OC puts TLC into its TC, giving trainees access to a range of high-quality practices and a down-to-earth culture.
Osborne Clarke training contract review 2024
“I wanted to join a firm that had a really good reputation for training,” recalled one source when asked why they chose to join Osborne Clarke. It might seem like an obvious consideration, but not all firms offer great training in addition to high-quality work and great supervision. “We’re constantly evolving the training contract,” says training principal and construction partner Alexandra Gower. “We’re investing heavily and looking to and tech teams to find out what skills trainees will need to navigate the ever-changing world. What we and trainees need now won’t be the same in the future.” Innovation goes far beyond the work and the training contract, as sustainability and renewable technology are at the forefront of OC’s strategy. Case in point: earlier this year, the Bristol office moved to Halo, one of the most sustainable office buildings in the country. Gower explains, “We’d been in the old office for 20 years. The new space is amazing as there’s greenery everywhere. We’ve even got yoga and spin studios!”
“Before I’d even got onto the vac scheme, I knew that I wanted to work here”
With more than 70 trainees across three offices in London, Bristol and Reading, trainees were clear that they’re not just a face lost in the crowd, instead “people are genuinely interested in you as a person, rather than just answering your questions.” Many were sold on the firm’s culture from their very first interview, with one interviewee going so far as to say, “before I’d even got onto the vac scheme, I knew that I wanted to work here.”
Despite its reputation for having a gentler, kinder culture, OC (as it’s affectionately dubbed) is a force to be reckoned with: more than 50 OC departments are ranked by the Chambers UK guide. Among these, the firm’s banking & finance, IT, real estate and corporate practices are recognized as top-tier both in the South West and Thames Valley categories. OC has a further 23 international offices, with additional awards from the Chambers Globaland Chambers Europeguide to show for it.
Before starting their first seat, trainees submit a list of five seat preferences, including a must-do seat which they will almost certainly get to do at some point during the contract. Newbies also chat with the people development team to discuss how their current seat is going. One interviewee suggested that “you should try and steer those conversations away from just ‘I want these seats,’ and more towards what the firm can do to make sure you can get the most out of those seats.” For some, a client secondment might be the way to go, and OC offers a variety of opportunities across industries such as media, finance and telecommunications. Interviewees described the process as straightforward, with a CV and cover letter necessary to secure a spot, and a meeting with the client if they request, or if there are multiple applicants.
Many trainees end up doing a rotation in real estate with the option to try out commercial and residential matters. Interviewees explained that the residential side covers work for house builders, while the commercial portion deals with mixed use developments, warehouse work and energy-related deals. Some familiar client names include the world’s second biggest live entertainment presenter AEG Presents and Unite Students. The group also worked for M&S on a 224,000 sq ft lease acquisition.
Sources mentioned that it’s “one of those seats where it’s easy to get exposure from the start, with lots of opportunities to manage matters.” Namely, trainees can expect to review leases, do bits of drafting and, according to one interviewee, “handling lots of interesting fiddly bits which are low value to massive value clients.” Newbies are minimally supervised on some matters, where “you’re chucked in the deep end. You can send emails and don’t need to get everything double checked.” You could probably say the team’s not just responsible for building houses, but confidence, too!
“Clients and partners see and appreciate the work you’ve done. It makes you feel part of the team.”
A corporate seat at OC involves cross-sector work, with plenty of private equity clients on the books. The group recently advised the global healthcare company Grifols on its €1.1 billion acquisition of Tiancheng Pharmaceutical holdings. In fact, the firm’s picked up Chambers UKs ranking for its work on deals worth upwards of £25 million. So you won’t be surprised to hear that, unlike some other seats, “many corporate transactions are big-team transactions; there’s a lot more sub-delegation of tasks.” Trainees typically take charge of transaction management, due diligence and drafting ancillary documents. One interviewee expanded on this: “OC’s very client-friendly. Yes, we can do a task in theory, but my supervisors always encouraged me to think more specifically about the client’s interests. If that means rewording questions for them or jumping on a quick call, we should step in even at trainee level.” As is often the case with corporate, we heard it can be an up and down seat, with longer hours needed at closing times. On the flip side, “it’s good seeing a transaction through from beginning to end, and clients and partners see and appreciate the work you’ve done. It makes you feel part of the team.”
Those in commercial get to work on a variety of matters across advertising, media, technology, IP, transport and data protection, to name a few! It’s a very cross-office team and each partner has their own specialism, though sources informally suggested that Bristol focuses more on the IT, energy and transport side while London has more media, broadcasting and advertising work. Trainees get to work with an array of household names on this seat, such as Meta, TikTok, ITV, Netflix, BTand even the Department for Transport. The group recently advised Vodafone on its distribution agreement with Currys.
“You can target the people and areas you’re more interested in than others.”
As the seat covers such a wide range of work, trainees emphasised that “you have to be proactive, but that’s what’s nice about it. You can target the people and areas you’re more interested in than others.” Tasks for newbies range from drafting and reviewing contracts or privacy policies to one-off client requests and research tasks. A trainee boasted, “sometimes you can see your research get copied and pasted to the clients. It’s nice to see people trust you and appreciate your work.”
A few interviewees had sat with the commercial disputes team, though we heard there are other opportunities to work more specifically on IP and construction disputes. Commercial disputes work, however, covers a wide variety of litigation and arbitration across industries – “it’s probably a bit more generalist than commercial,” an interviewee reflected – but we heard this can include tech, media, corporate shareholder and bankruptcy disputes. Clients include TripAdvisor and ASOS. The group has been representing Qatar Airways in a dispute with media company Al Arabiya, concerning the publication of a video which allegedly suggests Qatari aircraft would be shot down if they trespassed into Saudi airspace.
On larger matters, newbies might handle the data rooms and disclosure, while smaller matters see trainees take on more responsibility, such as drafting pleadings and submitting court documents. One interviewee reported that they generally take on the first draft of a witness statement, while another had drafted correspondence and conducted research for colleagues. “There’s a nice mix of work,” said an insider. “We get a load of really interesting matters, especially since we have clients who let us handle all their legal disputes work.”
Insiders explained that OC is relatively forgiving when it comes to work-life balance, with most starting their days around 9am and finishing between 6 and 7pm. Some later nights are inevitable, but trainees added that “it’s not the norm and only happens when something urgent comes up. But there’s no pressure to always be online or stay longer if there’s nothing left to do.” Thanks to this, interviewees were generally satisfied with their salaries, as “we’re compensated based on the top of the line in the area.” Reading trainees and NQs got a recent pay rise to bring them a little closer to the London salary, which one trainee appreciated as “it means you can get involved in the same work no matter where you are and be on more even footing.”
Trainees are also encouraged to try out pro bono matters and clinics, but “you have to jump on them quickly if you want to get involved – that work is popular.” One beaming interviewee with pro bono experience “would really recommend it! You’re trusted to get to grips with something and it kind of becomes your matter.” Opportunities come up here and there and, post-qualification, associates can put 100 hours a year towards it. “It’s recognised and valued here,” a trainee reflected. “They know it’s a great way for people to train without the pressure of chargeable work. And you’re doing something important.” OC has plenty of CSR opportunities on offer, too, such as charity work, volunteering and student mentoring through The Bridge, the firm's social mobility initiative.
Trainees can get stuck into OC’s diversity networks, with dedicated groups for gender, LGBTQ+, ethnic diversity, social diversity, mind and body, and age. Interviewees explained that there are plenty of visibility day events, and the LGBTQ+ committee always gets a stand at London and Bristol Pride! “During Ramadan, the firm organised a day for us to fast so we could understand what our Muslim colleagues experience,” explained a trainee, praising the firm’s approach to DEI and allyship. There’s also a reportedly well-attended allies program. OC even tried out reverse mentoring – “a big success,” says one trainee – where ethnic minority employees mentored partners based on their own experience of the firm. Generally, sources were pleased at OC’s progress and dedication, with one interviewee adding that “this is a place where, whoever you are, you can succeed.” On the wellbeing front, the firm is rolling out a new strategy which will analyse work-related causes of mental health struggles. A trainee added, “a partner published a letter about his struggles with mental health and his wellbeing journey. It’s nice having that openness.”
More informally, trainees felt well-supported at OC and were grateful for the firm’s welcoming culture: “I don’t think people get the Sunday scaries. I’m excited to go to work on a Monday.” Another newbie appreciated that “senior people are encouraged to make a lot of time for their juniors as they’re the future of the firm,” meaning interviewees were generally comfortable knocking on partners’ doors. Many were surprised at just how friendly everyone is, from the most senior partners to juniors, trainees and support staff. A trainee boasted, “they’re not shy with appreciating the work you do, and partners often call me at the end of the week to thank me for my work.” Others mentioned that, though hard-working, “fun” also describes OC’s culture. “We’re all here to work but also enjoy our careers,” a trainee summarised. “They take the work seriously but still have basic human manners. PAs can have banter with the partners.”
“I’m constantly reminded that these people are human, like to have fun, and wear T-shirts and jeans.”
People are asked to go into the office more often than not under the hybrid working policy. For those who do come in, be warned that OC really does go big or go home when it comes to its social events. Last year, OC celebrated Christmas in style with a mariachi band: “It was like something out of a movie! Dancing next to the office head or a team partner removes any sort of intimidation. I’m constantly reminded that these people are human, like to have fun, and wear T-shirts and jeans.” Junior drinks are held every month for everyone but the partners, and there are official trainee socials (with a firm budget) every three months. Regular away days mean trainees can get to know their teams outside of the office, perhaps staying at a nice hotel or planning activities.
We heard several stories of weekly coffee catch ups with supervisors, including one interviewee who added, “we became almost like friends.” Insiders praised the training, explaining that there’s a mixture of informal learning and know-how sessions, alongside official firmwide and department-specific events. “It’s been really refreshing,” said one newbie. “They give you all their time and explain how to do something practically.” The entire trainee cohort also attends an in-person training day in one office. Generally speaking, mid- and end of seat reviews are an opportunity to set objectives and allow trainees to make the most out of their contract.
Interviewees explained that qualification is a relatively simple process. The people development team releases the job list after discussing preferences with second years, who then have a week to fill out an official application form explaining why they want to apply to their chosen department. Trainees will also be interviewed by a partner from the team they've applied to and offers are made following this. According to trainees, OC typically does well when it comes to retention, with 26 out of 30 trainees qualifying in 2023.
Yoo-hoo! Big summer blowout!
No expense is spared at OC’s summer parties: last year’s was a festival-themed in the woods in Reading, and this year’s was a beach-themed event in Bristol.
How to get an Osborne Clarke training contract
- Vacation scheme deadline: 15 January 2024
- Training contract deadline: 15 January 2024
Landing a training contract at OC is competitive business: the graduate recruitment team tells us that the firm only interviews around 10-12% of the 1,500-plus candidates who apply each year. Trainees come from a mix of universities, and “the candidates who are invited to an assessment centre give really strong, well researched answers and demonstrate a genuine interest in the firm.” 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. Being driven is their unifying factor. According to graduate recruitment, “Throughout the recruitment process candidates need to show that they are intellectually curious, can maintain a flexible approach and build relationships with people across all levels.” As our trainee sources added: “You also need to be 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 on paper are invited to participate in further assessments which assess a range of different skills. “Our assessment centres are an opportunity for candidates to show that they are developing the key skills that will make them an excellent lawyer, and have an interest in the work that the firm does. We can tell those candidates who have a real interest in the firm as their answers are tailored to our areas of expertise and they understand 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.
OC's Bristol, London and Reading offices each run two, two-week summer vacation schemes which run concurrently. Bristol and London each host around 20 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.” In the final week of their placement, vac schemers interview for a training contract with two partners.
Osborne Clarke LLP
One London Wall,
At Osborne Clarke the challenges of tomorrow are the focus of today. By zeroing in on Digitalisation, Decarbonisation and Urban Dynamics as the key areas transforming the way we live, work and do business, we've been able to hone our knowledge and expertise to the changes that will have the biggest impact for both our clients, and the work around us. Our three-dimensional approach to client service combines sharp legal expertise, in-depth understanding of our clients and the sectors they operate in, and the global issues driving transformation across their business.
Like any private practice, legal expertise is at the heart of everything we do. But what makes us distinctive? For a start, you will get involved in truly fascinating work. The variety of our deals and the diversity of our clients provide an exciting and immersive commercial framework. This is a firm where fresh ideas are highly prized, and we're never afraid to take a view. It is also firm with a coherent commercial vision, with a clear direction, supported by a compelling sense of purpose and identity. Finally, there's our culture. We know first-hand what inviting a diversity of perspectives delivers – creativity, innovation and a truly inspiring workplace. That’s why there's no one type of Osborne Clarke lawyer. And why your story, your ideas and who you are matters from Day 1.
Main areas of work
Beyond ensuring that our future lawyers have all the legal and technical training to succeed, we're just as focused on what the human behind them needs. All of our trainees have a trusted support system that includes dedicated development managers and supervisors, mentors and of course a peer network active from the moment you accept your training contract offer. We also offer a flexible approach to connected working, with no expectation of five days in the office.
As well as shadowing the lawyers and experiencing legal work up close, you'll take part in regular in-depth knowledge sessions with partners from across the firm, covering the most important themes impacting the legal industry and world at large. You'll also attend a selection of social events, giving you the opportunity to flex those networking skills.
Open days and first-year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
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