The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Ashfords has over 70 partners based across its six offices in Bristol, Exeter, Taunton, Plymouth, Tiverton and London. A leader in the South West, the firm was shortlisted for National/Regional Firm of the Year at the Legal Business Awards 2016. Corporate, real estate, energy and private client are just some of the firm’s leading practice areas.
The star performers
Commercial property; Construction; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate tax; Crime: fraud; EU and competition; Employment; Energy; Health and safety; Insolvency and corporate recovery; Intellectual property; Local government; Personal injury: defendant; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Project finance and PFI; Property litigation; Social housing; Sport; TMT: IT and telecoms; Transport: shipping.
Acted for Pennon Group on the £100m acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Bournemouth Water; advised Santander UK on its refinancing of Seasalt and its associated companies; represented New Directions Holdings in High Court proceedings concerning the enforcement of restrictive covenants against former employees; assisted Welland Bio Power with the construction and operation of a new renewable energy facility; advised Exeter City Council on a twelve-acre mixed-use regeneration scheme.
Cornish Mutual; Eden Ventures; The Environment Agency; Exeter Finance; Lloyds Bank; Sensus UK; Sovereign Housing Association; Viridor Waste Management; Wandsworth Borough Council; Welland Bio Power.
Several Ashfords trainees told us of their eagerness to work in the South West, and that the firm enjoys a ‘strong reputation in the region’. This reputation reflects a firm with a ‘commercial focus’ that undertakes a ‘range of work’ on behalf of ‘high-calibre clients’. Trainees ‘get a lot of responsibility’ and are tasked with ‘hands-on work’, with one stating that ‘I have been allowed to run my own files and progress matters without micro-management’. This ‘excellent exposure to work’ is balanced by trainees being ‘supported fully throughout their tasks’. Work highlights of the current intake include ‘travelling to London to advise a very wealthy client on their visa application’, ‘attending a mediation with the client and my supervising partner’ and ‘the pride in reaching financial close on a million-pound renewables project’. It is felt that ‘remuneration could be slightly better’ as the salary is ‘generally a little less than at comparable firms’, but one respondent adds that this has ‘improved in recent years’. The firm is praised for having a ‘good work/life balance’, which means that trainees ‘can still have a life outside of work’. On the downside, the most common gripe is reserved for the ‘lack of transparency around available seats’, with trainees sometimes informed of their next rotation ‘less than six weeks before the seat is due to start’. Despite this frustration, the ‘wide variety of seats on offer’ is a clear attraction. More broadly, the ‘friendly yet professional atmosphere’ at Ashfords and the ‘welcoming attitude’ of senior colleagues puts new recruits at ease, and is even said to engender a ‘family feel’ at the firm. To work at an ‘ambitious’ firm with ‘strong leadership’ where you can advise a ‘good range of household-name clients’, remember Ashfords.
A day in the life of...
Lee Ward second-seat trainee, Ashfords LLP
Departments to date: Planning, projects. Lee has been with Ashfords for three years, having started his career with Ashfords as a paralegal in the construction department.
8.00am: Today starts slightly differently as I attend a golf networking event hosted by Old Mill, a local accountancy firm. The event is attended by a number of professionals from firms such as Charles Stanley, Barclays and Expedite. The event consists of 45 minutes of practice in the driving range followed by breakfast. The views overlooking the driving range are a great way to start the day.
10.15am: I usually arrive at the office at around 8.45am but today I get in at around 10.15am. Ashfords is very encouraging (even at junior level) when it comes to networking and building good client relations so was happy for me to attend the networking event. When I arrive I check my emails to see if anything urgent has come in overnight. The office is open-plan so while checking my emails I chat with my supervisor about a Brexit debate hosted by Ashfords the evening before.
10.25am: I exchange emails with the other trainees relating to the vacation scheme social we are planning for next month.
10.30am: The projects department can be quite high-paced and I’m approached by a solicitor in the team who has asked me to draft some supporting documents for a project we’re involved in for the procurement of domiciliary care and community support. The project is relatively complex and has a value of £110m.
12.15pm: After drafting the documents I discuss them with the solicitor and we work together to finalise everything before she sends the documents out to the client.
1.00pm: I break for lunch and head upstairs to the third-floor gym. After 40 minutes I call it a day, and head to the onsite café to pick up some lunch. The other trainees are all eating lunch together so I join them for the last 20 minutes before returning to my desk. Last year Ashfords’ charity of the year was Mind, a mental health charity, so Ashfords is keen to promote a good work/life balance and support employee wellbeing through various initiatives which include lunchtime yoga classes, Mind workshops and free use of the onsite gym.
2.00pm: I’d been working on a contractual analysis report earlier in the week so I pick this up again in the afternoon. The project relates to an anaerobic digestion plant which was procured by way of an engineering, procurement and construction contract. In particular I’m focusing on the payment provisions contained within the contract.
4.00pm: I receive a call from a partner in our London office who explains that his client will be arriving at the Exeter office at 4.30pm to execute contracts for a project they have been working on together. The final versions are emailed to me and I prepare the contracts for signing. We agree that during the meeting, the partner will dial in so he can discuss the contracts with the client and supervise the proper execution of the documents.
4.30pm: I meet with the client downstairs and show him to a meeting room where we run through the contracts. During this time I ‘dial in’ the London partner who discusses last-minute changes which have been made and once the client is happy we execute the documents.
5.30pm: After the meeting I telephone the London partner for a debrief. I then arrange for the executed documents to be couriered to our London office the next day.
6.15pm: I make a list of things which need to be actioned for the next day; in particular I note that we have been asked to provide some follow up advice on whether a local council can delegate any function it may have to collect and dispose of waste. After this I head home for the evening.
About the firm
Address:Ashford House, Grenadier Rd, Exeter, EX1 3LH
Telephone: 01392 333634
Senior partner : Mark Lomas
CEO : Garry Mackay
Other offices: Bristol, London, Plymouth, Taunton, Tiverton
Who we are: Ashfords is a top 100 law firm that provides legal and professional services to businesses and individuals throughout the UK and abroad.
What we do: Our three divisions (business services, real estate and infrastructure, and private client) cover 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: 20 days’ paid leave (increases to 25 on qualification), birthday day off, additional Ashfords Christmas day off, holiday purchase scheme, free in-house gym (Exeter office), 5% non-contributory pension, 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
Trainee places available for 2019: 15
Applications received pa: 550
Percentage interviewed: 12
First year: Competitive
Second year: Competitive
Newly qualified: Competitive
Total partners: 77
When to Apply:By 31 July 2017.
June/July 2017 (apply by 28 February 2017).