Freeths LLP - True Picture

With a standout legal assistant programme and a nationwide spread, this is one national firm living rent Freeth in the minds of aspiring lawyers.

Freeths training contract review 2024

The Firm

Many have heard the legendary tales of Robin Hood, and while they might not make a habit of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Nottingham-rooted Freeths are still a presence in the area that you can “count on to always do the right thing.” While Nottingham still houses the majority of the firm’s trainees, one of the big pulls of life at Freeths for the current crop was how “widespread it is.” In fact, with a good number of trainees in both London and Oxford, and the rest split between offices in Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Derby, Sheffield and Glasgow, it’s safe to say that the firm has certainly burst its original banks. As one trainee put it: “There were many bases around me I could have joined, but no matter the office, I would have been this happy.” What makes them so sure? Put simply, first impressions stick: “From the interviews it was clear the firm had good people, with a large number of juniors who spent time socialising together. It has a pretty welcoming and friendly atmosphere.”

Freeths is recognised by Chambers UK for it’s top-tier work in areas like clinical negligence and personal injury in the Midlands, and there’s a host of impressive nods for the firm’s real estate, litigation and employment offerings (among others) in the East Midlands. The firm’s spread of offices also makes for a bountiful collection in the Thames Valley too, with top-ranked departments in corporate M&A, real estate, real estate litigation, professional negligence, clinical negligence, and agriculture & rural affairs.

“Freeths’ Legal Assistant Programme allowed me time to think while I was unsure, but it was a perfect choice!”

One feature of life at Freeths is the range of talent ‘pathways’ available at the firm, from solicitor apprenticeships targeted at A-Level age students to undergraduate work experience programmes beginning in your first or second year of university. There’s also the standard ‘direct entry’ route for graduates. To secure a training contract, aspiring lawyers will need to become a legal assistant at the firm, which consists of a nine-month introductory programme which Freeths treats as an extended interview. At the six-month mark, the firm will review and decide whether or not to extend the contract, at the end of which, a decision will be made about whether or not to offer the candidate a training contract. Where there is a delay before a prospective trainee can begin, they will remain a legal assistant in the interim. “I thought it was a nice way to ease myself into the whole training contract process,” one interviewee told us. As another put it: “Freeths’ Legal Assistant Programme allowed me time to think while I was unsure, but it was a perfect choice!”

The Seats

Once trainees emerge from their legal assistant cocoon, they begin life as a trainee in the same practice group they spent time as a legal assistant in. Sources felt that this was because “we are used to the teams, the work and the environment, so it's a smoother transition.” Before the end of a trainee’s first seat, new starters are required to rank their top three choices for seats, though the general consensus was that which options are available can be “ambiguous.” However, the firm was praised for hearing newbies out as “it isn’t always possible to join the team you want, but the firm will always listen to our reasoning, understand why we want to join, and try to accommodate us.” For the most part, Freeths prioritises those in their final seats. We heard that there are secondment opportunities down South too (generally to the firm’s biggest clients).

“You should know and if you don’t know, they want you to find out.”

In a corporate seat, “you can expect to be thrown in the deep end with loads of deals. You should know and if you don’t know, they want you to find out.” Typical tasks included the likes of drafting asset agreements and share agreements to attending client meetings, and in a range of different industries too: “A few of the partners are experts in areas such as life sciences, vaccine, pharma and clinical trial work, so it is really nice to have the variety.” In one recent deal, the firm advised Flowmax Limited on its acquisition of the entire issued share capital of plumbing distributor Rob Pond. We heard from trainees that the demand of the practice also brings with it opportunities for growth: “Because I am handing my work to a partner rather than a senior associate, my standard of work has to be higher,” one told us, “but I don’t mind, I like the challenge.”

The trusts, estates and tax (TET) group provide a cocktail of real estate and private client work. We heard that variety is the name of the game in TET: “We could be doing anything from measuring mental capacity making a POA, creating trusts and drafting wills, to general admin of estates,” one source commented. Despite revolving around individuals, the work in TET isn’t limited to British shores either: “We have partners who do international investment work too.” Day-to-day life for a TET trainee includes “reading complicated wills with assets for family companies and shares” and “isolating shares and trusts.” Sources appreciated the work in the group because (not in spite of) its complex nature: “It's a multi-step process that requires thought, and you can also be doing complicated tax calculations which I loved.”

A team where trainees can really lay the groundwork is construction, where “we have a variety of deals - from big ones that have lasted a while which you get to see all the way through, to multiple smaller deals.” As a general rule, work operates nationwide between offices, typically on procurement and construction disputes for clients like the Formula 1 engine division of Mercedes, Luton Airport and Aldi. In one recent case, Freeths acted for the Oxford Science Limited - a joint venture between Magdalen College and a Singapore sovereign wealth fund - on the £150 million acquisition of new construction sites as part of the expansion of the Oxford Science Park. Trainees' role in these kinds of matters includes “putting contracts in place and helping organise collateral warranties.” Those we spoke to also noted a good deal of client and consultant contact.

Agriculture was described as “a more steadily paced seat” where work could take you from huge, landed estates outside the city to solar energy projects. Similarly to in construction, trainees highlighted that cross-office work was to be expected, which meant that “it was nice to meet and work together on projects.” Sources told us that they had been involved in helping with planning permission work and had been part of council meeting negotiations. Trainees loved the quality of work in the team but found that levels of responsibility were not as high as elsewhere, simply as a result of the “more niche knowledge” required in the role. The team’s client list includes estates like Carington, Swanbourne and Shotover, as well as the likes of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI). In one recent matter, the firm represented a company on its development of a large-scale solar farm - the largest ever to be constructed in Europe.

Trainee Life

‘Supportive’ was a word that came up repeatedly among trainees when asked about life at Freeths. Why? “I have worked directly with partners, and they have been so helpful,” one told us, “they answer even my silly questions.” This left the current cohort with the feeling that “you are a valuable member of the team, not just a number like you might be at other big firms.” This isn’t at the expense of quality however. We heard that Freeths has a knack for attracting talent: “Lots of partners have come from Magic Circle or international law firms,” one source added, “who generally come here with the knowledge that you won’t kill yourself working until 3am every morning. There’s a much healthier work/life balance.” At the junior end, the legal assistant and trainee society host office-wide events to get everybody together: “There have been some really cool ones. We’ve been to a German market for food at Christmas, we’ve also done bowling and sip and paint – there’s always something going on!”

The consensus among interviewees was that hours at the firm generally start at 9am and finish at 5:30pm. Work/life balance too, we heard, was part of the culture of the firm: “I still have my hobbies. I love running and I always have time to run.” Weekend work is said to be a rarity and trainees remain “undisturbed” on their days off and study days. Some trainees worked slightly later hours where they were needed for “completing corporate client deals,” and international matters can sometimes have an impact on working hours: “I have dealt with parties across the globe – each with different time zones - so you will sometimes have a midnight finish.” But this was the exception rather than the rule, and “partners will often tell you to log on later the next day in these circumstances so there is flexibility.” Trainees are expected to come into the office “a few times a week,” with a study day and a day of choice at home. Those we spoke to agreed that salary and annual bonus are “fair and on market.”

“It really helped me to build my confidence. I was so nervous to network!”

Diversity and inclusivity can often be a sticking point, but trainees at Freeths were quick to highlight that “there is so much awareness at the firm.” From day one, “you are invited to a diversity networking event at the firm. It really helped me to build my confidence. I was so nervous to network!” There are events every quarter that everyone participates in, from Black History Month and Ramadan to Pride Month. One trainee noted that “during Diwali, there was an event where we could eat traditional food and there was information about each of the associated traditions.” One of the big selling points was that the programme isn’t simply left to juniors to run either: “The managing partner attends some of these meetings and assists when he can, so it is not just left to us.” The firm also advocates for its trainees’ wellbeing, with sessions on everything from business development to mental health.

Come qualification time, we heard that trainees need to reach out to be kept in the loop. A list of vacancies is published internally, where trainees can qualify into any of the firm’s offices, and hopeful NQs submit applications followed by an interview.

Star(ting) to notice:

Trainees were quick to point out the ‘Freeths Star’ – where employees can be nominated for their performance and receive a star and a gift card. Oh, and a personalised mug is thrown in too!

Freeths' 'Get Hired' coming soon...

Freeths LLP

Firm profile
Freeths is one of the UK's leading regional law practices. We offer services to both the commercial and private client across the entire legal spectrum. We operate from offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.

The firm has a wide range of clients throughout the UK with many clients having strong international connections. We have over 150 partners and more than 900 members of staff in total.

Our client base reflects our nationwide strength and our nationwide service delivery. We are committed to continuous improvement and our increasing success as a business is built on achieving success for our clients. We work in close partnership with clients, providing positive, practical solutions and clear, comprehensive advice.

Our aim is to attract and retain the most talented people, and part of this is providing a great place to work. So, to support fairness and equality and to encourage a healthy work-life balance, we continually monitor and improve our benefits.

We are proud that what we have achieved has been recognised over the past few years, being awarded Best Companies star status on a number of occasions and have featured in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For. We are also a silver standard accredited Investor in People Company, which means we are recognised for our efforts to improve work place engagement, leadership, personal growth, wellbeing, team working and our impact on society.

Specialist work areas
Advertising & marketing; Agriculture & rural issues; Banking & finance; Charities; Civil liberties & human rights; Clinical negligence; Commercial property/real estate; Company & commercial; Competition & EU law; Construction & engineering; Corporate finance/mergers & acquisitions; Corporate tax; Dispute resolution; Employment, pensions & incentives; Energy & natural resources; Environment Family/matrimonial; Financial services; Housing/landlord & tenant; Immigration; Insolvency/restructuring; Insurance/reinsurance; Intellectual property; Media & entertainment; Personal injury; Private client; Sports; Technology, media & telecommunications.

Training opportunities
Our Legal Assistant programme allows you to gain grass roots experience of working in a legal environment alongside our talented lawyers. You will provide a combination of administrative and legal support to Trainees, Lawyers and Partners, which means that you get a true picture of what a career in law could offer you in the long term. We are looking for outstanding individuals with excellent academics, first class organisational skills, with the ability to build lasting relationships and have a flexible and can-do attitude to contribute and succeed with us.

Legal Assistant positions are initially for 6 months. We review performance at three monthly intervals; at the 6 month mark we are assessing performance and attitude with a view to offering a second 6 month contract. At the 9 month stage, we make a decision on whether to offer funding for the Solicitor Qualifying Examinations and a further contract to enable you to complete your Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and this will be delivered through a graduate level Apprenticeship.

Successful Legal Assistants will then enrol onto the Graduate Apprenticeship and this means starting the formal training. This will involve working at Freeths four days a week and studying one day a week at the University of Law to prepare for and take the SQE 1 and SQE 2. You will have the option to make the apprenticeship up to a Masters qualification. The apprenticeship will last 25 months and during that period, you may rotate seats in different areas of law whilst completing your QWE. 

Once you have completed our Graduate Apprenticeship and passed your exams you will be ready to qualify!

Vacation scheme
We offer internships and insight days throughout the year by application at our website

Other benefits
Death in service benefit, workplace pension, cycle to work and tech schemes, gym subsidy, shopping and restaurant discounts, employee assistantance programme.

University law careers fairs 2022
Full list can be found at our graduate recruitment website.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Freeths are committed to giving everyone an opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, disability, religion or belief, age, social background or part-time status. We are proud to be as diverse as our clients.

We believe that our inclusive attitude and eagerness to try new things gives us an edge in the legal field. For example, we pick our trainees and graduates based on their talent rather than the name of their university. From finding innovative ways of working to building trust in our varied clients, diversity underpins our success. Our aim is to attract, develop and retain the brightest lawyers in the UK from many walks of life.

As well as having our own Diversity and Inclusion Committee, SHINE Network, NEW Network, Parents and Carers Group and other inhouse initiatives, we also work with a number of partner organisations, including Change100, Stonewall, BSN and Working Families, to ensure that diversity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do.

We also have an inhouse Wellbeing Committee, wellbeing programme with regular events, resources and bulletins for staff and Mental Health First Aiders programme. We offer regular mindfulness classes and work with Glo Wellbeing and Tommy’s Pregnancy and Parenting at Work programme.

We also have an inhouse Wellbeing programme with regular events, resources and bulletins for staff and Mental Health First Aiders programme. We offer regular mindfulness classes and work with Glo Wellbeing and Tommy’s Pregnancy and Parenting at Work programme.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Social Housing (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 4)
    • Family/Children Law (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
    • Employment (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Local Government (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)