International expansion, big-ticket commercial deals and a flat-ish hierarchy are on the cards at South West-born TLT.
TLT has long been associated with the South West, but a glance at its bases – Bristol, London, Manchester, Scotland, Northern Ireland and its overseas outpost in Piraeus – tells us that this ain’t no West Country cream teas type of firm. The quality of work is high and increasingly international. 2020 has been an eventful year so you may have missed the news that corporate head John Wood assumed the role of managing partner in April, replacing the firm’s long-standing leader David Pester. Wood is currently overseeing the recently agreed strategic alliance between TLT and Holla, a Netherlands-based law firm with an aim to strengthen the firm’s international offering. TLT’s head of International Chris Owen states: “With the Netherlands a key business location and gateway to the European Union post-Brexit, we see cross-border work increasing. There are clear opportunities for our clients with a growing financial services sector, increasing investment in renewable energy generation as well as real estate, retail and logistics opportunities in mainland Europe amongst others.”
“The growth rates are impressive and it’s a young, innovative and dynamic workforce.”
Before we holla over to the Dutch, let’s look at the firm’s achievements at home. Chambers UK applauds TLT as national leaders outside the big smoke for its employment, banking & finance, social housing and IT practices. In the South West, Chambers UK awards top rankings for restructuring/insolvency, social housing, professional negligence, employment, IT, real estate and corporate/M&A. Trainees clearly sensed this was a good time to be at the firm: “The growth rates are impressive and it’s a young, innovative and dynamic workforce.” Interviewees also emphasised the open culture: “It was the first law firm that I felt I could be myself at, and show my own skill set off rather than try and pigeonhole myself in-line with the firm's corporate slogans.” Another trainee source summed up the reasons behind their application to TLT aptly: “support system, no frills, no hierarchy and a drive and ambition to succeed.”
First-seaters don’t get a choice when it comes to seat allocation, and “the majority are placed into a real estate sub-team, which is fine since the skills you gain in them help you in the other seats,” explained our sources. Trainees end up playing a game of “seat politics” when submitting preferences for the remaining stints. Following on from the first seat, since priority is given to fourth and third-seaters, “it’s hard to work out which of your preferences you’ll get, if any.” Sources advised that “as long as the trainee cohort is transparent and open with their preferences, you can play it well.”
TLT’s corporate department handles a mix of domestic and international M&A and private equity transactions; clean energy, engineering, retail and food and drink clients call on TLT’s expertise. The team recently acted for the shareholders of Lorient Group, a door sealing systems company, on its sale to ASSA ABLOY, a lock and security solutions provider. TLT also advised Herman Miller, a furniture manufacturer, on its $46.1 million acquisition of the remaining shares of Naughtone, a British furniture designer. “You can pretty much take the steering wheel on the smaller deals and act as the main contact for clients,” said one interviewee. Day-to-day tasks consist of deal management with preparing ancillary documents, dealing with the post-completion payment of stamp duty, drafting board minutes and shareholder resolutions, and snippets of due diligence. “There’s a good amount of secretarial support so they help out with creating bibles, allowing us to focus on the legal aspect of the deal.”
Energy was a popular corporate niche among our sources and Bristol offers a dedicated energy and renewables seat within the real estate department. “It’s essentially commercial property, so they should really rename the seat,” suggested one trainee. The work involves “a lot of drafting leases, reviewing documents, carrying out standard enquiries for contracts and properties, and liaising with the sellers and solicitors and removing restrictive covenants where possible.” A recent matter sees the team advising Punch Taverns in alleged environmental breaches related to noise and odour emissions from the premises that exceed statutory levels. The team also continues to advise the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on several strategic follow-up issues following the adoption of the Model Assignment of Rights Contract, a complex consumer contract.
We heard there’s some flexibility when it comes to trying out different areas of the practice: “They’re open to trainees assisting with the financial services side of real estate and they allowed us to get a very rounded view of property and clean energy developments.”
The treasured real estate department tries to grab a trainee for at least one of their seats. The group splits into specialisms ranging from real estate finance and planning to social housing and public sector real estate. In Bristol, there are different seats for each subsection; London offers a catch-all real estate seat. The team recently advised and necessitated SDLT planning for Loc8 Developments on the development of forward-funded multi-let leisure/food developments worth £1.5–£11 million in Plymouth, Swindon and Gloucestershire. The team also acted for UKRO Property Holdings I, a Hong Kong-based fund acquiring regional office properties across the UK, which aggregated a portfolio worth £100 million. Trainees reported handling “a lot of infrastructure agreements, drafting planning applications, doing reports on titles, working through the caseload of a remortgage and managing the checklists for clients.” Sources praised the “good level of client contact throughout the seat and expectation to take ownership. They’re happy for you to email and contact the clients directly.”
Over in financial services disputes and investigations (FSDI), the largest department in headcount, the team advises banks, building societies and financial services providers on a variety of regulatory issues. “There’s a broad range of mortgage enforcements and repossessions mixed in with PPI claims and professional negligence matters,” explained trainees. Clients include Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Vanquis Bank.
“I had the opportunity to go to a tribunal within the first few months of the seat and attend a mediation on a debt recovery case.”
A typical matter sees the team instructing a UK debt buyer on its risk of product mis-selling claims by customers, its dispute with the seller of those debts, the firm’s interaction with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the interaction with the Financial Ombudsman Service. “The nature of the deals lends itself to less client contact and more supervision. My drafting skills have improved hugely and we get great feedback,” according to one trainee. Another source told us: “I had the opportunity to go to a tribunal within the first few months of the seat and attend a mediation on a debt recovery case.”
Advisory and contentious work for both individuals and employers flows into the employment department. Industrial action, employment tribunals, whistle-blowing and minimum wage disputes are a few of the work streams. With Covid-19 in the mix, “there’s been a lot of ad-hoc queries, with anything from advising clients on bereavement leave or TUPE to collective redundancy queries.” Another recent advancement in the employment sector, with the changes to IR35 (the off-payroll working rules), sees the team advising a number of clients on their employment and employee tax advice. As a trainee, you can expect to “draft witness statements, review employment contracts, draft policies such as parental leave policies and draft advices.” Corporate support makes up a fair chunk of the employment practice as a whole.
A typical working day begins at 9am and finishes around 6.30/7pm, “depending on the team.” We heard of a couple of late nights scattered throughout the transactional practices: “I had a 9pm finish twice in the first week, but again it wasn’t anything obscene.” In fact, TLT supervisors “go through your hours during the meetings and one of them saw that I had stayed past 7.30pm on some days and he told me it was stupid and that it doesn’t need to be done – so there’s certainly no facetime pressure.”
TLT trainees noted a collegial culture across the teams and bases. “No one’s seen to be at the bottom of the food chain; there’s a pretty flat hierarchy,” said a trainee. One source recalled: “I sat next to the senior partner in one of my seats and we would spend the day exchanging jokes and having a good time.”
“No one’s seen to be at the bottom of the food chain; there’s a pretty flat hierarchy.”
“TLT very much want you to be you, and are not looking for people who can rattle off corporate slogans,” said one source. “You work hard but never feel bad about leaving the office sharpish to attend a fitness class.” Trainees rated the social life pretty highly. “We’re a close intake so we go out for informal dinner and drinks all the time. The AGM which took place in Manchester last year was successful in getting trainees from across all the offices to bond. It would be good to have more formal firm-wide events though.”
On mental health and wellbeing, sources told us: “Our trainee 'Future Talent' manager is a keen advocate for mental health, and since starting has enrolled all trainees on external training designed to strengthen mental health coping mechanisms and to support building a professional career in law.” Our sources thought that “diversity and inclusion is another area that I think the firm performs well in.” The firm has recently released the gender pay gap report and “for the first time this report includes ethnicity pay gap data too.”
At the time of our calls, interviewees had some grievances to air about the informality of TLT’s qualification process. “Of course, things are up in the air across the legal sector with Covid delays but there haven’t been a lot of comms from HR yet and so there’s definitely been a sense of pressure amongst the cohort.” Pandemics aside, the process tends to be that HR advertises vacancies during the final seat following discussions with trainees across the course of the training contract. Interviews are a rarity. TLT retained 18of 21 qualifiers in 2020.
Keep it 100
In 2020, TLT announced its revenues grew 13% in the previous financial year to hit £98.8 million, nearing the landmark £100 million mark.
How to get a TLT training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 10 January 2021
Training contract deadline (2023): 31 May 2021
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 35 training contracts on offer across its offices each year, taking between 15 and 20 trainees each intake. A minimum of 120 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree form the baseline criteria on the academic front.
There are two routes to obtaining a training contract with TLT, via a vacation scheme or via a direct training contract application. The firm strongly encourages candidates to apply via the vacation scheme route so that they can experience the authentic insight into real trainee life and the renowned culture. In terms of the application process, TLT uses a traditional application form with a questionnaire that allows you to showcase your commercially agile mindset alongside your academic ability to really demonstrate why you would make a great commercial lawyer.
For vacation scheme candidates, psychometric tests are used for longlisted candidates and then shortlisted candidates are invited to attend a half-day assessment centre in February with the firm's regional Training Principals actively participating in reading applications. At the assessment centre, you will be asked to participate in a short strengths-based interview, a group exercise and another psychometric test. Lunch is also served with a chance to speak to current trainees about their experiences. Candidates that show the most potential will then be invited to participate in either a spring or summer vacation scheme.
For direct training contract applicants, the application process is the same but the assessment centre is a full day that includes a full strengths-based interview, a group exercise, a presentation and a psychometric test. Lunch is, again, served with the chance to speak to current trainees about the firm and their experiences. This year, the application deadline has been brought forward so that direct candidates can be assessed alongside the vacation scheme candidates.
The firm continues to use '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 that you can choose, while the group exercise has undergone some changes this year for a refresh on the traditional solution-based assessment.
All offices now run vacation schemes, with the number of places varying to accommodate all candidates that show potential during the half-day assessment centre. Candidates are paid £300 per week and asked to complete further assessments during the course of the scheme. This takes the form of the full strengths-based interview, presentation assessment and the introduction of a hackathon. Each vac scheme candidate is assigned to a single department for their visit, which they have some input in choosing, and also have the opportunity to network with associates and partners from the other practice areas throughout the week and attend trainee socials.
One Redcliff Street,
- Partners 132
- Solicitors 305
- Total trainees 37
- UK offices Bristol, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast
- Graduate recruiter: Samantha Bracey, Future Talent Advisor, [email protected]
- Ed Fiddick, Partner & Training Principal
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: circa 35
- Applications pa: circa 1500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or above
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 120 UCAS points (post 2017)
- Vacation scheme places pa: circa 30
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st October 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start 31st May 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 10th January 2021
- 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 traditional legal practices with an innovative and commercially-agile mindset, we help our clients succeed by finding solutions and providing them with expert advice. Our sector approach means that we aren’t just knowledgeable about our clients businesses, but the whole industry in which they work, aiding them to make comprehensive and trusted decisions.
We are an ambitious and growing firm, with our people at the heart of it driving us forward. Law is a social industry and we pride ourselves in having a great culture and being people that our clients want to do business with. We have award-winning teams, over 60 of our lawyers are ranked as ‘Leaders in their Field’ and a recognised development programme.
We empower our trainees to embrace their differences, share their experience and voice their ideas giving you an ambitious platform to launch your legal career. Your tailored training programme allows you to gain technical legal experience, business development opportunities, daily client contact and soft skills training, as we believe that well-rounded trainees make the best lawyers.
Main areas of work
Advisory: helping with strategic and day-to-day legal issues.
Disputes: helping prevent and, where needed, manage conflict.
Transactions: helping organisations expand, restructure or sell.
We have significant experience working with organisations in the clean energy; digital; financial services; leisure, food and drink; public sector; real estate and retail and consumer goods sectors and can advise in all three UK legal jurisdictions.
Candidates are strongly encouraged to apply via our vacation scheme. Our English and Scottish offices offer vacation schemes in Spring and Summer whilst our Northern Irish office offers a vacation scheme in September. For England, penultimate law students, final year law students, post-grad students and final year non-law students. For Scotland, penultimate law and final year law and law post-grad students. For Northern Ireland, Final year law or law post-grad students. Students are paid £300 per week.
Open days and first-year opportunities
University law career fairs 2020
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
Bristol and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 2)
National Leaders (outside London)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Licensing (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
- Social Housing (Band 2)
- Banking Litigation (Band 1)
- Competition Law (Band 3)
- Licensing (Band 1)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 4)
- Consumer Finance (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 3)