TLT's ascension to the national stage and ambitious plans make it an attractive proposition in Bristol, Manchester and London.
What's the T?
From humble roots in Bristol to ample coverage across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Greece – the past 18 years have transformed TLT. Mergers, acquisitions and office openings have created a UK top 50 law firm with a consistently growing revenue: in 2018 TLT broke the £80 million barrier for the first time, when it posted a very respectable 10% increase to £82 million. Training principal Ed Fiddick would like students to think of TLT as “an ambitious firm that is growing rapidly and is on an upward trajectory. We want to build on the successes that we've had to date, and we'll be looking to further cement our role as the go-to firm in our target sectors.” Those sectors are clean energy; financial services; real estate; leisure; public sector; retail and consumer goods; and digital.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but wanted to ensure that I'd get a wide commercial experience.”
When it comes to accolades in Chambers UK, Bristol is still where it's at: the office has been awarded a spread of high rankings across areas like banking, corporate, employment, IT, real estate and social housing. While this performance hasn't quite been replicated elsewhere, TLT's other UK offices still pick up nods, especially in Manchester, where the firm established a base in 2013. “We've grown to over 100 lawyers in Manchester,” Fiddick reports. “The impact and welcome that we've had in that market has been significant. We can only see that continuing in the future – Manchester has a buzz at the moment. That's not to downplay the development of our offices in London, Scotland and Northern Ireland though; we've seen significant levels of recruitment into the firm via those offices too.”
At the moment training contracts are available in the Bristol, London and Manchester offices. (The firm also recruits trainees in Scotland and Northern Ireland.) Our trainee sources had different reasons for wanting to join the firm in these locations. Bristolians wanted to stay in the South West, and liked the HQ's fuller selection of seats: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but wanted to ensure that I'd get a wide commercial experience.” London-based trainees, meanwhile, were attracted to the capital “but didn't want the City law firm life. The culture here has more of a national law firm vibe.” Those in Manchester were attracted to the office's youth and energy: “Since I started we have had ten new lawyers join us. It's just an exciting time to be here. I felt that if I could get in right at the start then in 20 years I could be well established as one of the original fee earners!”
Piece by piece
At the time of our calls there were 17 trainees in Bristol, seven in Manchester and six in London. Across the offices sources deemed the allocation process “fair,” with those in Manchester and London finding that their smaller intakes made things easier: “We always get together as a group and work out our seats that way – it’s really open,” said one Mancunian, while their counterpart in London added that “the formal process is more of just a rubber stamp thing, because we all talk among ourselves and know what we’re doing next!” For the first seat, “you’re sometimes asked for your preferences and sometimes not,” revealed one Bristolian. “First-seaters don’t really get a choice in where they go.” After that, trainees submit their top five preferences for each subsequent seat rotation. Fourth-seaters get top priority, then third-seaters etc., but across the board “graduate recruitment endeavours to give you the seats you want. They have a look at how many times someone has had their first choice to make it as fair as possible.”
"Responsibility is placed on you to make sure everything is going right behind the scenes.”
Over in Bristol the corporate team is commended in Chambers UK for its M&A and private equity work. Mid-market PE investors like YFM Equity Partners, retailers like WHSmith and leisure companies like travel operator TUI can all be found on the client roster. In Manchester the team is well regarded for its work with SME/owner-managed businesses, and most transactions fall within the £20 million to £50 million bracket. Recent highlights include advising the shareholders of independent motorcycle supplier SuperBike Factory on the sale of its entire issued share capital, as well as online retailer Boohoo.com on a bookbuild to raise £50 million for investment into the company’s planned ‘supersite’. “Classic trainee tasks” here include managing data rooms, preparing supporting documentation like shareholder resolutions, and liaising with the other side’s solicitors. “There’s a lot of project management, so you get the big-picture view – responsibility is placed on you to make sure everything is going right behind the scenes,” a Bristol-based source told us.
TLT's large real estate department is divided into a number of specialisms, including commercial real estate; development; energy and renewables; and social housing. The London team have been busy advising the owner of clothing retailer Jigsaw on the agreement of a lease for a listed building in Covent Garden, as well as an offshore investment company on the granting of an underlease for a large office building in Mayfair. In Bristol, meanwhile, public sector-oriented work has seen TLT’s lawyers advise Plymouth City Council on its £15.14 million freehold investment acquisition of a new retail development, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside on the acquisition of a development site for a new 36-cell custody facility.
Real estate seats at TLT tend to have a specific focus, whether it’s commercial development, finance, energy or public sector. Trainees on the development side found themselves “running a smaller site that was selling off different units to a commercial body – that was fantastic, as it came with lots of client exposure and face-to-face meetings.” Public sector sources were also kept on their toes, and made alterations to licences, drafted reports on title, checked deeds and ensured that all the necessary insurance policies were in place for certain matters.
Trainees can opt for seats in both general commercial and commercial technology and IP. In the former area, the firm picks up a UK-wide ranking for its commercial contracts work, which covers the likes of data protection, franchising, outsourcing and distribution matters. In light of the recently introduced GDPR, which regulates how organisations handle personal data, trainees were “having phone calls with clients to discuss making relevant amendments to their privacy policies.” Much of the work here is confidential, but we can tell you that clients include Dyson, French Connection, Kent County Council and Sainsbury’s, which the team recently assisted with a multimillion franchising agreement. TLT’s IP expertise encompasses both transactional licensing work and contentious matters involving all core IP rights. In the financial services sector, the London team have been advising the digital-only Starling Bank on the IP aspects of new products that it’s launched, as well as managing its IP portfolio. The contentious side was described as being “massively busy,” so trainees had got to grips with “software litigation and satellite disputes – you get to draft court documents and applications, and assist with gathering information.”
“There’s a lot of answering queries from clients that are on an annual retainer."
Employment covers advisory and contentious work for both individuals and employers. The Bristol team is top-ranked in Chambers UK, and noted for its ability to handle complex issues like benefit-change processes, board-level exits and whistle-blowing. The lawyers here have been handling many equal pay claims of late, and advising a variety of high street names on their compliance with gender pay gap regulations. Tobacco company Imperial Brands, the National Crime Agency and estate agent Savills are all clients. Sources in Manchester gave this seat a thumbs-up, with one highlighting their experience “drafting witness statements and attending a tribunal: it was great to see how it played out and how certain documents were used – it added a lot more context to the work.” Another told us that on the non-contentious side “there’s a lot of answering queries from clients that are on an annual retainer. I’ll do the research and prepare the advisory note for them, which can be on things like calculating minimum wage, how to approach an employee who wants special treatment, settlement agreements etc."
The financial services, disputes and investigations (FSDI) department has been awarded a top Chambers UK ranking in the regions for its banking litigation work. Matters can be tied to the mis-selling of financial products, asset recovery and payment fraud. You’ll find major banks like RBS, Lloyds and Santander on the client roster. The London team have been working on a hefty case, which has involved representing a consortium of 13 Indian banks as they obtained a worldwide £1.15 billion freezing injunction against Indian businessman Dr Mallya and his related companies; Dr Mallya faces allegations of money laundering and misuse of loans in India, and is challenging an application to extradite him from the UK. Trainees found that there were “lots of lower-value claims” that they could manage on their own: “Sometimes you just get a random solicitor’s letter from someone saying that they may sue the bank, and you have to work out what the claim is and pull together evidence from disparate places; you’re engaging in the pre-action protocol, and if they issue the claim you then move on to preparing responses, defences and instructions to counsel.”
“From the outside it looks like a cheese grater,” was one source’s glowing assessment of the Bristol office, which is based in Redcliff Street and just a stone’s throw away from the Bristol County Court. Never judge a building by its resemblance to kitchen appliances though, as recent refurbishments have made the office's interiors “shiny and new – the client suite in particular is all glass-walled and has the best views of Bristol.” The Manchester office is “bang in the middle of Spinningfields [the city's business district], so you're surrounded by the other law firms, as well as all the bars and shops.” The open-plan layout allows trainees to “interact with people easily and not worry about knocking on doors,” which was also viewed as an advantage in the City-situated London base: “It's quite a small office, on the top floor of the building. We also have beehives on the roof which you can go and visit! They also hold a market downstairs where you can purchase the honey from those bees.”
“It's quite common to go to the other offices."
Contact between the offices was described as “quite fluid,” with one Londoner highlighting that there's “lots of hot-desking” in the capital. A Manchester source added that “it's quite common to go to the other offices; the work is often split between the different bases at TLT, so you work closely with colleagues in other locations.” Away days and training exercises give TLT's lawyers across the network a chance to catch up, and trainees get to gather in Bristol for their professional skills courses at the start of the training contract.
With quite a good bird's-eye view of the firm, we were curious to hear trainees' thoughts on TLT's cultural traits. Interviewees agreed that there's an overall openness and supportive bent to life at the firm. “Everybody is very approachable and will take the time to supervise you and chat,” one Mancunian summarised. Others emphasised that “we're all very passionate, forward-thinking and ambitious, but without any attitude!” This led some to suggest that “grad recruitment are after outgoing people – you can't just sit at your desk, do your work and go home. There's business out there to be won – you have to be able to go out there and pitch and represent the firm well.”
Naturally, this leads to quite a healthy social life across the network. On top of the standard summer and Christmas parties, Mancunians told us that there are “a lot of team drinks throughout the year and informal gatherings every Friday,” while those in Bristol were pleased to announce that “the firm has kindly paid for our tickets to attend the Junior Lawyers Division ball.” Londoners emphasised that “we host various charity events, and recently did a charity quiz night which was really good. As trainees we do try to socialise as much as possible – people's workloads vary, so we try to catch up and grab lunch when everyone is free.” As you might expect, working hours fluctuate depending on the department and what's going on: an average day may see trainees coming in around 9am and leaving by 6.30pm, while a busy period in the more transactional seats could mean staying until 9pm in the office “at the worst.”
Qualifiers begin to see NQ vacancies being advertised around “two to three weeks into your final seat.” These vacancies are emailed out to all qualifiers across the offices as and when they become available. “I personally like confirmed dates and knowing when things are going to happen,” reflected one source, “but I can also see the benefits of a rolling process, as you can start the process earlier. There are pros and cons.” In the end all 15 qualifiers were retained in 2018.
Every year TLT organises a trainee AGM: “Everyone descends on Bristol and we stay overnight. They also invite the future trainees, so it's nice to get to know them before they start.”
How to get a TLT training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 31 January 2019
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 July 2019
Applications and assessments
TLT receives around 2,000 applications each year – this figure includes both vacation scheme and direct training contract applications. The firm now has 37 training contracts on offer across its offices each year. A minimum of 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree form the baseline criteria on the academic front.
Around 300 candidates are selected for an online critical thinking test. For vac scheme hopefuls, acing this leads to a half-day assessment centre in the office for which they've applied. This replaces the video interviews the firm previously held to select candidates and allows applicants to get face to face with recruiters before the vac scheme. The main difference with the full-day assessment centre for direct training contract applicants (described below) is that there is a shorter more informal interview. Of those who do well on the assessments, around 40 gain a vac scheme place.
As for direct training contract applicants, those who pass the critical thinking test move on to complete a video interview. This centres on applicants' interests, work experience, reasons for choosing law and reasons for wanting to work at TLT specifically. Those who perform well on camera head to the assessment day, which entails an interview with an HR member and partner, a presentation, a group exercise, and a written task. The firm now uses 'strength-based' interviews, which are designed to discover what a candidate actually enjoys doing rather than just what they can do (which is tested in more traditional competency-based interviewing).
The presentation centres on a commercial topic given in advance, while the group exercise sees each group posed a problem and asked to deliver a solution, with questions from assessors to follow. The written task, meanwhile, takes the form of a client letter, and tests “written communication skills and the ability to draw relevant information from the original source,” according to graduate recruitment manager Gemma Cowley.
The Bristol, London and Manchester offices all run vacation schemes: Bristol offers up to four week-long schemes over Easter and the summer, with eight candidates on each, while London hosts six vac schemers for a week at the end of July. Manchester offers two week-long schemes over Easter and in the summer. Those on the vac scheme are paid £265 for the week.
Each vac schemer is assigned to a single department for their visit, though they do have the opportunity to network with associates and partners from the other practice areas. At the end of the vacation scheme, participants go through the same strengths-based interview as those who attend the assessment day.
How to wow
Impressing here “is all about showing you've got potential,” says Gemma Cowley. “There is of course commitment from us to train new joiners up, but first they need to show us that they have what it takes to succeed here. We want people who have a genuine interest in the commercial world, are ambitious, want to learn and push themselves further, and are able to build strong relationships, both internally and externally.”
A rough guide to Bristol
One Redcliff Street,
- Partners 120
- Solicitors 300
- Total trainees 37
- UK offices Bristol, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast
- Graduate recruiter: Jade Montagna, recruitment officer 0333 006 1241
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 35
- Applications pa: 2000
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or above in any discipline at degree level
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 300/24
- Salary and benefits
- See firm website for details
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £6,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Bristol, Manchester, London, Glasgow, Belfast
- Client secondments: A variety of large commercial organisations and smaller, niche clients
Combining expertise with open-mindedness, we have a straightforward goal at TLT. We help people to excel; both our clients and the individuals that work here. Our culture provides a bright, innovative place to work, with a flexible approach, where fresh ideas are valued, hard work is recognised and everyone gets out every bit as much as they put in.
Don’t just be part of our future, shape it.
We are an ambitious UK commercial law firm, with a growing reputation. Since 2002, we have more than tripled in size, with revenues reaching £82 million in 2017/18.
We are described by clients as an ‘energetic firm’ with an ‘open-minded entrepreneurial culture’ and have previously been named as a ‘first class’ employer by Best Companies Limited.
Main areas of work
Core legal specialisms include real estate, banking and lender services, commercial, corporate, employment and litigation, but we believe there’s more to legal work than being a lawyer - you need to embrace management, technology and business skills too.
Open days and first-year opportunities
#TLTunpacked - Experience what it really takes to excel here; taste the core behaviours you’ll need to succeed and meet members of the business Register on our website for upcoming events.
University law career fairs 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
Bristol and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Licensing (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 4)
- Social Housing (Band 2)
National Leaders (outside London)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: SME/Owner-managed Businesses (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Licensing (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence Recognised Practitioner
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
- Social Housing (Band 1)
- Banking Litigation (Band 1)
- Competition Law (Band 3)
- Licensing (Band 1)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 3)
- Consumer Finance (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining: Domestic (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Franchising (Band 3)
- Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 2)