A training contract at this South Westerner means hot-footing it around the regions, and sampling work in four key sectors.
Foot don't fail me now
Suggest to trainees at Foot Anstey that the firm's your everyday, run-of-the-mill regional firm, and you'll be putting your foot in it. No, this outfit struck our sources as “entrepreneurial” and “a firm that was definitely one to watch.” Though it might sound as though our sources were getting a bit big for their boots, there are good grounds to support their claims. The firm’s turnover has increased 86% since 2011, it recently moved to a new office in Southampton (and this office is accepting its first trainees in September 2018), and most impressively it has a roster of noteworthy clients: Lucozade, Sky and Odeon are but three examples.
We’re keen to maintain our roots in the South West."
“We’re keen to maintain our roots in the South West, but we're aware that we can get a bigger piece of the pie,” said one trainee. Like many other firms, Foot Anstey sees a way forward in operating with a client-oriented sector focus. Those chosen sectors are banking and financial services; property, infrastructure and construction; media and technology; and retail and leisure. 2017 saw the firm make a bold statement in this regard, separating its Chambers UK-acclaimed clinical negligence group to form the standalone company Enable Law. This angles the remainder of the firm towards business services, but removes the clinical negligence option for trainees.
Across the South West the firm gets Chambers UK rankings for a wide range of areas, including banking and finance, real estate, employment, IT, litigation, corporate and tax – so there's still plenty on offer. Maximising trainees' exposure to all of these, juniors are expected to switch between offices during their contract. “That's for a very specific cultural reason,” says training principal Alan Hughes. “We work as teams across offices, so in any significant matter you will be dealing with lawyers in different offices.”
Ansteys in your pansteys
Let's dwell on this element of the contract for a moment. With six seats in total, “the firm tries to make sure you’re in the same place for at least eight months so that you get some continuity,” reported trainees. The firm also covers the costs of moving (agency fees and moving vans) to ease the load. While some trainees felt that “most people want to be in Bristol” the current group were understanding that “the one-firm culture is central to the training contract. The firm wants to ensure you’re visible across all offices.” Others added: “I loved it because each office has different work and different experts. It’s great to see the benefit of working with different people.”
“The firm wants to ensure you’re visible across all offices.”
To ensure juniors are aware of the moves that await them, trainees are assigned their first two seats around June. The contract begins in September, and in March trainees are assigned their seats for the rest of the contract. Trainees usually spend their last seat in the department they’re planning to qualify into.
Also worth a mention is the firm’s ‘virtual trainee’ scheme. It's a client secondment, but with a twist. Throughout the training contract, interviewees worked part time (four to six hours a week) at the offices of clients such as BMW. There was high praise for the scheme: “It builds your profile within the firm because you have to liaise with partners in multiple departments and offices.” But it also “gives you a key role in business development.” The client decides who it takes – those trainees who don’t participate become ‘knowledge sector leaders,’ working internally to build the firm’s knowledge base: “You’re assigned a sector and you’re encouraged to go along to development meetings and events within the field.”
You stream Sky's stream, you scream
Foot Anstey’s contentious practice handles commercial, property, banking and legacy/trusts disputes, and seats are available in each. Sky has recently enlisted the firm to bring legal action against its customers who illegally stream its content. After an individual streamed the Klitschko-Joshua boxing match via Facebook, the company demanded £85,000, while another case went to the High Court, where an individual was ordered to pay £16,000, plus damages. The firm also acted for three investors who helped finance a property development in Cabo Verde, but were not repaid the £1.6 million (plus interest) that was agreed. Other clients include Screwfix, the Bank of Ireland, furniture store Dreams, and cider manufacturer Westons.
Trainees who'd sat in banking litigation in Plymouth told us: “There’s a lot of high-value work but lawyers can cut their teeth on small claims. If it’s something like a fast-tracked insurance referral you can take a lot of autonomy.” Higher value claims meant being “involved in the disclosure process, as well as bundling and cost schedules.” But trainees still had the opportunity to “attend hearings at the RCJ” and draft too – “your closest supervisor in that team is a senior associate, and you get to do their first drafts.” In commercial litigation, where juniors had seen a lot of contract disputes, they “drafted witness statements, letters before action, and attended calls with clients and opponents – it's really good for seeing how you work in those situations.” Over in real estate litigation, trainees experienced “a lot of landlord and tenant work, like unpaid rent and boundary disputes, or dilapidation claims if a property is in a state of disrepair.” There's also “some agricultural work involved, so you see quite a few tenancy disputes under the Agricultural Tenancies Act.”
“We all muck in together across offices, so you get much broader exposure.”
Foot Anstey's corporate team has recently been busy advising Charlie Parsons, Lord Waheed Alli and Sir Bob Geldof on the sale of the production company responsible for reality TV show Survivor to Banijay (the production group responsible for Keeping Up With The Kardashians). The firm also advised Marbel, a key distributor for Hape, the world's largest producer of wooden toys, on its acquisition by the Swiss toy company. One trainee described a referral relationship “with magic circle firms in London. Anything that is not a big-ticket item, we can work on – we may just do the due diligence.” Trainees could get involved in an array of work which spans M&A deals, private equity and venture capital. Tasks included “helping to run due diligence projects, drafting annexes to reports, taking calls from clients and other firms we were working with, and a lot of board minutes.” Trainees also explained how “we have corporate teams in Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth, and we all muck in together across offices, so you get much broader exposure to different deals.”
The firm's commercial department handles a mix of franchising, data protection, IP, IT, energy and regulatory work. The IP team has some very impressive clients: it advises publisher Trinity Mirror on its portfolio of trademarks, has assisted Aardman Animations (home to Wallace and Gromit) on licensing agreements, and recently worked with LucasFilm to tackle leaks of confidential plot and character information for both Episode VII and VIII. The IT team, meanwhile, has advised Trainline.com repeatedly – it recently helped with an in-app promotion on Apple Pay, drafting the terms. The firm also provided advice to Screwfix on a number of data protection matters, most recently regarding its GDPR project. “If you’re interested in a particular area you can just ask and they’ll accommodate it,” insiders revealed. Others added: “Once you build up a profile you can start doing NQ level work. I was able to take instruction from a new client and draft some T&Cs from scratch, so I got to see the whole thing through.”
The firm also has an Islamic finance practice – something that's rare at regional firms, although it's based in London. “It's all about buying property,” explained trainees, and the team recently advised Greenridge Investment Management on the financing of US manufacturer 3M's £77 million acquisition of its new European headquarters, in Bracknell. “It’s all about being creative and fitting Shari'a-compliant practice into English law. It’s quite academic as well as transactional,” insiders explained. “I’ve been able to manage my own files under supervision since day one,” others continued, adding: “I’ve done everything from contacting solicitors and clients to working on post-completions.”
While Southampton is the latest office to relocate to shiny new digs, trainees were very happy with the other offices. The Bristol office was recently expanded and refurbished, complete with “walking treadmill desks [this is a thing?!], collaborative spaces and fully stocked kitchens with ten different types of tea.” It's based in Glass Wharf, overlooking Bristol Temple Meads, and other locations are just as swanky. In Plymouth we heard: “There’s a beautiful view overlooking the boats in the harbour,” while Exeter is next in line for a revamp. “They’re constantly putting money into the offices,” sources beamed – all of the offices are open plan and have agile working, “which is great because you can work from any office. My direct dial goes through to my laptop.” All this encouraged sources to label Foot Anstey “a very forward-thinking firm that’s well adapted to the current climate.”
Culturally, interviewees described “a good ethos of collegiate togetherness.” That phrasing might be a little abstract, but trainees expanded: “It's not very hierarchical, it's open plan, there's great interaction between seniors and juniors, no one is arrogant or big-headed.” Policing this might have been a challenge across a multi-site firm, but trainees were adamant that “the culture is seamless across offices and everyone’s really invested in your development.” All interviewees described a good work/life balance, revealing: “Trainees don’t get given phones because they don’t want us to be accessible outside of the office. They want us to have a life!” Juniors' working hours reflect this, with most saying they’d never stayed past 7.30pm, though a couple had stayed until midnight completing deals.
"...we filmed our own version of Carpool Karaoke with a load of partners."
On the social side we heard: “Trainees get a budget to go out and socialise every four months. We recently went go-karting and there was a budget to get people there from other locations and subsidise hotels.” We also heard about running and netball clubs, and a Christmas party held at Cadbury House in Bristol. Trainees were asked to put on a skit for the big event, “which is basically an opportunity to have fun and embarrass ourselves. This year we filmed our own version of Carpool Karaoke with a load of partners. If anything, we had too many partners trying to get involved!”
The firm has done well in retaining juniors for the past few years, as you'd expect at a firm targeting organic growth. Those planning to stay on at the firm had secured their NQ positions in March, describing the process as "seamless.” After a list came out detailing the available jobs, and their locations, all that was asked of trainees was to “send off our top two choices with a one-page application." Unsurprisingly, retention rates were good, with nine out of 12 qualifiers staying on in 2018.
Trainees also get a ‘lifestyle hour’ every week and two CSR days per year. This year that meant volunteering at a drop-in centre for the homeless.
How to get a Foot Anstey training contract.
Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 1 April 2019 (opens 1 October 2018)
Training contract deadline (2021): 1 June 2019 (1 October 2018)
Foot Anstey offers 12 training contracts a year. Aspiring trainees can either apply for a vacation scheme or directly for a training contract. Both routes start with an online application form. The number of applications received is rising year on year with 2018 being the most competitive yet.
The firm uses a competency-based scoring process to assess vacation scheme applications, awarding a maximum mark of 48. To hit the cut-off point, typically in the upper 30s, applicants have to demonstrate evidence of commercial awareness, teamwork, communication and leadership skills. It goes without saying applicants should thoroughly check their forms before submitting – our HR sources reveal they once received an application addressed to regional rival Burges Salmon.
An average year sees the firm invite around 15 candidates to join one of its week-long vacation schemes. These typically take place in early summer. Attendees spend their week working in a single department, though they also attend meetings with current trainees, lunches with partners and feedback sessions with their supervisor. “The feedback in particular is described as 'invaluable' by participants,” says head of learning and development, Susie Halliday. All candidates on the vacation scheme get a place on an assessment centre which is run on the last day of the week.
The firm invites around 36 applicants to assessment centres, which typically run over three days. The assessment centres are attended by direct applicants who impress on paper, as well as those who have been on the vacation scheme. The firm occasionally puts an additional day on the schedule if there are lots of promising candidates.
The assessment day includes a group exercise in which candidates are encouraged to demonstrate their commerciality as well as how they interact in a group situation. Attendees also complete a written exercise, which might take the form of spotting commercial issues in a hypothetical scenario or ranking firm aspects like client service in order of priority.
Part of the day includes a networking lunch with various partners and current trainees. “It's a great opportunity to get to know the partner running your interview afterwards,” one trainee revealed. The lunch isn't assessed, though our sources emphasised the importance of staying on the ball nevertheless: “One time an applicant did a strange impression of a partner in front of me and another trainee, which did not go down well. I wouldn't suggest relaxing too much.”
The aforementioned interview can take up to an hour: it involves competency-based questions and is held with two partners or a partner and a member of HR. Our sources at the firm tell us they're looking for commercial awareness as well as real-life examples that illustrate how a candidate is ready for a trainee role.
The ideal candidate
Foot Anstey hopefuls need at least a 2:1 degree to be considered. Alongside this, the firm is looking for candidates with confidence, enthusiasm and a positive attitude, we're told. The more work experience someone has, the better, particularly if it's at another large regional law firm.
Regional links are helpful, but not the be-all and end-all. Many trainee applicants are from the local area, but firm reps tell us they're more concerned with making sure new hires plan to stay on than finding those already living in the South West.
Doing business in the South West
Foot Anstey LLP
Salt Quay House,
4 North East Quay,
- Partners 49
- Total trainees 24
- UK offices Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Southampton, London, Taunton, Truro
- Graduate recruiter: Ed Scrivener, [email protected]
- Training partner: Alan Hughes
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 12
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Vacation scheme places p.a: 18
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 1 June 2019
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 1 April 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £28,000
- Second-year salary: £30,000
- Post-qualification salary: £40,000
- Holiday entitlement 25 days plus bank holidays
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Southampton, Truro
- Client secondments: Yes, including the Virtual Trainee programme
We like to think that our approach to business and developing client relationships makes us distinctly different to traditional law firms — and also attractive. As does our desire to ensure our lawyers and trainees operate in an environment where everything is tailored towards delivering specialist and forward thinking advice to our clients. Whatever the reason you want to join us, we promise you a progressive working environment. We can offer you an open and supportive culture that is committed to ensuring you realise your maximum potential. We will invest in you, train you and value you. We have received high profile recognition for our culture and strategy.
Main areas of work
Apply online by 1 April 2019 at www.footansteycareers.com.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
Exeter and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 3)