A genie in a (Har)bottle: when it comes to media and entertainment, Harbottle & Lewis is up there with the best in the biz.
Harbottle & Lewis training contract review 2024
As is so often the case, the trainees we spoke to put it better than we ever could: “When I was looking, I was really interested in their media clients. I mean, have you seen them?!” Yes, we have, and with names like the Beckhams, Stormzy, Gordan Ramsay and even members of the Royal Family, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more interesting list. So why is there such a Harbottleneck of high-profile clients at the firm? “We have been a leading technology, media and private client firm, for over 60 years" people and culture officer Laura Edney explains.
“Everyone has a creative background, so there’s a real mix of interests outside the law!”
It’s no secret why clients like this make their way to Harbottle & Lewis either. The firm is recognised by Chambers UK in four areas of media and entertainment: gaming and social, publishing, theatre and film, and television. Chambers High Net Worth also ranks the firm top in private client tax, defamation/reputation management and private wealth. With a relatively small trainee headcount all based in London, there was plenty to unite the current cohort: “Everyone has a creative background, so there’s a real mix of interests outside the law!”
After an introductory session in the first week, trainees are given a list of seat options to choose from and rank their top five preferences in order. The firm was praised for “making an effort to get people what they want” but if for any reason trainees don’t get their choice, “they have your preferences at the top of their mind for the next cycle.” When it came to popular seats, “most people come here for media and entertainment, so typically lots of people go for those seats.” So, be prepared!
“…you’ll be working on something well-known that you will eventually get to see finished on the TV.”
Of course, being one of the most popular seats is one thing, but trainees in media & entertainment were quick to emphasize the range of work on offer. The department works across numerous sectors, including video games, advertising, music, sports & data protection, theatre and film & TV. Advertising is something of a speciality at the firm, but for obvious reasons there was plenty of the firm’s current cohort that had their eye on film and TV: “The work is with the best clients you can think of, and you’ll be working on something well-known that you will eventually get to see finished on the TV.” In one recent example, the firm advised advertising agency Havas London on the contractual side of its ASDA Christmas 2022 TV ad featuring Will Ferrell, in a festive revisit to his Elf character Buddy. Trainees' typical day-to-day could be anything from “drafting location, casting or script agreements,” to “sponsorship and merchandise deals and influencer contracts.” The appeal? “You are always learning new things” as “the clients you work with are hella creative, and one size doesn’t fit all!”
One of the offshoots of the media & entertainment practice is the defamation group, the team advises a number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals on matters relating to defamation, privacy, breach of confidence, data protection and information law. Albeit not as large, this team is at the top of its game. The group's most recent star-studded client list consists of the likes of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Richard Branson and Melania Trump. Trainees in this seat found they were doing “standard things like document review” but also “media monitoring for the really cool clients.” Newbies were quick to highlight new developments to the group: “there are a lot of phone hacking cases which are a big thing right now, so it's good to be involved in stuff like that.”
The firm also bags an impressive Chambers ranking for its family work in the capital. The team works on both finance and children’s matters, with the firm acting in most cases for high-net-worth individuals, most of the client list is confidential, which trainees relished: “They have a lot of money to protect, and we do it.” Trainees in the seat got to touch on both the finance and the children’s side of things, where “normally, you only do one or the other, so it's good to get the mix.” Interviewees reportedly got involved in “bundling for court and then attending the court” but really appreciated the personable client feel to the work: “You have lots of client calls and in-person meetings, and it is rewarding to see the impact you're having on the person.”
Another of the litigious seats on offer at the firm is commercial litigation. Not for the faint hearted, the trainees we spoke to mentioned the feeling of being thrown in at the deep end: “I have taken a stab at most of the first drafts,” one told us. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of more administrative tasks to calm things down as “it’s mostly work preparing for court.” The group covers pre-action advice, injunctions, regulatory work, mediation and arbitration. There’s also plenty of overlap with the defamation team in particular. In one recent case, the firm acted for a major international airline in its defence of a multi-million-pound contractual claim relating to the termination of a services agreement.
New to the firm in 2022, the technology data & digital seat at Harbottle & Lewis was particularly popular among the trainees that have sat in the seat. “The team acts for the largest tech companies out there on new products and digital transformation,” Edney tells us. This encompasses a host of issues related to privacy and data protection compliance such as compliance programmes, international data transfer issues and data breaches. In one recent matter, the firm advised digital advertising platform The Ozone Project, a platform owned by the major news publishers (including the Guardian, News UK and the Telegraph) on a range of data privacy issues.
Now you’d be forgiven for worrying that work of this sort of calibre comes with hours to match. But the current cohort was quick to clarify that “we have a great work/life balance, we normally work an eight-hour day.” Others confirmed that “you typically work from around 9 am and are out the door by 6.30 pm.” Of course, “there are times when you’re working on corporate completions or court deadlines, and you may work later” but they were few and far between. This was a big factor when trainees were reflecting on their compensation too: “The salary is pretty average, though with the work we do, it could be higher. I guess you could counter this with the fact they don’t demand the same hours from us that other firms do.”
“We went on a lake district trip for three days, which didn’t use up any annual leave, but was just to bond together on hikes. Though we were dying at the end because we are hideously unfit lawyers!”
The push for work-life balance is to come in part as a result of the firm's attitude towards positive mental wellbeing. “It’s a really great focus here, there are so many well-being classes like yoga at lunchtime and dance classes after work, we can even have free massages when we are stressed.” If you’d prefer something that requires a little less dancing ability, there are social opportunities aplenty at the firm: “We just had our yearly quiz which was eighties themed where we had to dress up in the best gear. The losing team has to host the next one!” If neon colours and shoulder pads aren’t your thing, the firm was also praised for its recent trip up North: “We went on a lake district trip for three days, which didn’t use up any annual leave, but was just to bond together on hikes. Though we were dying at the end because we are hideously unfit lawyers!” admitted one interviewee. The firm has made a concerted effort to improve things when it comes to diversity & inclusion in recent years, and it’s paying off: “The majority of the trainee cohort is very diverse, which is pretty good.”
Come qualification time, open conversations are the key to the best opportunities. Towards the end of the third seat, juniors are expected to be engaging in chats with partners whose seats they are interested in qualifying into. This is because “you need to know if they have the space to take you. And if they can, they then must provide a business case to explain why they should take you on.” The firm recently brought in an application form, which covers trainee preference and a summary of their training contract. In 2023, the firm retained five out of seven qualifiers.
The firm offers free themed lunch buffets every day, from “Italian to Thai and even Easter-themed!” And what better way to incentivise trainees to come in the office three days a week? “It’s perfect in a cost-of-living crisis!”
How to get a Harbottle & Lewis training contract
Training contract deadline (2025): 31 January 2024
As you might expect, there's plenty of clamour for a training contract at Harbottle & Lewis. The firm usually receives around 400 applications a year for its six vacancies.
Harbottle doesn't run a vac scheme, so all applications for training contracts must be made directly.
The firm has a three step application process, the first of which is an online application form. You've got to make sure your application is sufficiently impressive and shows off your personality. The firm wants to get to know the person behind the application form, so be your authentic self and don’t tell the firm what you think it wants to hear. Always avoid the use of clichés, buzzwords and overused phrases. Tell them how you’ll add value to the business and what skills you’ll bring to Harbottle, whether these stem from your work experience or hobbies and interests.
The firm looks for applicants on target for at least a 2:1 degree and strong A-Levels are required. Be sure to explain any mitigating circumstances in your application form if your scores don't quite match the brief.
The next stage is a competency and behavioural based interview with a member of the People and Culture team and a Senior or Managing Associate.
Insiders told us the first interview is “more of a meet and greet” than a formal assessment. “It's not too taxing and mostly entails going over your application,” said one trainee, adding: “The underlying judgement was: Can we work with you? Do you have the right skills? Do you really want to work for our firm?”
The final stage is an assessment centre at Harbottle & Lewis’ office. Candidates will be invited to meet some of the firm’s lawyers and the Graduate Recruitment Team as they will take part in a variety of tasks ranging from a group exercise to a presentation. During the day, candidates will have a final interview with two Partners and also complete an online aptitude test. It should give you a chance to get a better feel for the firm as you go through the experience.
Current trainees recalled the final interview as being “a bit tougher and bit more nerve-racking than the first. You're made to think on your feet.” Nevertheless, they agreed “it's a fair interview – they're definitely not trying be cruel or make you panic.”
“They look for personable bright candidates who can demonstrate a real passion for the work they do, their clients and their ethos.”
Clients range from start-ups to multinational companies, from household names to private individuals and their family offices. For over 60 years, Harbottle has acted for some of the most creative, talented and successful people, businesses and corporates, across all of their legal needs.
Most of our interviewees this year had some prior legal experience before joining the firm. This especially applies to those who haven't done a law degree, as it helps to demonstrate a commitment to the profession. Having said that, we have hired some excellent people who have had an alternative career before deciding to make the change into law, so please don’t let a lack of hands-on legal experience put you off.
One more thing: applicants seeking sponsorship are required to undertake the PGDL or SQE Preparatory course at BPP.
Harbottle & Lewis LLP
7 Savoy Court,
Examples of some of our clients include:
Take-Two Interactive; F1 Arcade; Square Enix; KFC; Stormzy; Little Simz; Queen; Universal; Virgin Group; National Theatre; Hunter; Victoria Beckham; Antler; Sir Richard Branson and King Charles III.
Main areas of work
Additionally, we host internal weekly seminar programmes in both legal topics and industry know-how. An open plan office space , personable friendly and collaborative culture and our pragmatic entrepreneurial approach to legal practice will provide a stimulating working environment.
By drawing on individual difference, entrepreneurialism and excellence in all its forms, Harbottle & Lewis aims to develop strong and enduring relationships with our clients, as well as sustainable and engaging careers for our people.
We are committed to promoting an inclusive and equitable place to work, where everyone feels valued, is empowered to express themselves authentically, and is given the opportunity to grow.
The firm is proud to have worked in partnership with Aspiring Solicitors since 2018. Aspiring Solicitors is an organisation that works with law firms to increase diversity in the legal professional through mentoring, employability assistance, competitions and events. In 2021, 100% of the trainees we recruited were members of Aspiring Solicitors and in 2022 this figure was 67%.
More recently, Harbottle & Lewis have partnered with Rare and in using their contextual recruitment system, the firm has been able to recruit exceptional people from disadvantaged backgrounds, improving social mobility within the firm.
Harbottle & Lewis has an extensive wellbeing programme which continues to evolve and expand. Free yoga, meditation and fitness classes for all abilities are offered daily. One-to-one wellness sessions with a registered psychotherapist are offered monthly along with wellbeing talks. Some topics include resilience, mindfulness and imposter syndrome.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 3)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 3)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 2)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Film & Television (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Games, Interactive Entertainment & Social Media (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Music (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)
- Media & Entertainment: Theatre & Live Events (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)
- Sport (Band 3)