A focus on the individual and left field practice areas like charity, Parliamentary and ecclesiastical law “make for an interesting training contract” that’s well Winck-worth a look.
Winckworth Sherwood training contract review 2022
Few firms work in practice areas that their trainees would describe as “quite wacky,” but then few firms are quite like Winckworth Sherwood. Happy to talk politics or religion? Ecclesiastical and Parliamentary work often floats through here; that said, the “firm’s engine room” is its real estate team. Some 100-plus legal professionals ply their trade across all permutations of real estate from development and construction to finance and disputes. “There are quite a few real estate options for trainees,” sources said, noting that a seat in the department is mandatory.
"You get lots of interaction here.”
“Without being too fluffy, I just think it’s the right place for me,” one said when we talked highlights of the training contract. “Everyone is so friendly and it’s just a really nice place to work – I feel absolutely no dread about going into the office,” Yet no firm thrives solely on niceties and smiles, and the firm’s varied practice is another draw for new recruits – and a draw for Chambers UK, which awards Winckworth top-tier nationwide rankings for Parliamentary and rail transport work. In London (where all trainees are based), the firm scores highly for social housing, mid-market real estate and employment law.
Barring a stint in real estate, the firm doesn’t mandate any other seat, though it does allocate newbies to their first department. “Beyond that, seat allocation is an evolving conversation,” sources told us. With just eight trainees joining each year, everybody gets to help shape their training contract. “The intake size really drew me in,” a trainee told us. “You could get lost in the system at other firms, whereas you get lots of interaction here.” Seats tend to be offered only in London, though we heard a trainee recently got to do a split seat in Oxford due to the “eliminated barriers” resulting from home working. This opportunity may continue in the future, with a trainee potentially being able to complete an entire seat in-person at the Oxford office.
“Lots of work came out of the Grenfell incident... so we’ve been involved in advising on building regulations and fire safety.”
Winckworth’s broad real estate offering spans commercial real estate and licensing, construction (disputes and non-contentious), local housing and real estate litigation. The trainees we spoke with had at least dipped their toes into each of these. Sources in commercial real estate and licensing had worked on various arrangements for supermarkets and petrol station operators, as well as work “in the telecoms team handling the litigation arising from the 5G rollout.” Drafting leases, completions, unregistered land reports and “reports on sewage work” were all part and parcel of a “very fast paced seat.” Winckworth advises household-name clients like Sainsbury’s and Aviva. “Some aspects are very different” in the institutional property sub-department, working for public bodies like National Rail: “I’ve had to consider the Armed Forces Act or other obscure pieces of legislation I’d never heard of!”
As for construction, WS acts for public and private sector developers including two of the UK’s largest house builders: Barratt and Redrow. Work for the former includes advising on major Blackhorse Road and Wembley Park projects; the firm has also acted for Notting Hill Genesis, the lead developer regenerating the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, on its overall strategy for the initiative. Transactional construction work involves “negotiating contracts with builders and contractors,” with the contentious element kicking in “when things go wrong.” One source explained how the department does its work: “We get back involved if things go wrong, looking at what costs can be recovered. Lots of work came out of the Grenfell incident, for example, so we’ve been involved in advising on building regulations and fire safety.”
“Getting exposure to what’s going on in Parliament and the agenda for government is very interesting.”
There’s a degree of overlap with the Parliamentary and public affairs teamwhich “predominantly works on infrastructure and the planning of large projects needing approval.” Winckworth has provided advice on Crossrail and HS2 and acted for the Secretary of State for Transport on various pieces of legislation and statutory instruments needed to “promote projects of major strategic importance.” Sounds… political. Trainees involved in these mega projects completed “lots of research into niche areas,” often required for clients’ environmental reports. “We’ve kept tabs on the Environment Bill 2020 as it’s been through Parliament,” a trainee reported. Other common tasks include proofreading documents, drafting statutory insurance and attending client meetings. There’s an “ebb and flow” in this seat: “Projects can be decades long, and trainees just slot in for six months, so things can be a little slower.” If you’re big on politics, the firm’s close proximity to Westminster means you’ll have plenty to enjoy. “I’ve always been interested in it, so this seat is perfect,” a legislation-loving interviewee told us. “Getting exposure to what’s going on in Parliament and the agenda for government is very interesting.”
A seesaw of disputes and non-contentious work is also available in the employment group, which acts for big name clients like BNP Paribas, AEG Europe and the Financial Conduct Authority. The practice splits around 50:50 between work for senior executives and employers; in the case of the latter, trainees are “normally drafting new employee contracts or reviewing an outdated policy” like sexual harassment or equality rules. “We also give ad hoc advice,” recently helping companies assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their employees. The other side of the practice “normally involves someone who’s facing redundancy or discrimination, or is choosing to leave an organisation.” For trainees, it can mean drafting agreements over shares and pensions or a settlement with the employer. “You’re going back and forth negotiating sums,” one source told us. “The amounts of money involved can be eye-watering.”
Looking at the broader Winckworth Sherwood experience, trainees felt “the firm places a real emphasis on the individual. They genuinely care about us.” That manifests in various ways – one is a “healthy approach” to the demands of legal practice, with the firm encouraging a “really good work-life balance.” Trainees revealed that “if you’re still working hard after 6.30pm, people will ask you why.” Some later nights are inevitable (a midnight finish “was very much a one-off” for one trainee), but we heard that everyone “works hard and gets the work done. There’s an assumption that if you don’t have anything to do you can log off at 5.30 and enjoy your evening.” Sources felt their salary was competitive for the hours they worked.
“It’s great to see so many women in senior roles.”
Care for the individual has also benefited the firm’s diversity credentials. Winckworth stands above the City average for female partner representation, at around 29%. “It’s great to see so many women in senior roles,” juniors reflected. While some noted that “there’s still work to be done” on the ethnic diversity front, they were optimistic about the future thanks to a “very active” diversity committee, a “direct address of the BLM protests last summer,” a partnership with Aspiring Solicitors and an apprenticeship scheme in the firm's tax department.
Trainees also described their firm as “really keen on CSR,” working with a number of charities and pro bono organisations. Recent examples include offering mock interviews for people who’ve not had previous experience, and work with Southwark charity St Bede’s House. “We also have a craft group who meet to make things to be sold” and raise money for charities like Dementia UK.
Socialising isn’t all arts and crafts – WS arranges for trainees in each of its cohorts to get to know each other even before starting at the firm. “I really like that incoming trainees are invited to the regular socials,” a source shared. Whether it’s bowling, darts or just drinks events, future newbies get to know their soon-to-be colleagues in a more pleasant setting than the office: “It was really nice to get to know my intake and the associates before joining.”
At the other end of the process is qualification. Winckworth’s retention is “historically very good” and the process straightforward: the jobs list goes up, trainees make their applications for up to two departments, interviews take place and then offers are (hopefully) made. “The firm works hard to make sure there’s a space for everyone,” we heard. Winckworth Sherwood retained sevenof eightqualifiers in 2021.
Sher-would you come for an open day?
We heard from trainees that Winckworth’s historical ‘open day’ was actually an assessment centre. “They call it an open day online, but not until you get through do you realise that you’re being assessed!” Thankfully the day is now very clearly labelled an assessment day!
How to get a Winckworth Sherwood training contract
Winckworth Sherwood expects its future lawyers to have good academic qualifications. Successful candidates are drawn from Winckworth Sherwood’s two assessment days in July. Once applicants have completed one of these, there is a second interview with a panel of partners. Our recruitment manager warns applicants to get their applications in early: “We review the applications as they come in and interview before the deadline.”
Winckworth Sherwood is not running a vacation scheme this year due to successfully recruiting via virtual assessment days during the pandemic.
The firm typically receives around 350 applications for their 8 training contracts; To apply for a place, candidates must submit an online application which includes a short essay on why they want to work at the firm and what they will contribute. Take note: the firm is interested in those who anticipate staying around, not those looking to use the training contract as a launch pad to go elsewhere. Candidates who impress are invited to interview with the firm's recruitment manager in person or via Zoom.
Successful candidates are then invited to one of two assessment days held in early July in the London Bridge office. The day includes individual exercises and group exercises which are assessed by a panel of partners. It is also a great chance to learn more about the firm and to speak to employees from a range of practice areas. There are drinks with the current trainees at the end of the day.
5 Montague Close,
- Partners 61
- Assistant solicitors 100
- Total trainees 16
- UK offices London, Oxford, Manchester
- Contact Recruitment executive: Joanna Clark, email@example.com, 020 7593 5183
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 8
- Applications pa: 300
- We expect candidates to have good qualifications but we look at their application as a whole.
- Vacation scheme places pa: 10
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 14 November 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: See website
- Vacation scheme applications open: 14 November 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 28 February 2021
- Open day deadline: See website
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £36,000
- Second-year: salary £39,500
- Post-qualification salary: £58,000
- Holiday entitlement: 24 days, plus bank holidays, plus one extra day at Christmas
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Will be paid in exceptional cases
Main areas of practice
Employment & Partnership: We provide contentious and non-contentious advice covering financial, insurance, retail, hotel, media, publishing, real estate and educational establishments. We also advise senior executives and on partnership disputes, as well as specialist non contentious partnership advice.
Infrastructure Projects: We specialise in private legislation promoting projects of major strategic importance. We also advise central and local government bodies, developers and operators on infrastructure planning, development, construction, procurement, structuring and finance.
Not for Profit: We advise a large number of educational and affordable housing operators, charitable and religious organisations and cultural and leisure services providers, delivering a full range of legal expertise.
Private Wealth & Tax: We advise high net worth individuals, families, senior executives, private trustees and executors on a full range of private legal matters, including complex residential property solutions, immigration, tax and succession issues, pre-marital advice, divorce and family.
Real Estate & Planning: We work for many of the leading national residential and commercial developers, national house builders, investors and fund managers. This includes commercial real estate and regeneration, planning, development, corporate finance, funds, tax, construction, asset management and property litigation capability.
We have a well developed in-house development programme which draws upon the expertise of partners, associates and guest professionals. As well as legal training, we also provide business skills training such as presentation skills, project management, networking and client development.
We provide each successful applicant with £150 per week to assist with expenses and travel costs.
University law careers fairs 2020
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
We support the Aspiring Solicitors Foundation and Pathways to Law.
We provide an Employee Assistance Programme which provides support and counselling on a range of issues.
We also run a mentorship scheme within the firm.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
- Employment: Employer (Band 5)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 5)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Social Housing (Band 1)
- Planning (Band 2)
- Charities (Band 3)
- Education: Institutions (Schools) (Band 3)
- Local Government (Band 4)
- Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Parliamentary Agency (Band 1)
- Partnership (Band 2)
- Social Housing: Finance (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail: Planning & Authorisation (Band 1)