Michelmores is one of Exeter's top legal dogs and has a growing international outlook.
Michelmores training contract review 2022
“High-quality, mid-market work” is the focus of this regional player whose offices span London, Bristol and its HQ in Exeter. “The level of experience you get here is amazing,” our interviewees emphasised. They added that “with just under 400 people, it’s small enough that you get to know everyone but still of a size to offer seats in a range of sectors, from education and private client to corporate and real estate.” By the standards of Chambers UK, the firm is a powerhouse in the South West for its banking & finance, lower mid-market M&A, IT, litigation, real estate and insolvency teams. It’s also held in high repute nationwide for its education and infrastructure groups. In addition, one trainee correctly highlighted that “the agriculture team is nationally renowned. We work with all the big players and are doing some exciting work in the sustainable agriculture space too.”
“The private wealth team does a lot of work with high-net-worth individuals who might not be domiciled in the UK.”
The firm also defies some of the stereotypes attached to smaller regional firms. For one, it has had a steady stream of international work. As one trainee told us: “The private wealth team does a lot of work with high-net-worth individuals who might not be domiciled in the UK.” It’s an area earmarked for further growth by the firm. One source detailed: “We are trying to bring in new clients through a new initiative called the 'Private Wealth Rocket' which is specifically targeting entrepreneurs.” The firm has seen considerable growth in offshore trust work too, further bolstering the influx of international work. By the estimation of this source, “around 70% of my work has been with clients in the South West while the rest has been national and international work.”
Secondly, our interviewees were also roundly impressed with the firm’s pandemic response. “From a trainee standpoint, we have done very well,” one source explained, adding that “everyone was immediately provided with a laptop, second screen, phone, and office chair.” We at Chambers Student can confirm that this hasn’t been the case at many firms, even including some top City players with huge revenues.
Deals and cases are almost always staffed cross-office and trainees we spoke to emphasised having “worked seamlessly" across all of the firm's bases.However, each office does have a slightly different focus. For example, in London, you can find the firm’s capital markets and social impact investment teams, which have a particular focus on the Middle East and Africa. In Bristol, there is a heavy agricultural niche which does a lot of contentious work with landowners and farmers. All trainees are housed in Exeter, but the firm has flats in Bristol and Clapham for trainees who wish to complete a seat in another office. Client secondments have been available in the past but aren't guaranteed at every rotation and are subject to business need.
“A popular choice for trainees,” Michelmores' disputes team covers commercial litigation, regulatory investigations, and international arbitration; there's also specialist insolvency, property, construction and agriculture dispute teams. “You are allocated a supervisor to work with, but everyone will try to get you involved with their work early doors,” sources explained. One insider we spoke to had worked on a group action involving two banks with a “fair few hundred claimants. I was doing a lot of the support work but also producing first drafts of letters and attending key meetings.” Another told us they were kept busy drafting correspondence to the other side, prepping for case management conferences, and even attending hearings. Recently the firm acted for an individual in defence of a High Court claim brought by their family's former nanny for an alleged breach of the National Minimum Wage Act.
Michelmores' corporate team covers the full range of transactional areas, from capital markets and private equity to M&A and sustainable investments. “It’s good but challenging work as you are able to get involved in areas that you don’t study at university,” one trainee told us, adding that “the firm does some really interesting impact investment work on sustainable funds in Africa.” Recently, the team advised the shareholders of Communicate Research on the sale of ComRes to Savanta, and represented sling manufacturer Silvale and its sister company, D-ansermed, on their £4.6 million sale to Savaria Corporation. Trainees here were able to rack up considerable drafting experience in the form of articles of association and board minutes, and even bespoke sections of larger finance documents.
“You get great project management experience overseeing academy conversions, which is amazing for your personal development.”
Michelmores' real estate team tackles a mix of residential and commercial development work. The University of Exeter is one of the firm’s clients, as are Cornwall Council and Clinton Devon Estates. “I was mostly working for development companies and commercial landlords, helping out on big property acquisitions,” one source explained. Another told us: “I was able to assist on the debt refinancing of a large commercial property.” The team also works alongside the firm's education group, which helps to convert schools into single and multi-academy trusts. “You get great project management experience overseeing academy conversions, which is amazing for your personal development,” according to one insider. Recently, the team advised the interim trustees of Bright Tribe on the winding-up of the Academy Trust and its subsidiaries following the re-brokerage of the trust's schools.
Within tax, trust, and succession, trainees are able to work with landed estates “worth millions and sometimes billions of pounds in value,” sources explained. As well as probate work, we spoke to trainees who were kept busy creating lasting powers of attorney for clients, drafting wills and letters of wishes, and managing transfers of ownerships. Clients here are all confidential but we’d wager some of the South West’s wealthiest are on the firm’s books, as are a growing roster of international clients.
One source felt that the firm had a traditional feel to it, “insofar that is definitely has heritage and a great local reputation in Exeter.” Another source also noted that “there are a lot of laterals who come from different City firms and bring with them a different working culture.” They added that “it’s great getting to know the different styles and standards of people who have trained elsewhere.”
At the same time, trainees felt the firm was progressive where it mattered. As well as providing trainees with “a full suite of IT equipment,” our interviewees emphasised that “the firm provides a lot of mental health support.” One source elaborated: “Even before lockdown and the start of the pandemic, mental health was already a big priority. Recently, the firm organised a mental and physical wellbeing event, focusing on getting people out and away from their desks most days.” Trainees can also engage in a variety of pro bono initiatives such as supporting Citizens Advice.
More broadly, our interviewees were keen to emphasise the benefits of the firm’s local family feel. “I instantly felt comfortable and at ease with the firm,” one trainee told us, adding that “I’ve never felt scared talking to anyone.” Another added that “I’ve nearly met everyone in the firm in the time I’ve been here, which goes a long way in building a culture.” There was also a consensus that the firm was “less fake than competitors,” underpinned by a feeling that “everyone is genuinely interested in getting to know new joiners.”
The average working day for most of our interviewees ended somewhere between 5.30pm and 7.30pm. One trainee told us that "my supervisor has always pushed me to finish while it's light," while another insider reflected that “different teams have different ideas of what trainees are expected to do.” While we did hear stories of trainees working until 10pm during busy periods, overall our interviewees offered no complaints of the work-life balance.
"The firm has a great retention rate."
Approaching qualification, trainees are encouraged to go out and speak to partners in the teams they are interested in qualifying into. Where there are multiple people interested in one job there are interviews, but most felt that "providing you performed well during your seat, they don’t take place." One confident source told us: "Personally I am not particularly fussed as the firm has a great retention rate."
The firm organises an annual get-together once a year, typically hosted in Exeter.
How to get a Michelmores training contract
Training contract deadline (2023 and 2024):
Spring Assessment Day deadline 31 January 2022; Winter Assessment Day deadline 30 June 2022
Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 31 January 2022
All applications open:1 October 2021
Michelmores offers up to ten training contracts per year. Typically trainees join Michelmores' Exeter HQ and spend a period of their training in either Bristol or London.
Those who pass the initial screening are the ones who demonstrate “a real passion for law through their general knowledge and previous work experience,” partner Alexandra Watson tells us.
Many of the firm's Exeter trainees have links to the South West, though Alexandra Watson assures us this isn't a prerequisite: “We are looking for candidates who are committed to a career at Michelmores and there are opportunities for our trainees to qualify into our Exeter, Bristol and London offices.” She goes on to tell us: “We're full service, so we're consciously trying to maintain a diverse trainee intake with lots of different backgrounds and strengths.”
Vacation scheme (Exeter)
Michelmores “probably leans slightly towards favouring people who come from the vacation scheme,” Alexandra Watson reveals. “That's because we have a longer amount of time to see what a candidate is really like.”
The firm usually receives around 200 applications for its vac scheme and invites around 40 to video interview. Those who pass this stage are invited to an interview with HR and to undertake a verbal reasoning assessment. “At this stage, we want candidates to relax and show us who they are and why they're passionate about law,” Alexandra Watson says. “We also like it when candidates can demonstrate a strong work ethic.”(So don't relax too much.)
Following this, recruiters choose the vac schemers – there are typically 16 spots in total. The firm runs two unpaid week-long schemes during the summer. Candidates spend their visit in a single department, shadowing various team members and completing a group presentation on a commercial topic on the last day. “A lot of people treat this like some kind of 'Apprentice'-style task, but we're actually looking for much more subtle leadership qualities,” confides Alexandra Watson. “We want people who speak with authority and can persuade others to see their point of view and overall enjoy working collaboratively.”
During the week, vac schemers attend an hour-long competency-based interview with a member of HR and a partner, who look for evidence of organisational and project management skills, as well as commercial awareness. “You need to be prepared, of course,” says Alexandra Watson, “but we don't intend it to be particularly intense.” The firm's current trainees backed this up, with one telling us: “Mine was just an expansion on my initial application; there wasn't anything out of the ordinary.” Alexandra Watson has this advice for impressing: “Find out which partner will be interviewing you and then tailor your answers to that person's practice area – it'll show that you treat their work seriously.”
Michelmores generally receives 250 direct applications for a training contract. This involves the same online application and video interview. From here, successful applicants are invited to attend an assessment day. The assessment days include a one-to-one discussion with a partner on a current legal issue and a verbal reasoning test. There's also an hour-long interview with a partner and a member of HR that focuses on a candidate's commercial awareness and ability to match certain competencies.
Rounding off proceedings is an informal lunch with various partners, solicitors and trainees. Alexandra Watson tells us “this isn't part of the assessment,” though attendees are asked to give feedback on the candidates.
- Partners 66
- Associates: 104
- Total trainees: 15
- UK offices: Exeter, Bristol, London
- Graduate Recruitment Team: firstname.lastname@example.org , 01392 688 688
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: up to 10
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st October 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2023 & 2024 start: 31st January 2022 for our Spring Assessment Day and 30th June 2022 for our Summer Assessment Day
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 31st January 2022
- Virtual Graduate Open Day - once confirmed, further information will be added to our website
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £30,000
- Post-qualification salary: £45,500 (Exeter); £48,000 (Bristol); £64,000 (London)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: £5,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Exeter
- Client secondments: Available
Michelmores is a leading full-service UK law firm where people thrive on delivering complex and challenging work on high-profile assignments for quality clients. Established as a family business in Exeter in 1887, the Firm became an LLP in 2007. We have offices in Exeter, Bristol, and London, with a national and international client base. Our growing client base includes Santander, the Met Office, Greenland Group and Finnfund, to name a few.
Collaboration and teamwork are central to our strategy. We offer our trainees a high level of responsibility, together with a supportive and inclusive training environment where everyone can flourish. We put a strong emphasis on home grown talent and retaining our trainee solicitors, who are central to our growth plans.
Main areas of work
Michelmores is a full service firm, providing legal advice to a broad range of local, national and international clients. Our legal teams include: agriculture property litigation, banking, restructuring and finance, corporate and commercial, commercial disputes, commercial real estate, contentious probate, family, employment, projects, specialist real estate, tax, trusts and succession and technology and innovation.
Our trainees typically join us at our Exeter HQ and spend a period of their training in either Bristol or London, with the opportunity to qualify into any location. Our training contracts comprise four seats of six months and enable our trainees to experience a wide range of practice areas. Operating as one firm, we offer trainees a high level of responsibility and a supportive and inclusive training environment, where each individual is able to thrive.
Our summer vacation scheme runs every July at our Exeter HQ. The scheme is as much about you getting to know Michelmores as a place to work, as it is about us getting to know you. You will have the opportunity to spend time in one department for the week, as we aim to give you a real hands-on insight into one area of law and life as a trainee. Our vacation scheme is open to all undergraduates and graduates from any discipline.
We want to encourage everyone to have an active lifestyle to maintain your health and wellbeing. We offer gym schemes, yoga and relaxation classes, running club, as well as a Cycle to Work Scheme. We proactively support mental wellbeing and promote a culture of openness about mental health. You will have access to a range of resources and activities across the year, including subscription to Headspace, guest speakers, and wellbeing apps. Should you or your love ones need extra support, you will have access to qualified counsellors and behavioural therapists.
Our approach to agile working is to create a vibrant working environment, that gives our people greater choice over where they work. Where people choose to conduct their work should be activity led and based on discussions with their Team Leaders. We believe this approach enables our people to optimise their performance and deliver their best work.
In addition to sponsoring the LPC and offering a £5,000 bursary, our benefits also include: private medical insurance; group personal pension plan; a day off for your birthday; ability to buy and sell holidays; a day off each year for volunteering; together with a range of social events and special interest groups.
Open days and first-year opportunities
We will be holding a virtual Open Day in January. Our virtual Open Days are open to anyone interested in pursuing a training contract, including first year students. Further details will be added to our website later in the year.
University law careers fairs 2021
University of Exeter, University of Bristol, University of Cardiff and Durham University.
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
Bristol and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
Exeter and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
- Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 3)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
- Partnership (Band 4)
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