The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
A leader in the South West, national commercial firm Ashfords counts corporate, real estate, energy and private client among its specialisms. The firm has offices in Bristol, Exeter, Taunton, Plymouth, Tiverton and London, and champions a client-focused and straightforward approach across its practice areas.
The star performers
Agriculture and estates; Banking and finance; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Construction; Corporate and commercial; Corporate tax; Energy; Environment; EU and competition; Insolvency and corporate recovery; Intellectual property; IT and telecoms; Local government; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Planning; Project finance and PFI; Property litigation; Social housing; Sport.
Acted for Notion Capital Managers on a $13m investment in GoCardless, a subsidiary of US-based Groupay; advised Karhoo on obtaining approval for an enterprise investment scheme; acted for HR Dept Limited on the enforcement of a restrictive covenant against a former franchisee; acting for pension fund investor Ethika Fund SICAV on the funding, construction and commercial agreements related to a series of renewable developments in the UK and Northern Ireland; acted for Devon County Council in relation to the £70m redevelopment of the Exeter Coach and Bus Station.
Exeter City Council; Hampton Estates; Majestic Wine; Ovo Energy Group; Quantuma; RBS; Smith & Williamson; Swallowfield; Tavistock Investments; Viridor Waste Management.
The 'strong South West focus' of 'full-service law firm' Ashfords was a reason cited by many of the current intake for applying to the firm. A 'broad range of general practice areas' and 'wide array of seat choices' also enticed the new recruits. The firm offers 'top-quality training' in a 'friendly and inclusive atmosphere', all of which bolsters its 'great reputation'. Trainees enjoy a 'greater work/life balance than peers at other firms' which allows them 'the opportunity to pursue extracurricular activities in the evenings'. Heightened responsibility was a common theme in the work highlight moments, examples of which are 'being able to run small files by myself, 'being the primary contact on a variety of matters' and 'getting involved in several employment tribunal claims'. On a lighter note, the atmosphere in the office is 'relaxed, which makes it a great place to work' and 'Thursday drinks in Bristol', as well as 'the chocolate brownies in the Exeter café' keep trainees happy. There were some complaints about the 'remote location' of the Exeter office and 'the lack of communication between senior members of staff and other employees'. One trainee also mentioned 'feeling overwhelmed working on a complex matter', although this was balanced by a 'supervisor spending time helping me to understand so it all worked out in the end'. There are many opportunities to get involved with CSR and charity work, with trainees enjoying 'taking part in the Trainee Challenge to raise money for the charity of the year'. To work in a firm with 'exposure to different work and a great level of responsibility' where the 'overall values, level of support and general friendliness' are hard to beat, consider Ashfords.
A day in the life of...
Hannah McGown trainee, Ashfords
Departments to date: Commercial property, agricultural property
University:University of Warwick; University of Law
Degree:LLB Law - 2(1) Hons; MSc Law, Business and Management - Distinction
8.00am: I arrive at The Hartnoll Hotel for the Ashfords Tiverton Breakfast Club. It's a glorious morning and I start my day drinking coffee in the gardens with a number of other local professionals. We sit for breakfast and I am joined at my table by representatives of Augmentum, Muddifords Court Country House and Cooper Associates Wealth Management Ltd. Not only is the breakfast delicious but it is a perfect way to network, particularly as a junior where confidence in networking skills requires development.
10.00am: After exchanging business cards with a few new contacts, I leave the event and return to work, albeit an hour later than my usual day. The start of every day involves reviewing my emails and yesterday's 'to do' list. I note an interesting email about a new client and flag this for review later in the day.
10.20am: My supervising partner calls me into his office. We often start the day with a review of my current work and he passes me details on new files for work later in the week. The level of communication between trainee and supervisor is really positive at Ashfords and I always feel supported.
10.35am: I review a client file that I had been working on earlier in the week as we are due to complete soon. The property is worth over £16m and we are working to a tight deadline. It's my job to ensure that everything is in order for the transaction to run smoothly. I draft the necessary completion documents.
11.40am: I have a meeting with our client and both their land agent and selling agent at 12 so I head down to our conference room to prepare. Our client is looking to sell a large acreage of agricultural land (including properties) and prior to this, we are dealing with the first registration. Some of the deeds date back to the early 1900s and I have been reviewing them recently to determine extent of title. The purpose of today's meeting is to feed back my findings to the client and agree the boundaries for the selling agent's plan.
12.00pm: Our client arrives with both agents and I show them into our conference room. My supervising partner and I take them through the title documents and highlight the discrepancies. Even at junior level I am encouraged to participate in client contact meetings. We agree the extent of the title and confirm that a statutory declaration is needed for a small parcel of land to determine ownership for the first registration.
1.00pm: I exchange emails with fellow trainees about our plans for the firm's upcoming masquerade ball and head out for a walk with some colleagues from my department.
2.00pm: I review the email I had flagged earlier in the day. A client needs to be granted drainage rights over agricultural land and I set about drafting a deed of easement.
2.50pm: I'm interrupted by one of the partners who wishes to pass over monies for accommodation. As part of my role on the charity committee I am organising a trip to climb Snowdon later in the year.
3.15pm: I'm approached by my supervising partner with a new memorandum of sale. It involves clients that we had met with a fortnight ago to discuss a potential land sale. I'm excited to get stuck in; not only does the transaction involve drafting overage provisions, the land itself is subject to basic payment scheme entitlements, an agricultural right of way and an entry level stewardship agreement.
6.00pm: I update my 'to do' list for my return to the office tomorrow and head to Exeter. I'm the sports representative on the Devon and Somerset JLD Committee and tonight is the rounders match against DASLS and CILEX.
About the firm
Address:Ashford House, Grenadier Rd, Exeter, EX1 3LH
Telephone: 01392 333634
Senior partner : Mark Lomas
CEO : Garry Mackay
Total partners: 73
Other fee-earners: 222
Total trainees: 24
Other offices: Bristol, London, Plymouth, Taunton, Tiverton
Who we are: Ashfords is a national provider of legal and professional services to businesses and individuals throughout the UK and abroad.
What we do: Our aim is straightforward - to help our clients get the results that they want. Our commitment to excellence is reflected by the quality of our employees and partners, our client testimoni¬als and industry awards. As a full-service firm we have a wide range of practice areas, including: corporate, commercial property, projects, employment, IP, trusts and estates, and many more.
What we are looking for: Someone that is very motivated and ready to immerse themselves in real client matters, providing our clients with the benefit of a fresh and expert approach.
What you'll do:We have a clear career model with structured development to support you at each stage. Trainees have access to development on an individual, firm-wide and departmental level to help achieve career ambitions.
Perks: Annual benefits include: 23 days' paid leave, birthday day off, additional Ashfords Christmas day off, holiday purchase scheme, free in-house gym (Exeter office), 5% non-contributory pension, health cash plan, membership of The Junior Lawyers Division, cycle scheme, annual bonus scheme.
Sponsorship:Full course bursary given for the LPC when you study at any University of Law. All PSC courses and practice certificate fees are paid by the firm.
Facts and figures
Training contracts available for 2020: 10
Applications received pa: 500
Percentage interviewed: 8
First year: Competitive
Second year: Competitive
Newly qualified: Competitive
Turnover in 2016: £36m (+2% from 2015) Profits per equity partner: £268,000 (+3%)
What's involved: Partner interview, 1 to 1 exercise, online tests.
When to apply:
Training Contract: By 30 April 2018.
Vacation Scheme: By 30 April 2018.