Balancing top notch insurance and litigation work, with a “normal and down to earth” culture is as easy as RPC.
RPC training contract review 2024
As the saying goes, good things come in threes and with its punchy three letter title, RPC is no exception. The firm scores a hat-trick when it comes to high-quality work, a forgiving work-life balance, and warm culture. According to one trainee’s assessment, the firm is “quite ambitious and punches above its weight. You consistently see RPC included in lists of top cases.”Chambers UKcan attest to this, as the firm picks up recognition for a whole host of practices including professional negligence, corporate/M&A, banking litigation, commercial contracts, tax, media & entertainment, and defamation & reputation management. Its UK offices also score top marks in Chambers High Net Worth for private client tax work, as well as art & cultural property law. Clearly, RPC has a solid mix of the traditional and the more niche practices. Though trainees stressed that litigation is huge at the firm, as “there’s no way you can be at RPC and not do anything disputes-related.” Training principal and litigation partner Parham Kouchikali elaborates: “we’re doing the quality work and the big litigation cases that everyone’s talking about in the market. 2023 was a strong year for us.”
“There’s no dog-eat-dog vibe and you’d never be penalised for speaking out against anything that goes against that culture.”
RPC again merges the traditional and the forward-thinking when it comes to juggling work and culture. Headquartered beside the Tower of London, on the border of the square mile, RPC literally sits on the cusp of the City’s hustle and bustle. What attracted trainees to the London office was the city work minus the intensity of a typical magic circle firm. “People who still want to do high quality work move to RPC from firms with more brutal hours,” one rookie explained. They added that even when the going does get tough, “no one has been rude or difficult to work with. Working long hours makes you appreciate that your colleagues are genuinely good people to work with.” The majority of newbies can be found in the firm's London office, with the rest in the Bristol base. But when it comes to the overall TC, one trainee had this to say: “It’s a good grounding for a legal career with lots of support and training, and the cohort couldn’t be nicer. There’s no dog-eat-dog vibe and you’d never be penalised for speaking out against anything that goes against that culture.”
Over in the London office, trainees have the chance to list three seat options for each rotation. One of those must be in insurance and another in commercial, the last is saved for whatever they fancy. After submitting their choices, grad recruitment speaks to trainees to get a better sense of how they want to progress. Although the firm can’t give everyone their top choices, interviewees were grateful for the chance to “put your thoughts and feelings across as to where you want to go.” In Bristol, things are a little different, as trainees don’t get to choose seats but instead sign up to an insurance-focused training contract (as well as a brand new commercial seat.) As that office has grown, seats have become more competitive, meaning a few trainees have had to repeat seats. Across the firm, international secondments have opened up again following the pandemic and trainees have the chance to spend six months in RPC’s Singapore office for insurance or Hong Kong for commercial disputes. Client secondment opportunities are still aplenty in the commercial and insurance sectors. But in both cases, trainees are more likely to secure a secondment in their third or fourth seat.
Commercial and bankinglitigation is the biggest of the firm’s disputes teams and takes on multiple trainees in each rotation. On the banking side, the firm represents high value individuals or businesses suing banks. “That’s what gets the department going and earns the big bucks in the firm,” one trainee explained. A case in point: RPC represented the Federal Republic of Nigeria in an $875 million fraud claim against JP Morgan. However, there’s a mix of claimant and defendant work, and the commercial side covers the whole spectrum of commercial litigation with a growing international arbitration practice. Trainees are typically assigned matters and, if they’re lucky, one might go to trial. This means rookies can get used to bundling, liaising with counsel, and attending hearings. Day-to-day tasks might include research, drafting and project management. Although heavy staffing on matters often leaves trainees with more admin-style duties, one was happy to add, “I got lots of exposure to counsel, and some of my quotes were included in the final version of something I drafted.”
Falling under the wing of the insurance department, the firm’sprofessional andfinancial risks team was another common seat amongst trainees. The team is split into two: The professional side defends claims against solicitors who have been accused of negligence; The finance side deals with negligence claims against financial professionals, such as accountants, pension providers and financial advisors. There are some big names among the list of clients, though as the work is highly confidential, we can’t share any names. Trainees were happy with the level of responsibility, which included a lot of research and some drafting and one trainee was able to get involved in case strategy. “The work really varies, and I’ve found it so interesting,” an interviewee enthused. “There’s a lot at stake and lots of moving parts. I’ll be preparing for meetings with multiple insurers, managing spreadsheets, looking at the costs and attending market meetings. I’ve even been asked to lead parts of witness calls.”
Trainees felt that work in construction and insurance litigation is “at its core, about defending the overarching construction dispute and settling the underlying contractual issues.” The group represents insurers as well as the insured, who might be a professional involved in any kind of construction, such as an architect, manufacturer or builder. Newbies can dig into insurance with opportunities to get some trial experience. Trainees might find themselves drafting witness statements, liaising with counsel, and even running small matters. Sources felt that there’s a good mix of work but, crucially, “the team is friendly, laidback and close-knit. It’s interesting work in a smaller, more flexible team.”
“I’ve read books and watched TV shows as part of the job!”
MIPTOC is RPC’s busy media, IP, technology, outsourcing and commercial contracts team, and a few of these seats were particularly popular among trainees. The department has worked on some highly publicised matters and recently defended the publisher of the Mail on Sunday in the libel case brought by Prince Harry. You can also find other household names such as Pizza Express, Jet2 Holidays and New Look in its hefty list of clients. Mediais a contentious seat at RPC so, as well as typical trainee litigation tasks like preparing bundles, there are plenty of opportunities to jump on calls with counsel and liaise directly with clients over email. “Once you get the hang of it, the supervision reduces as they know you can do it,” one trainee explained. Media comes with its fair share of enviable tasks: “I’ve read books and watched TV shows as part of the job! Sometimes we get claims where people are alleging defamation in different forms of media so there’s been a good mix of work.”
RPC’s IP team has been growing rapidly, recently taking on a large-scale matter with Saracens on its sponsorship agreements, branding and advertising. “There’s non-contentious work there, but it’s very disputes-focused,” an insider mentioned, adding that it’s in line with most of the practices at this disputes-heavy firm. Drafting, bundling and admin tasks were among those reported by trainees, but “the team gives you a good view of all sorts of different types of work, and we also get to prepare and come up with ideas for articles.” On the tech transactions side, trainees can complete a seat in commercial technology and outsourcing. The department typically helps clients in retail and branded consumer goods expand a business area or set up a new commercial agreement with a supplier, for instance, and clients include Meta, Google and YouTube. Trainee tasks can include drafting, proofreading, running red lines and reviewing contracts. Data collection and protection also comes into play here, and trainees help produce an online publication called 'cyber_bytes' that goes directly to the firm’s tech clients.
“They get the balance just right,” one trainee said when it comes to working hours. We heard that days can really vary, but a 5.30 finish isn’t a distant dream! “When work has to be done, we’ll work long hours, but no one will push non-urgent things,” an interviewee explained. “The people are very supportive so you’re never going to be the only person working late by yourself.” Trainees indicated that the commercial and banking litigation department is typically the busiest but there’s still a good level of understanding across the senior ranks that trainees have a life outside of work. Sources felt that the trainee salary was a fair match for these hours, although the NQ salary was a point of contention for some. Insurance NQs earn £5k less than their commercial counterparts and the pay lags slightly behind the market. Some surmised this was due to RPC generally being different from a typical firm in the City, while others felt that the work-life balance means the salary is a fair deal.
“It feels like the same firm no matter the office.”
RPC’s London office was a highlight for many trainees, particularly as it has a big communal space overlooking St Katharine’s Docks. “You see more tourists around than office workers rushing out to lunch,” an insider quipped. The Bristol office is nestled in the city centre and is kitted out to match the London one, so trainees mentioned “it feels like the same firm no matter the office.” Interviewees were grateful for the hot desk and open-plan setup, as it feels “a bit more communal” because “you’re sat next to and speak to partners all the time. It’s easy to ask quick questions whenever.”
Trainees described RPC’s culture as “an environment where people rally together and support one another when things are busy.” The flexible remote working meant trainees felt well-supported but, more informally, “everyone’s up for a chat. If you’re stuck on something people take time to go through things with you.” Trainees felt this support from the top down, with approachable partners and tight-knit trainee cohorts. According to one insider, “you’re never going to be at risk of any type of mental breakdown because they’re so big on wellness and encourage time off when you need it.”
Interviewees also added that there’s been a big push for diversity and “you see people from across the firm involved. Partners and associates all take part actively, it’s not just something pushed from the top down.” There are eight communities (RPC’s affinity groups) at the firm, and guest speakers often come in to talk about various aspects of DE&I. But it’s the hiring that is making the most impact on this front, “The recruitment side is where we’re seeing the most traction,” one trainee explained. “RPC has been hiring diverse lateral hires and partners.”
“Knowing I’ve got someone there to rely on has made my contract a lot better.”
It might sound like a no-brainer, but insiders highlighted how “there’s a real sense that your training contract is for training.” Not only are there opportunities for in-house one-on-one sessions and department specific training, but external advisors also come to the firm to teach communication and drafting skills. Although trainees acknowledged that supervisor allocation can sometimes come down to the luck of the draw, most had nothing but praise: “They take a real interest in both me as a person and me as a trainee. Knowing I’ve got someone there to rely on has made my contract a lot better.”
When it comes to qualification, second-year trainees felt there is a clear process in place, starting off with a conversation with HR on their preferences. Once HR releases the job list, fourth seaters submit a written application to their desired departments and might be asked to complete either a written exercise or a presentation, which is discussed in the final interview. In 2023, the firm retained 11 out of 16 qualifiers.
From LPC to RPC
Most trainees get to know each other beforehand during the LPC (soon to become the SQE), then the firm gives them a budget to keep up with socials once they join!
How to get an RPC training contract
- Vacation scheme deadline (2024): 15 January 2024 (opens 2 October 2023)
- Training contract deadline (2026): 25 March 2024 [Bristol], 24 June 2024 [London] (opens 1 October 2022)
Early talent manager Nicola Stafford tells us the firm is looking for bright, driven, personable and commercially aware people with energy, curiosity, flexibility and creative thinking.
Stafford informs us that “it's not unusual for some of our trainees to have come to us later in life – some were previously in the armed forces, professional services and other industries.” She advises applicants not to discount any previous work experience too quickly: “A job working in a shop or restaurant, for example, can be used to demonstrate your customer and client service skills, communication, teamwork and reliability.” That said, it is beneficial to get some sort of legal work experience if possible. Stafford explains: “You need to show you have a real interest in working for a law firm. If you can prove that you can seek out opportunities and operate in a commercial environment, this will help your application. Legal work experience can include work shadowing, insight days, virtual experience programmes and pro bono activities, as well as placements in a law firm.”
Both vacation scheme and direct training contract applications start off with the same online form. One of the questions asks why the applicant is applying to RPC. According to Stafford, “this is where candidates really have the opportunity to show their understanding of RPC and demonstrate the level of research they've completed about the firm," as well as outlining why they'd be a good fit for RPC specifically.
RPC received 1,000 applications for Bristol and London training contracts in 2023. Generally, the firm selects around 250 applicants to complete an online critical thinking test and screens the applications once more after that. We're told the recruitment team pays particular attention to a candidate's answer to the form's commercial question. “Their answer should be logical, persuasive and concise, and ideally look at the wider implications of the issue,” Stafford says. Around 30 make it to one of the firm's assessment days.
The assessment day includes a discussion exercise, a written exercise and an interview with a partner and a member of HR. “The interview has quite a strength based and commercial focus,” Stafford reveals. “Candidates won't get any case law questions, though – we get such a wide array of applicants at different stages in their education and careers that it wouldn't be fair.” She advises candidates to “stay calm and composed” during the interview and to come prepared with answers to standard interview questions like 'Why do you want to work here?' “You have to sell to us why you want to work here and present a really convincing argument,” director of brand, marketing and sales Ed Fitzgerald adds. “Be sure you look at our #strikinglyreal campaign before you come. This illustrates the kind of candidate who thrives at RPC.”
In-person assessment days also include a trainee-led tour of the firm and an informal networking lunch with partners and associates, plus a Q&A session with our trainees (all of which are non-assessed). RPC's assessment days can also be run virtually.
In 2023 the firm received 700 applications for its 25 summer scheme spots on offer. The vacation scheme application process is “similar to the training contract application process,” Stafford tells us. Applicants complete the online form, and those who impress go on to take a critical thinking test and attend an assessment day at the firm. From here the firm chooses its summer schemers.
The firm runs a few two-week placements each year. Attendees spend one week each in the insurance and commercial teams, getting exposure to trainee-level work. “The firm really makes an effort to give you an accurate picture of trainee life,” a trainee told us. “I was surprised by how similar the first few days of my training contract felt to my time as a vac schemer.” Some participants even get to attend court and client meetings.
On the social side are networking events and dinners, volunteering opportunities, ping-pong tournaments, a pizza making class, a bowling night andcrazy golf. On the last day of their placement summer schemers have an interview with a partner and a member of HR.
The firm also hosts several insight days and events throughout the year to give a snapshot of life at RPC. Visit www.rpc.co.uk/strikinglyreal to find out more.
Tower Bridge House,
St Katharine's Way,
If you value character over conformity, the unique over the uniform, and ambition over apathy, let’s talk.
For us, success comes from building real-life relationships. Real-life relationships with our clients as much as our people. And it comes from thinking creatively to achieve the best commercial solutions. We thrive in an environment that’s collaborative, forward-thinking and where you’re free to express your personality. An environment that allows you to make the most of your strengths. This is our commitment to you.
Our sectors include: Banking and financial services, construction, food and drink, insurance, life sciences, manufacturing, industrial and mining, media, private wealth and family offices, professional practices, retail, sports and entertainment, technology and telecommunications.
Our services include: Advertising and marketing, banking and lending, commercial contracts, corporate, data and cyber, dispute resolution, employment, engagement and equality, intellectual property, outsourcing, real estate and construction, regulatory, restructuring and insolvency, tax
We also believe you’ll grow if you’re free to explore. At least six months will be spent in four different practice areas, so you can discover where you fit in the best. You may have an opportunity to be seconded to one of our clients as an in-house lawyer. This will give you the chance to form genuine relationships with the people behind the cases. You’ll use your personality to become more commercially aware and legally proficient.
You’ll be welcomed into our London office and given an opportunity to spend time getting to experience life in a unique law firm for yourself. It’s also our chance to get to know you and understand what you may be able to offer us. During these two weeks, you’ll be fully integrated into our teams, getting involved in projects and giving you a fantastic insight into whether a career at RPC is right for you.
We’re all unique. And that’s why RPC’s benefits package is too. We respect we’re all real people with passions, families and lives away from our desks. So, we offer you the chance to tailor your benefits, offering choice and flexibility to everyone who works here.
Our benefits package covers almost everything, from wellness festivals and social events, to extra annual leave, and family and wealth-related rewards.
Open days and first-year opportunities
Insight Days: Our Insight Days are just that. Insightful. Experience real life as a Trainee through work shadowing opportunities, taking part in an application skills session and networking with people from across the firm.
Our Bristol and London Insight Days will be run in-person at the respective office.
For further information about these events and details of how to apply please look online.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
People are at the heart of everything that we do. And that is critical to our success.
At RPC, we believe that great minds do not all think alike. We believe in the power of difference – of diversity – diversity of thought, diversity of background, experience, skill and talent, diversity of characteristics. We believe that attracting, retaining and harnessing the power of this diversity does not come by chance, happenstance or mere passage of time. Instead, we believe that it is our collective responsibility to proactively create that diversity and to carefully nurture an environment which is inclusive on a consistent, intersectional and sustained basis. A culture where each of our people feels they belong, is respected, and is valued for the differences that they bring. DEIB is all about making sure our culture is and remains diverse and inclusive.
We have eight DEIB ‘Communities’. Not because we want to put people in boxes but because we feel that this is the natural place to start the conversation – with people who feel passionate and connected to a particular strand of DEIB. But this is just the starting point as we recognise the value of a broader, intersectional approach. Members of our DEIB Communities representing teams (and offices) globally across the RPC network with steps being taken to ensure wherever possible that initiatives and resources impact all our people globally, wherever they are in the world.
Currently, our Community Groups are as follows:
• Disability (ENABLE)
• LGBTQ+ (RPC RAIN)
• Mental Health
• Social Mobility
Our Communities aim to:
• Support: Provide a valuable support and information network for our people.
• Share: Act as a key awareness-raising body for our people and provide updates and information to the ESG Advisory Group (ESGAG), the DEIB/Responsible Business Team and/or the Partnership Executive (PEX), better enabling us to take an intersectional approach.
• Suggest: Collaborate with ESGAG and/or the DEIB/Responsible Business Team to support the ongoing development of the ESG strategy by raising and exploring issues, concerns and ideas working constructively and openly together.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 1)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 2)
- Banking Litigation: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 1)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 1)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
- Health & Safety (Band 4)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 2)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 2)
- Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)
- Professional Discipline (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 2)
- Tax: Contentious (Band 2)
- Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 1)