Fox Williams knows how to balance big work with a cosier culture, alongside a strong reputation in travel and fashion.
Fox Williams training contract review 2024
As scrappy as they come, Fox Williams would probably be disheartened if everybody started following the maxim to pick on someone your own size. Despite its rather modest headcount of around 120, Fox has a strong reputation in the sectors it works in. “We’re a full-service law firm for businesses,” says David Butler, training principal and partner. He tells us the firm has recently refocused from having traditional departments to a sector-led approach, dividing its work across three main areas: financial services, tech and data privacy, and professional services. In that last one, for the uninitiated, “we are the lawyer’s lawyer,” Butler explains. “We act for a number of English and US law firms, and other professional practices, like patent agents and surveyors.”
“You can get a range of experience despite its small size.”
Throw in a couple of niche specialisms like travel and fashion and our interviewees were keen to get in on the action: “It has such good clients, and you can get a range of experience despite its small size.” Chambers UK bestows top nationwide rankings to the firm’s partnerships practice alongside its travel work. Fox is also highly ranked for its representation of financial services professionals and, in London, senior executives in employment matters. It also stands out in the capital for its corporate work in deals in the tens of millions.
Being part of a trainee cohort in the single digits was definitely a green flag for many, especially those who “didn’t want to just be another number who didn’t receive much training.” Newbies had also heard lots about Fox’s culture before joining: “It had a reputation for being friendly, and the people were approachable.”
Trainees complete four out of six available seat options, the first of which is automatically assigned. After that, they can put down preferences, but “the further along you are in your training contract, the better chance you have of getting what you ask for.” Some mentioned that it would be helpful if the firm released the number of seat options per department a little further in advance but appreciated that the process is more transparent than it used to be. That said, with so few trainees and seat options, most start their training contract with a pretty clear idea about where it’s heading.
“It’s a real luxury for a trainee to go to a swanky office and speak to the CEO!”
Fox’s employment department works on a variety of contentious, non-contentious and advisory matters for companies and high-net-worth individuals. For instance, the group worked with a senior banker from mainland China in an £800,000 sex and race discrimination claim against the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. An interviewee highlighted, although there are plenty of other matters with clients in the financial services sector, “a lot of our clients are American law firms with a UK office seeking training on local employment law.” There are opportunities to work on whistleblowing and discrimination claims, as well as drafts of settlement agreements and policies. One trainee was more than happy to add, “we’ve represented quite large businesses, and that’s included in-person witness statement interviews. It’s a real luxury for a trainee to go to a swanky office and speak to the CEO!” Trainees on litigation matters attended tribunals, and were heavily involved in bundling, disclosure, and drafting instructions to counsel.
Some of our interviewees had done a seat with the real estate team, which works mostly on the landlord side of commercial transactions. One trainee helpfully summarised, “there’s the odd bit of tenant-side work, but the only residential private individuals we work for tend to be high-net-worth individuals referred to us from another department.” The team was recently involved in the relocation of tenants of Billingsgate Fish Market to a new site in East London – that probably gives you an idea of the scale of its work! Trainees at the start of a real estate seat pick up the admin tasks, such as managing files, submitting Land Registry applications and liaising with clients. However, our interviewees agreed that responsibility increased as they progressed through the seat, and you could “flex your drafting muscles” with some complex tasks by the end of it. “I was able to draft reports on title,” said an interviewee. “Those are around 30 pages long and set out the background to a transaction.”
The magic of the dispute resolution seat, according to one interviewee, lies in its clientele: “We have quite a lot of tech clients, as well as major reputable companies you’d recognise on the high street or just in your daily life.” Trainees can get involved in a range of matters, such as arbitration, general commercial litigation, civil fraud and securities, to name a few. Fox Williams also has some interesting clients on the arbitration side, such as Taqnia, a Saudi technology development and investment company, and even the Sultanate of Oman! Newbies usually handle the admin-related tasks on cases, such as bundling and preparing papers for counsel. However, we also heard of trainees attending hearings and picking up some substantial drafting tasks, such as witness statements and client letters.
“We’re definitely best known for our travel work.”
The commerce and tech (C&T) seat is highly sought after by Fox trainees, and offers an insight into a variety of contentious, non-contentious and regulatory work. The department works across sectors and is particularly well known for its strong fashion practice. Fox Williams publishes a newsletter on updates in the sector called Fashion Focus and hosts a Fashion Law seminar. However, one interviewee suggested that “we’re definitely best known for our travel work.” This side of the team helps travel companies navigate post-Brexit and post-pandemic regulations in the UK, EU and around the world. If you haven’t seen the ads on TV, you’ll have no doubt encountered some of these clients when you’ve been planning your own travels, such as booking.com, lastminute.com, Secret Escapes and Sandals. There are opportunities to get experience in IP, tech, media and data protection, and even some quirky matters involving conspiracy theory websites… “The variety of work is striking,” a trainee enthused, adding that “you really feel like you’re working with experts.”
Overall, trainees felt that there’s a “very healthy work-life balance” at the firm – it was actually founded by a group of ex-magic and silver circle partners who were looking for a more palatable pace of life back in the ‘80s. Nowadays, trainees agreed that a typical day starts from 9.30am to around 7pm. Of course, court deadlines and other demands can mean there are a few later nights, but Fox trainees appreciated the balance of “being busy but not drowning.” However, trainees recognised that their pay is at the lower end of City law firms, but most were satisfied given the firm’s hour expectations: “It’s a blessing compared to other firms, so I do feel fairly remunerated.”
Trainees are expected to be in the office three days a week, though interviewees told us this isn’t strictly enforced. For those who make it into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays, there’s fresh fruit on the house, and the firm covers lunch on a Tuesday. For trainees specifically, in-person working is an opportunity to learn from and get to know senior team members: “You can pick things up by listening to the conversations they’re having.” Trainees share an office with a legal director or partner, which “helps break down the barriers of the hierarchy that might naturally exist at a law firm.” When half of the office transitions to an open-plan layout in the coming months, trainees will still have assigned desks beside these senior colleagues.
Sources appreciated how approachable associates are, noting how “lots of them were trained here, so they know what it’s like being in these four walls and want us to have a good experience, too.” More broadly, interviewees described the firm as a friendly place where “people speak to you with respect. There’s such a nice vibe here and I genuinely don’t think I could have chosen a better place to train!” Trainees were happy to report that they don’t feel lost in a crowd. “Because of its size, the firm can keep control of the culture and hire people who fit what the firm stands for,” one said. “Simply put, they get that if you’re working with these people so much, you need to like them.”
There are plenty of opportunities for trainees to get to know their coworkers at various social events. “We’ve done wine tasting, pizza making, cocktail making, and a tour of a brewery. They try to put on an event every month.” Interviewees added that there are non-alcoholic events as well, and the firm takes part in plenty of physical challenges to raise money for its chosen charity partner, the Sick Children’s Trust. Recently, members of the firm raised £6,000 cycling from London to Cambridge, and many have also taken part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. “I think they’re consciously trying to build a culture where there’s something for everyone,” a trainee summarised.
Trainees enjoyed the firm's first World Culture Day, where employees were encouraged to bring in food from their own culture. We also heard that the firm “tries really hard to make sure that all communities are represented,” and has celebrated and spread awareness around Black History Month and Pride. Although the wider profession has a way to go when it comes to diverse representation, sources felt optimistic about the firm’s trajectory. “The D&I committee is very strong,” an insider explained. “We’ve had numerous meetings on how the firm’s trying to improve.” To give you an example, Fox recently joined City Century, an organisation which works on broadening access to the law via solicitor apprenticeships. There are some trainings and talks as well – one interviewee told us they found a training session on discrimination in the workplace especially informative.
While newbies don’t have training with their cohort, there are plenty of department-specific sessions to get up to speed with the core aspects of the role. We heard those in employment can expect plenty of knowhow sessions with “weekly updates from knowledge lawyers since the law changes quite a bit.” More informally, trainees can reach out to their supervisors for help, although some take a more structured approach to supervision than others. Newbies meet up with them once a month minimum and can also get feedback during their mid- and end-of-seat reviews.
“Our senior partner was the first trainee at the firm, how about that!”
According to interviewees, Fox “made a real effort to be more transparent about the qualification process this time around.” For example, an interviewee had spoken with heads of teams, who were reportedly upfront about potential opportunities and business need predictions. Sources agreed that the firm does well with retention, especially since “there’s no set number of places, so they could keep everyone if they wanted. If they like you, they’ll make it work.” Trainees were also impressed at the long-term retention, with one exclaiming, “our senior partner was the first trainee at the firm, how about that!” In 2023, the firm kept four out of five qualifiers.
Ticking all the right Foxes: Butler explains that the firm looks for people who are “all-rounders with a good level of commercial awareness and some life experience.” Additional skills in netball, rounders or cricket will be put to use if you do secure a spot!
How to get a Fox Williams training contract
Training contract application window: 7December 2023 – 28 January 2024
Training Contract Application
Application for Fox William’s training contract runs from the beginning of December through to late January, with applicants required to complete three competency questions to progress. Legal experience is not essential, but the firm does like to see applicants with applicable rounded experience and varied interests. It is worth noting that “many of our trainees and qualified lawyers joined us straight from university/LPC.” Applicants are also expected to have received at least at 2:1 degree level and the equivalent of ABB or above at A-Level.
The firm’s vacation scheme is part of the training contract application; applicants who are selected from the initial application are invited to the vacation scheme to be assessed. Typically, 12-25 applicants attend a one week in-person vacation scheme in summer, or three days in spring/autumn. Applicants may also be assessed virtually over three days, subject to circumstance. Those invited on the scheme are tested on verbal analysis, must work on a group presentation, and are given written and technical questions to answer. Much of the scheme also incorporates various interactive learning sessions about the firm’s partners, sectors, and what it is like to be a lawyer at the firm. Applicants on the vacation scheme are interviewed with four questions over 30 minutes with two partners.
Fox Williams prides itself on the opportunities trainees are given for “close work with partners, high profile work, and client contact from the start – it’s a city firm with great culture from top to bottom.” Partner, Mary Elliott, tells us, “we really believe in autonomy of career – people who may not completely know where they want their career to go but are open to opportunities.” A combination of varied opportunity and flexible autonomy is key to developing a keen legal eye but trainees must also bring character to the table. Elliott stresses that “here we expect trainees to be thinking, “how can I do the best job? What can I get out of it?” It’s having that confidence to do what you’re told to do but also to see what you’re going to get out of it and what you can give to the client.” Ultimately, applicants should consider that “this is a profession, it’s a career and not just a job – it is academic, practical, and relationship led.”
Fox Williams LLP
10 Finsbury Square,
Main areas of work
We have departments in the following five areas – corporate, dispute resolution, employment, real estate, commerce and technology and financial services . Our sectors focus on financial services, fashion, professional services, technology/media/digital, fintech, travel and natural resources.
Our People are at the heart of our core values - we seek to understand and celebrate what makes each of us unique. We are committed to ensuring that each individual is valued, respected and treated fairly at work. As part of that commitment, we also focus on the physiological and psychological health and wellbeing of our team. We demonstrate this commitment through our well-being Wednesday programme, our sports teams and the various medical benefits we offer.
We strongly believe that diversity is critical to our success as a business: a more diverse workforce encourages fresh thinking, new perspectives and different approaches to our clients’ issues, and makes Fox Williams a rewarding place to work.
The firm proactively encourages a diverse and inclusive culture. Whilst our Diversity and Inclusion journey is underway, we recognise that we still have a lot to learn, understand and celebrate. We do this with our ‘Bringing the Outside In’ calendar, which includes partner and staff-led social, cultural and religious celebrations, external and internal speakers and sharing insightful content. We report on our Gender and Ethnicity Pay Gaps internally and are a member of the Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter.
Our commitment to enabling the friendly, strong relationships you will make with your colleagues comes to life through our active Social & Charity Committee – whether it is the 3 peaks challenge, playing for the Foxcatchers netball team or our cricket and football teams, cocktail making, the London Legal Walk or quiz nights to name a few - there are a variety of activities for everyone to get involved with all year round. Each department also hosts its own social events to build stronger team relationships.We nominate an annual firm charity who receives all of our fundraising monies each year but we also recognise we may want to give back to our own communities in different ways, which is why FW supports half a day volunteering per quarter for a charity or cause of your choice.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 2)
- Employment: Employer (Band 2)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 6)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 5)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 3)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 5)
- International Arbitration: Highly Regarded Spotlight
- Partnership (Band 1)
- Partnership: Large International Structures Spotlight
- Retail (Band 4)
- Travel: Regulatory & Commercial (Band 1)