Mills & Reeve LLP - True Picture

From its heartland of East Anglia, Mills & Reeve is extending its premier reputation for private and public sector work across the nation. 

Mills & Reeve training contract review 2022

The Firm 



Mills & Reeve may sound like a comedy double act, but we can assure you that this firm’s standing in Chambers UK won’t see it being laughed out the door. Healthcare and education are two big sector strengths at M&R: the firm is rated as one of the best in the UK for its work in these areas. Chambers UKalso highlights M&R’s capabilities in public procurementmatters, which point to the firm’s longstanding reputation for catering for clients in the public and third sectors. M&R’s roots in Cambridge and Norwich are reflected in its bountiful collection of accolades for its work across East Anglia: this is a top-tier firm in a whole host of commercial and personal practices, including corporate, IP, real estate, construction, family and private wealth law. As this trainee pointed out: “There aren’t many places that offer a great commercial experience and family work. I knew that joining Mills & Reeve would maximise the options ahead of me.”

“The firm is big enough to attract quality work, but small enough to allow you to make an impact.”

Cambridge takes on the most trainees (ten), followed by Birmingham (five to six), Norwich (four to five), and then Manchester (four).  The firm is also planning to introduce an inaugural cohort of two permanent trainees based in Leeds from September 2023. Regardless of location, our sources were uniformly drawn to the firm’s six-seat training contract structure: “I thought having as many different options as possible would be beneficial for me,” commented one, echoing the thoughts of others. There’s also the chance to do client secondments (pandemic permitting) at destinations like Jaguar Land Rover, AstraZeneca and BPP University.

While some sources had pre-existing interest and experience in the healthcare and education sectors, others highlighted the firm’s culture as the driver for making them choose M&R: “It was very clear that it was a team environment, with no one shutting their doors. Everyone chats to each other.”Size was also a determining factor, as this interviewee explained: “The firm is big enough to attract quality work, but small enough to allow you to make an impact, and that has borne out to be true in my experience.”

The Seats 



The majority of newbies end up doing one of the real estate-oriented seats as a that's where a big slice of Mills & Reeve’s turnover comes from. For planning and projects work head over to Cambridge, as it's the only office yet to offer those seats. Due to the disruptive impact of the pandemic, Mills & Reeve gave its trainees the opportunity to repeat a seat in an area of interest: “During lockdown I was a little worried that I wasn’t getting the real feel of my seat, so it’s great that I’ve been able to do it again.” Newbies can also bounce between different offices during their training contract, with around 25% of trainees completing a seat in another office at any one time. Overall, sources felt that “the firm’s great at taking on board the seats we want to do and our priorities. They make sure we do the best seats for our development.” 

“...my research skills have come on leaps and bounds!”

The construction teamhandles all manner of projects, from hotels to power plants to science parks. Clients include developers, contractors and local authorities, as well as entities operating in the education, energy and healthcare industries. Clients include the University of Cambridge, Norfolk County Council and the Natural History Museum. Recent matters have seen the team advise on the development of a new suburb within Cambridge, a new laboratory at the University of Cambridge, and new industrial units in Dartford. Newbies take up a blend of both contentious and non-contentious work. On the latter, one source was able to help with “some larger contracts that spanned government sector work and corporate transactions. I worked on the development and construction agreements for various clients.”On the contentious side, interviewees helped to prepare for hearings and were able to attend some as well. “Construction is quite research-heavy,”one source noted, “so my research skills have come on leaps and bounds!” Another mentioned how “we had a lot of Covid-related queries on things that were being built, so we were providing advice for clients on those issues.”

The insurance disputesseat handles many a professional negligence claim against the likes of lawyers, architects and surgeons. Beyond professional indemnity matters, the team also represents the insurance market when there are coverage issues concerning data breaches, political risk, credit insurance and property insurance. Clients include major names in the insurance sector such as Beazley, Munich Re and QBE. Given the sensitivity of matters here, all cases are confidential. Trainees were able to tell us about what they’d got up to in the seat, however. Their work mostly focused on the professional negligence/indemnity side, which gave them a lot of responsibility. “The team are very trusting,” said one, “and I was able to attend a three-day hearing and a couple of mediations. I attended one on my own – they were happy for me to do that and asked me to call them if I needed anything.” Another mentioned how they’d “learnt a lot really quickly from seeing claims through from beginning to end: I could assess the liability, report back to the insurer about risk and attend the mediations in person.” Other responsibilities included drafting court forms, instructing experts and liaising with barristers. 

“...life sciences has been a big industry for us of late.”

Trainees doing a seat in the commercial, IP and IT department mainly found themselves focusing on commercial contracts and intellectual property elements. They told us that “life sciences has been a big industry for us of late, and we’ve been working on agreements related to diagnostics, medications and drugs related to combating Covid.”One source highlighted their work on “drafting terms and conditions for local businesses, but I also did a few consultancy agreements and pieces on international agency regulations. Client contact is also quite common here.”Recent commercial contracts work has involved clients in central government, as well as the health, technology and sports industries. Examples include the Department for Work and Pensions, Public Health England, GlaxoSmithKline and Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. On the IP front, Mills & Reeve recently advised pharma company Diurnal on a $50 million licensing agreement for its drug Alkindi to be distributed in the US. 

The firm’s employmentdepartment, a trainee told us,“focuses on three main areas: general commercial, education and healthcare.”As a result, you’ll find the University of East Anglia, Baxter Healthcare and medical equipment manufacturer Olympus on the client roster. The team has been representing the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust on a matter concerning the potential inclusion of overtime pay in the calculations made for workers’ holiday pay. “The team has been immensely busy lately,” a trainee commented. “There has been a lot of litigation going on, and I recently managed a remote tribunal, which was a good experience. I also do a lot of analysis on claims and put together disclosure bundles. The work is varied and it’s a brilliant team to be in.”

“I recently managed a remote tribunal.”

Interviewees had mostly encountered divorce and financial settlement matters in the family department, but there’s a significant contingent of lawyers focused on issues pertaining to children.  This area was recently bolstered by the lateral hire of a partner in London, who has expertise in situations involving child abduction, inter-country adoption and forced marriage. “I would assist with producing bundles for financial settlement proceedings,” one trainee recounted, “as well as draft schedules, liaise with counsel and take notes at hearings.” Another source highlighted their interest in a contentious matter where “a consent order hadn’t been drafted properly, so there was debate over whether certain assets could be included in it. It all depended on the interpretation, which was very interesting.”When working on such sensitive matters, trainees felt that their role extended beyond just being a lawyer: “My family seat left a big impression on me due to the personal interactions I was able to have with the clients.”

Trainee Life 



No matter the location, interviewees commended how approachable firm members are: “When I interviewed at the firm, I couldn’t tell the difference between partners and associates; everyone is very down to earth no matter what level of seniority.”With cross-office work common, the friendly culture extended across the network: “Mills strives for a one-office approach.”Although the pandemic has halted many firms' social calendars, pre-pandemic trainees enjoyed taking part in various sports teams, yoga sessions and after-work drinks events. In pre-pandemic times, the firm hosts a charity challenge every year. The last one held was a 12-week virtual winter charity challenge that took place between November 2020 and February 2021, comprising both physical and non-physical challenges which trainees could take part in to win points. For the physical challenges, the aim was for people to take the time to complete 20 minutes of exercise each day, while non-physical challenges included baking, photography, and arts and crafts. “It was a great way to get us all moving. The team tracked our movements and we got extra points if we went running or walking – all the money we raised went to charity.”Those in Birmingham were beginning to get a spring back in their step at the time of our interviews. They enthused about the office’s lovely views of the cathedral and enjoyed “eating lunch together in the park when it’s sunny.”

“When I interviewed at the firm, I couldn’t tell the difference between partners and associates; everyone is very down to earth no matter what level of seniority.” 

“The firm has made a real effort in the last year on diversifying the firm,”said one trainee, highlighting the recent appointment of a new diversity, inclusion and wellbeing manager in June 2021. Employees are encouraged to include gender pronouns in their email signatures and “are urged to avoid unnecessary gendered language when drafting legal documents and correspondence.” With managing partner Claire Clarke at the helm, trainees felt M&R is really doing its bit to improve gender and ethnic diversity: “The firm is really trying to make the workplace as welcoming as possible for people who are under-represented.”Speakers regularly come into the firm to discuss D&I-related topics, like menopause awareness and neurodiversity. And, since remote working took hold, the firm has actively tried to make sure its lawyers don’t burn out with regular mental wellbeing meetings: “Senior lawyers remind us to prioritise our mental health. It's been one of the firm's main priorities during the past year and they've really worked on raising awareness around such issues.”

However, burnout isn't really something to worry about at M&R, as our interviewees told us that the hours are reasonable overall. An average day lasts between 8.30am and 6pm on average, although the transactional seats can call for 9pm finishes when deals reach a crucial point in their cycle. A trainee assured us that “the firm is good at keeping track of our schedules – if you are struggling you can reduce your hours and there’s no pressure to work late.”

Trainees get a new supervisor at the start of each seat. This interviewee commented on how useful supervisors are for building connections and feeling integrated at the firm: “I get on really well with my supervisor – I can text them just to have a chat and we also go out for drinks together.” Support doesn’t stop there, as interviewees felt their team members played an integral part in their development: “My colleagues take a real interest in my development and regularly give productive feedback with the chance to discuss my work in detail.”Support is equally available during the qualification process: “The training principal is regularly in touch to make sure we are okay and that we have received exposure to all the work necessary.” The process kicks off around March each year, when the firm releases an NQ jobs list across all offices. The firm retained all of its 19 qualifiers. 

And finally... M&R likes trainees who have an enthusiasm for fundraising. The firm puts on plenty of charity challenges to get stuck into. Recently, some of the firm’s lawyers met at the Peak District for some healthy competitive fun to raise money for charity Blood Cancer UK. The firm also donated £12,000 to foodbanks across the UK in December 2020 during trying times.

How to get a Mills & Reeve training contract



APPLY HERE

Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 4 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Training contract deadline (2024): 31 July 2022

Applications

Mills & Reeve offers around 25 training contracts a year and for the last few years has recruited all of its trainees via its summer vacation scheme.  Therefore, they recommend you apply for a place on the scheme in the first instance, if possible.

The firm is recruiting the following positions from its 2022 summer vacation scheme:

  • Training contracts to start in 2024 - c.25 positions across Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester and Norwich: for its 2024 trainee intake, the firm sponsor candidates to qualify via the SQE route and will welcome applications from penultimate-year/final-year law students, final-year non-law students and graduates (any discipline).  The firm will sponsor non-law candidates to undertake the PGDL before any SQE courses.
  • Training contracts to start in 2023 - 2 positions in Leeds: due to firm growth, the firm is looking to recruit its inaugural cohort of trainees in Leeds, to start in September 2023. The firm will require this trainee cohort to take the LPC route to qualification, and so will only be able to take forward applications from candidates who are final year law students, law graduates or non-law graduates with the GDL.

Around 1,000 candidates usually apply for roughly 50 vacation scheme spaces.  Graduate recruitment manager, Rachel Chapman, tells us the firm is looking for applicants who are “driven, have a positive attitude and an agile approach”. You should also “have a really good idea of why you are applying - don’t use generic answers, and don’t just regurgitate our published material.” She points out that proofreading is, as ever, essential – “think of your application form as the first piece of written work you are doing for one of our clients”.

The firm uses the Rare Contextual Recruitment System in its application process to identify high achieving candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Assessments and interviews

Candidates submit an online application form and take an online test – the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Test.  Although the firm does not recruit on a rolling basis, candidates will be invited to take the test within two weeks of applying so Chapman advises not to submit your application until you are ready to take the test.

Around 100 candidates are invited to an assessment centre, which consists of a welcome talk, group exercise, written exercise and a Q&A session with some current trainees.  For the group exercise, candidates are tasked with taking part in a mini-hackathon.  Candidates are presented with a non-legal business problem, which they then “hack” together to find a solution and then present that solution to a team of assessors. The exercise is designed to test their commercial aptitude and ability to work in a team.

The final part of the assessment process is an interview with a Partner and another senior lawyer.  From here, the firm makes its vacation scheme offers.

Summer placements

Mills & Reeve holds a summer vacation scheme in its Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich offices.  Each lasts two weeks and candidates receive £330 a week for participating.  Over the course of the fortnight they sit in four departments, receiving “a good flavour of the range of things you might do as a trainee” according to sources.

During their visit, vac schemers undertake a mix of live work and set tasks. “Everything I did was constructive, decent work,” recalled a current trainee, while another recounted how “they really invested in me by taking me along to client meetings and getting me involved – when I came back two years later the partners remembered me!”

Each vac scheme features a handful of social events and candidates are encouraged to socialise with current trainees to get a feel for the firm and its lawyers.  A recent vac schemer shared: “I had an amazing week! The work was challenging and interesting.  Everyone I met at Mills and Reeve was genuinely warm and welcoming, and I finished the scheme feeling very excited for my future career in law”.

There are no more formal assessments during or at the end of the vac scheme and the firm makes training contract offers following a candidate’s performance on the vac scheme.  Chapman advises approaching the vac scheme as an opportunity to “show that you’re willing to learn and make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given.  We don’t expect anyone to know the law inside out, so really we’re looking for enthusiasm and a good attitude.”

Mills & Reeve LLP

Botanic House,
100 Hills Road,
Cambridge,
CB2 1PH
Website www.mills-reeve.com

  • Partners 136
  • Associates: 382
  • Total trainees: 43
  • UK offices: Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, London, Manchester, Norwich
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiter: Rachel Chapman, rachel.chapman@mills-reeve.com, 0121 456 8393
  • Training partner: Caroline Dean
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 25
  • Applications pa: 1000
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 120/BBB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 50
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start 31 July 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open 1 October 2021
  • Vacation scheme 2021 deadline 4 January 2022 
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £28,000 (regions)
  • Second-year salary: £30,000 (regions)
  • Post-qualification salary: £46,000 (regions)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days+flex
  • Sponsorship  
  • SQE fees: Yes
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £5,500
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Norwich with option to undertake seat in another office including London
  • Client secondments: Various opportunities with clients based throughout the UK

Firm profile
You will often hear us say “Achieve more. Together”, and while many law firms talk about teamwork and collaboration, it’s not just a catchphrase for us, more the cornerstone of our culture and how we work.

Of course, you want to know that we have six offices across the UK with 1,000 staff and over 500 lawyers. But, more importantly, you should know that we have been crowned Law Firm of the Year by both Legal Week and RollonFriday and we have been ranked in the UK’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for the past 18 years. We consistently win accolades for our vacation scheme and training contracts.

This is because, as a trainee at Mills & Reeve, we offer something a bit different. The quality of the work you will get involved with, the contact and relationships you will build with clients and the culture of the firm you work in. And 97% of us would recommend that you work here.

Everyone at Mills & Reeve brings a unique perspective and ideas to the team and we do everything we can to help each person to thrive. Diversity and inclusion is a key strand of our 2025 vision. Our aim is to ensure that everyone working for or with us feels valued and supported, not only for how they perform in the working environment but also for who they truly are.

We have recently been recognised by Legal Week with an award for Standout Diversity in Innovation and a Lifetime Contributor to Innovation award.

We are a major UK law firm and our work spans a broad range of legal sectors and jurisdictions for a diverse range of clients: from the FTSE250 to fast-growth start-ups, from individuals to some of the world’s most established and prestigious organisations. 

Main areas of work
Our service is delivered through firm-wide core groups: corporate and commercial, employment, family, insurance disputes, private client, projects and construction, real estate and regulatory, public and commercial disputes. Core sectors are automotive, charities and social enterprise, education, energy, food and agribusiness, government, health and care, insurance, life sciences, mid-market, private wealth, real estate investment, sport, technology.

Training opportunities
A Mills & Reeve trainee receives more opportunities and experiences than many firms. We want you to really understand what it’s like to be a lawyer and the best way to do that is to give you responsibility. You’ll be working with national and international clients where you are given the freedom to learn in a supportive environment.

Trainees take on six 4-month seats to allow you to experience the breadth of the work we do and you will be supported by dedicated supervisors, a partner mentor, a trainee buddy and the graduate team throughout the two-year training programme.

We want people who are ready for early responsibility because that is what we will give you. You will be driven, have a positive attitude and an agile approach. You will enjoy untangling complicated issues and thrive on building relationships with clients and colleagues.

Vacation scheme
Our award-winning summer vacation scheme is the ideal introduction to Mills & Reeve and gives you a real taste of life as a lawyer. During your time with us you will be placed in real-life situations, preparing draft documents, researching, attending court hearings and meeting clients.

You will work with a variety of lawyers around the business over the course of two weeks, changing teams every two to three days. You will be paired with one of our current trainees who will answer your day-to-day questions and help you make the most of your experience. Presentations and a selection of social events will allow you to appreciate our culture.

We offer two weeks' work experience at one of our offices in Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich.

Other benefits
Flexible benefits scheme, pension scheme, life assurance, bonus scheme, 25 days holiday a year, sports & social committee, subsidised restaurants, season ticket loan, employee assistance programme, membership costs for junior lawyers groups.

University law careers fairs 2021
We are attending the Legal Cheek and AllAboutLaw virtual law fairs series.

Social media



Twitter @MillsandReeve

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
Diversity and inclusion is a key strand of our 2025 vision. At Mills & Reeve, we recognise the foundation of the firm’s success is our people. Our aim is to ensure that everyone working for or with us feels valued and supported, not only for how they perform in the working environment but also for who they truly are.
• We are committed to being a fair employer, which recruits, develops, promotes and retains a diverse and talented workforce.
• We recognise the need to provide an inclusive and positive workplace where people are able to do their best work.
• We recognise we cannot achieve our vision as a Firm without developing and implementing best practice in diversity and inclusion, not only as an employer but also as a provider of legal services, as a purchaser of goods and services and in our wider role in society.

We have the following objectives for the Firm to help us achieve our goals:
• Achieve a more diverse workforce by identifying and communicating a number of diversity and inclusion workforce profile goals.
• Embed good equality, diversity and inclusion practices into our daily activities and decision-making processes.
• Celebrate, communicate and promote equality, diversity and inclusion both within and outside of the firm.

We believe that embedding diversity and inclusion creates a positive workforce environment. It will make us a better law firm and helps us to attract the best talent, drive innovation, and deliver the best experience for our employees and clients. We have a number of initiatives in place to support us to embed Diversity and Inclusion practice including:
• Maternity and paternity mentoring
• Wellbeing support
• Flexible working
• Diversity networks
• BAME development bursary
• Social Mobility Pledge and Social Mobility Foundation
• Race At Work Charter
• Stonewall Diversity Champion
• Business Disability Forum
• Mindful Business Charter

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 4)
    • Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Charities (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
    • Court of Protection: Health & Welfare (Public Sector Clients) (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
    • Education: Institutions (Higher & Further Education) (Band 1)
    • Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 3)
    • Healthcare (Band 1)
    • Healthcare: Mental Health: Providers (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 4)
    • Public Procurement (Band 2)
    • Sport (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)

More from Mills & Reeve:

Visit the firm's graduate recruitment page.

Follow the firm on LinkedIn, Instagram and on Twitter @MandRTrainees and @MillsandReeve