ trading arm. Reiterating the benefits of lean staffing, interviewees were keen to highlight their “excellent exposure,” having gone to court to attend small hearings; drafted letters to opposition, pleadings and letters before action; and even got involved with business development.
Lower mid-market transactions, “typically under the £50 million mark,” are the most common type you’ll find in the corporate department. Recent examples include acting for Penguin Random House on the acquisition of independent children’s publisher Little Tiger; and for private equity manager Zouk in the $40 million sale of its interest in cloud software firm Huddle. “You get a lot of client contact” in this seat according to one trainee. “There are clients who are constantly emailing and calling me directly.” Another source told us that “once you’ve gained the trust of the partners, they give you great opportunities.” This seat also sharpens trainees’ drafting skills, putting them to work on board minutes as well as share purchase and subscription agreements.
Funds, finance and regulatory is one seat, but subdivides internally into two groups. “The first is a finance side that deals with loan agreements and transactions; the second deals with the regulatory aspect of funds,” insiders explained. Fladgate advises some borrowers but primarily lenders on domestic and cross-border financings: this includes working for the Bank of Ireland on private equity-backed joint venture schemes and advising Ocado Ventures on its $25 million investment into indoor food producer Infinite Acres. Trainees on the transactional side could further refine their drafting skills in the form of purchase agreements and conditions precedent checklists; the regulatory side is more research-heavy. Bahraini investment firm Tadhamon Capital called on advice for its £100 million murabaha lending platform to invest in student accommodation development sites.
“You see some crazy disputes…”
As at many firms, a construction seat offers chances to sample both disputes and non-contentious work, whether it’s dealing with wind farms, airports, hotels or leisure parks. We spoke to a trainee who’d found the contentious side in particular “very interesting – you see some crazy disputes that also tend to move very quickly.” They and others were able to attend court and enjoyed close interaction with barristers. Among the firm’s diverse clients is The Science Museum, for whom they recently drafted and negotiated contracts for the design and construction of a new off-site storage facility. A trainee working on the non-contentious side “did a smattering of contracts and warranties. It’s a niche area for a trainee because it’s very particular and unlike any other department.”
This firm may be over 250 years old, but interviewees insisted that it’s anything but dated. One trainee put it this way: “If I was to think of old-school partners, I’d picture lawyers who aren't approachable, stay locked in their office and expect deference from the trainees. That’s not the case at Fladgate.” Another concurred that “partners give a lot of support and training to trainees. I would feel comfortable walking into anyone at the firm’s office and asking a question." Happy with the learning environment, sources felt their supervisors and other senior colleagues "make the time to help and don’t make you feel like you need to rush or get out of their office quickly.”
"We have a comprehensive mental health awareness campaign."
With most sharing “a great sense of humour,” we heard this is a fairly sociable firm when the circumstances allow for it. In construction especially “there’s often a push for the whole team to go out together after work.” Social lives curtailed by the pandemic, trainees were also pleased to describe a progressive approach to mental health at Fladgate. “There’s a push to bring your whole self to work and we have a comprehensive mental health awareness campaign,” they explained. “We recently had an event where senior partners and HR figures discussed their own mental health journeys.” Rounding out the firm’s progressive values, sources felt Fladgate is “making a big push to get equality between men and women,” noting that “the firm is on track to have 30% of its board and leadership positions filled by women.” Interviewees also reported that lawyers and staff receive weekly newsletters highlighting “issues around diversity. They aim to educate people about different religious holidays.”
What about holidays in general? Far from being chained to their desks, trainees at this firm often trumpet better work-life balance than others, but don’t expect to be clocking off at 5.30pm every night. "I would say a good day would be working from 9.30am to 6pm, which I’m doing around 30% of the time," one source estimated. Other interviewees had plenty of experience working late nights, or even into the early morning in one extreme instance. That said, the median hours worked by our survey respondents was 43.5 in a week – significantly below the 50+ hours we frequently see at many US firms and larger City competitors.
Trainees chat to HR about their preferred department to qualify into before a jobs list is released; they can apply for more than one position and will be required to interview in the event that there are multiple applicants for one position. "I think retention was a worry for the 2020 cohort, but they were all offered jobs so it’s less of a concern for us,” according to a trainee from the class of 2021. The firm went on to keep five of its six qualifiers.
Yo ho, yo ho, a lawyer’s life for me
The firm organises a treasure hunt around Covent Garden for newly arrived trainees.
How to get a Fladgate training contract
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 questions “designed to give applicants the opportunity to stand out and show what's different about them.” It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how well you have researched the firm and the extent to which you understand our business model. 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 500 applications a year. Roughly 100 candidates are sent a critical reasoning test where we then select around 40 individuals for 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 vacation scheme which involves a hands on, office-based experience, lifting the lid on life at Fladgate. The week culminates in a final interview which is 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 that demonstrate consideration and thought. 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
Our strategy is to combine brilliant teamwork and a truly personal service; connectivity and understanding across our clients’ worlds; and high quality specialist expertise and products that meet their needs.
For a relatively small firm to deliver the quality of work that we do, the range of expertise that we have and the depth of our relationships with clients are contributing factors that set us apart from our competitors.
Main areas of work
Corporate: including capital markets, M&A, tax, private capital, restructuring and employment.
Dispute Resolution: which includes regulatory, corporate governance and investigations, banking and financial services litigation, international commercial arbitration, insurance, contentious trusts and family, intellectual property, civil fraud and asset protection.
Funds, Finance and Regulatory: including investment funds, private equity, fund managers, asset and investment managers, promoters, sponsors and investors.
Private Wealth: including contentious trusts, estate and trust administration, family, international private wealth, immigration, and trusts and tax planning.
In addition to on-the-job training, each department has a comprehensive training schedule of seminars and workshops covering a range of legal and skills training. The firm has a modern culture and an opendoor policy where trainees are given early responsibility and encouraged to achieve their full potential.
Seat options include: Corporate; Dispute Resolution; Real Estate; Funds, Finance & Regulatory; Commercial, Sports & IP, Construction, and Real Estate Litigation.
Fladgate recruit trainees solely through the vacation scheme which was launched in 2020. Fladgate holds four one-week vacation scheme placements across June/July.
The vacation scheme provides graduate students – our potential future trainees – an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and a good understanding of life as a Fladgate trainee. Participants will be assigned a supervisor, usually an associate, as well as a trainee buddy. Vac schemers will have the opportunity to attend departmental introductions, technical presentations and Q&A sessions with various partners, senior associates and experts at the firm. Alongside these sessions, vac schemers will be engaged in discrete tasks, group work, BD activities and networking and social sessions, providing them with an insight into our practice areas and the trainee role within them.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
At Fladgate we run our business in ways that promote equality of opportunity and respect for diversity. Ours is a business that thrives on bringing together people with different perspectives to address our clients’ challenges, so we value and encourage diversity, both internally and externally. Furthermore, the firm recognises the importance of the health and wellbeing of all our people and that it can play a part in promoting an environment which allows everyone to flourish and reach their full potential.
Promoting inclusivity and diversity is a key element of our commitment to being a great place to work, enabling us to attract and retain the best talent, and we take our responsibility to this seriously. We care deeply about creating an inclusive culture and are committed to the fair treatment of everyone and to ensuring that each individual is valued and respected. The Firm has an Inclusion & Diversity committee, formed of volunteers across the business, which is chaired by our I&D Partner and who reports to our Board regularly. As signatories to The Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, we were delighted to have scored gold in five categories and be awarded an overall ‘gold’ status. We also received a ‘Highly Commended’ at the Legal Week Innovation Awards 2019 for our efforts with Diversity & Inclusion.
We are committed to broadening access to the legal profession and are part of the PRIME social inclusion initiative, which aims to provide fair access to meaningful work experience within the legal sector for school-age students from less-privileged backgrounds. Students and staff alike find these initiatives valuable and rewarding and the success of our Insight Days and our PRIME work experience reflect our continuing commitment to a more diverse legal sector.
We also uphold a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, dedicating fundraising to two nominated charities per calendar year.
We care deeply about the wellbeing of our people and have a strong commitment to employee wellness. Our wellbeing programme consists of four key pillars: physical health, mental health, financial health and social & CSR. As part of our programme we offer a range of benefits to staff and provide regular updates and seminars on health and wellbeing. Furthermore, the firm has run various mental health seminars, led by internal champions and external experts such as Mind and LawCare, encouraging staff to feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work. We were delighted to be win the "Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative" entry at the People in Law 2020 Awards, recognising our efforts and commitment to encouraging and support the wellbeing of our people.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 3)