Neither too big nor too small and offering trainees a taste of transactions, advisory work and litigation – our interviewees are calling Travers Smith “the Goldilocks of firms.”
Travers Smith training contract review 2022
This might not be the description you’d put with a law firm, but we’re going there: there’s something avuncular about Travers Smith. Perhaps it’s because at over 200 years old it’s one of London’s more venerable firms. Or maybe it’s because words like “approachable” and “friendly” were at the centre of the word cloud of the descriptors trainees used for the firm. Or maybe it’s because one trainee felt that the firm was so supportive that “I could email the managing partner if I needed something.” Whatever the reason, 100% of the besotted trainees we surveyed said they were very happy at the firm.
“Every single piece of work I’ve come across has had an element in some other jurisdiction.”
From the prosaic to the pragmatic, Travers Smith has a stellar reputation for its transactional and financial offering, underpinned by dozens of Chambers UK rankings, with top-tier accolades in AIM capital markets, commercial contracts, regulatory financial services, and mid-market private equity buyouts. In London, Travers is among the best for mid-market banking & finance (on the borrower side) and corporate M&A. While the firm’s transactional offering is demonstrably excellent, it would be remiss of us not to point out that the firm’s disputes practice is growing apace; three of the seven partners in the latest partnership round were in dispute resolution. Five of the seven partner hires also started their careers as trainees at Travers.
For our interviewees, the size of the firm’s trainee intake was another big draw. “Unlike the magic circle firms, Travers has a small to medium-sized trainee intake” of 30 a year, “meaning it isn’t as easy to get lost in the noise.” Another summed up: “It’s the Goldilocks of firms. It’s a good middle ground between having the lucrative transactional focus, like a lot of American firms in London, but without long hours.” Travers has two offices in total – HQ in London and a small outpost in Paris – but trainees encountered work far beyond the UK and France. “Every single piece of work I’ve come across has had an element in some other jurisdiction,” one told us.
If the thought of being a Travers trainee titillates you, you can expect to do four six-month seats. “Two seats are mandatory,” sources explained. “You have to do your contentious seat in either disputes or employment, and you have to do a seat in a corporate team.” Trainees send a list of six preferences to HR and the firm matches trainee preferences with business needs. There weren’t any grumbles with the process, though one suggested it might be helpful to have a weighting system factored in as well. “Sometimes you’re equally happy to do your first or second preference, but someone else is absolutely desperate to do their first,” they explained. “The list alone won’t indicate that.”
“It’s very technical, complicated and accordingly easy to get things wrong.”
The firm’s finance department acts for borrowers and lenders. On the former side, private equity companies, funds and real estate financers feature on the client list, as do, more surprisingly, the Leicester Tigers, which the firm advised on Covid relief funding. Other clients include Social and Sustainable Capital (a social investment fund), BlueGem Capital Partners and Ingenious Real Estate Finance, with deal values ranging from tens of millions up to as much as a quarter of a billion pounds. In an example of the latter, the firm recently advised a digital mortgage lender, Molo, on part of its £266 million debt and equity fundraising. On the lender side of things, the firm does fund and leveraged finance alongside speciality finance. As you might expect, on the client list you’ll find banks like HSBC, Santander, Lloyds and Investec (which Travers advised on a €40 million loan to Aberdeen Standard European Logistics Income). For trainees, work in this seat depends on “who you’re sitting with. Traditionally, you work for the partner in your room.” As a result, some did a lot of fund finance work, while others encountered more leveraged finance and acquisitions. Across the board, interviewees mentioned getting to grips with a mixture of drafting and project management, noting that as a trainee you can expect to do “a lot of process-driven tasks.” Project management naturally involved “quite a lot of emails – significantly more than other teams!” On the drafting side, trainees had been given a go at “amendment letters and that kind of thing.” Giving credence to the claim that trainees got more responsibility later on in this seat, one said that “people I speak to on the other side of deals are often associates.”
While the work in finance is mostly transactional, trainees can sample regulatory work in a seat in financial services and markets. Sources explained that while there is a “crossover of clients” in this team with others, “some come to the firm just for financial regulatory advice.” That isn’t a big surprise given that the practice is top-ranked in the country by Chambers UK, and as such advises clients such as Bain Capital, CLS Bank, Bridgepoint and Intermediate Capital on regulatory developments. In a recent matter, the team represented TA Associates on its sale of Merian to Jupiter, advising the private equity company on the regulatory aspects of the deal. Sources admitted that in this seat, “it’s very technical, complicated and accordingly easy to get things wrong – and quite massively!” With such high values at stake, our hands were sweating, but sources reassured us that “there are lots of training sessions at the beginning and lots of supervision. You don’t feel thrown in the deep end at all.” Sources added that “it’s a smaller team than many” and so you “get to work with most of the team.” They mentioned “running a lot of stuff independently” towards the end of the seat too. For example, “if we were working with a client who needs advice from multiple jurisdictions, then the trainee is getting all of that information and presenting it.”
“The team was able to explain things clearly, despite the high pressure.”
From transactional to regulatory to dispute resolution, sources said in this seat it was mostly commercial litigation on the menu, but there’s also competition, civil fraud, commercial fraud, and financial disputes to be found here. Most famously, the firm recently represented Hewlett-Packard in its dispute around its $11 billion acquisition of Autonomy in 2011 – HP claims it overpaid to the tune of $5 billion. “I worked on that case!” one beamed. “That was magnificent!” On big cases like this, sources mentioned “reading up on the case and doing research tasks.” On smaller matters we heard there was a “lot of taking notes from calls and building defences,” as well as ensuring “word-for-word attendance notes” from meetings. With disputes comes bundling as well as “a lot of correspondence, a lot of research and a lot of doc review, which I don’t mind if it’s an interesting case.” One source recalled getting assigned “a small part of an argument and asked to find anything in support of that.” As with the other departments, sources praised the mentorship from the team: “They were able to explain things clearly, despite the high pressure.” Alongside HP other clients include Scion Films (a European investment bank) and shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean AS.
Corporate is split into two main areas: private equity & financial sponsors and corporate M&A & equity capital markets. The teams handle public as well as private M&A. Clients here include Hovis Holdings, Inflexion, Auto Trader and Pets at Home, which it recently advised on the sale of its specialist hospitals to Linnaeus for £100 million. Sources said that as is common in corporate seats whatever the firm, there was a fair bit of project management, but with “good responsibility towards the end” for trainees. That responsibility could mean drafting ancillary documents and perhaps even “the share purchase agreement as well.” One trainee per rotation can do a corporate secondment in the firm’s Paris office. It’s usually a trainee who’s already done the corporate seat in London, because over in Paris, “you’re working like an NQ – there’s lots of responsibility.”
In 2021, 16 of 19 qualifiers were kept on. Trainees approaching qualification rank their top three or four departments for HR. Departments are also asked which trainees they would like to hire (without knowing who’s applied to join them). The training principals then try to match up trainees and departments where possible. All of the trainees in our survey said they felt they had chosen the right firm to train at and expected to remain at the firm upon qualification – a clean sweep! “I had this impression of corporate law being intimidating, but I’ve been impressed by how approachable everyone is and how the firm wants you to learn and enjoy yourself,” one praised. In fact, “it's impressive how consistently people who work at Travers mention the same things about the firm's culture: friendliness, kindness etc.” Based on our trainee interviews, we can confirm, so we won’t repeat it yet again.
“You’re not burning the candle at both ends.”
Let’s talk about the hours instead. A third of trainees in our survey indicated they were stressed compared to just under 40% of those surveyed across other firms. Trainees acknowledged that there “can be busy periods” at Travers, but reassured us “you’re not burning the candle at both ends.” An average of 46 hours per week of those surveyed sits below the market average of just under 48. Sources appreciated that work wasn’t dumped on them, explaining that partners ask: “Have you got time for this? Let me know if you don’t.”
Sources also felt supported throughout the Covid lockdowns. “My first seat was virtual,” said one trainee; “I was nervous about that, but the department was very hands-on.” Others appreciated having “daily calls with my supervisor, even if it was just for five minutes.” Travers’ social life also got a thumbs-up from the trainees. Post-Covid, that’s likely to include “drinks events, away days and the Christmas party.” And sources mentioned the firm is “trying to make it even more inclusive, with non-drinking events.” There are also events to celebrate new partner and qualified solicitor hires as well.
In terms of diversity, trainees scored the firm highly for its efforts in recruiting diverse candidates, inclusivity training, and its efforts to promote and retain a diverse group of lawyers. Speaking of retention, 60% of the women we surveyed told us they intended to make partner. “Diversity and inclusion is something the firm is doing so much work on,” sources promised, with one telling us: “I was captured by what Travers does.” To cherry-pick a handful of initiatives, the firm financially supports charities that work with minority ethnic communities; runs a mentor programme for LGBTQ+ graduates with charity Just Like Us; set up gender-neutral facilities in the office; and offers counselling and physio therapy services to all staff. Sources observed that at firm-run diversity events, “all the senior partners were there and taking part. It feels genuine.”
Pro bono with Travers Smith: Listen to our podcast with Travers Smith on the firm’s pro bono practice.
How to get a Travers Smith training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 17 January 2022 (summer); 10 October 2021 (winter)
Travers Smith has 30 training contracts on offer and typically recruits just over 70% of its trainees through its vacation schemes (although this percentage has been much higher in the last two years). The firm runs three two-week placements during the summer, and one two-week scheme in the winter, offering 20 places on each. Since the onset of Covid-19, Travers replaced its two-week in person scheme with a one-week virtual scheme but going forwards aims to revert to its two week in-person scheme. Details will be available on its website in due course.
The application for the vac scheme begins with a CV and covering letter, and the firm generally receives around 2,000 of these each year. “There are no psychometric tests or any of that rubbish,” one interviewee told us. Historically, prospective trainees needed a minimum of AAB at A level and a 2:1 degree (or 2:1 grades to date) to get a look in, but the firm told us that, whilst grades remain important, they use contextualised recruitment software and take into account mitigating circumstances, so this is no longer a hard requirement.
Those whose applications impress – generally around 130 – are invited to a one-on-one partner interview. According to our sources, "the firm looks for people who can display structure and logical thinking, hold a debate and show they can think on their feet".
From here, the firm chooses its vac schemers, who split their time between two departments. Alongside shadowing trainees, participants attend workshops on skills like negotiations and drafting, and also get to socialise with Travers lawyers at various working lunches and evening events.
A current trainee had this advice for impressing during the vac scheme: “Relax into the atmosphere and try to be enthusiastic. Another said: “Show that you're bright, ambitious and calm under pressure, but don't take yourself too seriously.”
Those who still want to pursue a training contract after their scheme can resubmit their application for consideration where they are evaluated on their performance during their placement.
Training contract applications
Historically, Travers Smith receives 1,500 direct training contract applications each year. The application process is broadly similar to that of the vac scheme: applicants submit an initial form; attend a partner interview; then another, this time with co-heads of graduate recruitment Hannah Manning, Asma Rashid and Danny Peel. The first lasts around 45 minutes, while the second is an hour long.
There's no cap on the number of people the firm invites to interview, and the second interview is followed up with a trainee-led tour around the office, during which candidates can ask additional questions, and meet other members of the firm.
The firm has told us that "this year we will largely recruit for training contract 2024 from our vacation schemes. Any spaces that are available after the vacation schemes will be filled by direct training contract applicants. This direct training contract process will open in August 2022, only to the extent there remain any available spaces after our winter and summer vacation schemes. Any updates will be available on our website and social media channels."
Travers Smith LLP
10 Snow Hill,
- Partners: 89
- Assistant solicitors: 264 (24 senior counsel, 83 senior associates and 157 associates)
- Total trainees: 54
- UK offices: London
- Overseas offices: Paris. Led by our International Board, we continually invest in developing and maintaining our relationships around the world with independent law firms who share our specialist strengths and demanding quality standards. Every year we collaborate with over 150 firms worldwide to provide bespoke solutions to our clients. As a trainee here, you will certainly have an opportunity to get involved in international matters and to get to know contacts at clients and other law firms around the world.
- Graduate recruiter: Germaine VanGeyzel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7295 3000
- Co-Heads of Graduate Recruitment: Hannah Manning, Danny Peel and Asma Rashid
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 30
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 72
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 September 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 31 July 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 September 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: Winter: 10 October 2021 Summer: 17 January 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £47,000
- Second-year salary: £52,500
- Post qualification salary: £90,000 (basic) and up to £110,500 (including a discretionary firm wide bonus and other discretionary bonus).
- LPC fees: Yes plus annual maintenance of £10,000
- GDL fees: Yes plus annual maintenance of £10,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Overseas seats: One seat in Paris. Following qualification, there are numerous opportunities for secondments to overseas law firms with whom we have a close relationship. In recent years, our associates have worked on secondment in places such as the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
It is not just law at Travers Smith. We treat our clients’ business as our business, their dispute as our dispute, their challenges as ours.
We act for publicly listed and private companies, private equity and financial sponsors, and other business enterprises involved in large and complex UK and cross-border matters, transactions and disputes.
Our clients know that, wherever in the world they or their ambitions lie, we will work as one of their team to get things done. And they know that we will do so in a straight-talking, thoughtful and open way.
Diversity and independence of thought are key to our success. We know each other well and we know that we get the best results when we act as a team – not just within our individual departments, but right across our firm where we welcome views from everyone.
Main areas of work
A law degree is not a necessity – nearly a third of our current trainees did not study law as an undergraduate.
The firm’s comprehensive training programme ensures that trainees experience a broad range of work. All trainees sit with partners and associates, which ensures a refreshing lack of hierarchy and unparalleled opportunities to learn by osmosis from some of the most senior people at the firm. It also means that trainees receive individual and extensive training from experienced lawyers and can look forward to client contact, and the responsibility that goes with it, from day one.
During the two-year training contract, trainees spend six months in one of our corporate departments and another six months in either the dispute resolution or the employment departments. The firm offers you a choice for your other two seats in two of our other specialist teams. Trainees may also have the opportunity to spend six months in the firm’s Paris office.
Travers Smith is a collaborative firm – we treat each other with respect and encourage our people to be themselves. We are very proud of the close-knit, supportive and non-hierarchical culture this creates.
Our Winter vacation scheme is a one week virtual scheme. A day in the office is also expected, but not yet confirmed, on 6 December, so please be aware of this date.
During our Summer vacation scheme students spend two weeks with the firm. Each week, they sit with a different department, sharing an office with partners, associates and trainees.
The work will include attending meetings, drafting documents and letters and carrying out research. We extend our internal seminar programme to include a number of talks, case studies and negotiating exercises specifically for students to give an authentic taste of a City lawyer's work. The timetable also includes a City tour, plenty of social activities and the option to be involved in sporting activities such as mixed hockey, netball and football. There are also working lunches and informal evening events.
Since the onset of Covid-19, we have run a one week virtual vacation scheme. We are very much hoping that, going forwards, we will be able to revert to our two week in-person scheme, but this is obviously dependent on circumstances at the time. Details will be available on our website in due course.
When and how to apply
Apply online via our website at www.traverssmith.com for a training contract commencing in either September 2024 or March 2025.
This year we will largely recruit for training contract 2024 from our vacation schemes. Any spaces that are available after the vacation schemes will be filled by direct training contract applicants. This direct training contract process will open in August 2022, only to the extent there remain any available spaces after our winter and summer vacation schemes. Any updates will be available on our website and social media channels.
Benefits include private medical and permanent health insurance, life assurance, health screening programme, onsite physiotherapy, dental insurance, pension scheme, Cycle to Work scheme, subsidised café/restaurant, subsidised gym membership and season ticket loan.
Diversity & Inclusion
Our approach to diversity and creating an inclusive workplace goes beyond just ticking a box. We value everything that makes us unique and we recognise that celebrating our differences helps make the firm a special place to work. With a focus on allyship and role modelling, we are committed to creating a fully inclusive workplace where everyone can be their authentic selves.
Supporting our people
We have five fully inclusive professional networks, each led by a partner to provide high level strategic input, connectivity and support for our people. These include:
• Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic
• Gender Balance
• Faith Resources
• Enable (which focuses on accessibility needs)
We have developed partnerships with other external networks and organisations aimed at promoting a culture of inclusion and mutual respect in industry and in the wider community, including; Stonewall, myGwork, City Solicitors Horizons, Aspiring Solicitors, Rare Recruitment and JustLikeUs.
Corporate Social Responsibility
From working with emerging artists to supporting refugees and asylum seekers, our award-winning CSR Programme is diverse, exciting and ever-expanding.
Working with local communities
We are committed to working with our local communities, developing meaningful ties with schools, universities and community groups and using our own influence and legal expertise to help give people better opportunities to access the legal profession. Highlights of our work include:
• Lawyers in Schools Programme
• Prime work experience
• Reading Partners
• BEE Financial Literacy
• GROW mentoring
We create meaningful, lasting and substantive partnerships with all the charities with whom we work. We provide substantial financial support to a nominated major charity partner (on a two year basis), and also support 100s of other smaller charities via the Travers Smith Foundation.
CSR Art Programme
The Art Programme is at the heart of our Corporate Social Responsibility work and underlines our CSR commitment from the moment someone steps into our offices. Delivered in partnership with The University of Westminster and The Royal College of Art, with support from Serpentine Galleries, our Art Programme supports emerging artists with the transition from student life to professional practice.
Our award-winning pro bono programme is designed to provide individuals, community groups, charities and social enterprises, both in the UK and abroad, with free legal advice and representation. The programme targets the most impactful partnerships and legal work in the following four sectors:
1. Climate, environment, and sustainability
2. Diversity, inclusion and social mobility
3. Vulnerable groups (refugees, victims of domestic violence and victims of human trafficking)
4. Rule of Law
Recent pro bono clients include:
• Refugees at Home
• The Chancery Lane Project
• The Green Finance Institute
• National Centre for Domestic Violence
• City YMCA
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Equity (Band 4)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 2)
- Competition Law (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 4)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 1)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 1)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 2)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Payments Law (Band 2)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Closed-ended Listed Funds (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 2)