These boots were made for Wilkin: if it’s a top-notch family practice and a home-firm feel you’re after, we’ve found the perfect fit…
Wilkin Chapman training contract review 2024
“I’ve always wanted to have a successful career,” one trainee told us, “but when I went to uni, I realised I didn’t want to move far from home.” There’s no getting past it, starting life as a lawyer can be a daunting prospect. But for prospective lawyers in Lincolnshire, the home-firm feel of Wilkin Chapman might offer a more familiar place to begin. In fact, trainees at the firm were unanimous that “locality was a big thing.” As the largest firm in the area, the current cohort described Wilkin as the “best known” in Lincolnshire, and with good reason too – the firm bags four Chambers UK rankings, with a first-class nod in family/matrimonial law in Lincoln and surrounds.
“It’s a business, but a welcoming one…”
The firm has offices in Lincoln, Grimsby, Louth and Beverley, with Lincoln and Grimsby the two largest. The two biggest offices take on the bulk of trainees, but trainees are encouraged to branch out and get a taste of seats in one of the other offices (check the Firm Facts box for more info on where seats are available). This was well received by the current crop of trainees too. “You’re told during the interview process and it’s in your contract as well, so it doesn’t take you by surprise,” one trainee said. “I’m glad I did it. I have friends in other offices now and know more people at the firm.” Getting to know the people at Wilkin Chapman was inevitably part of the draw too: “It’s a business, but a welcoming one,” one remarked; “everyone was really approachable and wanted me to do well during my interviews. That’s what made it stand out.”
Before starting, trainees list somewhere between four and six seat preferences to HR. Aside from the SRA requirements, there aren’t any compulsory seats at the firm, so trainees had free rein to choose from the seats that interested them. Of course, “it’s been based on business need,” so trainees aren’t guaranteed their seats of choice. From the second seat onwards, preferences are indicated at the mid-seat review stage. One gripe among trainees was “the firm’s communication. Some people were frustrated, because we were told we would hear about where we were going by Christmas, but it wasn’t until two months after that.” Typically, the firm provides trainees with six to eight weeks' notice.
At some firms, clinical negligence and personal injury might form a single department, but at Wilkin, they each form a standalone practice. On the personal injury side, the team is split between the Grimsby and Lincoln offices, both focused on the claimant side of the personal injury coin. The team covers everything from “road traffic accidents, to occupier’s liability and employer liability, it’s a wide range of things; every injury not caused by a medical failure,” one trainee explained. Trainees in the seat described life in personal injury as being “thrown in at the deep end.” Trainees here tend to support senior members of the team on high-value cases, and caseloads and handover notes are constantly passed from trainee to trainee upon completion of their rotations. As a general rule: “You get on with it and see how you get on. It was quite intimidating at first,” recalled one trainee, “but it’s about keeping on top of things and having a system to remember what needs to be done.” Trainees in the seat can expect to spend plenty of time on the personal injury portal, which is a claims tool for claims up to £25,000. Case in point: The team recently obtained a court ruling in favour of a claimant in a head-on collision for an award totalling just under £23,000. On such cases, trainees have opportunities to “draft witness statements, sit in on trials and hearings,” and have “lots of client contact.” Overall it’s a “mix of drafting with project management.”
“It’s very process-driven and it’s very logical, which helps from a training point of view.”
Over in clinical negligence, “the variety of work is massive,” one told us, “which makes for a good experience.” Again with a focus on the claimant side, a lot of the team’s work comes from “word of mouth referrals” which means plenty of work in the local community in Grimsby. As one trainee put it: “It’s very process-driven and it’s very logical, which helps from a training point of view. Once you’ve done it a few times, it’s easy to pick up.” Typical trainee tasks in the seat revolved around “things like instructing experts and counsel, reviewing records to see if we have a claim etc.” Given the nature of the work, we can’t provide too many details of past cases, but trainees were quick to highlight the calibre of the pieces they came across. It does come with a warning that it’s not a seat for the faint of heart, with some emotionally challenging cases. The team recently settled a birth-related brain injury for a client totalling approximately £11.5 million to cover life-long care needs.
Dispute resolution“is known for being a bit of a baptism of fire.” Why? “It’s very full on,” one trainee told us, but in the best possible way. The team covers everything that falls under the broad disputes banner, including “commercial disputes, agricultural disputes, property disputes, and construction.” The dispute resolution practice in Louth has a knack for contested wills work too, “so there’s a big mix.” The department works with both private and commercial clients, and while the specifics are kept under lock and key, previous clients included the likes of the National Farmers’ Union, Court Enforcement Services and the Canal & River Trust. The most challenging thing about the seat is also the most rewarding: “You can do six months in disputes and not do the same thing twice,” one source recalled, and that comes on top of “a lot of client interaction.” The sources we spoke to had done “a mix of both admin and drafting. I did a fair bit of bundling,” remembered one, “but I also drafted a few pre-action letters, pleadings, particulars of claim, general case correspondence, instructions to counsel, disclosure docs and general court forms.”
Another of the firm’s highly regarded practices is Wilkin’s family law offering, which is responsible for half of the firm’s Chambers UK rankings. Split into three small teams across three offices, each of the teams meet once a month to keep each other in the loop. Wilkin’s family law client base ranges from high net worth individuals to Ministry of Defence personnel on military pensions matters. The firm has specialist expertise in the financial aspects of divorces, “and a bit of private children stuff as well.” Trainees said that they had “got to go to court, and I was able to meet with barristers for conferences.” Typical trainee tasks in the seat included “admin-y stuff like bundles and collating disclosure documents like bank statements which were brought in in a carrier bag,” as well as “drafting engagement and instruction letters.”
The firm’s approach to training is for new starters to “learn by doing,” which provided trainees with a lot of early responsibility. While phrases like ‘thrown in at the deep end’ featured in our trainee interviews, sources felt that overall support was there: “You’re going to make mistakes,” the current crop of trainees acknowledged, “but you’re free to get stuck in headfirst knowing you’ve got that supervision.” In smaller departments, your day to day might be limited to the supervisor you are placed with, but for those we spoke to, this was no bad thing. As far as the culture is concerned: “I think that’s key to the success of the firm,” one source quipped, “everyone is friendly and approachable, has a chat and asks how your day is going.” While the social calendar was fairly active, covering fixed events in September and May, the one complaint was that “more could be done to bring the trainees together from different offices.” That said, there are a number of trainee-focused events and dinners hosted by the firm throughout the year, with a firm-wide event hosted by the marketing team every autumn.
“…you’re free to get stuck in headfirst knowing you’ve got that supervision.”
One of the challenges facing regional firms is that it can be more difficult to attract the diversity of talent that you might find in the bigger cities: “There are lots of female partners,” one trainee noted, “but in terms of race, it’s reflective of the area. However, trainees were quick to highlight that there are a number of diversity programmes that Wilkin Chapman is involved in, such as “non-traditional ways of getting into law” and “working with schools and trusts to provide information to help students get an idea of the sector.”
Hours at trainee level were largely 9 to 5 “and it’s not frowned upon if you leave at 5,” a trainee said, “so long as you get your work done, and your supervisor is happy, there’s never been any problem.” These hours were weighed against a salary that was described as “where you’d expect it to be” at NQ level, “but below average at a trainee level.” Come qualification time, the firm sends out a job list and trainees apply for those they want, but it’s a good idea to have conversations with supervisors nice and early to establish the likelihood of a qualification position come September time: “If two people want one position, then the firm does interviews.” This year, the firm retained all six qualifiers.
My kind of Chap: The general consensus among trainees was that partnership at Wilkin Chapman was an achievable goal. “It’s a big enough firm that you can make an impact, but small enough that you can get your foot in the door!”
How to get into Wilkin Chapman
- Training contract deadline: 31 January 2024
- Vac scheme deadline: 31 January 2024
The interview process
Successful candidates will be invited to attend an assessment centre, which will last approximately four hours. This will include verbal and numerical reasoning tests, a panel interview and a case study exercise. Candidates will be shown around the office and given an opportunity to meet partners, lawyers and the firm's current trainees.
The vacation scheme
Placements are structured to allow students the opportunity to spend time in a number of practice areas and therefore experience the different types of work that the firm does.
Candidates are able to work on real client matters alongside the firm's trainees, solicitors and partners. Tasks are likely to include drafting documents, conducting research and meeting clients. In addition, there are presentations on training contracts with Wilkin Chapman and the wider firm.
Wilkin Chapman LLP
Wilkin Chapman LLP is the largest law firm in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, with an unrivalled breadth and depth of expertise and experience.
We are distinguished by our approachability, innovation and commitment to providing the best service we can to our clients along with achieving and maintaining quality standards.
We believe that this quality, service-led approach is also reflected by the number of accreditations and recommendations that the firm regularly achieves with the UK's leading legal directories, such as Legal 500, Chambers UK and is ranked 111 in The Lawyer UK’s top 200 law firms by turnover.
Corporate and commercial; real estate; domestic property; family and mediation; private client; dispute resolution; employment; personal injury; recoveries; regulatory.
4 x 6 months
We have 15 one week placements available per year for undergraduate students, which are split across our Grimsby, Lincoln and Beverley offices. Placements take place during the Easter and Summer breaks. Further details of the specific placement dates available can be found on our application form.
Placements are structured to allow you the opportunity to spend time in a number of practice areas and therefore experience the different types of work that we do. You will be assigned a supervisor in each of the departments you spend time in, who will be available to assist you during your placement.
Throughout your placement, you will experience first-hand what it’s like to be part of the Wilkin Chapman team, by working on real client matters alongside our trainees, solicitors and partners. You are likely to be involved in drafting documents, conducting research and meeting clients. In addition, there will be presentations on training contracts with Wilkin Chapman and the wider Firm, with lots of opportunities to ask questions and find out more about us.
Cash Plan, Employee Assistance Programme, Wellbeing Programme, Pension Scheme, Life Assurance, Discounted Legal Fees.
Our work experience programme is open to first year students.
Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, York
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Real Estate (Band 3)
Lincoln and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Local Government (Band 4)
York, Hull and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 3)
Find out more: Training contracts at Wilkin Chapman