Southern charm and ambition combine at full-service firm Trethowans.
Trethowans training contract 2022
There’s an almost mythological attitude to practising law in the City, as though any practice outside of London involves a tweed-clad lawyer resolving something to do with cows. Here at Chambers Student, we want to set the record straight: if joining the City ranks isn’t for you, there are so many excellent firms in the regions to head to. Trethowans is one of them. Formed over 150 years ago in Salisbury, the firm now boasts offices in Southampton, Poole, Bournemouth, Winchester and a service office in London. In Chambers UK, Trethowans shines for the legal services it offers in the south, particularly in Southampton and its surrounding areas: its commercial areas such as corporate/M&A, real estate and banking & finance gain praise, while its personal offering in spaces like clinical negligence, family and personal injury are also commended. Chambers High Net Worth also gives the firm an esteemed ranking in private wealth law. Property and litigation work form the largest areas of practice at the firm.
“Some places can see trainees as an additional admin person. Here you’re learning about law.”
For trainees, the fact that the firm has “grown quite a lot in the past five to ten years” was a real plus. “A lot of firms don’t have as many departments as Trethowans,”sources continued, and “with the expansion of Bournemouth and the Winchester office, the firm is now more widespread.” On top of an ambitious approach to the market, sources felt that there was a “good work-life balance and atmosphere.” Our savvy sources also noted that the firm “was good with training and retention. They actually train their trainees!”This interviewee added: “Some places can see trainees as an additional admin person. Here you’re learning about law.” Interviewees were keen to highlight that this approach extends to qualifying lawyer life too: “The firm invests you in you and progression seems good.”
For those lucky enough to secure a Trethowans training contract (there were three first-years on our list), sources informed us that “you’re required to spend time in at least two offices” during your training contract. The aim is “to get to know other offices and people,” we heard. There were mixed reviews about this, with one telling us that they “knew about it before I started, so it’s not an issue for me,”while another commented that they didn’t “particularly like it.” Despite Salisbury being the nominal head office, most of the trainees on our list were in Southampton (five), withSalisbury and Poole taking one each. Interviewees also told us that the Salisbury and Southampton offices are roughly the same size.
Beyond a requirement to do a contentious seat, there are no other mandatory seats. Trainees typically “give the firm three or four seat option preferences[at each rotation],” and it will try to “cater to you, but obviously business always comes first.” While the firm officially does four six-month seats, some had also done split seats, but this is more the exception than the rule, and usually occurs in the final seat. Sources added that the firm tries “to ensure your last seat is the one you qualify into,” even if it’s “half a seat.” At the same time, “if you want to try something else as your last seat you can.”
“I’ve worked on 15 to 20 deals and drafted most of the ancillaries.”
For those interested in commercialwork, the firm’s corporate team is one of the biggest in the region and is highly ranked in Chambers UK for its lower mid-market M&A deals. Sources also noted that the department takes on quite a few restructuring matters too. The firm represents clients like the insurance outfit RiskSTOP Group; envelope and printing specialists Mail Solutions Group; the UK’s largest real estate agency franchising group, The Property Franchise Group; and property and asset managers Belport Investments, which it represented during Belport’s share acquisition of property management company J. & D. Edgar. Our satisfied sources said there was a mix of “some really big deals with large companies and smaller ones with family-run businesses.” As is often the norm in corporate, trainees do “quite a lot of project management.” Alongside this, however, they had also been able to “draft a lot of ancillary documents,” with one highlighting that they’d “worked on 15 to 20 deals and drafted most of the ancillaries.”
The firm’s top-ranked clinical negligence team, meanwhile, works mainly with claimants in medical cases. The team, therefore, is often at the other end of the table against the NHS, private hospitals, consultants, GPs and dentists. Understandably, the firm’s cases and clients are confidential, but we can reveal that deal matters can run into millions of pounds. The clinical negligence team is part of the firm’s broader personal injury department, which is also claimant-focused in the South. The team, sources said, does a lot of work representing those who’ve suffered spinal and head injuries, as well as other catastrophic injuries. Only claims for over £25,000 in personal injury and over £10,000 in clinical negligence are worked on, so the injuries are often significant. Is that psychologically difficult? “It could be quite emotionally challenging,” sources admitted; “you have to be a certain person to separate the work out.” Trainees mentioned the inevitable “doc review” as a common task, but as with corporate said they were “trusted with quite a lot. Anything from new enquiries to drafting.”
“...you have to be a certain person to separate the work out.”
While the firm’s personal injury team does a lot of medical claimant work, it also represents several well-known clients as defendants. These matters pertain to road traffic accidents as well as public, employer and animal liability cases. Clients include Cornish Mutual Assurance, the RSPCA and Go Ahead Group. “Insurance companies make up a lot of the client list,”a trainee informed us. As with the claimant side, sources said they did a wide range of work from “bundling and working with counsel as the matter progresses to court,” to “working with the police, because the police can provide non-biased statements about road traffic incidents.”
Sticking with the contentious side: the firm’s litigation department is a full-service shop for its clients and it lists corporate, property financial services, professional negligence, IP, defamation and construction as specialities. The Ministry of Defence is a client along with other recognisable names like Bacardi and builders’ merchant Jewson. Cases are confidential, but what we can say is that they are high-value, run the gamut of litigious issues, and are sufficiently interesting to keep any litigiously minded lawyer interested. Our sources certainly had no complaints. “I did everything from bundling, to drafting, to handling new enquiries,” a source enthused. Trainees we spoke to had done a range of work including “contested probates, boundary disputes, and commercial cases.”
The firm’s commercial property group is one of the largest in the South and works with both landlords and tenants. The team handles property investment and financing, residential development, restructuring and insolvency, and related pension transactions. Big banking names like HSBC, Lloyds, and Santander are clients as well as the likes of Legal & General, Ladbrokes, James Hay Pension Trustees and Vivid Housing Association. Lawyers here have recently advised several of their clients on the purchase of residential properties and development sites with deal values in the early millions.
Sources pinpointed the firm’s Southern charm in its “very welcoming”atmosphere. “I joined remotely,” said one trainee, “and now I go into the office twice a week – people have made quite an effort to get to know me.” We also heard praise for the enthusiasm of everyone at the firm – right up to those at the very top – to engage and make conversation. The overall feeling was that while “every department is a little bit different,” most groups “feel like a team. It’s not very hierarchical.”
“... paddle-boarding followed by a nice meal.”
On the social side, “once a year, each team organises a day out. We’ve got ours this Friday!” an excited source exclaimed. Activities “depend on the team,” but we heard of jaunts involving “going to a water park,” or “paddle-boarding followed by a nice meal.” Trethowans also unites its employees across offices (in more normal times) with a “firmwide Christmas party and a summer event.” Informal events depended on the office. For example, the Southampton cohort informed us that there wasn’t as much after-work socialising as the office is not located in the city centre. However, we heard the trainee groups in particular tend to be “good friends and socialise outside of work.” To foster solicitor shenanigans, trainees “have an allocated budget to spend on our own activities. Once the pandemic restrictions are eased, we’re looking to all go out for dinner. We haven’t all met each other yet!” one source lamented. Trainees are encouraged to organise three socials a year with their budget.
Qualifying at the firm tends to run smoothly with few hoops to jump through. “There’s not a formal release of NQ jobs,” we were told. Instead, “departments will tell you if there’s a position” and qualifiers indicate their interest. Conversations about the process typically begin in January each year, and the firm endeavours to extend NQ offers as early as it can.
Trethowans retained two of three qualifiers in 2021. All three were offered NQ positions.
How to get a Trethowans training contract
Training contract deadline (2024): 31 May 2022
Applications and trainee profile
Trethowans receives around 100 applications every year for the three available training contracts each year. Competition, therefore, is fierce and it’s wise to come well prepared. According to head of people & culture, Kate Ellis, “someone who has had some work experience, legal or other, and has perhaps been involved in other initiatives such as charity work, or dedication to a particular hobby or cause” stands out from the crowd. “For us, we are looking for a good ‘all-rounder,’” continues Ellis, “it’s not just about the academics, although these need to be strong, too.”
The firm keeps things “fairly local in terms of recruitment fairs,” says Ellis, which means “Southampton, Guildford and Winchester.” However, the firm is open to national talent, so if you’re reading this, and fancy a flutter, there’s nothing stopping you from applying. To make sure the application process is as inclusive as possible, Ellis tells us that “all applications are processed and considered fully so they are all read from start to finish. Every application is treated the same.”
The lucky few who make it through the first round of applications are invited to an assessment day. Ellis tells us that “previously, assessment days have involved ten to 15 individuals all attending the same day. However, for the last two years due to Covid restrictions our assessment day has been similar assessments but on a more individual basis.” Ellis says those assessments are “usually a range of written assessments, a group exercise, a panel interview and candidates are asked to give a short presentation.”
Ellis adds that the firm likes to “operate a fairly informal trainee recruitment process because we want to get the best out of the candidate on the day and see what they are really like.” With that aim in mind, the firm does what it can to “put candidates at ease while at the same time trying to assess their suitability to the role.”
Throughout the process, the firm is “looking for fit.” Ellis tells us we want “someone who we think will work hard and have a long and successful career with the firm.” The firm isn’t interested in “individuals to do their two years of training and move on, we are looking for future partners of the firm,” says Ellis, adding that while “the firm does look for people that have a commitment to the area, it is not essential.”
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
Southampton and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
- Licensing (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)