Spanning Cardiff and the Midlands, Geldards does both public and private sector work.
Welsh Dragon, Midlands Engine...
Geldards has over 200 lawyers spread across Cardiff, the Midlands and London. It advises clients including public companies, local authorities, public bodies, charities and government agencies, as well as private clients. The firm is Chambers ranked both for areas related to individuals (family, claimant clin neg), businesses (corporate, real estate, banking). Geldards wins its best rankings in Wales, where it picks up seven top-tier nods, but is also ranked in the East Midlands, a much more competitive market.
“We're a key player in the Midlands,” piped up one trainee, before admitting: “We do fly under the radar a little bit, but we have some exciting clients, like sporting bodies and interesting organisations in the public sector.” Another added: “We've got a strong practice dealing with the automotive sector – we work with almost all the leading car dealerships and a lot of car manufacturers. We also work with quirky little start-up companies that have strange ideas. That's so fun, because it requires you to think about the law differently.”
"There's nothing worse than a judge calling you out in the courtroom."
“The first seat is allocated to you, but for your second you definitely get more of a say,” one insider explained. While second-year trainees are given priority in the allocation process, “you have to be quite proactive if there's an area you want to do, as there's no guarantee the team has enough work for you.” We heard that “most trainees will end up doing either litigation or property or both, because those are two big areas.” At the time of our calls there were seven trainees in Cardiff, two in Derby and two in Nottingham. Trainees do switch between Nottingham and Derby. Moving between Wales and the Midlands, on the other hand, is “quite rare, but if it's something you're passionate about then you can definitely request it.”
The corporate team handles a range of private equity and M&A work, spanning the healthcare, technology, life sciences and public sectors. The Cardiff team recently acted for Novomatic (the UK’s largest gaming industry operation) on its acquisition of Harwich-based PLF International for £28 million. Over in the Midlands, lawyers advised the shareholders of a Burton-on-Trent electric cabling business on its sale to a Scottish company. Back in Cardiff the team has been working with the Development Bank of Wales (formerly Finance Wales) on loans and investments totalling £36 million, and on matters related to its administration of two 'Northern Powerhouse' funds worth £51 million for the North West and the Tees Valley. “I did quite a lot of corporate governance work,” one source shared, “so my work was more to do with the structuring of companies and updating articles of association.” Another interviewee told us: “There were also a lot of banking and finance deals going on, which involved me helping out with due diligence and making sure everything is checked for completion.”
Geldards' litigation practice works on breach of contract, IP, shareholder, insolvency and product liability claims. Clients include the Royal Voluntary Service, Natural Resources Wales, Grant Thornton and Cardiff University. The Cardiff team recently defended Hoover against a claim by Dyson that it had infringed a vacuum cleaner technology patent. Lawyers also acted for LibDem campaigner and self-described 'extreme centrist' Liz Webster in a crowd-funded court challenge stating that the government's Article 50 notification to trigger Brexit was unlawful. Given the range of clients and cases, we weren't surprised to hear a source say that “it took me a while to acclimatise because the work varies from day to day.” Another reported: “I attended a few High Court hearings on contractual disputes. I did a lot of note taking, and we also held discussions with counsel where we'd bounce ideas off each other to discuss cross-examination strategy.” One source admitted that there were “quite a few bundles that needed to be prepared – it sounds simple, but it's so important to get it right. There's nothing worse than a judge calling you out in the courtroom.”
The commercial team advises on IP, IT, data privacy, licensing and the design of software apps. Clients include web consultants Box UK, a Wiltshire sofa company and the University of South Wales. In Cardiff, the team recently advised the Welsh Sports Association on a new online service for each of its 77 sporting organisations and supported the Development Bank of Wales on its £4 million investment in online AI company Cloud IQ. “In the Midlands, we have a strong manufacturing and rail practice,” a source told us, “and we also have specialisms in the sports and media sectors.” Lawyers recently advised the British Boxing Board of Control on what to do about counterfeit products appearing on eBay, Gumtree, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, one insider reported “drafting terms and conditions for a client who had an innovative business model for an app,” while over in Cardiff trainees were busy conducting “GDPR-related research on supplier contracts and outsourcing agreements.”
“Looking at Google Maps to find out where the hell they were!”
The commercial property team has particular strengths in advising in the retail, automotive and finance sectors. The Midlands team also represented Sheffield City Council on the development of Park Hill in Sheffield, which is the largest listed building in Europe. The firm's wide-ranging work includes advising energy company WPD on its operational property requirements throughout the Midlands, South Wales and South West. One Cardiff trainee reflected that “you tend to start on post-completion work, so I was drafting Land Registry and stamp duty applications. As you progress, you start doing more complicated stuff like deeds of easement and contracts for the sale of land.” A Midlands insider echoed this sentiment: “By the end of my seat, I was negotiating my own leases.” The work can be a touch finicky: for instance, “matching up very small bits of land with titles and looking at Google Maps to find out where the hell they were!”
Trainees reporting putting in an average working day of 8am to 5pm in litigation, with the “occasional 6pm finish in the summer if it gets busy.” Over in commercial property, trainees typically arrive at 8.30am and leave by 5.30pm. We heard that “corporate isn't too bad either,” with typical days lasting 8.30am to 5.30pm, although one newbie “worked until 8.30pm for one week because of a completion.” In commercial, “the work tends to be less deadline pressured, so you have full days, not long days.” These usually span 8am to 6pm, although “some days can be quite lumpy and last until 8pm, but that doesn't last longer than two weeks.”
Three's a crowd
“It's a genuinely friendly place where partners and solicitors are approachable and happy to chat about how you're doing and provide helpful tips,” one insider asserted. Another source gushed: “Supervisors and partners are genuinely keen to put me in situations that will help me improve – like getting involved with a client workshop.” With trainees spread across Derby, Nottingham and Cardiff, newbies reported “not spending much time in London or Ilkeston.” They did, however, note that “Nottingham has the nicest building – with big open spaces and large windows looking out over the city centre,” which also means that “it can get slightly like a green house in the summer.”
Cardiff is reportedly “the strongest place for social events because there's loads more people here,” although our Midlands sources paid homage to the “sports and social committee that organises a solid game of touch rugby.” Other firm events include the annual fancy-dress Christmas quiz and spring and autumn balls. On a less formal note, we heard that “Friday drinks in the Midlands are becoming increasingly popular,” while Cardiff insiders preferred to “go for lunch during the day,” and usually save the “big nights out for pub crawls or ale trails.”
When it comes to qualification, some newbies confessed to having “been made informal offers from supervisors in teams I've sat in,” while others explained that “you have a discussion with HR and they let you know which departments are looking to hire NQs, and they'll try to accommodate your preference.” In 2018, the firm retained four of six qualifiers.
If you want to work in Wales or the Midlands, Geldards is well worth a gander.
How to get a Geldards training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): TBD
After a few years' hiatus, Geldards' vac scheme started back up again in 2016 with four vac schemers residing in each of the three main offices (Nottingham, Derby and Cardiff). The aim is to recruit the same numbers going forward. Each vac scheme lasts a week and has the aim of “giving students interested in our firm the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience of the range of legal work we undertake and the type of clients we work for.”
If it's leisurely talks and patio drinks you're expecting, then be aware: “Candidates are given some substantive tasks to test their aptitude, so it's a real opportunity to demonstrate ability and gauge whether this is the role and firm for you,” adds head of HR Melissa Moran.
Applications and interviews
For now, all prospective trainees must apply directly for a training contract. Candidates start the process by submitting an online application form and CV via the firm's website. As with any firm, it's essential to check all documents meticulously and ensure that everything is in the right place, as “we disregard applications with errors or missing information.”
Those who make it through to the second round face a “tricky written assessment which is set at short notice,” according to trainees. “It usually focuses on a topical concern,” Moran elaborates. “Sometimes there's a choice of subjects if we're feeling kind!” Trainees recalled “rustling up a 1,500-word essay on the positives of the Jackson reforms,” and with just 48 hours allocated to complete the task, “it's designed not only to test applicants' writing skills, but also their ability to work under pressure. It helps us to identify the ones who really want it,” Moran explains.
Between 30 and 40 rookies then go on to attend an assessment day, where “equal importance is placed on ability and personality,” according to Moran. “By this point we know all about applicants' academics, so there are no written aptitude tests or evaluations to complete.” Exercises are usually group-based, and test how individuals interact, influence and take the lead without being confrontational.
The day ends with a one-to-one interview, where “you've really got to sell yourself. We want to know why you're different, what kind of work you envisage yourself doing here, and how you'll fit into our organisation. You need to show an understanding of our values and culture, as life in a regional firm such as Geldards is very different to life at a magic circle firm.” The best 20 are then invited back for a final interview with an equity partner, after which six or so are awarded training contracts.
How to wow
As with many regional firms, “we look to prioritise individuals with local connections, and a demonstrable link to Cardiff or the Midlands – be it through university education, family ties or past experience living and working there – can really help to convince us that you're an investment for the future.”
A role paralegalling at the firm could also help to demonstrate such a commitment, though Moran is keen to point out that “loyalty is not our only key criteria. Saying that, we do have required benchmarks when it comes to assessing applicants, and tend to find that those who have past legal experience – be it here or elsewhere – perform better during interviews, as they have a stronger grasp of how a firm functions.”
The Welsh legal scene
- Partners 55
- Fee earners 140
- Total trainees 14
- UK offices Cardiff, Derby, Nottingham, London, Ikeston
- Graduate recruiter: Lauren Britton, HR OFficer
- Training partner: Stephen Jenkins
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Applications pa: 200+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 Russell Group or First from non RG or other exceptional qualities or experience
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: Online application accessible via our website from January 2019 for 2020/21 intake
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £22,000
- Second-year salary: £24,000
- Post-qualification salary: £36,500
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
Geldards believes that the best advice and solutions come from not just understanding the intricacies of the law, but also from having an in-depth knowledge of clients’ business and the industries they operate within. At the firm’s core is an unshakeable integrity, directing its behaviour and advice, with a strong belief that lawyers must always provide legal support with imagination and business insight.
Main areas of work
• 25 days holiday. As part of our flexible benefits scheme we also offer the option to purchase up to five more days annually through salary sacrifice
• Life assurance: 3x basic annual salary
• Enhanced maternity and paternity pay, after qualifying period
• Cycle to work scheme
• Childcare vouchers
• Professional subscriptions paid
• NCP parking discount (Cardiff)
• Discounted gym memberships (Cardiff)
• Confidential employee assistance programme
In addition we have an active sports and social committee and corporate responsibility team.
University law careers fairs 2018
LinkedIn geldards-llpGeldards Careers
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
Derby and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment (Band 1)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
- Sport (Band 2)