Combining a wealth of high-net-worth clients with a decidedly un-City-like culture, Mayfair’s Forsters is perfect for those seeking private client and real estate work.
Forsters training contract review 2022
Private client and real estate firm extraordinaire Forsters is the brainchild of ten former City law firm partners who clubbed together in 1998 to create an alternative to the typical magic and silver circle firms. The result? “Quality of work that challenges bigger firms, but with a flat hierarchy, loads of support, and the understanding that this isn’t your whole life,” one trainee declared. That’s not to say, however, that Forsters takes a laissez-faire approach to its work. A look at the firm’s Chambers UK and Chambers High Net Worth rankings quickly proves that not to be the case: Forsters has earned its place among the cream of the crop in London for its mid-market real estate, private wealth and agriculture & rural affairswork. Its family, construction, private wealth disputes, residential property and real estate litigation practices also get tips of the hat.
"I met some clients even on my vac scheme."
The trainees we spoke with were of course drawn to Forsters’ dual strengths of private wealth and real estate. The latter department recently received a boon when it acquired global law firm Orrick’s entire UK real estate group in 2020. Beyond the firm’s reputation and specialities, it was the vacation scheme that sealed the deal for trainees here: “It was the only one I did where I felt truly comfortable,” said this source. Another chimed in: “I spoke to trainees at corporate firms who had never met a client, but I met some clients even on my vac scheme. They don’t make you do the grunt work for two years then chuck you in the deep end.”
Unlike most trainees we speak with, Forsters newbies complete six seats lasting four months each. Seats in the firm’s two biggest departments – commercial real estate and private client– are compulsory, alongside a contentious seat. The final seat is usually a repeat one in the department a trainee will hopefully be qualifying into: “You’re seen more as a hybrid trainee-associate when you return to the group.” On the whole, rookies liked that they did more seats: “It means you get to meet more people in the firm and don’t miss out on the other departments.” Trainees rank their options in order of preference before each rotation and find out where they’re headed next about a month in advance of the move. Some of the litigious groups were busier than usual during the pandemic, so trainees could do an additional contentious seat (as part of their six stints) if they fancied it.
The wider private clientdepartment handles everything from family matters to immigration processes. The work can have cross-border elements, with jurisdictions in the Middle East, Africa and Asia represented. Trainees usually sit in either the rural property or tax, trusts and estatesgroups, but can work for both within the seat. On the trusts side, trainees “did the standard stuff like drafting wills and lasting power of attorney documents, alongside a bit of US-UK work.” There’s a fair amount of research to be done, too: “I looked into a niche part of law then gave a presentation to the department about it, which was fun.” In-person client contact is usually high in this group, though of course the pandemic temporarily put a stop to that.
"Not many firms do this work so it’s great to have a dedicated seat.”
Rural property is all about estates: about half the work covers countryside estate management, while the other half concerns the sale and purchase of said estates by high net worth individuals. London-based residential work and sales/purchases of farms crop up too. On the estate management side, trainees work alongside trustees who own land and help with general enquiries, like advising on trespass issues. Rookies also dabble in conveyancing matters, working with the banks that mortgage the properties. Where sales and purchases are concerned, trainees spend most of their time handling the due diligence and managing data rooms. Sources told us: “If you like both property and private client practices then this seat is perfect. Not many firms do this work so it’s great to have a dedicated seat.”
As a business-based practice, commercial real estate is “more process-heavy than private client, so trainees do more basic tasks like drafting licences and leases. It can be repetitive.” Others thought there was a real range of work on offer, with multiple matters running at once: “The team is very good at getting trainees to take an active role in lower-value deals. In my first week, I drafted a sales contract for a big property in London.”Leases for industrial units and shopping centres often arise, so trainees will draft the relevant contracts and do a bit of asset management. Speaking of which, the team recently represented the national shopping centre chain Intu during the break-up of its portfolio after the company went into administration. Other clients include Netflix, Savills Investment Management and the Crown Estate. Lawyers here also have expertise in sectors such as logistics, healthcare and social housing. High-value sales and purchases see trainees prepare documents, handle the data rooms and conduct research. One interviewee’s highlight was running an in-person signing with the client.
Client interaction is also high over in construction: “The group has some very big clients, so we do a weekly call with them just to catch up. It’s a very commercial seat.”Warner Bros., British Airways Pension Fund and Sony Pictures are just some of the well-known names that appear on the client roster. Rookies sit either in the non-contentious or litigious side. The former involves negotiating warranties, making research notes and helping appoint consultants and contractors. Interviewees thought the contentious side was interesting “because not many firms of our size do that work.” Newbies are reportedly given loads of responsibility as there are just a handful of fee earners in the group: “It’s an area of law that few people choose to go into, but I learned some of my best skills there. We do lots of intermediary work, so I took part in negotiations and conference calls, and drafted settlement agreements. It’s very immersive.” The group recently advised a landed estate, Southrop Estates, on a £2 million claim against a contractor that was carrying out renovation and redevelopment works at one of its luxury hotels. One source’s highlight was “attending conferences with experts and counsel who are at the top of their game. It was so exciting.” Those who’d kicked off their training contract in this seat felt “it was demanding but left me feeling really confident for my next seat.”
“At some firms people will amend your draft so it reads in their style, but here they want you to develop your own.”
Property litigationis a “small and specialised”department where disputes can cover professional negligence, service charge, enfranchisement and rights to light issues. The cases relate to commercial and residential properties. Chasing up courts for information, attending (virtual) hearings, taking notes and bundling form a large portion of the trainee work in this seat: “Bundling takes time to get used to because you have to be very precise, which is challenging when you have tight deadlines,”a source commented. There’s a lot of letter-writing and research to be done, too. The group has recently represented several tenants in the Neo Bankside apartment complex; the dispute is over the neighbouring Tate Modern’s new viewing platform, which is positioned in such a way that it enables gallery-goers to potentially see into the residents’ homes. Aberdeen Standard Investments, The Mercers Company and Monckton Properties are also on the client list. Sources scored this seat highly for its interesting subject matter and scope to develop their legal skills: “At some firms people will amend your draft so it reads in their style, but here they want you to develop your own.”
Every seat received high scores for providing good training, with a particular shout-out going to the private client department, which runs joint sessions for trainees and NQs: “Even though we sit in subgroups we do department-wide training because it’s a very technical area of law. It’s really nice to be part of a wider team environment too.” Our interviewees didn’t feel that they’d been disadvantaged by doing a partially remote training contract: “Forsters made a conscious effort to make sure we were all supported." Each team created buddy groups – formed of trainees, associates and partners – that hosted check-ins multiple times a week. Others pointed out that although “starting a training contact is intimidating, supervisors are very understanding if you don’t have time to do a particular task. They introduced workload trackers so people can see if you’re free or if you need to be left alone.”
“Our librarian takes us on a walk around Mayfair or Green Park and gives us a history tour.”
Forsters’ trainees tend to put in around 40 hours a week: “If you’re still in the office at 6pm people will ask why you haven’t gone home yet.” Although the salary is slightly lower than it is at some of the London firms we cover, “we probably get paid more per hour than our counterparts. I’m not willing to sacrifice my life for a higher salary.” Newbies were pleased to report that Forsters runs various mental health initiatives during the working day: “Nobody expects you to make the time up.” Summertime wellbeing walks were a particular highlight: “Our librarian takes us on a walk around Mayfair or Green Park and gives us a history tour.”The firm also runs weekly coffee morning discussions: “Some are themed, so we had one on opening up about anxiety, and another about women’s safety following Sarah Everard’s murder.” Trainees were also involved in putting together a wellbeing guide as employees returned to the office earlier in 2021: “We have a flexible policy that takes everyone’s experiences into account.”
During the lockdown stages of the pandemic, Forsters hosted virtual escape rooms, yoga sessions, cookery classes, quizzes and picnics “so that everyone could feel connected. The firm was very conscious of making sure we kept our culture even though we were all sat at home.”Nonetheless, “you don’t have to be super social here. People are very much integrated into the team without them having to go to the pub every Thursday.”
Trainees praised the firm for its representation of women: “The gender split is by far leading among English firms. Our managing partner is a woman, over 50% of partners are female and over half the trainees are women.” And while some wanted to see more minority ethnic representation, trainees who were involved in the latest recruitment process told us “there were people from so many different backgrounds, so the firm’s definitely going in the right direction.”We were also told about a range of diversity-focused groups at the firm, which host panel discussions and events: “We had one recently where a barrister came in to talk about his book, which covered a number of different issues. There’s a forward-thinking and proactive approach here.”
Qualification can be a pretty “longwinded” process. The training principal asks trainees which group they’re interested in, then department heads decide how many NQ jobs they’ll offer: “The jobs list comes out towards the end of the fifth seat, then we put our applications in.” Rookies submit a cover letter, then do an interview with HR: “After that, we do an hour-long written case study that’s tailored towards your chosen practice group, then we do an interview with a partner.”We heard that the private client department “had an extra piece of legislation for us to look at before the interview.”In the end, it was all worth it for the eight of nine qualifiers who were retained by the firm in 2021.
When there’s not a pandemic on, Forsters runs a weekly lunch club for refugees and homeless people: “Volunteers from the firm cook the food then we all sit down and eat together.”
How to get a Forsters training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 31 January 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)
Training contract deadline: 30 June 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)
Law fairs and events
Forsters runs several open days throughout the year, which are open for everyone form first year-undergrads to graduates. The firm also hosts virtual recruitment events for prospective trainees both nationally and overseas.
Applications and interviews
The initial application is a simple online form. HR officer Holly Meldrum told us: “In addition to proven academic ability, we are looking for driven, ambitious and commercially-aware candidates who have a keen interest in the firm’s practice areas.”
For both vac scheme and training contract applications, the firm invites roughly 18 candidates to its assessment day, splitting everyone into three groups of six. Applicants will complete a group exercise, a written case study exercise and do a 25-minute interview with two partners. Successful candidates are then asked back to do an hour-long interview with two partners.
The vacation scheme
Forsters runs two, two-week-long vac schemes throughout the year in June and July. Vac schemers spend a week in two departments: “We treat the students like trainees and give them the opportunity to experience real work at the firm,” explained Meldrum. Every practice area gives a presentation, and there are social events where students can meet members of the firm.
- Partners 62
- Associates 214
- Total trainees 20
- UK offices Mayfair, South Quay
- Graduate recruiter Emma Cooper, email@example.com, +44 20 7399 4719
- Training partner Emily Holdstock, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 10
- Applications pa: 500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st November 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 13th June 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 31st January 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £43,500
- Second-year salary: £45,500
- Post-qualification salary: £70,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25
- LPC fees: yes
- GDL fees: yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £6000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Mayfair
Forsters is a leading London law firm based in Mayfair. Taking a joined-up approach we seek out solutions that embrace the unique needs of each individual or company. We believe our engaged, approachable manner combined with the delivery of concise, clear and commercially-led advice is what helps us develop long-term client relationships.
Main areas of work
Forsters delivers exceptional legal advice to clients principally drawn from the real estate and private wealth sectors. We also specialise in residential property, dispute resolution, corporate, construction, property litigation, planning, family and landed estates.
Every year Forsters takes on 10 trainees. The training contract at Forsters is divided into six four-month seats.
Applications for our 2022 Vacation Scheme will be open between 1 November 2021 and 31 January 2022. Applications are welcomed from both law and non-law students. Undergraduate law students should apply at the earliest in their penultimate year of study and non-law students at the earliest in their final year of study. Each year we offer 14 places, 7 on each 2-week long scheme. We pay all students an allowance of £300 gross per week. We usually recruit 25-50% of our trainees from our vac scheme.
Life insurance, private healthcare, subsidised gym membership, discount shopping portal, annual season ticket loan, cycle to work loan, dental insurance, long service award, employee introduction bonus, eye care.
Open days and first-year opportunities
We will be hosting several virtual events and open days throughout the year. We have not confirmed the dates yet, but there will be a December and a May open day, with spotlight sessions with the firm in-between. People will be able to apply via our website approximately one month ahead of the event. Applications are welcome from anyone from the first year of their degree onwards.
University law careers fairs 2021
Forsters will be attending the Bright Network Diverse Legal Leaders event on November 3rd 2021, the Legal Cheek Law Fair on November 4th 2021 and BPP University National Law Fair on November 10th 2021.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Forsters recognises and appreciates that no two people are the same. We are working hard to break down barriers and encourage and embrace people's differences so that Forsters is an environment where every individual can flourish and has equality of opportunity. As part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we have partnered with a number of organisations to help us attract people from all sorts of backgrounds.
The Bright Network - The Bright Network is a network of over 400,000 graduate members from all backgrounds. They aim to connect top graduate talent with employers. Their membership is made up of 75% state educated members, 58% female members, 40% BAME members and 43% of members are the first generation to go to university. We advertise all our graduate positions and careers events through the Bright Network. We have also attended their Future Lawyers event.
Rare Recruitment - We have adopted Rare Recruitment’s Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) into our graduate application forms. We understand that not every candidate’s achievements will look the same on paper and we want to recruit the best people, from every background. The CRS allows us to understand a candidate’s achievements and experience in context, enabling us to look at a wider talent pool. The system awards social mobility flags to measure disadvantage and gives applicants a performance index to measure outperformance.
It is important to us that we recruit the top graduate talent regardless of background. We have adapted our recruitment process to ensure all applications and candidates are reviewed based on merit and performance. Every year our graduate recruitment panel of partners undergo interview and unconscious bias training before our assessment days. We have also introduced a scoring system when we mark application forms and interviews to reduce bias in our recruitment process. The first stage of the interview process, the assessment day, is run on a ‘CV blind’ basis.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 5)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 4)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)