Gateley PLC - True Picture

Gateley is “one of the big players in the Midlands,” and the North West too – it’s also one of only three law firms to be a publicly owned company.

Spot the IPO

Gateley was the first ever UK law firm to go public, joining the London Stock Exchange in 2015. That’s a very rare thing – you won’t find another firm in this guide to have done the same. Sources were proud of the firm's PLC status: “I think it shows we are pioneering, and that we aren’t afraid to do things differently. Gateley is as much a business as it is a law firm – it's full of entrepreneurial people.” Sure enough, the firm’s been flexing its new-found businesslike muscles by acquiring a number of professional services firms, most recently snapping up South-Eastern property firm GLC. The firm’s also strengthening by bringing new practices to existing locations (Nottingham now has a real estate development team) and announced healthy growth of 8% for 2017/18.

“Mid-market, mid-sized national firm, with a really strong regional presence.”

But how does being a public company affect the training contract directly? “There’s more transparency regarding the business, and our policies, but it hasn’t affected the day-to-day life as a trainee,” one interviewee remarked. Nevertheless, it does allow trainees to put money into the company and buy shares after three years via Gateley’s share scheme. “It's definitely an incentive to stay on with the firm,” trainees agreed. “I think in an LLP, it can sometimes feel like you are feeding work to the top, which only benefits the partners’ personal profits. It's great as a young person who puts in so much work to feel like I'm supporting the business. Having an alternative option of saving money is also a real benefit in this economic climate.” As such the firm kept 14 of its 16 qualifiers in 2018.

As for Gateley's credentials as a law firm, our sources identified it as a “mid-market, mid-sized national firm, with a really strong regional presence,” – we’d say that was just about right. The firm’s Manchester and Birmingham offices are the largest. Of its 30 or so trainees, two thirds are split between them, with the rest spread pretty evenly around the Nottingham, Leicester, London and Leeds offices. Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester provide the firm with 13 Chambers UK rankings across the East and West Midlands. Particular plaudits are awarded for its employment, construction, real estate, M&A, and restructuring capabilities. The Manchester office, meanwhile, brings the firm a crop of similar rankings for the North West, as well as impressive practices in IP, employment and pensions. Last of all, Chambers UK calls Gateley a national leader outside of London in banking and finance, as well as restructuring.

Football crazy, business mad

All trainees must complete one contentious, one property, and one corporate seat during their two years. Banking, tax, restructuring, private equity, M&A and pensions are all counted under the corporate umbrella. Trainees don’t get a choice on their first two seats and some found the “restrictions slightly frustrating.” Others advocated the benefits of being “pushed into seats you might not initially want to do,” advising inbound trainees to arrive “with an open mind. My first seat wouldn't have been my preference coming out of law school, but now it's the one I want to qualify into.”

Sources also explained that “in smaller offices such as London, it's more limited in terms of options compared to Birmingham and Manchester.” Prime examples of the firm's breadth of activity include its popular client secondments to Everton and Manchester City football clubs. Those who’d been recalled: “You get to attend meetings and negotiations that would be reserved for partners and senior associates at the firm. Because the in-house team is so small, the exposure is great and every day is different. You could be doing anything from IP and supply contracts to working on player contracts and transfer windows. Then there’s the bonus that everything you are doing is constantly in the news.” The firm has a number of other Premier League clubs as clients and recently helped City Football Group (Man City’s owner) as it entered into a joint venture with Goals Soccer Centres.

“There’s the bonus that everything you are doing is constantly in the news.”

The banking team is broadly split into real estate finance and leveraged finance, and specialisms include asset and acquisition finance. Clients include national banks such as Lloyds, RBS and HSBC. Cross-border work crops up, and lawyers in Birmingham recently acted for HSBC on a £13 million loan facility it provided to an Isle of Man vehicle so that it could acquire shares in a British Virgin Islands company, which owns Thomas Cook HQ. On larger cases, trainees are tasked with project management, which basically means “making sure all the banks and borrowers are happy with the drafted documents and ensuring everything flows seamlessly.” But there are plenty of smaller, more local deals for trainees to get stuck into too: “On deals involving a smaller loan agreement, trainees can run that themselves. You'd be the main point of contact for the client and draft anything that is required, such as an amendment of the agreement.”

The restructuring group falls under the corporate umbrella. Its advisory arm “helps companies going under and is employed by banks and insurance companies to maximise their returns by keeping companies afloat through insolvency procedures,.” KPMG, Lloyds, Deloitte and Santander are all clients. There’s a contentious side too, though: sources summed this up as “going after dodgy directors and assets.” Recently the team acted for Grant Thornton in its role as the liquidators of an aluminium smelting company. Gately aided them to pursue the company's directors over breach of duty and defrauding creditors in a dispute worth £3 million. Trainees felt their experience on both sides of the department “worked quite well together. You can draw on your experiences from both for the other seats, and it’s nice to feel like I have an all-encompassing knowledge.” Sources also judged that “the work is quite technical, and sometimes involves going back to black letter law for research, but it’s also very fast paced in its timescales.” The range of tasks included helping to draft witness statements; conducting conference calls with clients; doing company searches; preparing document packs for companies and most importantly doing “regular insolvency checks to make sure the company doesn’t go down on your watch!”

Housebuilder housebuilder

The real estate group covers a number of specialisms including commercial development and investment, infrastructure, planning and portfolio management. Clients include JD Sports, Oxford University and Carlsberg. The firm also has a dedicated residential development team, based in the West Midlands, which acts for 18 of the 20 largest UK house builders, including Crest Nicholson and Keepmoat. In residential development trainees are able to take “ownership by doing all the legals for buying and selling small pieces of land – such as a ransom strip on a housing development.” Part of the job involves getting out of the office: “The site visit is an important part of any deal. As a trainee I've done searches with the utility providers to make sure water, electricity and internet services are all in order, and checked with the planning authorities to see if an additional bus route needs to be added.” Other teams provide work that’s “not just filling out land registry forms. I was tasked with drafting a lease report for a bank acting on the mortgage. I had to compare provisions in the old and current leases and work out what would benefit our client.” Others drafted reports on title and amended contracts. Recently the firm acted for Harworth Group on a new 3,000 home settlement at Cinderhill, north of Derby. The firm has also acted for Lidl UK in site acquisitions across the north of England.

“The first couple of times the phone rings is nerve-wracking but after a month it's no bother.”

Gateley's employment team covers both contentious and non-contentious work, advising clients on TUPE, equal pay, trade union issues, hiring and firing and tribunal litigation. Sources flagged their experience as “completely different to a seat like restructuring where there are huge projects that take months to complete. In employment you're often dealing with five to six cases at a time.” Similarly, another trainee identified it as “much more reactive: it's driven a lot more by case law. You can't really get ahead of something when someone is calling you up with a problem on the day.” The firm's helpline service provided trainees with a never-ending range of mystery work: “Usually it's just a quick query about employment law from a company. As a trainee you then research the company’s policy and make sure its actions aren't going to be in breach of any law. The first couple of times the phone rings is nerve-racking but after a month it's no bother and it's really good for your development.” On more substantive cases, trainees can cut their teeth drafting grounds of resistance, witness statements and putting together disclosure bundles. And “when things such as tribunal hearings do come up they encourage you to visit as much as they can.” The team recently acted for Deloitte on employment tribunal claims coming from the administration of Paperlinx UK, a paper merchant.

In the firm's corporate seat, trainees' “day-to-day tasks included data room management. I was responsible for putting the information on, and managing access to the data room. I also drafted ancillary documents, such as board minutes, stock transfer forms and share certificates. That work was important enough to make sure you understood the wider context of the transaction.” The Manchester team recently advised shoe-repairer and key-cutter Timpson on its £8 million acquisition of the dry cleaning business of Johnson Services Group. Finally, we should mention the firm's out-and-out contentious option, commercial dispute resolution. The team boasts clients across the retail, energy, sports, charity, pension, recruitment and manufacturing sectors, including Edinburgh Woollen Mill, who the firm recently defended from a claim of copyright infringement. One trainee recalled “doing a bit of everything – I worked with a property litigator on boundary disputes, but there were also cases of identity fraud and defamation cases.”

Open the flood gates

Trainees were keen to stress the level of integration between the firm's offices, remarking that “people are constantly hotdesking up and down the country – doing half a week in one office and then half elsewhere.” That doesn’t usually apply to trainees, but sources explained that most matters will involve trainees, associates and partners from at least one of the other offices, making it feel unified. Relations between offices also extend positively in a social capacity. For example, trainees in the Nottingham office pointed out that “we frequently meet up with the Birmingham and Leicester offices for socials. We have a big rounders game booked in for mid-June.” There’s a firm-wide party every other year too, which in the past has had Great Gatsby and Harry Potter themes. There was also a ‘Tour de Gateley’ bike ride, from London to Leeds, to raise money for charity. Elsewhere we heard of offices hosting BBQs, attending chocolate-making classes and going out for regular drinks. No surprises there, as “it's the trainees who are given responsibility for co-ordinating every office's social activities.”

“I'm leaving pretty consistently at 6pm.”

Gateley picks out a number of strategic 'pillars,' and one of those looks at wellbeing. “They are very interested in making sure we have a good work/life balance,” said Birmingham sources. “We have running clubs, climbing clubs and a yoga club that is run twice a week by one of the trainees.” However, trainees’ wellbeing is best secured through their hours being less consistently taxing than their City peers: “My latest ever night in the whole two years I have been here was 11pm,” one trainee told us, while another revealed that “I've only finished past 8pm twice and after 7pm a handful of times. Most of the time, I'm leaving pretty consistently at 6pm.” 

Approaching qualification, “the firm compiles an unofficial list of preferences showing where trainees want to go, and compares that to the departments in need of NQs. They then try to marry the lists and publish a list of vacancies.” Interviews follow, and trainees normally find out by June whether they have been successful.

The Leeds office has grown from a staff count of five in 2012, to 96 in 2018 – the office's trainee intake is on the rise too.


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How to get a Gateley training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 12 February 2019 (opens 1 November 2018)

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 PLC

One Eleven,
Edmund Street,
B3 2HJ

  • Partners 144
  • Total trainees 32
  • UK offices Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Leeds, Nottingham, London, Reading, Guildford
  • Overseas offices Dubai
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Stacy Davis
  • Training partner: Victoria Garrad
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 20
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: circa 40 nationwide
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Summer vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2018
  • Summer vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 12 February 20198
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £27,000 (outside of London)
  • Second-year salary: £28,500 (outside of London)
  • Post-qualification salary: £41,000 (outside of London)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: offered during the LPC
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Leeds, Nottingham, London, Reading, Guildford
  • Client secondments: Various high profile client

Firm profile

Gateley Plc is a leading national commercial law firm, operating in 8 UK cities with an office in Dubai. In 2015 Gateley (Holdings) Plc made legal history by becoming the first UK law firm to list on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. As a listed company, Gateley is able to offer all its employees something unique – equity in the business. We have also introduced an employee share save scheme, enabling everyone working at Gateley Plc to have a stake in its continued success.

Gateley is also committed to the regional communities in which it is based and actively supports a number of causes both nationally and regionally. Gateley Plc has an enviable reputation as a friendly and sociable place to work and is committed to equality and diversity throughout its offices.

Main areas of work

Gateley Plc is the legal business of law-led professional services group, Gateley. We provide collaborative, straight-talking legal advice with a cut-through commercial edge. Pragmatic and partner-led, we work together with our clients to make the complex simple. Our specialist teams cover all aspects 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. The firm also has a strong sector focus which sees it act for 18 of the top 20 housebuilders, a number of premier league football clubs and clients in industries as diverse as manufacturing, technology and retail.

Training opportunities

We invest heavily in the training and development of our trainees and ask that they complete four six-month training seats. Our preference is that over the course of their training, all of our trainees will complete a seat in at least one corporate discipline, one real estate discipline and one contentious area.

We also offer seats in the following areas; banking, commercial, commercial dispute resolution, construction, employment, residential development, regulatory, restructuring, pensions, private client and tax.

We also have a number of client secondment opportunities for our trainees which can be applied for.

Vacation scheme

We run two summer vacation schemes which take place from the last week of June and throughout July. We are accepting applications from students to all of our offices and would welcome applications from candidates in their second year of a law degree, and their third year of a non-law degree and beyond.

Other benefits

We have a wide range of benefits such as; an employee Share Save scheme, private healthcare, cycle to work scheme, the opportunity to buy back more holiday, subsidised gym membership, employee assistant programme, a competitive pension scheme, and a season ticket loan.

University law career fairs 2018

• University of Reading
• University of Warwick
• University of Birmingham
• University of Nottingham
• University of Leicester
• University of Leeds
• Manchester Law Fair
• University of Lancaster

Social media

Twitter @GateleyPlc

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018

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 3)
    • 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 (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 3)
    • Consumer Finance (Band 3)
    • Sport Recognised Practitioner
    • Transport: Logistics (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 5)