Osborne Clarke LLP - True Picture

Like a leather lace-up, Osborne Clarke(s) offers support and stability so trainees can find their feet.

Osborne Clarke training contract review 2022

The Firm

In what ways could Reading be better than London? Well, OC trainees were clear that when it comes to innovation, this firm's Berkshire base could compete with the slickest law firms in the capital: “The Thames Valley is the Silicon Valley of the UK, and no other firms in the area are as dynamic and innovative as us.” We feel that’s a fair assessment of OC overall in fact. Its penchant for creativity and thinking outside the box is evident in its ‘OC Solutions’ offering – it provides clients with bespoke platforms to streamline operations for clients both here in Blighty and overseas. Innovation was one selling point, while another for those in the firm's Bristol office was the chance to combine “City quality work with a West Country lifestyle. We don’t have to do a hardcore commute and generally work shorter hours than City firms, but still do their level of work.”

“City quality work with a West Country lifestyle."

There’s no denying OC’s prowess in the South West: it’s 14 Chambers UKrankings in the region are all in the two highest tiers and praise the firm’s work in a whole host of contentious and transactional areas. That ‘City quality work’ is captured in the accolades OC picks up beyond the South West too: Chambers UK considers it to be a top-tier national leader outside of London for its banking & finance, corporate/M&A and employment expertise, while on a UK-wide basis OC is highly rated for its work in the areas of AIM capital markets, payments law, advertising and marketing, venture capital investment and retail sector work. Information technology is a strong suit across many of the firm’s bases, while those looking for more of a City vibe will find robust real estate and corporate practices in OC’s London office, which is the largest in the network and the firm's official HQ. We’ve spoken a lot about OC’s domestic presence, but it would be remiss of us not to mention the firm’s sizeable overseas network of 25offices too, which span the US, Europeand Asia.

Our sources especially liked how OC combines first-class work with a top-notch atmosphere, even in the Big Smoke: “My mum picked me up from every assessment centre I did, and she noticed that I only came out smiling from OC’s. They genuinely put me at ease and weren’t trying to catch me out. It wasn’t dog-eat-dog like the others I’d done.” Other Londoners agreed: “Everyone I met on the vac scheme seemed to genuinely enjoy working here, rather than feeling that they’d sacrificed quality of life for higher pay.” The firm’s London and Bristolofficestake on roughly ten newcomers each year, while at the time of our calls three trainees were based in the smaller Readingoffice. Although Bristol and London offer pretty much the same seats, it’s worth noting that fewer options are available in Reading. 

The Seats

Trainees were keen to highlight that “graduate recruitment think about the bigger picture when allocating seats,” with this source emphasising: “They’ve helped me tailor my training contract. Every seat I’ve done has been complementary to my interests.”Client secondments are on offer each rotation: “Some are with a longstanding client, so they’re staple, but others are more ad hoc depending on business need.” It’s worth noting that moving between offices for different seats doesn’t happen at OC. 

“We have some really cool tech clients, which leads to super interesting research tasks.” 

The commercialfolks do a lot of cross-office work, however. “We have some really cool tech clients, which leads to super interesting research tasks,” a trainee enthused. On the commercial contracts side you’ll find the likes of Fortnum & Mason, Tottenham Hotspur FC and KPMG on the client roster, while on the media side Netflix, Disney and Vice Media are all represented. Whether rookies were dealing with matters in the advertising or aviation sectors, or issues that were IP or data protection-related, they told us that this seat is all about responsibility: “I was brought in on loads of negotiations and took the first look at documents from the other side, then gave the partner my thoughts.” Sources scored this seat highly for enabling them to develop their legal skills and knowledge: “I didn’t get research experience in my other seats, so it was good to check it off the list,”one commented. Delivering sessions to clients on specific points of law is also on the cards here for trainees. The group has recently helped Tottenham Hotspur FC negotiate commercial contracts with third parties who want to use the stadium for events, like the Capital Summertime Ball and a Live Nation event featuring Lady Gaga.

Property disputesis the place to go for client contact: “We have big telecoms and electricity clients, so getting to know several people at those companies and seeing their matters through was great.” This group recently represented Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (the mobile infrastructure company that was born from the O2–Vodafone merger) in its claim to acquire rights over a building owned by the University of the Arts London, to improve mobile coverage and capacity in Elephant and Castle. Other clients here include Olympian Homes and WPD Telecoms. Traditional landlord-tenant disputes are handy “to use what you learned in law school in the real world.” Here, rookies run warrant applications, liaise with courts, instruct counsel and take witness statements – all of which is “great for getting a broad overview of the litigious process.” Not every trainee gets to attend trials given the frequency of rotations, but those who did “absolutely loved it. I was actively involved in team discussions during the breaks. I can’t speak highly enough of the seat.”One of the potential downsides is that urgent tasks can crop up last minute: “The only low point of my training contract was during my property disputes seat, when I urgently had to prepare and file proceedings. The bundle was over 1,000 pages long!” Ouch. 

Despite covering the same sector, real estatewas described as completelydifferent to the property disputes seat. While property disputes work is handled on an office-by-office basis, location is irrelevant to the real estate team: each lawyer is part of a cross-office pod (of around 15 lawyers), and work is pooled across the pod. London’s real estate team focuses on commercial matters, while Bristol tackles a fair bit of residential work too. Land Registry filings were deemed inevitable here – “The Land Registry probably knows my name off by heart!” one source quipped – but there are meatier transaction management tasks too: “It’s up to trainees to keep some of the deals going, so we draft the main documents, run negotiations and act as the first point of contact for clients.” In fact, every single trainee who’d experienced this seat scored it at 100% for client contact. The group works for a whole host of developers, investors, occupiers and lenders: on the client books you’ll find GLP, M&G Real Estate and Welbeck Strategic Land. Lawyers here recently advised M&G on its latest £45 million (plus) investment in a block that will form part of a campus development in Brighton. 

“I really felt like I was contributing in a meaningful way to the progression of the deal."

The banking group works with a number of banking big dogs, including NatWest and Santander, as well as borrowers like private equity outfit Tenzing and clothing company SuperDry. The practice is commended in Chambers UK for its acquisition financing work, as well as its expertise in the tech, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors. Recent matters have seen the group advise Tenzing on its investment in an automotive tech business, as well as a bank lender and European growth debt fund on financing facilities for a digital consumer intelligence company. Irrespective of the nature of the deal, trainees take ownership of the library of ancillaries, dealing directly with the client and the other side. One lucky trainee ran the entire conditions precedent process on a multimillion-pound deal: “I really felt like I was contributing in a meaningful way to the progression of the deal. The buzz I got confirmed I want to qualify into a transactional seat.” 

Private equity and M&A are core areas for the corporate team, but “there is a fantastic variety of deals in terms of value and style of transaction.”This group recently advised TalkTalk on its recommended £1 billion takeover offer, which had been formulated with advice from Toscafund Asset Management. Other clients include Marlin Equity Partners, Alcium Capital Partners and HH Global Group. From the trainee perspective, we heard “a lot of corporate work is about project management, rather than real law.” Drafting the ancillaries, attending client calls and keeping up to date with which parties have drafted which documents are all common tasks, though interviewees thought more partner and client interaction wouldn’t go amiss. Those who joined the group during the midst of the pandemic “didn’t get the full corporate experience” due to the slowdown in deals, “although the flipside is I didn’t have to do any big completions, which was good because they can go on very late!” When there’s not a pandemic on, “you have to be willing to accept a more compromised work-life balance than you might have in other seats.”

Trainee Life 

On the odd occasion that newbies burn the midnight oil, “senior people will be working late too. It’s not like trainees are left to pick up the pieces while everyone else is down the pub.” Our interviewees put in 42-hour weeks on average (in all offices), which is on par with their peers at other similar firms. OC does, however, pay trainees more than other firms operating in its markets outside of London. What’s more, OC reimbursed the 7% Covid-induced pay cut months ahead of schedule and dished out an additional bonus. 

"Everyone takes time out of their busy days to help trainees.” 

Trainees who had stopped by their offices during the pandemic were “reminded of how nice it is to have an open-plan layout. Nobody hides behind closed doors.” Remote working hasn’t hindered mentorship, though: “I just instant-message people if I have a question. Everyone takes time out of their busy days to help trainees – they don’t just bark orders!”Secondees check in with their supervisors at OC every couple of weeks “to make sure we’re getting the training we need.” On a cultural level, “the fact I can just pick up the phone to clarify instructions creates a feeling of acceptance into the team. The partners here are human.” 

Each office has an elected representative (together these representatives are referred to as 'The Hub'), who gathers feedback from everyone in that base, which is then fed back to the executive board: “They asked us how often we want to work in the office after lockdown before they created the strategy for moving back to the office.” In addition, the trainee group also have their own elected representative.In fact, our interviewees (literally) gave the firm top marks for communication and transparency about the firm’s Covid-19 strategy. UK managing partner Ray Berg (who trainees are on first name terms with) releases weekly videos with updates about the firm “so that we truly feel part of things.”

Starting a training contract remotely was nerve-wracking for some interviewees, “but everyone took time to get to know us, even in this virtual world.” Pre-pandemic, all rookies gathered in Bristol for a week of introductory sessions. This year OC put on a series of virtual socials and team building sessions: “The fact that I've worked here for over seven months and haven't met anyone I don't like yet is a good sign!"Firmwide coffee lotteries were popular with newbies looking to network: OC randomly pairs up both staff and lawyers for a half-hour coffee and chit-chat. Milk and two sugars, please. 

"We have all sorts of committees to get people’s opinions on how the firm can be more accommodating.”

The firm’s latest initiative, OC Presents, is designed to “give everyone a break and keep our mental health in check” by running comedy nights and musical events. Sources explained that Ray Berg “is passionate about increasing awareness of mental health issues, so we have all sorts of committees to get people’s opinions on how the firm can be more accommodating.” Wellbeing Week includes a series of talks by external experts “to encourage us to normalise difficult conversations that other employers shy away from.” This isn’t a one-week wonder, though: mental health first-aiders and an anonymous discussion group help with wellbeing throughout the year. 

OC set up a new governance board of partners and senior lawyers to ensure accountability for the firm’s diversity & inclusionstrategy in 2021. Following George Floyd’s murder, the firm’s BAME committee, 'OC REACH,' put together a virtual ‘lounge’ to provide a safe space for BAME employees to discuss issues facing the community. In addition to the usual gender, LGBT and ethnic diversity affinity groups, OC also has committees for age, social mobility and family caring. Experience Ramadan was OC’s latest initiative: “People signed up to fast for a day and learn about why Ramadan is important.” Sources thought the firm’s efforts increased when Bola Gibson, head of inclusion and corporate responsibility, joined the firm in July 2020. To increase diversity, OC participates in an external 'fireside chats' initiative that sees members of the firm connecting with high-schoolers up to graduates who wouldn’t necessarily think about a career in law. 

OC gets the qualificationball rolling early during trainees’ final seat, “which is a little daunting but also means we’re not ambushed!” Trainees talk to HR about their department preferences, then HR releases the NQ jobs list after speaking with the department heads: “They don’t just publish a blanket set of NQ roles based on resources, they genuinely look at what trainees want to do.” After submitting their applications, trainees have an interview with the department head: “If you don’t get your first choice, they’ll make sure they talk through other options with you.” 83% of this year’s cohort intended to stay indefinitely or make partner. It’s handy then that OC has a high retention rate: even in the midst of a pandemic, the firm kept on all but one trainee in 2021. This meant that 23of 24 qualifiers were retained.

Pros at Bono

OC has partnerships with multiple organisations, including anti-poverty charity Z2K and LandAid, which aims to end youth homelessness. The firm spends around 2,000 hours a year on pro bono work.

How to get an Osborne Clarke training contract

Vacation scheme deadline: 15 January 2022

Training contract deadline: 15 January 2022

Trainee profile  

Landing a training contract at OC is competitive business: the graduate recruitment team tells us that the firm only around 10-12% of the 1,500-plus candidates who apply each year. Trainees come from a mix of universities, whilst “those invited to interview have generally achieved a First or a 2:1 throughout their studies. They will also have given really strong answers to our competency-based questions.” As part of the firm's commitment to social inclusion, it uses Rare Recruitment throughout the entire process. The firm is particularly welcoming to those with second careers: previous trainee intakes have included those with backgrounds in fields as varied as teaching, telecoms and the armed forces. Confidence is their unifying factor. According to graduate recruitment, “You need to be intelligent but also have the ability to hold your own in a room full of people you don’t know, including partners.” As our trainee sources added: “You also need to be very sociable, outgoing and willing to get stuck into everything.”  

Applications and assessments  

The firm now recruits almost only through its vac scheme (the direct route is for those who are unable to complete a vac scheme for practical reasons). Applications for spots begin with an online form and verbal reasoning test. Strong written communication skills and attention to detail are essential to pass these.  

Those who impress are invited to an assessment centre that involves a group exercise, written exercise and a formal interview.  “It’s really about showing an interest in what the firm does and having done research beforehand. We can tell which candidates are interested in the firm as their answers are tailored to our specialities and what we’re doing in the market.”  The firm then makes its vac scheme offers.  

Those who want to take their chances at applying directly for training contract complete the same online form as vac scheme applicants. If they pass the initial screening, they go on to participate in an assessment centre like the one detailed above, followed by a partner interview.  

Vacation scheme  

OC's Bristol, London and Reading offices each run  two, two-week summer vacation schemes which run concurrently. Bristol and London each host around 15 students at a time, while Reading hosts five. Vac schemers split their time between two different departments and are assigned a trainee buddy each. Past attendees told us they'd got to grips with hands-on tasks and “actually assumed the role of a trainee solicitor.” The scheme tends to go easy on the social side, an approach our trainee sources appreciated at the time. “It’s nice to be wined and dined, but that’s not what it’s actually like as a trainee. Also, too many evening events can wear you out.”  

According to trainees, “the vac schemers who impress the most are the ones who make an effort to speak to people and ask as many questions as they want.” On the final day of their placement, vac schemers interview for a training contract with two partners. 

Osborne Clarke LLP

2 Temple Back East,
Temple Quay,
Website www.osborneclarke.com

One London Wall,

  • Partners 270+
  • Associates 900+
  • Total trainees 45
  • UK offices Bristol, London, Reading
  • Overseas offices: 26
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Zoe Reid
  • Training partner: Alexandra Gower
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 35
  • Applications pa: 1,500
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: no minimum required
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 80
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open:1st October 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 15th January 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 15th January 2022
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £41,500 –£47,500
  • Second-year salary: £43,000 –£49,500
  • Post-qualification salary: £60,000 –£80,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 26 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £6,500
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Bristol, London, Reading
  • Client secondments: Yes

Firm profile

Osborne Clarke LLP is an award-winning multinational law firm. The firm has grown rapidly, with 26 global offices and it is proud to say that its influence and impact can now be applied almost anywhere. The core sectors Osborne Clarke works in all thrive on innovation; digital business, energy, financial services, life sciences, real estate, retail, recruitment and transport. The firm’s sector teams include lawyers from all legal disciplines, effortlessly blending expertise, insight and enthusiasm. Crucially, they think sector-first, organising themselves around the current affairs and future challenges of the industries they serve, rather than traditional legal practice areas.

Main areas of work

Main areas of expertise include; banking and finance, business regulation, commercial, corporate, employment and benefits, litigation, pensions, projects, real estate, restructuring and insolvency and tax.

Trainee opportunities

Osborne Clarke’s high profile clients expect the firm to be brilliant, so they put a lot of effort into helping their people be the best they can throughout their careers — not just at the start of it. The firm fosters the brightest and the best, with class-leading training and development programmes, and a unique climate of learning and discovery for everyone. Osborne Clarke places value on individuals and respect their needs, motivations and choices. Workplaces are designed to promote collaboration, often featuring open plan structures that make it easy to fit-in, mix and get involved. Trainees will also find flexible and imaginative approaches to everyone’s work/life needs, with a connected infrastructure that is adaptive and tailored to bringing out the best in people. Trainees will complete four seats: corporate or banking, real estate or tax, litigation, and one other. In each seat, a senior lawyer will supervise their day-to-day progress and give trainees regular feedback, so they know how they’re doing. They’re there to help trainees up their game. Every three months, there will be a formal progress review to help trainees track their development. Osborne Clarke’s trainees get lots of responsibility. And they find that it’s what differentiates their training contracts from others.

Vacation scheme

Each of the firm’s vacation scheme placements runs for two weeks over the summer and offers a great opportunity for candidates to really get to know the firm. The placement follows a structured programme which allows candidates to spend time in two different departments and get involved in real client work. Beyond work there are plenty of social events organised by our trainees.

Other benefits

25 days’ holiday (plus a Christmas shopping day), pension, permanent health insurance, private medical insurance, life assurance, cycle to work scheme, employee assistance programme and season ticket loan.

Open days and first-year opportunities

Osborne Clarke’s two-day Insight Scheme for first-year law and second-year non-law students is designed to equip candidates with the tools needed to apply for the firm’s vacation scheme. The two-day programme, which runs over Easter, will give an insight into the firm from partners, trainees and the recruitment team, along with the opportunity to shadow one of the firm’s lawyers.

Social media

Twitter @OC_Trainee

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Environment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Competition Law (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 4)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 5)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
    • Financial Services: Payments Law (Band 2)
    • Health & Safety (Band 3)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Food (Band 3)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 4)
    • Public Procurement (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 2)
    • Telecommunications (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 2)

More from Osborne Clarke:

Visit the firm's graduate recruitment page.

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