Simmons & Simmons LLP - True Picture

With tech talent, finance flair, and cross-border work aplenty, Simmons & Simmons is the law firm so good they named it twice.

Simmons & Simmons training contract review 2024

The Firm

“Training at a good City firm gives you a broad sheet of things to get involved in,” one Simmons & Simmons trainee rightly observed. Casting aside the magic circle and US giants, this discerning bunch was looking for “the best of the rest.” As a prestigious City firm, Simmons & Simmons ticked their boxes, instilling trainees with a strong sense that they would get “a high degree of training” and the chance to work with “an impressive client base,” made up of major financial institutions, big tech and energy companies, and even Premier League football clubs.

Simmons & Simmons takes a sector-based approach to how it organises itself, catering to four areas in particular: tech, media and telecommunications; asset management and investment funds; financial institutions; and healthcare and life sciences. In Chambers UK, Simmons is top-ranked for banking & finance (lower mid-market), financial crime, investment funds and employment. It also has a lot of strength in capital markets, banking litigation, financial services, life sciences, telecommunications and patent litigation.

So, it’s high-flying in the UK, but Simmons has a global network of 21 offices around the world. Its “focus on internationalism” was undoubtedly another captivating factor amongst trainees, both in terms of getting secondment opportunities abroad and working with overseas colleagues. Chambers Global awards the firm with a healthy smattering of top rankings spanning Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

One interviewee who wanted that “international presence, but without a cohort of 100 trainees,” was instead looking “to meet enough trainees to make friends, but not too many that you’re drowned out by other people.” Simmons recruits around 25 trainees a year, most of whom join the London office – a few are housed in Bristol. There’s a third base in Cambridge that doesn’t offer training contracts at the moment.

“Known for being a nice firm.”

More generally, literally every trainee we spoke to emphatically praised the accommodating atmosphere about the place. “Some people think that being known for being a nice firm isn’t actually a positive thing,” which we must agree is, er, somewhat counter-intuitive. After all, “you’re investing a lot of time into this career – you’re choosing a lifestyle, not merely a job.” Anything else? “Another selling point of the firm is that it’s pretty good on the tech front,” said one trainee, who pointed to the firm’s legal engineering platform, Wavelength, which trainees can sit with during their training contract. “Most weeks they have pilot schemes for new pieces of software!”

The Seats

When it came to seat selection, the process couldn’t have been clearer for the London trainees. With IP and employment the most in-demand seats, trainees are encouraged to attend ‘fairs’ hosted by the firm, in which they can chat with junior associates within the department to find out about their experiences on a particular seat, and ask about what kind of work they would engage in as a trainee. That’s before they rank their eight choices of seat in order of preference (including secondments). For those in Bristol, it’s just the six preferences required as there are fewer seats available. “It’s important to think about whether there’s something you want to do that can only be done in London,” one Bristolian advised.

If you’re interested in secondments, then you won’t be disappointed. Simmons has about four client secondment options available for those typically in their second or third seat, including opportunities to work with notable names such as UBS and Invesco. Simmons further offers international secondments at its offices in Dubai, Singapore, and Paris – which are “pretty nice places to be fair,” as one trainee so perfectly put it.

Trainees spoke highly of their time in the financeseat, which is one major department at Simmons. The seat is divided up into sub-sections, namely banking, financial services, debt capital markets, and structured finance and derivatives. Newbies highlighted the banking team, which acts on both the borrower and lender side. Trainee tasks included “bog standard conditions-precedent management, drafting corporate documents, overseeing authorisations, and drafting legal opinions and security documents.”

Trainees were also kept busy on financial services work for “large asset management firms” covering a range of issues, “like advising on regulated funds in the UK, assisting them with updates, and taking them through FCA applications” – that stands for Financial Conduct Authority. There was also some “cross-border work for investment banks, advising them on regulatory affairs, marketing, and investment.” The banking team has worked with big-name clients such as Investec Bank, Santander, and the Bank of Ireland. On the borrower side, the firm represented Rentokil on two $3 billion loans related to an acquisition the pest control company made in the US.

Over in the highly technical structured finance and derivatives seat, the team works for financial institutions, asset managers and hedge funds on “derivative work like hedging, securitisation, and asset-backed finance.” Major banks like Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank appear on the client list. While there are plenty of concepts that trainees need to wrap their heads around, they “work closely with associates” for support. “It’s great to get involved in the work on this seat, like the signing processes and calling clients.”

“A good chance to get stuck into the details of what it means to be a Simmons lawyer.”

Another seat at Simmons is energy, natural resources, and infrastructure (or ENRI for short). This team works on a variety of projects, with particular expertise in mining and railway. Clients include – as you’d expect – energy companies, but also funds, banks, private equity houses, and contractors. The firm is also increasing its focus on renewable energy and trainees pointed out it’s “moving into the carbon advisory space.” While the team does handle some disputes, trainees were involved in non-contentious work, involving “lots of government work and general financing” of projects like mines and solar plants around the world, from Brazil to Spain. For one, a highlight was “working on briefing papers relating to COP27.” One trainee expressed their delight at the international nature of the seat, which rang true across our interviews, regardless of whether they were in London or Bristol. The team often works with colleagues and clients from all over the world. A direct case in point, the team recently advised Globaleq (an electric company owned by the UK and Norwegian governments) on its power projects in Cameroon.

The corporate seat was also a popular choice, which offered trainees “a good chance to get stuck into the details of what it means to be a Simmons lawyer.” The team is split between private M&A and corporate support, and public markets – listings and M&A. While the economic downturn has impacted the public side, trainees had a “really busy” time of it on the private side with “lots of due diligence and drafting shareholders agreements and share purchase agreements.” For one, an equity capital markets transaction “involved reviewing documents and acting for the issuer and the bank – they want you to take charge of various workstreams if you’re on a deal, but you’re well supervised.” Others agreed the seat gives trainees “good levels of responsibility, as you are relied on to know which stage the transaction’s at!” That said, they found “you are never 100% sure how the day will go. Some days it’s clear but some might be more manic dependent on deals and who else on the team is in the office!” But whilst it’s often intense, the team deals with some top-of-the-range clients. Simmons was one of the firms working behind the scenes of the sale of Chelsea Football Club last year, helping the West London giants navigate their tricky acquisition by American businessman Todd Boehly and investment firm Clearlake Capital for £4.25 billion.

Trainee Life

The culture of the firm can very much make or break a trainee’s experience of a training contract, and we are pleased to report that our interviewees told of no such issues on this front when it came to the atmosphere at Simmons & Simmons. “The culture at the firm is one of people who genuinely seem to care,” beamed one trainee, whilst another stated that the culture of the firm “is its main selling point – people are genuinely lovely. You work hard but you are rewarded for doing so. Everyone is excellent at their job but people aren’t robotic; I feel included and wanted, and that my work is very much valued!”

On that note of inclusivity, there are a number of groups at Simmons that are D&I focused, “ranging from race and ethnicity, to sexuality and gender.” Trainees noted examples of D&I efforts in action at the firm, such as Pride events, “hosting external speakers for Black History Month, inclusive maternity and paternity leave, and providing sanitary products in the office.” From a socioeconomic perspective, “the firm recognises that not everyone has the same opportunities, and actively seeks to help those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.” Simmons recruits students from the 10,000 Black Interns programme (which aims to get BAME candidates into paid internships) and is also partnered with the Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow “to help demystify the City” for school students. “There are trainees currently at firm who have come from this programme!” one interviewee told us.

It was rosy on the social front too. London trainees praised the “organised socials, summer and Christmas parties and ski trips” on offer, while those from Bristol reported on social events such as “paddleboarding harbourside and boat trips through the city, in addition to gardening on the terrace flowerbed, yoga sessions, touch rugby, netball, well-being sessions, and going to watch the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate!”

“Monday to Friday can be very intense.”

Sounds full on! Any time to squeeze in work? Well, plenty in fact – it’s fair to say the hours can be long. Whilst it does vary by department, most trainees did report that, generally, “Monday to Friday can be very intense.” Quieter times saw trainees clocking out at 6ish, but post-midnight finishes were also not entirely out of the question, though 50-hour weeks seemed to be the general norm. Most trainees found weekends were “exceptionally well protected,” and to further ease the pain, “you get a Deliveroo allowance past 7.30pm and taxis home past 9pm” – a common perk among City firms.

“After a hard week, you feel like you deserve a million quid!” one joked. But trainees agreed they’re well compensated for their efforts, with a juicy starting salary of £52,000 (£46,000 in Bristol), which rises to £107,500 on qualification (£72,000 in Bristol). Trainees in both cities were satisfied with the numbers, noting that the difference in NQ pay between the offices was the only snag (but it’s still “top of the market” pay in Bristol).

To qualify, trainees indicate which departments they’re willing to qualify into around the beginning of their final seat (it’s a “Google form situation,” apparently.) From there, the firm decides how many vacancies they’ll put out in each practice, then formal applications kick off. “Some departments, such as litigation, will interview, but others won’t,” trainees revealed. Two to three weeks after applying, trainees normally find out the news. Beginning to end, “it’s wrapped up in about a month.” In 2023, Simmons & Simmons retained all of its qualifiers.

Innovation Nation: Simmons & Simmons was one of the first law firms to set up a FinTech fund in 2016.

How to get a Simmons & Simmons training contract 

Spring insight scheme 2022 (London):  3 – 4 April 2024 

  • Applications open: 1 December 2023  
  • Deadline: 31 January 2024 

Winter vacation scheme (2022, London):   4-8 December 2023  

  • Applications open: 25 September 2023  
  • Deadline: 25 October 2023  

Summer vacation scheme (2023, London): 1- 12 July 2024 

  • Applications open: 2 October 2023  
  • Deadline: 31 December 2023  

Summer vacation scheme (2023, Bristol):  17 – 28 June 2024  

  • Applications open: 2 October 2023  
  • Deadline: 15 February 2024 

Summer vacation scheme (2023, Dublin):  17 – 28 June 2024 

  • Applications open: 2 October 2023
  • Deadline: 15 February 2024  

Evolve Placement Year (2023, London): September 2024 – September 2025 

  • Applications open: 2 October 2023 
  • Deadline: 15 February 2024 

Application process   

The firm offers around 24 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 form, blended online assessment including situational judgement, applied intellect and video interview questions. 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 31 January 2024 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 emerging technology team. The former works on delivering the firm's strategy, especially through new tech and services. Emerging technology 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.  

Dublin Training Contract  

Simmons have opened Dublin training contract which lasts two and a half years which enables you to work alongside your studies, on the PPC Hybrid course. It’s made up of different seat rotations across the firm's practice areas. 

The Dublin programme is open to final year university students and graduates from all degree subjects. The firm is recruiting for trainees to join the firm  from September 2024 onwards. 

  • Applications open: 15 September 2023  
  • Deadline: 31 December 2023 

Solicitor Apprenticeship  

Simmons offers a solicitor apprenticeship and is recruiting for apprentices to join the Bristol office starting in September 2024.  

Qualify as a solicitor and earn while you learn through the firm's six year solicitor apprenticeship programme. Four days a week will be spent gaining practical work experience and one day a week studying with BPP University.  

During your studies, you’ll complete your LLB (Hons) Law and Legal Practice and go on to study towards the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE). On successful completion of the SQE, you will qualify as a solicitor at the end of the programme.  

  • Applications open: 15 October 2023  
  • Deadline: 15 February 2024 

Simmons & Simmons LLP

One Ropemaker Street,

Firm profile
Simmons & Simmons is an international law firm. Partnering with the world’s leading organisations you will work on inspirational and thought-provoking projects, using your influence to create positive impact for our clients. Alongside other ambitious and talented individuals you will collaborate across borders to innovate and deliver smarter solutions for tomorrow's most complex challenges.

Our lawyers are specialists in four highly regulated sectors; asset management and investment funds; financial institutions; healthcare and life sciences; and technology, media and telecommunications. Using their specialist skills to understand business, and the forces at play around it. All grounded in exceptional knowledge of the legal detail.

From day one, irrespective of job title, qualification, or background, you will be encouraged to have an enquiring mind and share ideas that can drive the firm forward. You will be part of a diverse and vibrant team with a mix of personalities, cultures and mindsets, but all with the same unwavering commitment to quality. A shared trust and respect of those differences will enable you to work collaboratively across levels and functions to create the best outcomes.

Through innovative learning and development opportunities, you will be provided with a platform to excel, enabling you to exceed your career ambitions.

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 02 October 2023 – 15 February 2024 for a September 2024 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. 

Summer vacation scheme (London or Bristol): A two-week scheme open to penultimate and final year students and graduates of all disciplines. Applications open 02 October 2023 and close on 31 December 2023 (London) and 15 February 2024 (Bristol).

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.

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 from 1 December 2023 - 31 January 2024.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Competition Law (Band 5)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 3)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 1)
    • Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 5)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Products (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining: International (Band 3)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 1)
    • 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 2)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 3)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 3)
    • Telecommunications (Band 3)

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