Gateley Legal - True Picture

Straight out of the gate, trainees scored this growing regional superstar high for its real estate prowess and “a nurturing culture."

Gateley Legal training contract review 2024

The Firm

Gateley was one of the first firms to become publicly listed in 2015 and set the tone as a law firm (or a ‘professional services group’ as it calls itself) that wants to do things differently. What began as a single-site firm in 1970s Birmingham now has 11 offices up and down the country. In that timeframe, the firm has also grown through a string of acquisitions and mergers with all sorts of different groups, including tax specialists, business psychologists, brand and IP experts, and several property and construction groups. And last, but certainly no means least, the firm also has an office in Dubai serving the construction, energy and shipping sectors. Anyone else starting to get the feeling that Gateley would be a formidable Monopoly opponent…?

“I really liked the national aspect of the firm.”

Trainees are hired into almost all of the UK offices (Newcastle is the exception). The majority of the current cohort was evenly split between Birmingham and Manchester, with the remainder spread between Leeds, Nottingham, London, Reading, Guildford and Belfast. This regional spread was encouraging to those who didn’t want to work in the capital. “I’m from the Northwest and really liked the national aspect of the firm,” said one rookie. “There’s no headquarters  – each office is equal and leads its own work.”

Strength in the regions is underpinned by Chambers UK rankings. "The firm has a good presence in property law, which I loved when I was studying!” The firm’s roots in Birmingham make it a key player in the Midlands, not only in real estate but in restructuring, employment, banking & finance, and corporate/M&A (mid-market). The Northwest is another important region for the firm, with recognition in all of these areas, plus IP. UK-wide, the firm is noted for its expertise in transport and health and safety law.

Another magnet that pulled trainees into the firm was their experience of Gateley’s culture. “I did vacation schemes elsewhere,” one interviewee shared, “but none gave me the feeling Gateley had.” What was this feeling? “Everyone was super friendly, and people seemed to really like working with each other – this is still the case!” Another summed it up simply: “The firm is relaxed, but still intellectually stimulates you.”

The Seats

In the seat allocation process, there are some rules and regulations. Firstly, trainees highlighted that “your first and second seat selections are based on business needs.” Secondly, everybody has to do one seat under each of the following three umbrella practices: real estate, corporate and litigation. There are a few options to choose from in each section. Within real estate, there are seats in construction, residential development, and commercial real estate. Corporate work encompasses traditional corporate work, banking and finance, tax, and commercial, IP and technology (CIPT). Finally, the litigation piece can be completed in commercial dispute resolution, financial dispute resolution, or employment (construction also counts as a contentious seat).

If you are really eager to do a particular seat, trainees advised: “Voice your preferences to the partners of the team. The decision is mainly influenced by business need but being bold with your preferences will help!” In Manchester, there is a client secondment with a local sports club, which unsurprisingly “can be competitive for second-years!”

In the commercial real estate  team, “we do investment work for commercial landlords, and tenant matters,” explained one trainee. There’s also a bit of real estate finance work alongside the firm’s banking team. “The work is very technical, so it’s a good way to learn transactional work, as it helps with problem-solving,” said insiders. After some time, “client calls happen every couple of weeks, and you’re expected to contribute to these calls.” And on this note, trainees highlighted that “you get to work with the big names” in the housebuilder space. In one mega matter, the firm advised a group of developers (including Taylor Wimpey, Homes England, Bellway and Vistry) on the delivery of an enormous development on the outskirts of Birmingham which will include 5,500 new homes. The team also recently acted for Custodian REIT, an investment trust company, on its purchase of a retail park in the Midlands for £15 million, and advised Southampton City Council on its agreement for the development of a previous Toys R Us site in the city.

“We work for a lot of large housebuilder, developer and contractor clients.”

Trainees are very likely to sit with the residential development unit (RDU), where much of the work centres around “helping housebuilders and developers buy land.” Trainees got involved in working on Land Registry documents, and did a bit of drafting of reports about pieces of land that clients were acquiring. “You’ll be writing about anything to do with the land and its history, like if they have particular qualities, such as an old tree or old water pipes.” Some lucky newbies managed to do site visits, and trainees also got client contact in this seat. “You send letters and emails in your own name,” interviewees explained, who found “you’re building rapport with the clients, and it helps that they’re approachable.” Some cases fall to the construction practice, which is split into both contentious and non-contentious. “We work for a lot of large housebuilder, developer and contractor clients too,” trainees confirmed. “The team also works with insurers.”  Trainees found “there’s a good mixture” between both defendants and claimant-side matters. Daily life for construction trainees involved drafting letters and court applications (which were then checked by partners) and admin tasks such as updating trackers.

The “fast-pacedcorporate group is split into two: private equity and M&A. Trainees were able to get a taste of both types, but “work tends to be wherever your supervisor sits.” The firm has expertise in the retail and real estate sectors, with clients such as entrepreneurs and private equity firms. The firm also handles some governance issues and directors' duties. Trainees described this seat as “complex work,” which resulted in “getting eased into it more slowly.” Trainee tasks at the beginning of the seat included drafting board minutes and resolutions from meetings, before taking on bigger duties such as drafting share certificates and tax notices. “I’m on nine different transactions now!” said one seasoned seater. “It’s really busy, but a good way to learn.” The firm’s list of corporate clients is long, with the likes of recognisable names such as Gymshark and JD Sports on the books. The team recently advised Praetura Ventures, a financial institution in Manchester, on a £6 million funding round into game developer XR Games. In the commercial,tech and data seat, trainees saw “a range of different things, from sports law to commercial contracts.” There’s a mix of contentious and non-contentious work, and trainees often worked on matters with just two or three other people. “I had a lot of partner contact,” one praised, while “in any client meeting, I was sitting in and observing.”

Gateley’s banking team works closely with corporate, and trainees found a “steep learning curve” working for “high-value clients” such as Lloyds and HSBC. The team handles corporate finance, asset-based lending and real estate finance. “There’s not as much client contact,” said one trainee, “but my supervisor invited me to all their meetings. The supervision was excellent.” In a recent matter, the firm represented private investment and development company Clowes in connection with its purchase of Derby County Football Club out of administration for £40 million.

Trainee Life

Trainees confirmed that “you do get assigned a supervisor” per seat, “but I found my supervision came from the team I was working with.” Trainees got a lot of feedback and support from one-to-one interactions with partners and associates on the matters they were working on, as this newbie attested: “People run through things with me and take the time to show me areas I can improve to take into my next seat.” Trainees get mid-seat and end-of-seat reviews every rotation with their supervisors.

There was also formal training on the go. According to trainees, at every seat rotation, they receive a two-day training on trends and developments in the practice they’re joining. This is alongside annual non-legal training sessions with the talent development team, growing soft skills such as building networks and time management. One trainee advised incomers to “use these resources to their maximum!”

More informally, trainees described “a nurturing culture” at the firm. As one stated, “if I had trouble with my work, I know I could approach anyone in the office, and they would genuinely try to assist me as best as they can.” Another noted a lack of hierarchy: “We’re working with big clients, but it doesn’t feel ‘high-powered’.

“When we joined, the firm shipped us off to the Lake District.”

This trainee cohort said there was plenty of camaraderie between themselves. “When we joined, the firm shipped us off to the Lake District to get us all together. The activities were a fun way of getting to know each other,” we heard. “You really build bonds with people over a week!” In fact, “I call a couple of them my best friends.” People also got together at events like the yearly Christmas party and Halloween social. One Brummy trainee told us about a big party that occurs once every two years firmwide: “It’s held in a warehouse in Birmingham for 800 lawyers, with food and cocktails. It is normally fancy dress and is great for networking!” Make ours a sub-peona colada please...

As for diversity and inclusion at the firm, trainees felt “the effort is there with the firm’s D&I platform holding different talks every month.” One highlighted that “we have done events where people brought in food from different countries, which was lovely (and yummy).” When it came to representation, “there are a mix of people from different backgrounds,” but some trainees reckoned “juniors push diversity initiatives more heavily than seniors, so it would be nice to see that effort” further up the ranks.

According to our survey, trainees at Gateley worked a little over 43 hours a week, which is just below the market average (and fairly in line with other regional firms). It was no surprise to hear from our interviewees that “the work-life balance is good, and everyone is good at checking in on the amount you’ve been working.” In fact, said one, “I was logged on during some time off to check my emails and I was told to get offline!” Similarly, weekend work is “never expected and rarely heard of.”

Our sources took all of this into account when the conversation turned to salary. As one put it, “although the salary isn’t the highest, it is trade-off, with the understanding that if they paid more, the firm would expect more hours and work from you.” However, not everyone was completely satisfied: “The salary hasn’t raised with inflation as other firms have, so on the competitive benchmark, it could be better.”

When qualification comes around, Gateley releases its NQ lists twice a year for its September and March intakes. Insiders recommended that those who are on the approach to qualification should informally “talk to the department you want to qualify into to understand the availability beforehand.” From there, trainees reach out to HR with their preferences for the position they would like. Each position has an interview which is followed by a phone call confirming the outcome. In 2023, 28 out of 39 qualifiers were retained by the firm.

Gateley’s Garbage Gang: As part of the firm’s CSR work, “we get involved in rubbish pick-up once a month and the partners join in, which is an amazing message from the top!”

How to get a Gateley training contract


  • Training contract deadline: 31 January 2024  
  • Vac scheme deadline:  31 January 2024  

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 office 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 presentation exercise, and undergo another interview.  

Vacation scheme  

Vacation schemes take place in June and July. Schemes are run in the Leeds, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Nottingham offices. Each summer placement lasts one week.   

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  

They have no set A-Level or undergraduate degree requirements. Relevant work experience is desirable but not required. 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

Firm profile

Gateley Legal is the legal business at the heart of legal and professional services group, Gateley.

Founded in Birmingham in 1808, we have provided commercial legal services to individuals and businesses over the last 200 years. 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.

Providing excellent client service to individuals and businesses across the UK is fundamental to our ethos of being forward thinking and straight talking.

We have over 580 professional advisers and employ over 1,000 people across ten offices located in Belfast, Birmingham, Guildford, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Reading and Dubai.

In 2015, we were the first commercial UK law firm to list on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The bold move to go public embodies our forward-thinking ethos. Our strategy is to differentiate ourselves in a crowded market, incentivise our people to retain and attract the best talent in the industry and diversify by acquiring complementary business services.

Main areas of work

Our specialist legal teams cover all types of legal services including: corporate, commercial, IP, banking, real estate, real estate dispute resolution, residential development, restructuring, technology, construction, employment, pensions, dispute resolution, regulatory, private wealth and family, tax, and shipping and transport, as well as global mobility which encompasses the management of the selection and relocation of employees for international assignments.

Training opportunities

Before your training begins you will have a week-long induction programme where you will meet the rest of your graduate cohort and begin to build a network of contacts across Gateley.

Our induction includes various presentations, training sessions and social events, and you’ll also take part in our Gateley Graduate Getaway at Patterdale Hall in the Lake District.

The Getaway involves a variety of fun activities focused on team building and developing a growth mindset. There is plenty of time for socialising too, all in the beautiful setting of Ullswater.

Whilst training with us, you will experience four, six-month seat rotations across a variety of legal practice areas. We also offer exciting client secondments if you would like to gain some experience working in-house.

You will receive supervision and mentoring from highly experienced solicitors and have opportunities to work directly with clients from early on, allowing you to build your practical legal knowledge, communication, client-care skills and an understanding of the markets within which our clients operate. Your progress and performance will be discussed regularly with you as well as more formally at your mid and end of seat reviews.

You also will take part in our tailored Graduate Development Programme (GDP) involving a Facet 5 personality profiling and regular coaching sessions with our Talent Development team.

You will also have the opportunity to organise and take part in social and charity fundraising events for your local Gateley office as part of our Gateley Gives initiatives. Across Gateley, we have raised more than one million pounds over the past decade for our chosen charities and community projects, as well as denoting many hours to support these very deserving causes.

Vacation scheme

We offer Summer Vacation Placements (SVPs) during June and July to second-year law undergraduates and final year non-law undergraduates onwards. We also welcome applications from people who have progressed further in their legal studies but have not yet been offered a training contract.

Our SVPs offer a snapshot of what training with us is like and provide a real insight into a future career in law. You’ll be assigned a trainee buddy who will answer any questions you have along the way. The emerging talent team are also on hand for any queries throughout. Our SVPs are packed full of varied social events too, so you’ll get a real feel for our Gateley Team Spirit and culture. During your placement, you will be part of our legal teams and have involvement in day-to-day departmental work. You will learn more about the Gateley Group, our platforms, network groups and our vision and values.

Other benefits

Our benefits include: private healthcare, Cycle to Work scheme, Sharesave scheme, GymFlex, travel pass loan.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Diversity, inclusion and well-being is an important part of our culture and the values that drive our Gateley Team Spirit. With employees from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, over seven different religions and belief systems, and a diverse gender split, inclusion is at the heart of all we do. Each year we ask our employees to complete a diversity survey; this helps us to understand the make-up of our organisation in more detail.

We are committed to a fully inclusive, diverse and healthy working environment where our people have ‘room to breathe’, a key element of our Gateley Team Spirit. We want our people to feel that they can be 100% themselves at work. We use our four internal networks to provide this support; Pride, Inspire, Unity and Thrive.

Our Pride group help to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues across the Gateley group; provide opportunities for internal networking; and to develop and maintain relationships with external LGBT+ groups and networks. We are proud to be a Stonewall Diversity Champion.

Our Inspire network group has been set up to nurture, develop and provide support to all of our talent across the Gateley group with a particular focus on career milestones, enabling our people to carve the careers they want successfully and to promote diversity and inclusion.

Our Thrive network supports the health and wellbeing of all employees to promote high levels of performance both physically and mentally across the group. The Thrive committee runs a series of events and training programmes throughout the year to raise awareness and to inspire our people to take care of themselves and those around them.

Unity recognises, celebrates and supports employees from all different cultures, religions, backgrounds and those with disabilities.
• Ability is our newest group and has been established to support employees with disabilities and raise awareness of neurodiversity and disability related issues across our Group.
• Like Pride, Ability works with external disability groups and charities by offering volunteering, mentoring and fundraising.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Health & Safety (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 4)