Irwin Mitchell - True Picture

Combining nationwide personal injury prowess with traditional business law and the ethos that “nobody should conform to a mould,” this (Ir)winner really does take it all.

Irwin Mitchell training contract review 2022

The Firm

Have you ever been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault? We're all quite familiar with personal injury claim adverts, and while most us quickly forget them, the area of law that they promote is incredibly important. Nobody knows this better than Irwin Mitchell, which has picked up no fewer than 13 Chambers UK rankings for this type of work. IM is no one-trick pony, though. The firm is also known for its strength in business law and expertise in areas such as employment, corporate, real estate and restructuring and insolvency.

You'll need to set aside a good chunk of time to go through all the firm’s Chambers UK rankings (feel free to do so), so we thought we'd give you the highlights: IM is top-ranked for family, personal injury and clinical negligence across the North and is classified as a national leader for the latter two practices. Throughout the South, Irwin Mitchell is rated cream of the crop for its agriculture, planning and personal injury know-how. On a UK-wide basis, IM's product liability, Court of Protection, and aviation/travel claims work is awarded the highest accolades.

“It’s a national firm with a great presence in the regions."

Several sources cited IM’s personal injury work as the primary reason for joining the firm, alongside the fact that “it’s a national firm with a great presence in the regions. You don’t have to be in London to get good work, as the other offices give you exposure to high-end clients too. Each location is valuable in its own right.” IM's London, Birmingham and Sheffield offices took on the most trainees (the latter is the firm's HQ), while Manchester followed closely behind. Eight further offices were home to a handful of rookies each. Several trainees had gained paralegal experience at the firm before starting their training contract.

The Seats

Until recently, trainees chose a particular stream to do their training contract in, either on the personal legal services or business legal services side. These days, newbies do one uniform training contract across all locations, although not every office offers all seats (see the full list in the sidebar on the right). The good news is trainees can now do a remote seat with a different office if a particular department is oversubscribed (so long as that office already offered that seat.)

The firm’s also updated its seat allocation system. Previously, future trainees attended a drinks reception with representatives from each department then submitted their preferences: “It was quite vague. You only knew seats were available if there was a senior lawyer from that group at the reception.” Things have been formalised now, so trainees get a list of possible options before voicing their preferences. It’s worth noting that it's very likely you’ll be doing two seats in the department you want to qualify into. According to our survey, trainees got their first choice 65% of the time.

"My supervisor always made a conscious effort to involve me, rather than using me as an admin resource.”

Each office boasts its own corporate specialism: Gatwick focuses on equity capital markets, Birmingham deals with private equity and Leeds typically works on the private company side, with a bit of restructuring and insolvency in the mix too. It’s a “document-heavy area of law, so there’s a lot of drafting to be done,” one trainee declared. Transaction management and general advisory tasks are also common. There’s “high-profile and politically hot” work to be done here a source enthused, although sadly we can’t go into detail! We can, however, tell you that the firm represented travel company Saga as it sold its subsidiary, Destinology, to Brooklyn Travel Holdings. The team also advised alternative investment market-listed Escape Hunt on its £4.3 million placing and open offer.

The firm’s real estate team is split between transactional matters and disputes. The Leeds office is known for its focus on transactional work, with clients ranging from listed construction companies to individual developers. Our sources had handled many post-completion matters, like dealing with Companies House and arranging tax payments. There’s a fair bit of research to be done, too. We also heard that this group works closely with the restructuring and banking and finance folks. For example, the firm assisted the bank Coutts as lender in the refinancing and reorganisation of 30 residential properties. Responsibility inevitably depends on how advanced trainees are: “Fourth-seaters get a lot more responsibility that first-seaters. The most advanced document I drafted was a lease renewal.” A more seasoned trainee noted: “My supervisor always made a conscious effort to involve me, rather than using me as an admin resource.” Although some of our sources didn't find the subject matter of deals to be the most riveting, this seat did receive high scores for levels of partner interaction.

“I often negotiate with the council to get planning applications approved."

Planning and environment is part of the wider real estate umbrella, but is a separate seat. There are essentially three elements to this work: objections, appeals and judicial reviews. For the latter, trainees work with clients who want planning decisions to be quashed. Irwin Mitchell is representing pressure group GLEAM (Green Lanes Environmental Action Movement) in judicial review proceedings against the Lake District National Park Authority for allegedly failing to prevent the public from driving 4x4s through land once owned by Beatrix Potter. Our interviewees had drafted a fair few Section 106 agreements, which outline developers’ obligations to local authorities. There’s a decent amount of responsibility on offer in this seat: “I often negotiate with the council to get planning applications approved. I’ve led some of those matters too.” There’s a litigious element to this work as well, which typically sees trainees liaising with local environment agencies. 

The commercial litigation group covers all sorts of disputes, though sources pinpointed IP as a focus in the Leeds office: “We’re heavily involved in trade mark disputes, and copyright creeps in.” Case in point: the group recently represented clothes hanger designer The Janger during its patent infringement claim against Tesco. Sources were relieved (and surprised) that they didn’t have any bundling tasks, and instead cited their involvement in strategic discussions with clients as a highlight. Clients across Yorkshire include specialist recruiter Rullion Group, automotive supplier Transcal Group and French company Helis. Rookies get to attend mediations in an observational capacity “with the aim of undertaking the action points after.”

Trainees were “constantly in court” (albeit virtually) during their family seat: “It’s a great way to become familiar with the proceedings, improve your confidence and support clients who can be distressed.” Some found that the more emotional element can take a bit of time to acclimatise to: “Reading personal emails between parties feels peculiar at first but you get used to it.” These cases are usually wrapped up quite quickly: “I’d do a bundle for one case then never work on it again. No two cases are the same.” Everything from adoption issues to divorce matters arises here: “There are jurisdictional issues too, which can involve the logistics of children spending time in different countries.” If the case is being dealt with outside of court, trainees will help the parties to reach an agreement: “I’d put proposals to the other side and negotiate with the clients.” It’s a similar story inside the court system, with a lot more form-filling. Irwin Mitchell is currently representing McLaren test driver Kenny Bräck in a Court of Appeal case concerning the enforcement of prorogation clauses (they determine which jurisdiction governs the dispute) in pre-nups. This is “the most law-heavy seat. I was always reading case law to keep up to date with the latest judgments.”

“I often liaised with hospital GCs if clients needed follow-up treatment.”

The serious injury department deals with – you guessed it – serious injuries: “The claims are often very high-value, so they’re inevitably met with resistance from the insurers on the other side.” Brain and spine injury cases are common: the firm represented a man in his claim for £5 million after he was knocked down while crossing the road, resulting in a serious brain injury. Trainees in this group told us they operate as part lawyer, part social worker. On any given case trainees are the primary point of contact for the client, and there are “massive” amounts of responsibility: “I often liaised with hospital GCs if clients needed follow-up treatment.” The firm has case managers who do initial assessments if the defendant won’t pay, so trainees liaise between them, occupational therapists and carers: “I attended loads of clinical team meetings to make sure there wasn’t a gap in treatment.” Given the length of these cases, trainees “get a sense of how the case will progress so we can build a strong rapport with the client. This is a top firm for personal injury work, so the training was first-class.”

Trainee Life

For the most part, trainees agreed they had good supervisors throughout the training contract, with family and planning getting shout-outs: “I was encouraged to have a go at things even though I had no idea what I was doing.” However, the firm did receive lower scores from our survey respondents when it came to providing accessible mentorship during the pandemic. The good news is that those who started their training contract remotely still felt they’d been integrated well: “We have cross-office check-ins so we can meet people across the firm, plus first and second-years have monthly catch-ups, so we can privately discuss any issues we have as a cohort.” Nonetheless, interviewees thought (virtual) trainee camaraderie was lower during Covid and that the firm could’ve better maintained a sense of community.

On the flipside, we heard the firm was respectful of home-life boundaries during the pandemic. This isn’t a firm that demands long hours, we heard. Putting in 42 hours a week on average (less than other national firms according to our survey), sources agreed their workloads were “extremely manageable.” We heard “the office is empty past 6pm and if you’re still there at seven, people will ask if you’re okay.” Irwin Mitchell launched a flexible hours scheme during the pandemic, which continued as the nation moved out of lockdown: “Nobody is expected to be in the office five days a week. You can choose when you do your work, so long as you do your hours and serve clients. It makes organising my life a lot easier and, to be honest, is the main reason I’ve chosen to stay here for qualification.”

“...the office is empty past 6pm and if you’re still there at seven, people will ask if you’re okay."

Trainee salaries vary by region but not by specialism. However, at the moment, NQ pay does vary both by region and by specialism (business or personal): in London, this discrepancy is £10,000 for NQs, while in the regions it is £5,000. “People always bring it up in our Q&A meetings with the board. It’s because the firm is so highly regarded for its work on the personal side it can rest on its laurels a bit, because lawyers won’t get the same quality of work elsewhere, whereas on the business side I think it has to pay more to attract talent.” It’s unclear whether this discrepancy will change now that the previous business and personal streams have been scrapped.

Sources did tell us that IM is particularly good when it comes to gender diversity. Just over half of the firm's partners are women, which places IM among the best firms for gender diversity in our guide. To celebrate International Women’s Day, each team nominated a woman who went above and beyond during the pandemic. The firm has a number of D&I groups that “discuss how improvements can continue to be made.” We don’t often hear about firms addressing neurodiversity, but Irwin Mitchell “spends real money and time on accommodating people who are neurodiverse.” IM Able is the firm's internal group that supports staff with disabilities. Elsewhere, the firm recently doubled the length of its paternity leave, and also allows those who have dependants to take time off outside of annual leave. “It  can sometimes feel like mental health support is a tick box exercise," one source asserted. "At the minute we’re just referred to wellbeing pages on the intranet.” However, IM does have mental health ambassadors and puts on seminars about wellbeing: “We recently had a talk by a psychologist, and our CEO always gives us tips in his monthly letter.” 

The qualification process varies by department and by office, though some locations are now recruiting nationally. “If you’re the only candidate then the process is very quick," one interviewee told us, "but if several people have applied you’ll have to do an interview." The firm retained 52 of 56 qualifiers in 2021.

Doing it for the (ir)win 

Lawyers get two days’ paid volunteering leave a year to raise money for the Irwin Mitchell Charities Foundation, which donates to each office’s chosen charity.

How to get an Irwin Mitchell training contract


Training contract deadline: 2 January 2022

Vac scheme deadline: 2 January 2022

Application and video interview 

Irwin Mitchell receives over 2,500 applications each year for its 50 or so training contracts that are up for grabs. The firm uses an anonymised screening approach and the application has been streamlined so that only necessary information is required. A short initial application is followed by an invitation to complete an online assessment.  Around 500 applicants then make it to a video interview , which lasts for 20 to 30 minutes and aims to discover a candidate's “passion for the role and firm, and a mixture of competency and situational questions, “ Early Careers Manager Alex Burgess tells us. There are usually some IM-specific questions too, so be sure to brush up on your knowledge of the firm's practice areas and geographical coverage. 

Assessment centre 

Roughly 200 people go through to the assessment centre, which involves a group exercise, a written task and an interview, plus a Q&A with the current trainees. 

The group exercise varies each year, but IM always looks closely at “how candidates collaborate and interact with one another to achieve the desired objective.” For the written exercise candidates are provided with a question and are asked to prepare a written document giving their thoughts. Then there's the interview, which is carried out by two members of the firm, who could be either partners or associates. This involves a mix of questions covering the candidate's motivations, their knowledge of the firm, situations they have encountered in the past or how they would approach a given scenario. 

Vacation scheme 

IM recruits around 60% of its trainees through its two two-week vac schemes (aka 'Legal Work Placements'). These take place in June and July and are offered in 11 of the firm's English offices. 

There's no set number of places, but Burgess tells us around 65 students participated in 2021. Vac schemers will sample a variety of the firm’s seven client services departments during their visit. At the end of the two weeks is an assessment that covers an interview with questions about the candidate's “motivations and career aspirations, their reasons for wanting to work at Irwin Mitchell, and their awareness of what's happening in the legal world, ” plus instruction-taking task where candidates are given information that they need to analyse, find solutions for, and summarise. 

How to wow 

“As a firm we are looking for high achievers,” says Burgess. “We look for candidates who can display a whole array of positive qualities. We want to give applicants the opportunity to sell those skills, whatever their background and experiences through our recruitment process.”  

IM is looking for “well-rounded individuals with a varied amount of work experience behind them.” It's particularly important to demonstrate interpersonal skills too as Burgess adds: “You'll be dealing with clients and colleagues on a daily basis, so interpersonal skills are incredibly important towards succeeding.” 

Irwin Mitchell

Thomas Eggar House,
Friary Lane,
PO19 1UF

Riverside East,
2 Millsands,
S3 8DT

  • Partners 190
  • Associates 1560
  • Total trainees 108
  • UK offices Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Chichester, Gatwick, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Middlesbrough (consulting office), Newbury, Newcastle, Reading, Sheffield, Southampton
  • Contacts 
  • Head of graduate recruitment: Marissa Sanders,
  • Training partner: Emma Rush 
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 40-50
  • Applications pa: 3,800
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum A Levels: BBB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 100
  • Dates and deadlines  
  • Training contract applications open: 1 November 2021
  •  Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 4 January 2022
  •  Vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2021
  •  Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 4 January 2022
  • Open day deadline: Different per office
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year regional: £26,500
  • First-year London: £38,000
  • Second-year regional: £28,500
  • Second-year London: £40,000
  • Newly qualified salary: Dependent on the office and division you qualify in
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £4,500
  • International and regional  
  • Offices with training contracts: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Chichester, Gatwick, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffeld, Southampton

Firm profile

We’re legal experts with a difference.

We’re more than just a law firm – we’re a group of like-minded, friendly people working together to help individuals and businesses navigate life’s ups and downs. We are based across 15 offices in the UK and we focus on what really matters: our clients, colleagues and communities.

Main areas of work

We’re legal experts with a difference. As well as offering a full-range of legal services to individuals and businesses, we also support people with their finances, wealth and asset management. We focus on what really matters; our clients, colleagues and communities. We work with our clients, and take the time to understand what matters most to them. We call it ‘expert hand, human touch’.

We’re more than just a law firm – we’re a group of like-minded, friendly people working together to help individuals and businesses navigate life’s ups and downs. For businesses, the firm offers expertise in: banking and finance, commercial, commercial litigation, corporate, employment, insolvency and real estate. Clients can be growing businesses to large companies and come from a range of sectors, including: technology, consumer, financial services, manufacturing, media and entertainment, real estate and education. For individuals, the firm remains one of the leading practices in the UK. We cover all the key injury areas, such as: personal injury, serious injury, international travel litigation and medical negligence. We also offer a wide range of services for private clients, including: succession planning, tax, reputation protection and family matters.

Training opportunities

As a full-service law firm, there is a wide range of seats available for you to train in. You'll undertake three or four seats over two years, giving you a breadth of experience across our seven client service areas.

Each office offers different seat options dependent on departments available and business need. Please see our online brochure for further details of which seats are available in which office.

Vacation scheme

Our work placements are a vital part of our recruitment strategy and take place during June and July. A large proportion of our trainee solicitors have undertaken a work placement with the firm therefore we encourage all those interested in joining us to apply for a legal work placement. Those who are able to start in 2024 are eligible to apply. Candidates can apply online from the 1 November 2021. We pay the national living wage and the scheme is for two weeks.

Other benefits

25 days holiday, employee assistance programme, online GP service, contributory pension scheme, health plan, death in service cover, critical illness cover, recognition scheme, season ticket loan, two volunteering days a year, sports team sponsorship.

Open days and first-year opportunities

We offer Open Evenings in all our offices and we are looking to run these virtually to students across all years. Please check our website for further details and/or click our ‘Get Updates’ button on our website.

University law careers fairs 2021

Individual university attendance TBC.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
It’s in our DNA to value people for who they are and what they bring. We’re committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture where our people can flourish. We have a strong network to celebrate and support our colleagues, clients and communities covering sexuality, disability, age, gender, race , social background and culture.

We’re passionate about continued progress which is why we have over 100 Healthy Mind advocates trained by Mental First Aid England, our HR team are trained in suicide prevention and we have a wellbeing hub with a focus on a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Our flagship inclusive leadership programme has led to an increased understanding to support authentic leader development in diverse talent. We have one of the lowest Gender Pay Gaps in our industry and we’re proud to the UK’s number one Law Firm for Female Partners.

We’ve developed policies to help us attract, support and retain transgender colleagues and our LGBTQ+ networking group was highly commended by Stonewall.

Our plans for this year include expanding our diversity training for all colleagues and a D&I Festival. We’re also working with our strategic partner BITC to launch a mentoring scheme. Our Diversity Board continues to help shape our Diversity & Inclusion strategy in a way which means we build an inclusive business for everyone. 

Social media

Twitter @IMGraduates

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 3)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 4)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Administrative & Public Law: Traditional Claimant (Band 3)
    • Aviation: Claimant (Band 2)
    • Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 3)
    • Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Band 1)
    • Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 1)
    • Education: Individuals (Band 2)
    • Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant: Industrial Disease (Band 1)
    • Police Law: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency: Personal Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Travel: International Personal Injury (Claimant) (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 3)

More from Irwin Mitchell: 

Watch: We are Irwin Mitchell - a unique legal business

Visit the firm's graduate recruitment page for information on work placements and training contracts.

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