South West stalwart Foot Anstey gives trainees a breadth of experience “without having to go to London.”
Don’t really fancy working with all the stress-heads in the capital? Ever wondered why you don’t live near the beach? With offices in Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton, Truro and Southampton, Foot Anstey’s lawyers get to live this life. “The fact that it’s a regional law firm outside of London, but still offers that high-quality work” was a big factor drawing trainees from all over the country (however, there is an office in London too). Its profile in the South West proves it’s “one of the big regional players”: in particular, Chambers UK acknowledges the firm’s regional expertise in areas including employment, tax, litigation, banking & finance, real estate, and construction. Sources also flagged “the breadth of experience that the firm offers” as another attractive draw, in particular highlighting the firm’s Islamic finance team as “quite niche for the South West.”
"I wanted to get that range of experience of areas before deciding where to qualify.”
Foot Anstey trainees will usually do six seats of four months each. “It was another one of the factors that drew me to the firm – I wanted to get that range of experience of areas before deciding where to qualify,” one source explained. First years will submit three ranked preferences for each of their first two seats from a list they receive prior to starting their training contracts. The process is then repeated at the end of the second seat for seats three to five. The final seat will usually be a repeat of the seat in which the trainee wishes to qualify. At the time of research, most sources were located in either Bristol or Exeter: “We have a one-firm policy – the firm encourages us to move about between different offices, though they try and keep you in the same place for at least eight months.” Most of the seats were in Bristol, Exeter or Plymouth, though seats in Truro and Southampton have been available in the past.
In the commercial seat, trainees generally found they were “acting for clients in assisting their general counsels or in-house legal teams on all sorts of advisory pieces, as well as commercial due diligence and contract reviews.” The team advises Welcome Break on various business contracts – most recently on new head office IT provisions – and also provides GC services for the Royal Shakespeare Company including advice on events contracts, music licensing and new marketing initiatives. Sources also noted that within commercial the firm has a number of specialisms such as data protection, IP and financial services. Trainees got regularly involved in supply and service agreements, which included “lots of client meetings” as well as actually “drafting them and putting that legal knowledge into practice.” Sources also tried their hand at “negotiating contracts and contract amendments,” which sometimes involved working cross-jurisdiction. Corporate support work was also a regular feature of the commercial seat.
The commercial litigation team is equally broad in scope. One trainee found it “interesting doing work for household names – I don’t know if that novelty wears off after you’ve been doing the job for a while, but it feels exciting.” To give you an idea, clients include Signet Jewellers (owners of H. Samuel and Ernest Jones), Lloyds Banking Group and Bank of Ireland. The team also worked with Sky UK on multiple broadcast copyright infringement claims regarding their streaming service. Sources got stuck into “the normal contentious tasks you’d expect” such as drafting and preparing bundles, corresponding with counsel, and drafting various letters. One source reflected: “I had a really good opportunity to attend a mediation with two senior lawyers and the client, as well as the other side and their solicitors. I was observing and note-taking, but it was a great learning opportunity.”
“There’s no task I’ve volunteered for and been told I’m not allowed to do it!”
Property, infrastructure and construction covers both contentious and non-contentious work. On the contentious side, sources were generally “dealing with matters where someone has been contracted to build a building and there’s either been issues with the building or it’s been delayed, leading to a dispute.” In these cases, trainees could get their hands on “drafting witness statements, putting bundles together, and liaising with experts on the case.” Others mentioned drafting various letters, attending site visits, and attending adjudications and arbitrations – interviewees appreciated being “taken along to exciting events.” The team recently advised Acorn Property Group on their dispute with the contractor of a residential development regarding entitlement to payment of the final account and rectification of defects. On the non-contentious side, the work involved more “drafting of construction agreements” as well as the “negotiation and amendments of contracts” and general contract review. The team advised Green Frog Connect on engineering, procurement and construction contracts for the delivery of gas peaking power plants and battery storage in the UK, and also advises Screwfix and B&Q (part of the Kingfisher group) on construction contracts to do with distribution centres and retail units across the UK. This seat also included the opportunity to work on adaptations of houses – “where someone had a clinical negligence claim and needed their property adapted because of disabilities, we were helping do the consultant appointments or project manager appointments.” Overall, interviewees were pleased with the variety and the level of responsibility on offer: “There’s no task I’ve volunteered for and been told I’m not allowed to do it!”
Similarly, employment also covers “a mix of contentious and non-contentious work.” Sources reckoned that “especially with the current climate, employment lawyers are far busier than other lawyers at the moment.” Advisory work was particularly hot: “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, which tends to be negotiating the terms of employment contracts and drafting settlement agreements.” Other non-contentious work often involved “responding to various queries that come in from clients” and “support on corporate deals.” The team provides employment advice to clients including Princess Yachts, Ensono and Reed & Mackay Travel. Contentious work typically took the form of working on employment tribunal claims, and sources noted that the firm is particularly “familiar with the regional tribunals in the South West.” For trainees, this meant regularly “preparing trial bundles and drafting witness statements.” Clients including Screwfix and W.C. Rowe (Falmouth) turn to the firm for employment tribunal cases.
The most striking thing trainees noticed about the culture at Foot Anstey was that “everyone at every level really makes the effort to speak to you and get to know you.” Multiple sources praised the non-hierarchical atmosphere, noting that even the “managing partner is very approachable when he’s around – he tries to move around each office and does trainee lunches every few months.” As a result, interviewees felt “there is a strong investment in trainees – they want you to have a good quality experience.” Another factor that contributed to this sentiment was the firm’s “strong focus on having a healthy work/life balance.”
“It just gives you that bit of breathing space.”
In this vein, one source reflected: “My hours have been really fine. In my first seat, my supervising partner said: ‘To be clear, if you can leave at 5.15pm, leave at 5.15pm’, so I did!” Others agreed and noted they’d “rarely stayed later than 6pm.” Of course, the odd late night isn’t entirely avoidable, and sources emphasised that “it doesn’t mean you don’t work hard – where you need to put the hours in you will put them in,” but the latest any of our interviewees mentioned staying was 7.30pm. To top it off, the firm also offers its employees a ‘lifestyle hour’ where everyone is given one hour per week of ‘free time’: “You can use it to clock off early on a Friday, take a longer lunch one day, or have a lie-in one morning.” Interviewees were certainly a fan of this initiative, noting that “it just gives you that bit of breathing space.”
Under regular circumstances, Foot Anstey usually publishes its NQ jobs list relatively early – around February. Second years can apply for up to two roles, then the teams interview everyone who has applied. Given the timing of the coronavirus outbreak, this year was slightly different: qualifiers had just had their NQ job interviews before lockdown began. Consequently, the decision-making process was postponed but the same number of NQ positions was maintained. Sources felt that “during that time the firm did communicate with us – they held webinars with the training partner and answered our questions. They tried to keep us updated with the job situation as it was being decided.” The firm ended up retaining five of ten qualifiers (with an additional two being retained on fixed-term contracts).
Getting a foot in the door
The firm helps trainees get a foot in the door with clients through their virtual training scheme: “We’re essentially a remote secondee for a client for the two years. It’s been really beneficial to build those relationships with commercial clients and learn about another business.”
How to get a Foot Anstey training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021) : 1 April 2021
Training contract deadline: 1 June 2021
Applications and interviews
Foot Anstey receives over 450 applications a year. Initial applications take the form of a CV, cover letter, and an online application form where candidates answer three additional key questions, usually focused on commercial awareness. Recruitment coordinator Debbie Moors notes “this is the candidate’s opportunity to show they have understood both the question and Foot Anstey, thoroughly researched their answer from a commercial perspective and put together a well-constructed answer with no errors.” Following a live video interview consisting of around four questions, between 24 and 30 candidates will then be invited to an assessment day.
The assessment day is broken down into an interview with a partner and member of HR, a written exercise and a group exercise. The interview lasts for around 40 to 45 minutes and “all candidates are asked the same questions in order to ensure that everyone has the same experience.” The firm looks for a number of qualities in candidates, including “commercial acumen, drive, resilience, and potential to become an outstanding business advisor and solicitor.”
Foot Anstey runs a one week-long summer vacation scheme, for which applications follow the same format as the training contract assessment days above. Vac Schemers will work within one team during their time and “can expect to experience supervised trainee work, attend team meetings and attend client meetings.” Alongside a senior lawyer supervisor, they will also be allocated a ‘buddy’ who will be an existing trainee or NQ. The week also includes a series of ‘trainee-led talks’ to help students learn about the firm’s practice areas, as well as social events for attendees to “get to know our existing trainees in a relaxed setting.”
Note: the firm has delayed its 2020 summer Vacation Scheme due to Covid-19, which will now take place in December 2020. The 2021 summer Vacation Scheme will take place in June 2021.
Applicants should have a minimum of BBB at A-level and a 2:1 at degree-level to be considered (unless extenuating circumstances apply). While Foot Anstey doesn’t look for specific backgrounds or personality types, Debbie Moors explains “we look for candidates with a positive, ‘can do’ approach, who embrace opportunities with enthusiasm.” For law fairs, the firm typically focuses on those in the South West, however it welcomes applications from across the country and abroad.
Foot Anstey LLP
Salt Quay House,
4 North East Quay,
- Partners: 48
- Associates: 210
- Total trainees: 12
- UK offices: Bristol, Exeter, London, Plymouth, Southampton, Taunton and Truro
- Graduate recruiter: Ellen Marsh [email protected]
- Tel: 0117 915 4665
- Training partner: Martin Hirst [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 12
- Applications pa: 450+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum A levels: BBB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 15
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 January 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2021/ 2022/2023 start: 1 June 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 1 April 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £30,000
- Second-year salary: £32,000
- Post-qualification salary: £46,000 (Bristol)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days plus bank holidays
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
- International and regional
- Client secondments: Yes, including the Virtual Trainee programme
We are a premier legal practice delivering specialist expertise to an impressive portfolio of regional, national and international clients. An entrepreneurial firm with history and tradition, we are on an exciting journey to become our clients’ most trusted advisor, enabling them to achieve their ambitions. How we do it is just as important as what we do. Our values of collaboration over convention, championing aspiration, being refreshingly human, embracing entrepreneurial spirit and delivering integrated thinking guide the way we act, every day, from the way we operate as a business to how we treat our colleagues and clients.
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.
Main areas of work
Through our network of offices across the South and South West, we work as one national team offering specialist legal advice and services to regional, national and international clients. We offer expert advice in Commercial Property, Energy, Projects Infrastructure & Construction, Property Litigation, Islamic Finance, Planning & Environmental, Commercial, Corporate, Dispute Resolution, Employment and Private Wealth.
We welcome applications from law and non-law students who have a strong academic background, exceptional communication skills, and the vision to be part of our future. Our training programme is designed to help you reach your full potential. You will undertake 6, four month seats so you experience a greater number of practice areas. One of our significant differentiators is the closeness with which you will work with senior lawyers and partners. We believe being directly in the middle of good quality work will accelerate your learning and help you to develop into an exceptional advisory lawyer.
As one of our trainees, you will get exposure to situations to develop your legal and commercial expertise, in an environment that is friendly and supportive. This may be through your day to day work with your team and supervisor, on secondment with a client or as part of our award winning Virtual Trainee programme supporting national and international clients.
Our summer vacation scheme offers a week of work experience. Not only will you carry out "real work" but you will gain valuable insight into our business and the different areas of legal expertise. At the end of the week participants will take part in an assessment day after which successful candidates will be offered a training contract.
All trainees are entitled to our benefits package which includes: 25 days’ holiday, options to buy/sell holiday, contributory pension scheme, life assurance, cycle scheme, gym membership, discounted shopping, paid sabbaticals, Lifestyle Hour (the chance to take one hour off work each week to promote a healthy work/life balance) and the opportunity to exchange one day of annual leave for 15 hours holiday.
Open days and first-year opportunities
We offer work experience to 1st year students in the summer. All candidates will need to apply online via www.footanstey.com or contact [email protected] for information. We hold open evenings for potential trainees throughout the year which provide an opportunity to find out more about the firm, the application process and to network with trainees and lawyers.
University law careers fairs 2020
Bristol, Exeter, Cardiff, Birmingham, Southampton, UWE, University of Law, BPP.
Diversity, inclusion & welbeing
‘Powering your ambition’ summarises what we stand for as a firm. It means that we aim to support our clients and our people to achieve their goals, regardless of background, gender, race, beliefs, sexuality or other non-work related factors. We champion aspiration and encourage it in everyone that works with us. We were proud to achieve the National Equality Standard accreditation at first time of assessment in 2018. In 2019 we built on our approach through an additional Diversity & Inclusion sub-group of the Partnership Board to develop further our strategic diversity and inclusion priorities for 2019 – 2023.
All employees have access to the firm's mentor programme which focusses on individuals' personal and professional development. It is used for a variety of purposes including helping an employee to fulfil their potential in an existing role to supporting them with their career progression. Our trainees have access to Partner mentors throughout their two year training contract.
Our employee wellbeing is incredibly important and is evolving all the time. We have a number of initiatives we believe genuinely support everyone to have a healthy work/life balance including fruit deliveries and desk treadmills throughout our offices and weekly lifestyle hours for all employees to enable them to take an hour out of the office every week to fit around their lifestyle. We also have paid staff sabbaticals to enable our people to have an extended break from work.
We recognise that our employees' mental wellbeing is just as important as physical health. We have a diverse group of trained mental health first aiders across all our offices and offer all employees free access to a confidential employee support line.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
Exeter and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)