Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Ashfords LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Ashfords LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Reputation as a down-to-earth firm with a friendly atmosphere’, ‘growing presence in the Bristol market’, ‘it encourages entrepreneurial trainees’, ‘I was attracted to the firm’s CSR strategy, in particular the active commitment to supporting the green community and making the business as environmentally sustainable as possible’, ‘well established presence in the south west’, ‘I liked that it was ambitious and innovative’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Friendly and inclusive atmosphere where other fee earners are happy to help’, ‘the opportunity to get involved with so many activities and events, which helps build working relationships with colleagues at all levels’, ‘it really strives to support its staff by creating a positive working environment’, ‘lunchtime yoga classes’, ‘the friendly reputation is 100% genuine’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The double seat culture – where trainees go back to the seat they liked the most before they qualify – can be unfair’, ‘the Exeter office is outside the city centre, which makes arranging after-work socials more challenging’, ‘lack of communication regarding seat moves’, ‘it would be nice to have more firm-organised trainee socials so that we can catch up with trainees from other offices more frequently’

Best moment? ‘Being in my commercial seat during the GDPR go-live period. I had a lot of exposure to data protection work and had to get up to speed quickly, which was a steep but invaluable learning curve’, ‘realising that family law is where I want to qualify’, ‘attending a department away day and getting to bond with my team’, ‘running my own matters and being trusted to deal with clients directly’

Worst moment? ‘The anxiety of not being given enough work despite asking for it’, ‘changing seats is always challenging, especially when you’ve realised where you want to qualify’, ‘difficulty approaching a supervisor for assistance in some instances’, ‘making a mistake that was picked up by a client’, ‘working with a difficult supervisor’

The Lex 100 verdict on Ashfords LLP

The firm: 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 deals: Advising Sensus UK Systems Limited in relation to its collaboration with Arqiva regarding the government’s smart metering implementation programme; advising KandyToys Holdings Limited on the purchase of the entire issued share capital of KandyToys Limited; advising on the Forder Valley development site, a £160 million housing scheme; advising the London Borough of Brent in relation to all the s106 requirements for the Wembley Park Development, the UK’s largest build to rent scheme; advising on the purchase of a farm and refinancing of the home farm, with a capital value of approximately £3m.

The clients: Biffa Waste Services Limited; Bovis Homes; Devon County Council; Ginsters; Hello Fresh; London Borough of Wandsworth; Midas Construction Limited; Notion Capital; Post Office Limited; Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The star performers:

(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) 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

The verdict

Providing the ‘perfect balance’, Ashfords allows trainees to ‘enjoy a south west lifestyle, whilst still offering a national full-service work base and high-quality clients’. The firm also has an office in London. There is a ‘supportive learning environment’, which translates into a ‘very good working atmosphere’ where everything is ‘very much a team effort with none of the work hoarding and dog-eat-dog environment of some City firms’. All things considered, the firm is a deserving Lex 100 Winner for work/life balance, job satisfaction and living up to trainee expectations. ‘Ambitious and innovative’, Ashfords trainees are afforded high levels of responsibility ‘both in terms of managing files and interacting with clients’. Grumbles tended to centre on the ‘confusing seat allocation process’, exacerbated by a ‘lack of information and communication’. Trainees did not enjoy ‘feeling belittled’ by the odd ‘tricky supervisor’ who can be ‘difficult to approach’. But on a more positive note, ‘bringing in new clients’, ‘accompanying counsel to a hearing at the Central Family Court in London’ and ‘dealing with a client with very little guidance’ were singled out as best moments. The recently-launched Ashfords Foundation deserves a mention, described by recruits as a ‘great way to support causes which are local to each of our offices’. What’s more, the firm is ‘actively committed to making the business as environmentally sustainable as possible – how many trainees can say that they work for a firm with its very own bee colony?’. If you’re looking for a firm which ‘offers the feel of a regional firm but also the work and opportunities of a national firm’, where the ‘friendly reputation is 100% genuine’, consider Ashfords.

A day in the life of… Cara White, trainee, Ashfords (Exeter office)

Cara White, Ashfords LLP

Departments to date: Real estate, company commercial

University: Cardiff University

Degree: Graduate Diploma in Law (Distinction)

8.30am: I arrive at the Exeter office, log on to my computer and head to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea while my computer loads up. Once back at my desk, I review any emails that have come in overnight and compile a to-do list for the day. I also have time to review the news and industry headlines.

9.00am: I attend a meeting with my supervising partner to discuss an urgent piece of work. It involves drafting an incinerator bottom ash (IBA) agreement which is something that I have never done before, so I am excited to get involved. My supervising partner talks me through what an IBA agreement is, its purpose and explains how it works in practice. He then provides me with details about the client and their specific concerns, discusses some of the key clauses to be included in the IBA agreement and points me in the right direction of some useful precedents. I make a good start on the IBA agreement, with the intention of coming back to it later on in the afternoon.

12.00pm: I attend a regular client meeting with a partner in the company commercial team. The client owns a number of anaerobic digestion plants (AD plants) that generate renewable heat and power. In order to ensure the effective operation of the AD plants, there are a number of documents that need to be negotiated. Fortunately for me, such documents are cross-departmental, which means that I am able to work with specialists from across the firm in the construction and infrastructure, corporate, employment, planning, environmental, health and safety and real estate teams. Following the meeting, I type up the detailed notes that I had taken. I then circulate these to all those who attended. In the notes, I summarise what was discussed in the meeting, the various tasks to be undertaken before the next meeting, and who shall be responsible for them.

1.00pm: At lunchtime, I head to yoga. Ashfords offers a number of yoga sessions throughout the week, which are a great way to stretch out after being sat at your desk all day!

2.00pm: I return to the IBA agreement that I was drafting this morning. However, at 3.15pm, a partner in the company commercial team asks me if I have capacity to make amendments to a heat and electricity offtake agreement. Given that I have made substantial progress on the IBA agreement, I accept the work. I get stuck into making amendments to the heat and electricity offtake agreement and, afterwards, discuss my amendments with the partner. I then send the updated version back to the client for their approval.

4.30pm: Before I know it, it is 4.30. I use the final hour of the day to prepare for a knowledge sharing session that I am getting involved in tomorrow morning. The knowledge sharing sessions are run on a fortnightly basis and individuals from all levels get involved. It is a great opportunity to hear about the broad and diverse work being undertaken across the firm, as well as legal news and other general updates.

5.30pm: I leave the office on time today, as I am attending an XYBC event. The events are run by the Ashfords XYBC Group, and are a great opportunity to network and socialise with other young professionals in the local area. This evening’s event is zorb football, followed by fish and chips. It is the perfect way to end what has been an interesting day!

About the firm

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’re 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, 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.