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
Banking and finance; Commercial litigation; Construction; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate tax; Crime: fraud; Debt recovery; Employment; Energy; Environment; EU and competition; Immigration; Insolvency and corporate recovery; IT and telecoms; Local government; PATMA: trade mark attorneys; Professional negligence; Project finance and PFI; Property litigation; Social housing; Venture capital
Advised online estate agent Emoov on a £9m investment round by various investors; represented The Roald Dahl Story Company in its litigation against Oakwood Leisure who operated a Roald Dahl inspired area of a theme park without the client’s permission; advised the London Borough of Brent on complex development and planning matters in relation to the Wembley Park development; acted for Exeter City Council in a professional negligence claim against Allies & Morrison concerning the refurbishment of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum; settled a negligence claim against an NHS hospital for leaving a medical gauze inside a patient’s perineum after the birth of her daughter
Bank of Scotland; Exeter City Council; Hastings Harbour Quarter; Lloyds Bank; Maxwells Properties; Notion Capital; Penhaligon’s; Rathlin Energy; Sapphire Ventures; Techstars London
Ashfords’ trainees emphasised how great people are at the firm. Teams are made up of ‘friendly’, ‘supportive’ individuals, making it easy to ‘approach associates and partners without hesitation’. This facilitates an ‘inclusive working environment’, made better by the ‘open-plan office’. What trainees also liked about the ‘mid-size firm’ was its ‘high-profile clients’ and ‘top-quality training and work’. Work highlights included ‘attending a mediation in London for a high-net-worth claim’, ‘completing a multi-million pound deal’ and ‘being sent a thank you card by a client’. Aspects of the training that didn’t go down so well with newbies included ‘not being taken to any client meetings in one of my seats’, ‘lengthy disclosure tasks’ and periods varying between ‘not having anything to do’ and having ‘three deadlines at once’. Trainees also disliked the ‘time it takes to announce seat moves’ and felt that although the financial remuneration has improved, Ashfords is ‘still behind other firms’. The ‘double seat approach permitted for seat allocations’ also annoyed a handful of trainees. As for socialising, trainees felt a bit ‘disconnected’ from the different offices and craved more opportunities to mingle, but acknowledged that with ‘the firm’s head office being on the outskirts of Exeter, it makes social activities more difficult’. Nevertheless, Ashfords’ new recruits felt that they had a ‘better work/life balance than City firms’ and were given ‘a good level of responsibility’. CSR opportunities are plentiful and ‘heavily events-based’ (e.g. a ‘charity breakfast’ and ‘comedy night’). If you want to train at a ‘full service’ firm with ‘big clients’ and ‘interesting work’ whilst ‘having the luxury of living in the South West’, make sure you apply to Ashfords.
A day in the life of...
Hannah Pettit trainee, Ashfords (Bristol office)
Departments to date: Corporate, Commercial
University:University of Southampton
Degree:LLB Law 2(1)
7.00am: I start my day with a 25- minute walk to work, one of the many perks of living and working in Bristol. I do not usually leave the house as early, but today the commercial team are hosting a GDPR breakfast seminar, which starts at 8.00am.
7.30am: I arrive at the Bristol office, log in, check any emails that have come in overnight and update my to do list for the day. I then head through to reception to greet the seminar attendees.
8.00am: A tasty breakfast of pastries and baguettes is served. It is a good opportunity to network with owners and employees of SMEs situated in and around Bristol. Having spent several months in the commercial team, a lot of the work I have done has been focused on data protection and it is a topic I enjoy discussing with the individuals I meet. After exchanging business cards, we then head through to the board room to hear a senior associate in the firm’s commercial team explain ‘how GDPR is set to impact SMEs in 2018’.
10.45am: Following the call I send an email to everyone who dialled in, summarising the tasks to be actioned before next week’s call and who will be responsible for each.
11.00am: One of my tasks is to review the client’s GDPR training materials and suggest any amendments. I conduct my review, discuss my amendments with a senior associate in the team, and send the materials back to the client.
12.45pm: It is a lovely day, so a few of us walk over to the Thursday food market which is held outside Temple Meads train station. We then sit by the water and eat in the sun. Another of my favourite things about working in Bristol is all of the great lunch spots for when the sun decides to come out.
1.45pm: When I get back to the office, a partner in the commercial team asks me if I have some capacity to draft a design services agreement. This is something I have not done before, so it will be a good learning opportunity. The partner talks me through the client’s specific concerns, discusses some of the key clauses we need to include and points me in the direction of some useful precedents. Throughout my training contract so far I have always felt very supported and this is a good example of the training I receive.
2.15pm: Now that I understand what is required, I get stuck into drafting the services agreement and before I know it, it is 5.30pm
5.30pm: I head through to the kitchen to join some of my colleagues for ‘Thursday Drinks’. Every Thursday from 5pm we can meet in the kitchen for drinks and snacks. One of the great things about the Bristol office is how sociable and friendly everyone is. It has a very inclusive culture.
6.00pm: After a quick drink in the kitchen, I leave the office with several colleagues and walk over to We the Curious (formerly @Bristol) for a charity quiz. The quiz is hosted by Barclays in aid of the Guide Dogs Association. It is a really good evening and a nice end to what has been another interesting and varied day at Ashfords.
About the firm
Address:Ashford House, Grenadier Rd, Exeter, EX1 3LH
Telephone: 01392 337000
Senior partner: Mark Lomas
Managing partner: Garry Mackay
Other offices: Plymouth, Exeter, Tiverton, Taunton, Bristol, London
Who we are: Ashfords is a national provider of legal, professional and regulatory services. We combine legal expertise, commercial experience and our wider network to help our clients achieve their goals, providing value for time and value for money.
What we do: We provide legal advice for businesses of all types and sizes as well as individuals.
What we are looking for: We are looking for individuals who have ambition, are business savvy and who are never afraid to put forward innovative ideas.
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 (25 on qualification), birthday day off, additional Ashfords Christmas day off, holiday purchase scheme, free in-house gym (Exeter office), 5% pension, membership of The Junior Lawyers Division, enhanced maternity and paternity pay, free eye tests, cycle scheme, childcare voucher scheme, annual discretionary bonus scheme, medicash: Health care cash plan for employees, free legal services to staff including wills and conveyancing.
Sponsorship:We offer a full LPC bursary for all trainees provided you have not yet started your course and study at the University of Law.
Facts and figures
Trainee places available for 2021: 10
Applications received pa: 500
Percentage interviewed: 10
Total partners: 72
Turnover in 2017: £40.6m (+13% from 2016). Profits per equity partner: £317,000 (+18%)
What's involved:Successful candidates will be invited for an assessment centre (partner interview, written exercise and roleplay exercise)
When to apply:
Training contract: By 30 April 2019
Summer vacation scheme: By 30 April 2019