Trainees put their eggs in two baskets at the business crime, fraud and litigation firm that’s so nice they named it twice.
Two little birdies
Picture a criminal, right now. Your mind probably jumps to a cartoon image of a man with a mask and a sack on his back, perhaps with one hand in an old lady’s handbag. In the real world, crime isn’t a cartoon and criminals come in all shapes and sizes from dodgy business dealers to hi-tech fraudsters. Cases involving those kinds of criminals may end up on the desks of London’s Peters & Peters. This is a firm that knows where its bread is buttered and trainees work across its two large departments: business crime and commercial litigation, civil fraud and asset recovery.
It’s no surprise that “the firm values people who understand the political and cultural context” of what Peters & Peters does. “We have clients who are subject to significant political exposure, so it’s extremely helpful if you have background knowledge of this area.” Many new arrivals started their career trying to enter the Bar or working in other disciplines before coming to P&P. “The firm is interested in people who took an atypical route towards a training contact,” one source explained. “They put a premium on self-reliance and independent thinking because it’s a small firm and there’s a huge a focus on autonomy.” P&P is home to just 34 lawyers, but earns rankings in Chambers UK for extradition, financial crime, civil fraud, tax and POCA expertise. Don’t be downhearted if you don’t have prior experience in any of those areas, though, as “there are a lot of partners who started here as paralegals. That shows good career progression opportunities.”
“Nobody’s pigeonholed” at trainee or associate level: “It’s emphasised that you should work with every partner during your time in a department.” Trainees cover the full range of P&P's work in just two seats, spending ten and a half months on each side. They all also do an external secondment: “Our primary partnership is with CM Murray, an employment firm in the City. They act for City executives, professionals and a lot of law firms dealing with partnership disputes and employment matters.” That’s not the only option, as “if you can come up with ideas for a different secondment you can pitch them to a partner.” Trainees rated the secondment as a great opportunity “to get exposure to additional issues that may affect a lot of our clients.”
Sitting on a wall
P&P's business crime department initially focused on white-collar crime and fraud cases but has branched out to cover tax matters, extradition orders, regulatory bodies' investigations, sanctions issues, internal investigations and POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) advice. Interviewees were big fans of the extradition work, which they described as “interesting as it usually involves very high-profile businesspeople.” In other areas too, interviewees found it “exciting to work on front-page news cases.” The team recently acted for MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas in a dispute with the Republic of Croatia over whether or not two agreements had been secured by a bribe given to its then-prime minister. Other cases involved securing the release of $12 million for Russian trading firms which were under investigation after a judicial review declared against the City of London Police; and acting as lead counsel in a global investigation into corruption allegations brought against government figures in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. “The work is usually quite political in flavour,” interviewees noted. “Some clients I’ve worked with have been subject to political persecution in states which don’t recognise civil liberties and those have been fascinating to work on.”
“You are as much alive to the case as the partner is.”
Trainees here take on lots of drafting for letters, emails, opinions, and research notes. There’s ample opportunity to attend client meetings and correspond with clients and the other side; interviewees therefore rated the responsibility levels as “pretty good overall. If you want to try something new they’ll let you do it.” Sometimes, though, “preparing bundles and photocopying needs to be done.” Once source told us: “You’re as much alive to the case as the partner is. It’s collaborative and you get input throughout, there’s no occasion where you feel your opinions are shot down.”
One named Peter
The commercial litigation, civil fraud and asset recovery department is as varied as its three-pronged name suggests. “We’re best known for our injunction work but we also do search and disclosure orders and deal with some of England’s most draconian courts and powers,” a source suggested. P&P is involved in litigating large fraud cases around the world, dealing with issues such as obtaining freezing and disclosure orders for clients who were victims of fraud. The team has recently acted for 122 investors (including several professional footballers) bringing claims totalling £35 million against Ingenious Media, alleging systemic mis-selling of investments schemes that were used to avoid tax. Commercial litigation, meanwhile, can encompass shareholder and contractual disputes as well as insolvency proceedings, competition issues, IP issues and professional negligence claims. The team recently represented the one-third owner of an international fishing business in a claim of conspiracy to deny him his share of the $1.5 billion company.
“This isn’t the sort of place you spend your day at a photocopier.”
Trainees here felt that they got access to “work that’s NQ level and above at other firms,” though typical tasks like drafting witness statements, applications and instructions as well as correspondence with opposing counsel are the norm here as at many firms. P&P’s trainees also get “involved in evidence gathering and the production process. It’s always interesting, this isn’t the sort of place you spend your day at a photocopier.” One thing interviewees noticed time and again is the “strong relationship you get to build with the clients. It’s exciting to be the primary point of contact for all the little knockabout stuff.”
The other also named Peter
Many P&P trainees come in with “a bit more life experience and want that extra level of autonomy.” Sources therefore appreciated that supervision is “a little hands-off. If you’re here you’re someone who is proactive, creative and has plenty of initiative from the start.” Don’t assume either that ‘hands-off’ means ‘cold’: “Partners are definitely still there if you need to ask any questions and to help you out, it’s just that you have to approach them.” P&P runs trainees through semi-regular training sessions on different areas of practice including police station interviews, letter writing and elements of civil procedure. “Everyone is constantly self-improving here so if you take your foot off the gas, make sure you work hard to catch up!”
That’s not a threat, mind – trainees described a “relaxed, jokey atmosphere” at the firm. “It’s not unusual to see people hanging in breakout areas and going for drinks after work.” It’s not just trainees who go out but “a diverse group from across the firm,” and we heard that there’s been “a big drive on diversity and inclusion recently” at P&P as a whole. “Half the partnership is female, which is admirable to see, but they want to expand on that success and branch out to all areas of diversity.”
“Racking up big hours is not the culture here.”
A typical day at Peters & Peters runs from 9.30am to 6.30pm. You may notice that’s pretty calm for a law firm – that’s because of a “deliberate and concerted effort to be mindful of work/life balance and the wellbeing of staff. Racking up big hours is not in the culture here.” The downside to these lovely hours is that “you pay for it in the salary department,” with first-years earning £39,000. There were some grumbles that “we litigate against big US and magic circle firms where the pay is much better,” but many found the hours trade-off value for money.
Qualification involves a written application to your department of choice. “It’s fairly open-ended, there’s a form to list what you’ve worked on and what skills you can bring to the team.” As the intake is so small, the NQ process “doesn’t feel competitive or scary, you don’t think about it too much beyond considering which department is best!” One recent improvement on previous years is to do everything earlier in the training contract: “They’re anxious to make sure you have enough time to get everything in whether you want to stay or not. The attitude is very conscientious.” In 2019 the firm retained all three qualifiers.
Peters recruits on a rolling basis, with new trainees usually starting in March or September.
How to get into Peters & Peters
Training contract deadline: 31 May 2020 (opens September 2019)
Applications and assessments
Peters & Peters has a rolling application process, so there are no deadlines. As an HR source informs us: “We are very selective. There have been years where we haven't taken on any trainees because we haven't found anyone who fits the bill.” The firm generally takes on two trainees each year. It's possible to apply for training contracts either one or two years before the start date. You can find the firm's application form here. The form is quite straightforward, though of course simple, uninspiring answers will get you nowhere. “It's important to me to be able to see on that form that the applicant has a reason to be interested in the work we do,” our HR source says. “They have to do more than just quote our website back at us.” At the same time, we suggest resisting the temptation to go on and on about what a wonderful and interesting person you are. At this stage, recruiters are not particularly interested in your personality and self-enhancing hobbies as much as your credentials.
The firm shortlists around 50% of applicants for two basic competency tests. The first is a multiple-choice numeracy and literacy test covering grammar, spelling and reading comprehension. The second is an essay on a “legal-ish” issue. “We look at the sophistication of an applicant's insights and opinions, as well as how they write,” reveals our HR source. The subject is usually topical, with recent ones concerning prisoners' voting rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and the meaning of a miscarriage of justice. The essays are marked externally by a barrister at Matrix Chambers. Applicants are expected to score at least 70% in the first test, and also obtain a good essay mark to progress to the interview stage.
The first interview takes place with the head of HR and training partner, Jason Woodland. An hour before the interview, candidates are given a legal document and asked to prepare a five-minute summary to present to the interviewers. Woodland then asks applicants about their CV, while the head of HR a few standardised competency questions intended to gauge a candidate's ability to work in a team and deal with difficult situations. In previous years, candidates faced topical questions, but these have now been replaced by “more searching and psychologically based – perhaps more far-reaching – questions,” says our HR source, telling us these are “designed to give us an insight into the candidate’s personality. They focus on the ‘inner self’ rather than technical or academic knowledge.”
Those the firm invites back for a final interview are “put in front of two senior partners, who can be pretty tough on them,” HR admits. Usually one partner is from the firm's criminal side and the other from the civil side. Candidates are given a legal scenario and asked to talk the partners through it, answering challenging questions along the way. Afterwards, the interviewers go over the candidate's CV again, trying to dig out which areas of law he or she is interested in. HR tells us that “many candidates fall at this last hurdle because they're really interested in the firm's criminal work but don't show the same enthusiasm for our commercial work. Our trainees need to be interested in both.”
Because of its small size, Peters & Peters does not currently run a vacation scheme. It does, however, bring in people on an ad hoc basis for one and two-week work experience placements.
Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP
15 Fetter Lane,
- Partners (and equivalent): 12
- Associates: 19 Total trainees: 4
- UK offices: London
- Graduate recruiter: Emily Wootton 020 7822 7777 [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: September 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2021 and 2022 start: 31 May 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary:£39,000
- Second-year salary:£41,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Secondments: Yes
Peters & Peters is a specialist practice best known for providing expert advice in business crime and regulation, civil fraud and commercial litigation. We act for governments, corporations, financial institutions, professionals, executives and high net worth individuals. We also regularly advise foreign regulators and international organisations. Many of our cases are high profile, complex and international in nature. Peters & Peters has been ranked as ‘top tier’ by the leading legal directories across its practice for many years.
The firm prides itself on being able to provide a welcoming, supportive and collegiate environment, exposure to high quality work and the opportunity to work with some of the most talented lawyers in our fields of practice. Peters & Peters was also one of the first practices to develop a multi-disciplinary approach to fraud cases, handling both civil and criminal proceedings, including asset recovery matters. In doing so it has forged close working relationships with foreign law firms.
Main areas of work
The firm’s key practice areas include anti-money laundering; anti-bribery and corruption; commercial and trust litigation; competition litigation; corporate investigations, criminal antitrust (cartels); economic sanctions; extradition and mutual legal assistance; financial regulation; fraud (civil and criminal); HMRC inquiries and investigations; insider dealing; international asset tracing and private prosecutions.
Peters & Peters is a friendly firm, with a supportive culture and regular social and CSR activities. We value our trainees highly and make every effort to assist them in becoming fully integrated into the firm. Each trainee will be allocated a mentor and benefit from comprehensive training, ongoing feedback and regular performance reviews. Our trainees sit with a partner or experienced lawyer and will have the opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the firm’s work including client meetings, business development activities and often international travel.
We are looking for trainees with strong academic ability, who will be able to cope with complex legal issues and technical drafting. We recruit from a wide range of universities, taking both law and non-law graduates who have achieved a degree at 2.1 level or above. As ours is very much a people business, candidates must demonstrate strong presentation and communication skills, as well as the ability to work well in teams. Applicants should be commercially aware and demonstrate a keen interest in our work. They will also be proactive, enthusiastic and have a sense of humour.
A career with Peters & Peters will be both exciting and challenging, but we require individuals who are tenacious, driven and committed to taking on a steep learning curve. In return you will benefit from early responsibility, a rewarding career, plenty of support and the opportunity to carry out high quality and stimulating legal work. As a trainee you will spend time within our two departments (Business Crime and Commercial Litigation/Civil Fraud) and will also have the opportunity to experience a different area of law through an external secondment. The firm deliberately has a small trainee intake to ensure quality training, exposure to a wide range of practice areas and to maintain our excellent trainee retention rates.
25 days holiday, pension scheme, BUPA private medical insurance, life assurance, interest free season ticket loan, employee assistance programme and subsidised health club membership.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Crime: Extradition (Band 1)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 2)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 2)
- POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture (Band 1)
- Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 2)