Gateley Legal - True Picture

A trendsetter among national outfits, stock exchange-listed Gateley has grown as both a law firm and something… more.

Gateley training contract review 2021

The Firm

The legal industry is moving fast. Organisations with non-law roots are nudging into the profession, seizing a slice of the pie. At the same time, law firms are diversifying their practices, biting into other professional services markets. Gateley has been one of the quickest off the mark: with Gateley Capitus (tax advice) and Gateley Hamer (property consultants) already in its operation, the firm acquired land referencing consultancy Persona Associates and management consulting group T-three in 2019. The following year another consultancy business, The Vinden Partnership, came into the fold as Gateley Vinden. Our trainee sources explained how these additional services overlap with the firm’s legal offering: “We refer clients to those services, and they come to us with legal issues. It’s definitely been great for increasing our commercial understanding as trainees.”

Gateley had already made history back in 2015, becoming the first firm to float on the London Stock Exchange. “The IPO set Gateley apart,” a source reflected. “It seemed forward-thinking then and we’re now offering a diversified legal business. Rather than solely legal, the firm is law-led.” This unconventional strategy may appear risky, but recent financials suggest the plan is paying off: results for the six months ending October 2019 saw a revenue increase of 11.8% to £51.8 million, with 93.7% derived from legal and 6.3% from non-legal services. To give you some context, that’s a shift from 94.8% and 5.2% the prior period.

“Rather than solely legal, the firm is law-led.”

Chambers UK focuses on the firm’s legal successes across the UK, with its strongest showings coming from banking, employment, real estate, litigation, corporate, and restructuring practices in the Midlands; employment, IP, pensions, and restructuring in the North West; and national leader rankings outside London for banking and restructuring. The Manchester office had the most trainees (11) at the time of our calls, just pipping the Birmingham HQ’s nine. Leeds, Leicester, London and Nottingham housed four each.Gateley has a Dubai office, but doesn’t offer an overseas seat at present.

Larger offices – like Birmingham and Manchester – offer trainees a wider range of seat options, whereas smaller ones have fewer departments. “Some teams and offices are a little more regional,” one trainee shared. “It’s determined by the clients instead of an intentional regional focus: ultimately this is a national firm and you feel like you’re a Gateley trainee rather than identifying with a particular office.” All newbies complete a two-week orientation in Birmingham, through which “you make mates across every office. Lots of teams are really good with cross-working – clients couldn’t tell we didn’t sit together!”

The Seats

All trainees must do at least one corporate/transactional, property and contentious seat at some point in the training contract. First years get very little say over their destinations, with Londoners doing corporate and banking seats in their first 12 months. Some agreed that “you know that’s the deal when signing up,” but others were more critical. “It’s less flexible than at other firms, but you can make it known where you want to go,” one said. There’s some flexibility: for example, the corporate seat can also be in restructuring, banking or tax. “It’s not as limiting as it sounds,” sources advised.

Gateley’s property reach spans residential and commercial development, property finance, real estate investment and portfolio management. Acting for 18 of the top 20 largest UK house builders – including Barratt and Bellway – the firm also represents property investment managers. Most trainees found themselves in either commercial real estate or residential development unit (RDU). Trainees on the commercial side saw a “really good variety” including property finance, retail and commercial leases, and support on corporate transactional matters for a “really mixed bag of high-end commercial clients and SMEs.” The firm recently advised developer Barberry on the £37.5 million land price sale of a 45-hectare site in Cheltenham to the Borough Council, targeted for a cyber business park.

Trainees in RDU worked with house builders “acquiring land, dealing with infrastructure and development, and resolving any planning issues.” Several noted that “it’s quite a full-on department,” with one giving a full account of their experience: “I got 20 to 30 matters given to me on day one! Supervision levels were great but there are so many things going on at once; I was very much spinning plates.” The firm handles a mix of small and much larger projects, recently advising a consortium of seven residential developers on the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension, valued as one of the largest new housing schemes in the UK at around £1.5 billion. All our interviewees highlighted the “good exposure afforded by being thrown in the deep end,” and responded warmly to supervision. “Partners trust you to handle things but are always there to fall back on if needed,” one noted. Trainees worked on conducting searches and enquiries for newly acquired developments, drafting Land Registry forms, diligence reports on title, shadowing partners in larger contract negotiations and “taking the lead” on smaller files.

“I got 20 to 30 matters given to me on day one! Supervision levels were great but there are so many things going on at once.”

Advising UK clearing banks (the firm is on the panel for nine of the 11), corporate groups and asset managers, Gateley’s banking and finance practice splits broadly into real estate and leveraged finance. Big names here include Lloyds, HSBC and Santander, as well as private equity houses and debt funders. The team helped Maven Capital Partners in the inception of the Midlands Investment Fund, its first direct lending fund valued at over £250 million; as well as the £85 million management buyout of Hammonds Furniture, advising on the funding documentation for facilities provided by Frontier Development and HSBC. Trainees tucked into “lots of real estate finance” linked to the property practice, as well as acquisition finance and “acting for the major clearing banks and funds.” Here too, they were happy to handle plenty of responsibility. “I began drafting ancillary documents but moved up to the key documents on smaller transactions,” one recalled. “You get high-level work with lots of client contact; the supervision was also really good in that team.”

It may not be a City titan, but Gateley’s corporate department acts for many of the leading nominated advisers and brokers in the AIM and London Stock Exchange. Recent deals under the firm’s belt include Paragon Leisure Group’s sale of Notts County FC; and private equity firm LDC’s investment into digital, branding and PR agency group MSQ Partners. London trainees found themselves staffed on “mainly mid-tier acquisitions” as well as “some smaller-scale advisory work. In the smaller offices, everything is covered by the general corporate department instead of having smaller, defined teams.” Here and in the larger bases, trainees saw a comprehensive view of the firm’s practice. “We’re involved in everything,” one enthused. “They’re really keen to get you on the phone getting client contact.” Sources also ran through disclosure letters, board minutes and due diligence reports. “I got involved in drafting some ancillary documents,” an insider declared. “There’s no heavy drafting at the start, but I eventually got more input in share purchase agreements and helping to draft chunkier documents.”

A seat in commercial disputes can cover sectors as distinct from one another as healthcare – particularly in claims brought against NHS trusts – and sports litigation, for clients such as Manchester City FC or the UK Cheerleading Association. Gateley notably acted for Everton FC in £5.2 million High Court proceedings seeking damages from alleged breach of a commercial agreement. Variety was the name of the game for trainees who saw “general commercial enquiries,” mark-ups on supplier contracts, trademark and patent disputes and “quite a few off -he-wall issues.” They typically spent their days working on registrations, advising on commercial contracts and providing “general advice to repeat clients.” Cross-border disputes are not uncommon here, and Gateley also obtains and defends without notice injunctions for clients including search and doorstep delivery-up orders.

“An average claim might go on for five years and you’re only there for a specific six months.”

As at many firms, there’s a balance of disputes and non-contentious elements in restructuring. The firm acted for the administrators of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group in the closure and sale of the majority of the restaurant portfolio; and for administrators in the disposal of the Patisserie Valerie company group including Philpotts and Baker & Spice. On the contentious side, trainees enjoyed dealing with “court and civil procedure rules” and acting for “all the major insolvency practitioners.” The London office “does a lot of work for Russian clients or in former Soviet jurisdictions,” whereas trainees in Birmingham acted on cases linked to the Caribbean. “An average claim might go on for five years and you’re only there for a specific six months,” an interviewee explained. “You might be there during a hearing and have a lot on, or six months pass and you receive only one letter.” Most were far busier than that, drafting client letters and letters before claim, helping write preliminary reports to clients, or “setting out a strategy for litigation with lots of research and drafting some of the end report.” Most of the non-contentious side is advisory: “We advise companies in financial trouble on their duties. It requires quite a lot of research and is very technical black-letter case law, which I really enjoyed.”

The firm’s football club clients including Everton and Manchester City are among the most popular options for client secondments. “It’s a fantastic experience,” one source found. “Getting a secondment is about business need and being in the right place at the right time.” Another added: “You have to push for it internally and it depends on your own feedback,” plus the business case. “Some people go for a spot and don’t get it,” trainees warned, “but the client partners really like it when you show an interest; applications are well received.”

Trainee Life

If you’ve (for some reason) come looking to work until the early hours of the morning, Gateley is not the place for you. “9pm would be a normal late finish,” one source found, while another concluded that “on the whole hours have been good. Naturally it’s going to depend on department and workflow, but I’d typically get in around 8.30am and leave at 6.30pm; I’ve rarely worked past 10pm.” Corporate seats are more up and down and include the occasional later night: “I had one 3am finish in banking,” a source said, but this was the exception to the rule. All agreed they were paid well for their time. “It’s a good life here and I’ve got no complaints,” one concluded.

Trainees described the firm’s culture as “really sociable – people are decent, friendly and approachable. Everyone gets on and there are no negative stereotypes.” There were variations by office: Birmingham by virtue of size is “well connected” to the rest of the network with “everything managed out of this office.” Smaller bases like Leeds tend to gravitate towards whole-office shindigs: “We’re a very social bunch and it’s not unusual for us to go out for Friday drinks,” sometimes kicked off by the legal director announcing: “‘We’re all going to the Blackhouse [Grill on the Square], who wants to come?’” In other locations too there’s a health social scene with “infamous cocktail events” and escape room trips. Designated CSR and social representatives get a budget to run fund-raising events for an elected charity: “Everyone is encouraged to nominate suitable charities.” Trainees also donated their time to “mock interviews for school kids who might never have been exposed to an office environment before.”

“I’d typically get in around 8.30am and leave at 6.30pm; I’ve rarely worked past 10pm.”

There were some complaints about lack of communication between the firm and trainee cohort – the more diplomatic voices we heard suggested “firmwide communication could be a bit more coherent.” In 2020 the covid-19 pandemic complicated what should be a relatively streamlined NQ process, and at the time of writing trainees were unsure of where jobs would be available. “I have lots of faith in the firm,” one declared. “Others feel like they’re in limbo; we’ve just got to hang on and see.” Gateley went on to retain 14 of 16 qualifiers in 2020.

Making a merger-er

The firm’s recent additions haven’t all been non-legal: Gateley acquired Belfast-based media and reputation management boutique Paul Tweed in spring 2020.

How to get a Gateley training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 8 February 2021

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 170
  • Associates: 122
  • Total trainees 38
  • UK offices Belfast, Birmingham, Guildford, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading
  • Overseas offices Dubai 
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Stefanie Ballmann, Graduate Recruitment Advisor 
  • Tel: 0121 212 7935 
  • Training partner: Victoria Garrad, Partner & Group HR Director
  • Tel: 0121 234 0040
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 25
  • Applications pa: 1,000
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • A-level requirements – BBB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 60
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: November 2020 Training contract deadline, 2022 start: February 2021 Vacation scheme applications open: November 2020 Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: February 2021
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £27,000 (regions), £35,000 (London)
  • Second-year salary: £28,500 (regions), £35,000 (London)
  • Post-qualification salary: £41,000 (regions) £61,500 (London)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £5,000 offered if studying LPC full-time
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Birmingham, Guildford, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Reading 

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, 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, banking, real estate, 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

• Experience four, six-month seat rotations across a variety of legal practice areas – we also offer exciting client secondments
• Gain supervision and mentoring from highly experienced solicitors
• Receive an in-depth and supportive training schedule tailored to your needs and areas of interest to give you the skills and experiences you need for life as a qualified solicitor
• 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
• Study Professional Skills Courses to become a well-rounded solicitor
• Attend university law fairs to inspire our future trainees

Vacation scheme

Our Summer Vacation Placements give you the opportunity to gain paid hands-on legal work experience in one of our offices and provide a real insight into a future career in law. You will work in two legal practice areas during your two-weeks with us. We will provide you with a trainee ‘buddy’ and organise social events to help you get to know our people well. You will also have regular contact with our graduate recruitment team.
You can apply if:
• You are in your penultimate or final year of a Law degree, or have graduated after completing a Law degree
• You are in your final year of a non-law degree, or have graduated after completing a non-law degree

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. 

Social media

Twitter @GateleyPlc

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

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)
    • 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)
    • Transport: Logistics (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 4)