Winckworth Sherwood - True Picture

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

The Firm

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.

The Seats

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.”

Trainee Life

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 into Winckworth Sherwood

Vacation scheme deadline: 28th February 2021 


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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Social Housing (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Charities (Band 4)
    • 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)

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