Simmons & Simmons LLP - True Picture

City firm Simmons & Simmons summons those searching for a firm with a flair for finance and a talent for tech.

Simmons & Simmons training contract review 2022

The Firm

First impressions can be everything. As one Simmons & Simmons trainee recalled from the firm’s open day, “it was clear from the outset that the firm wanted to provide more comprehensive expertise to a few chosen sectors.” Indeed, the firm describes itself as a business partner for its clients, with a particular focus in four areas: tech, media and telecommunications; asset management and investment funds; financial institutions; and healthcare and life sciences. Simmons picks up Chambers UK rankings in all of these areas – it’s top-ranked in commodities and hedge funds at a national level, and in London specifically it gets top accolades in banking and finance, employment, and financial crime.

“I was looking for the top-tier work and intellectual challenge afforded by the top London firms.”

One interviewee told us: “I was looking for the top-tier work and intellectual challenge afforded by the top London firms, but with a strong training base.” Simmons’ training is underpinned by its structured Compass Programme, which kicks off before trainees join and runs throughout the training contract. “They train you in soft skills,” trainees explained. “It feels particularly valuable to begin with.”

Simmons has UK offices in London and Bristol, with a third base in Cambridge which is home to Wavelength, the firm’s appointed legal engineer support service. Most trainees are recruited into the London office, with a handful joining in Bristol each year too. And interested applicants should expect stiff competition. Simmons receives around 3,000 applications for its training contracts each year, and with only around 25 available, the firm looks to recruit candidates with particularly impressive academic records – so get revising!

The Seats

While seat allocation depends on business need, trainees said the firm encourages new arrivals to communicate openly about what areas they’re interested in. “There is always the opportunity to let them know what you would like,” with second-year trainees typically getting first dibs. Trainees submit their seat preferences early in the process from a choice of 12 departments. They can expect to do one non-contentious seat over the course of the training, as well as one contentious seat in line with SRA requirements. There may also be an opportunity to go on secondment with a client or to one of Simmons’ 20 overseas offices.

Simmons’ finance-based seats fall under four categories: banking, financial services, capital markets and disputes. Each department has subgroups and trainees can express their interest in a specific one if they’d prefer to. Financial services is a common destination for new starters. The department is made up of a large team and involves a lot of cross-border work with financial institutions operating in the UK and international financial markets. Trainees will get at least some exposure to both the buy side – working in hedge funds with the buyers of financial products – and the sell side, “which is with your more traditional banks.” Trainees working on the former spent time “assisting the corporate team with the regulatory aspects of deals,” which included carrying out research tasks into current regulations. The department has advised on deals involving the likes of Santander, Allianz Global Investors, the Royal Bank of Canada, and Schroders. 

“It’s a very technical seat, and you need time to get your head around things.”

Simmons’ capital markets expertise spans debt, equity, securitisation, structured finance and derivatives (and there are Chambers UK rankings in all areas to back it up!). The department advises on both debt and equity transactions with clients such as Swisscom AG, Rentokil, Pearson, and Hitachi Capital. Trainees typically start out with more administrative tasks, but one insider felt that “putting comments into documents does get you familiar with the content of bond documents. And once you become familiar, you are then able to have a go at side agreements and adapt it to the client. There’s even some client contact towards the end.”

Derivatives and structured finance can be found in capital markets, alongside debt and asset-back securitisations. This team sees a fair degree of crossover with financial services on matters like hedge fund advice. It also gets its share of cross-border work, advising investment banks, asset managers and corporates across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – which meant the trainees we interviewed often found themselves in meetings with the firm’s offices overseas. Closer to home, the firm recently assisted British Business Bank, HM Treasury and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with setting up three prominent business loan schemes that were launched during the pandemic to support companies struggling financially. Trainees in the seat spent a lot of time getting to grips with documents associated with transactions, “doing things like transitions checks and making the simpler amendments.” But the more straightforward tasks were a blessing to some, with one trainee noting that “it’s a very technical seat, and you need time to get your head around things.”

Trainees can find all things IT in a digital business seat (which was recently renamed from information technology). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the department advises on issues in tech, telecoms, fintech, and data protection, handling transactions as well as licensing and service agreements. As such, typical trainee tasks here “involved lots of commercial contract reviews, with a little assisting on outsourcing deals and providing data protection advice.” Clients here include Huawei Technologies – the team advises its Chinese arm on data use and compliance across the company’s offices.

IP is one of Simmons’ core strengths. The firm advises clients across sectors on all IP-related issues, and for trainees there is the opportunity to get involved with some contentious work, including patent litigation and prosecution. This year, the firm represented Easyway, a travel agency based in the Caribbean, after it was sued by easyGroup (the company that own easyJet) in bet-the-business litigation. We heard that this technical seat only takes second-year trainees, which means “there is a bit more responsibility.”

“… some multi-jurisdictional work which involved liaising with counsel overseas.”

Trainees who want more exposure to litigation might find it in employment, alongside advisory work. The department handles employment documentation for its clients (from offer letters to contracts) but has particular expertise in employment litigation, covering things like discrimination, whistleblowing claims, and actions for breach of contract. Trainees in this seat can therefore expect lots of the tasks that go hand in hand with contentious work, “like sorting bundles, but there is also some multi-jurisdictional work which involves liaising with counsel overseas.” On the more high-profile cases, trainees spent much of their time conducting research, but as time went on responsibility increased, so as one trainee told us, “there was also time spent drafting witness statements and settlement agreements.”

Trainee Life

Trainees described the culture at Simmons as a “striving” one, and they were quick to point out that this “brings with it both the good and the bad.” On the former side, trainees across seats agreed that “as you go on, you are slowly given more responsibility, and you are treated more and more like an associate.” But they didn’t feel they were given more than they could handle: “The firm is really good at giving you a level of responsibility that is commensurate with your experience and competence.” As is true of most firms, “trainees and paralegals will take on the more ‘boring’ work like preparing bundles, but that is never all you do.”

That ‘striving’ culture also comes with challenges. “The hours can be long in transactional seats” in particular, with post-midnight finishes not unheard of among our interviewees. A £50 Deliveroo allowance from the firm somewhat softened the blow of those late nights!

Trainees told us that the firm is making efforts to address the pressure that these kind of hours place on the mental wellbeing of staff, “but these efforts don't necessarily filter into day-to-day decisions around the allocation of workloads.” Simmons does have wellbeing initiatives, but some more sceptical trainees suggested a disconnect between these initiatives and the day-to-day wellbeing of its employees. “What really helps mental health is a manageable workload and the ability to switch off,” said one.

“Having a big cohort creates the feeling that you have a really big support network around you.”

Trainees were grateful however that although Simmons’ offices were open at the time of our interviews, “the firm is not insistent that people come in. They urge us to do what makes us comfortable.” Those in London benefit from a spacious office spread out over three floors, with a snazzy modern art collection to boot (and lateral flow testing is available on site too). The Bristol office is less than a ten-minute walk from Temple Meads station, and comes complete with a roof terrace. Trainees were also quick to praise the good relationships they had with each other: “Having a big cohort creates the feeling that you have a really big support network around you.”

Come qualification time, trainees can informally let the departments know what their department preferences are, with one telling us: “It is kind of an unwritten rule that you will take the initiative and keep an open dialogue with the team you want to be a part of nice and early.” Departments then publish a list of how many vacancies are available and trainees can specify up to three top preferences via a form. This whole process is communicated to trainees around the time of seat rotations, and first-years are allowed to sit in on this, meaning they felt they had a good idea of how it all works right from the beginning. “They are very transparent from early on,” one praised. In 2021, 16 out of 20 qualifiers were retained.

Post-qualification, Simmons offers those in London a juicy £88,000 salary and Bristol NQs get £56,000. Bristol-based trainees were also happy to point out that with a first-year trainee salary of £40,500, they were receiving one of the highest payslips outside of the capital.

A Greener Future?

Simmons & Simmons has joined the Greener Litigation Pledge to lower the environmental impact of court cases in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, by reducing printed documents and international travel.

How to get a Simmons & Simmons training contract


Spring insight scheme 2022 (London):  6 – 7 April 2022.

Applications open: 19 November 2021.

Deadline: 19 December 2021.  


Winter vacation scheme (2021, London):  6-10 December 2021.

Applications open: 10 September 2021.

Deadline: 1 November 2021.  


Summer vacation scheme (2022, London): 27 June-8 July 2022.

Applications open: 19 September 2021.

Deadline: 19 December 2021. 


Summer vacation scheme (2022, Bristol): 13-24 June 2022.

Applications open: 19 September 2021.

Deadline: 04 February 2022 


Evolve Placement Year – Applications open on 19 September 2022.


Application process 

The firm offers around 25 training contracts each year in its London and Bristol offices. The firm no longer offers direct training contracts, so interested candidates will have to complete a vacation scheme at the firm prior to applying. Roles are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so the firm advises candidates to apply as soon as possible. 

Prospective recruits submit an online application and take a situational judgement test. Those who are up to scratch go on to complete online logical and verbal reasoning tests and a video interview. The cream of the crop then attend an assessment day that involves written, an analytical exercise and an interview. 

Vacation scheme 

Simmons & Simmons runs a week-long winter placement for final-year law and non-law students and graduates from all disciplines. The firm also runs a two-week summer scheme in the London office, and a two-week summer scheme in Bristol. They are all open to penultimate-year law and non-law students, plus all final-year students and graduates. 

Vac schemers split their time between two different departments: “I did half in corporate and half in tax,” reported one former participant.  “I got to help with an M&A deal and went to all the negotiation meetings. Ninety-nine percent of it went over my head, but it was great to see what I might be doing in a few years' time.” 

Get some insight 

The firm runs a two-day spring insight scheme in the London office. Apply by 19 December 2022 to be in with a chance of attending. 

Legal tech placement 

Simmons & Simmons has a year-long legal tech placement, called 'Evolve'. 

There's one role on offer, lasting 12 months with two six-months rotations, one in the firm's 'innovation and business change' department and one in its FinTech team. The former works on delivering the firm's strategy, especially through new tech and services. FinTech is one of the firm's legal teams, advising clients in this sector. Those on the placement can expect to do market research, assess new technology, come up with new ideas, help organise events and do legal research. 

The placement student will be evaluated during the programme and if they meet the required standard will be offered a training contract.

Simmons & Simmons LLP

One Ropemaker Street,

  • Partners 280+ (Global), 145+ (UK)
  • Associates: 580+ (Global), 270+ (UK)
  • Trainees: 52 (UK)
  • Offices: 23
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruitment: recruitment@simmons-simmons. com
  • Training partner: Matthew Hooton
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 24+
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 136 UCAS points
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 45 places 
  • Dates and deadlines
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 10th September 2021 (Winter, London), 19th September 2021 (Summer, London and Bristol)
  • Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 1st November 2021 (Winter), 19th December 2021 (Summer, London), 4th February (Summer, Bristol)
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £46,000 (London), £40,500 (Bristol)
  • Second-year salary: £50,500 (London), £42,500 (Bristol)
  • NQ salary: £100,000 (London); £68,000 (Bristol)
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: London - £7,500 for the PGDL and £9,000 for the LPC Bristol - £6,500 for the PGDL and £7,500 for the LPC
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Netherlands
  • Overseas seats: Varies
  • Client secondments: Varies

Firm profile
We’re a truly international firm, with truly international reach. Every day, our expert teams across Europe, the Middle East and Asia come together to work on our clients toughest commercial challenges. Our lawyers are sector specialists so they’re experts in the areas that matter most to everyone’s future – from healthcare and technology to the financial forces that power our world. We’re reimagining what a career in law looks like. It’s all part of our long-term strategy to change the way we work, so we can deliver smarter solutions – to our people and our clients. It means that when you join our firm, you’ll discover so much more than the practice of law.

Main areas of work
We view the world through the lens of our key sectors: asset management and investment funds, financial institutions, healthcare and life sciences, and technology, media and telecommunications. These sector teams are drawn from the core practice areas of: corporate; projects; information, communications and technology; competition and antitrust and trade; dispute resolution; intellectual property; employment, pensions and incentives; banking; structured finance and derivatives; debt capital markets; financial services; real estate and tax.

Legal Tech Placement
The world of law is evolving. Fast. Can you help keep us at the forefront of our industry? Our Evolve placement gives you the platform you need. You’ll work with our lawyers and innovation teams to explore how we can embed emerging technologies across our business. What’s more, you’ll gain exposure to some of the most visionary companies who we call our clients. An inquisitive mind and an interest in a legal career are a must for this unique opportunity. Those who perform well on the placement will be offered a training contract for once they’ve finished their studies. Applications are open from 19 September – 19 December 2021 for a September 2022 start date.

Training opportunities
We offer training contracts in both Bristol and London, and either way, you’ll spend two years discovering the innovation we’re known for. As well as moving through four six-month seats across our practice areas, you’ll also benefit from the Compass programme; our unique and progressive trainee skills academy that offers a combination of practical learning and online tools designed to support your journey through to qualification.

Vacation scheme
Discover what it’s like to be a trainee lawyer with one of our vacation schemes. Over one or two weeks in either Bristol or London, you’ll experience the work, the reach and the day-to-day buzz of our international firm. Throw yourself into this full programme of social events and work experience, and you’ll get a taste for our firm and the work we do, from research to drafting, and meetings to departmental training.

Winter vacation scheme (London): A one-week scheme aimed specifically at final year students and graduates of all disciplines. Applications open 10th September 2021.

Summer vacation scheme (London or Bristol): A two-week scheme open to penultimate and final year students and graduates of all disciplines. Applications open 19th September 2021.

Please note that we fill our roles on a rolling basis and advise you to apply as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Other benefits
25 days holiday, pension contributions, private medical insurance including Virtual GP advice, discounted gym membership and health assessments, life assurance, employee assistance programme, eye sight tests, cycle to work scheme, payroll giving scheme, travel insurance, season ticket loan.

Open days and first-year opportunities
Spring insight scheme (London): A two-day workshop for first year students of all disciplines, as well as penultimate year non-law students. Applications open 19th November 2021.

Want to step beyond the doors of our international firm? Our open days are a good place to start. This year, we will be hosting an open day in our Bristol office. During the day, you’ll get to meet the team, get to grips with what a legal career is all about, and learn about the firm, our culture and our opportunities. Our Bristol open day is taking place on Wednesday 17 November. Applications open on 4 October 2021 and close on 4 November 2021.

Social media


This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 2)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Competition Law (Band 4)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 5)
    • Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
    • Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Legal (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
    • Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Open-ended Funds (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 3)
    • Telecommunications (Band 2)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)

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