Gateley Legal - True Picture

Things have been going well for Gateley lately: in the Midlands, the North West, and everywhere else.

The amazing technicolour dream float

A UK firm with a broad national presence, Gateley aren’t afraid to do things a little differently to others – in 2015 it became the first law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange, a path that several other firms have since followed it down. A few years down the line, the decision seems to have paid off and in 2019 Gateley posted revenue exceeding £100 million for the first time in its history. Headcount rose by 20% in that same time period; all in all it’s no surprise trainees felt “it’s a good time to be at the firm.”

There’s also been change afoot among the top brass: the current head of the firm’s Manchester office, Rod Waldie, will be stepping into the role of CEO as of April 2020. Trainees felt that this could signal “a shift from being more of a Birmingham-driven machine to strengthening the other offices.” There’s also been a welcome rebrand away from “that horrible green and purple” colour scheme. Trainees described Gateley as “a professional services firm led by law. We’ve made acquisitions of complementary business services in recent years.” Expanding beyond the law is another recent trend among major firms: Gateley’s professional services offering includes tax advice team Gateley Capitus and property consultancy Gateley Hamer.

“We’re a professional services firm led by law.”

The firm recruits trainees into Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Leeds and London. Chambers UK paints a lovely picture of its biggest strengths across the network: strong rankings in banking, employment and restructuring in the Midlands plus corporate and real estate in the West Midlands; and nods for employment, IP and pensions in the North West. Gateley also has a Dubai office, but doesn’t offer an overseas seat at present.

All trainees must complete one contentious, one property, and one corporate seat during their training contract. Trainees don’t get a choice on their first two seats, which some felt “can be frustrating. You have to do one each of the three seat types even if you know you don’t want to qualify into one, which means some people can’t do what they want for their fourth seat.” Sources in smaller offices like Nottingham and London mentioned that there’s a more limited spread of seats on offer than in the larger bases.

You, me and a partner makes three

Banking, tax, restructuring, private equity and pensions are all counted under the corporate umbrella. There’s also M&A work which falls into the straight corporate seat: Gateley’s clients include Gymshark, Betfred and homeware business Lifetime Brands. The Birmingham team recently advised shareholders of property developer Westleigh Group on its sale to Countryside Properties for £135 million; in Manchester, Gateley advised nursery group Just Childcare on acquisitions and sales of nurseries as well as a refinancing. Sources described being “thrown in at the deep end working with one partner and an associate.” One added that they saw “around 14 completions” over the course of their corporate seat; another “had a completion on day one, which was very exciting. I was looking at non-disclosure agreements, signing off on completions and handling some of the project management.” Gateley’s practice spans cross-border M&A and private equity deals. Typical day-to-day roles for trainees include drafting board minutes and smaller agreements as well as company secretarial work. “After a while you’ll be working on more meaty documents like a small share sale,” a source recalled. “I ended up working on share buy-back schemes and doing all of the drafting for those.” A highlight for interviewees in corporate was “the amount of client contact. I attended all the client meetings across the course of deals, which was great for networking.”

“You’re constantly trying to churn out loads of different deals and whenever one’s completing there’s another starting.”

Gateley’s banking team is broadly split into real estate finance and leveraged finance, with specialisms including asset and acquisition finance. The practice ranks well in the ‘outside London’ section of Chambers UK and major banks including Lloyds, Santander and HSBC call on the firm’s expertise. The last of those provided the term loan and working capital facilities for the £22.5 million management buyout of chemical etching company Precision Micro, on which Gateley advised. One source described their time in banking as “one of the hardest seats I’ve done. You’re constantly trying to churn out loads of different deals and whenever one’s completing there’s another starting.” The firm also represents independent lenders like Shard Capital Advisers – Gateley assisted on its first transaction, £10 million worth of refinancing and acquisition finance facilities provided to accounting firm SKS Business Services. Trainees in this seat oversee conditions precedent checklists and get a first crack at documents like loan agreements, debentures and “all of the ancillaries.” They advised that precision is key here and trainee work needs to be “incredibly thorough. Banks want everything done according to a strict process and there are a lot of stipulations to consider.”

Work in the tax team is done in collaboration with the firm’s other departments so trainees see “an incredibly varied client base from real estate to corporate – you don’t have to specialise.” Those we spoke to dived into “some juicy research notes, tax reports and drafting tax deeds on the corporate side.” One described the seat as “very different and very analytical. I always thought tax sounded incredibly boring but at Gateley the department does sessions with trainees to cover what the work’s really like, and it actually sounded quite interesting.” Gateley advises a mix of individuals and companies on their tax affairs, specialising in niche areas like superyachts and sports. Interviewees noted that “supervision was particularly good” in this department: “They treated me as somebody who could qualify here rather than just as a trainee.”

Look on my works

Trainees can fulfil their property seat requirement in construction, residential development or real estate. The last of those is the most popular and encompasses commercial development and investment, infrastructure, planning and portfolio management. “There are a lot of big transactions to get involved in,” with recent examples ranging from advising HSBC on the £19.5 million refinancing and intra-group reorganisation of a Jersey company, to certificates of title due diligence on 16 sites for Santander. Gateley doesn’t just represent banks: Oxford University, CITIC Chinese State Investment and Taylor Wimpey have also instructed the firm. Interviewees noted: “The sheer scale and turnover of the department and its clients means it’s impossible to drive around the country and not see developments we’ve worked on.” Smaller real estate projects put more power in the hands of trainees: “I was doing the administration for various forms at the Land Registry and I also managed a lot of my own transactions. I looked after some parcels of land that were being transferred and did all the negotiating and agreements, dealing with clients and the other side.”

Litigious seat options include financial disputes and regulation, project litigation (restructuring) and commercial disputes. Housebuilders like Bellway and Crest Nicholson are among firm’s the litigation clients, alongside Birmingham City University and the Leeds Playhouse theatre. The firm also handles shareholder, professional negligence and trust claims. Gateley recently represented a FTSE 250 developer in an £8 million claim brought against a quasi-public body over the final payment due in the terms of a sale and purchase agreement.

“The face to face contact with clients and barristers is amazing.”

Another contentious option is an employment seat, though the team also covers non-contentious employment law. Gateley’s broad practice provides plenty of variety for trainees: the firm is on panels for two major clients and has been “acting for the respondent for one and for the claimant on the other. It’s really useful to see both sides.” The Birmingham team advised home care provider Sevacare on a matter involving 43 claimants and eight respondents over TUPE regulations and alleged underpayment of the National Minimum Wage. Trainees were able to attend tribunals and told us: “The face to face contact with clients and barristers is amazing. I was also invited to ten or more client meetings during my seat, which I think is quite unusual.” Gateley’s client base includes retailers and sports clubs, plus big names like Tyrrells Potato Crisps, Deloitte and the Arts Council of England. Our sources tackled “a nice mix of general queries, tribunal work, drafting witness statements and writing instructions for counsel” as part of the trainee workload. Going into more detail, a second-year recalled “drafting claims for straightforward unfair dismissals as well as responses to claims. We also run helplines where clients can contact us.”

There are also popular client secondments on offer to Everton and Manchester City football clubs. Trainees can put a secondment down as a preference but they are allocated according to business need. Some of those who’d made the cut found their in-house experience “very commercial compared to a seat at the firm. In general I was helping with licences, non-disclosure agreements and all your standard commercial documents that any business uses.” Don’t worry if you support a different team – the firm works for a number of other Premier League clubs.

SOFA so good

Interviewees in Manchester described “a genuinely friendly atmosphere across all the departments. There’s a lot of socialising across teams, which helps build a nice working culture.” Their colleagues in Birmingham agreed: “It’s a very inclusive and sociable place to work and there are a lot of different personalities.” Others suggested that “you can see the difference between offices, in a nice way. There are different cultures which feed into the firm as a whole.” Gateley’s Manchester base comes with a “work-hard play-hard approach” whereas trainees in London told us that because theirs is a smaller office “the social life isn’t as great. People tend to live further away so it’s hard to get everyone together.” The firm puts on its own events including regular socials, networking evenings, summer barbecues and team away days. In Birmingham we heard that “the firm makes sure everyone gets the same treatment. It also sources discounts at local businesses, encouraging people to go out into the community.” Gateley also hopes to foster inter-office relations with a new internal intranet system which includes “a feed that anyone can contribute to. It will be a good way to build rapport and get to know each other.”

Hours for Gateley trainees tend to land on the civilised side, averaging at about 9am to 6.30pm each day. “You’ll only have to stay really late if you’re on a transaction and I’ve only had three occasions where I’ve been past midnight in my whole training contract,” one source revealed.Trainees have two appraisals per seat and “your colleagues are very aware of the training goals you need to meet. They try to give you as much help as possible.” Some went the extra mile to set up “fortnightly meetings with supervisors for more informal catch-ups.” Formal appraisals entail “very extensive forms that take hours to fill out, but they’re a good opportunity for personal reflection on your performance.” Trainees added that “supervisors keep feedback quite generic so it’s not only related to the department you’re in, therefore you can use it in future seats.”

“It feels like the firm’s been more forward-thinking since the public listing.”

Some felt that there was “a slight separation between more senior members of departments and trainees, particularly when it comes to seat rotation. Partners often know where you’re going before you do.” There’s also some internal secrecy around firm-wide strategy: “Because it’s a PLC they can’t disclose certain things. In general, though, I think they’re quite clear about what’s going on especially when it comes to how the firm’s been acquiring non-legal businesses.” Everybody comes together for an annual SOFA – not a giant seat, but a State Of the Firm Address – which “sets out the firm’s strategy and goals. It feels like Gateley’s been more forward-thinking since the public listing.” Trainees also told us about an IT upgrade in the works, which was heartily welcomed by those who also felt that the offices themselves “could do with a bit of modernisation.”

Once the NQ jobs list is out, trainees indicate their preferences and interview for their role of choice. They can apply for more than one job if they like, though “HR kind of pushes you to highlight a preference before any offers come out. That makes it so that every individual tends to only get one offer, so they’re managing the process as a whole rather than needing to do it departmentally.” In 2019, 10 out of 16 trainees stayed on at Gateley.

Trainees told us: “There’s recently been a push in the development section of real estate. If you’re interested in housebuilding it’s a very good time to be at Gateley."

How to get a Gateley training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2020): 11 February 2020 (open November 2019)

Apply for 2021 training contract via vacation scheme

Application and assessments

Aspiring Gateley trainees should apply for vacancies by completing an application form via the firm's website. This lets them specify the top three offices where they would like to be based.

Vacation scheme applicants who make the shortlist are then invited to attend a half-day assessment over Easter. This involves some group and individual exercises, plus an interview with HR and a partner. This interview covers the candidate's application form and the reasons why they're interested in the firm. During the scheme, students complete a research and presentation exercise, and undergo another interview.

Vacation scheme

Vacation schemes take place in June and July. Schemes are run in the Leicester, Leeds, Manchester, London, Reading, Birmingham, Nottingham and Guilford offices. Each summer placement lasts two weeks. Everyone gathers in Birmingham for some administrative wrangling and initial training before dispersing to their assigned offices.

Vacation schemers spend their visit in a single department where they “tackle genuine work rather than irrelevant tasks,” current trainees told us. As one reported: “I drafted a letter to a client and later found out the team had included part of my work in the final version.” Vacation schemers also attend presentations from other departments to get a sense of what's happening across the firm.

Trainee profile

A 2:1 degree and ABB at A level are the firm's starting criteria for recruitment. Relevant work experience is also desirable. According to our sources, networking and business development are “a huge part of the job.” As such, candidates need a decent level of commercial awareness and familiarity with how the firm runs from a business point of view.

Finally, an eagerness to get stuck in – to legal work or CSR initiatives alike – is necessary. Check out Gateley's Talking Trainees blog for more advice on how to stand out.

Gateley Legal

One Eleven,
Edmund Street,
B3 2HJ

  • Partners 156
  • Associates and senior associates: 104
  • Total trainees 40
  • UK offices Birmingham, Guildford, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading
  • Overseas offices 
  • 1. Vacation scheme deadline – 10 February 2020 
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Stefanie Ballmann [email protected] com
  • Training partner: Victoria Garrad [email protected]
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 25
  • Applications pa: 600
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • A-level requirements – BBB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 60
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Summer vacation scheme applications open: November 2019
  • Summer vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 10 February 2020
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £27,000 (regions), £35,000 (London)
  •  Second-year salary: £28,500 (regions), £37,000 (London)
  • Post-qualification salary: £41,000 (regions) £61,500 (London)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: offered during the LPC

Firm profile

Gateley stands apart from the crowd because of what we do and who we are. The first commercial law firm to float on the London Stock Exchange, our strategy is to differentiate what we do by diversifying the professional services that we offer our clients and to incentivise our people. It is this strategy that has seen our turnover nearly double since we listed and our team grow to around 1000 people. We are a business that has a great story to tell and an even more exciting one planned. We work together to deliver 100% client satisfaction by making the complex simple. We achieve this through our core values of being forward thinking and straight talking. Forward thinking: Since arriving as the new kids on the block all those years ago, we’ve earned our stripes in the legal industry, building a leading name and a revered reputation. It’s why we went Plc. It’s why we’re pushing the limits of what a legal and professional business can offer. Forward thinking within our business helps our clients move forward in theirs. Straight talking: Business is complicated. The last thing we want to do is add more complexity. Which is why we make sure our advice is always clear, straightforward, and easy to put into practice. Our diverse team is made up of experts in all areas of law and business. But it’s about more than just their expertise. It’s about being straight talking. We deliver all this advice in simple, clear, everyday language, so you spend less time decoding legal jargon and more time focusing on what’s important to you.

Main areas of work

Banking and finance, commerce, technology and media, construction, corporate, employment and people services, family law, financial disputes and regulation, immigration and global mobility, pensions, planning, private equity, private wealth, real estate, regulatory, residential development, restructuring, shipping, tax.

Training opportunities

•Experience four six-month seat rotations across a variety of legal practice areas
• Gain opportunities to work directly with clients allowing you to build your practical legal knowledge, communication, client-care skills and an understanding of the markets within which our clients operate
• Be supervised and mentored by highly experienced solicitors
• Receive a personalised training schedule to give you the skills and experiences you need for life as a qualified solicitor
• Study Professional Skills Courses to become an excellent well-rounded solicitor
• Be part of the Gateley Social Committee so that you can get to know your colleagues in your office
• Be invited to be part of your local Law Society trainee solicitor group so that you can get to know your peers at other legal practices
• Attend university law fairs to inspire our future trainees

Vacation scheme

The vacation scheme takes place over June and July 2020 and is available to 2nd year law students/3rd year non-law students, post-graduates. Apply from November 2019-February 2020 for the scheme. The scheme is £300/week for 2 weeks. All trainees recruited from vacation scheme.

Other benefits

Life assurance, private healthcare, cycle to work scheme, holiday buyback, pension scheme with company contributions, season ticket loan, Gateley Sharesave Scheme.

University law career fairs 2019

Birmingham, Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading, Surrey, Warwick.

Social media

Twitter @GateleyPlc

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction Recognised Practitioner
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 3)
    • Consumer Finance (Band 3)
    • Fraud: Civil Recognised Practitioner
    • Health & Safety Recognised Practitioner
    • Sport Recognised Practitioner
    • Transport: Logistics (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market Recognised Practitioner
    • Real Estate (Band 4)