Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Bates Wells

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Bates Wells

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Its responsible social impact focus’, ‘interesting work on offer’, ‘the people that I met from the firm seemed down to earth, approachable and moral. I felt like I could really fit in with the people who worked here’, ‘its ethos and charity law work’, ‘varied client base’, ‘better quality work and more approachable senior staff’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Very friendly, non-elitist culture’, ‘the high levels of responsibility early on; I started doing work that actually mattered very early into my first seat’, ‘uniquely large amount of charity law work on offer’, ‘I have much more client contact, responsibility and interesting work compared to peers at other firms’, ‘the approachable senior staff’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘There is some difficulty getting to know new joiners as the firm grows’, ‘the social events aren’t always that well attended’, ‘in some departments you have to work longer hours’, ‘there are limited international opportunities’

Best moment? ‘Assisting on an urgent, high-profile court case that also went to the Court of Appeal’, ‘winning an appeal for a truly lovely client who had had a hard time in the past’, ‘setting up a new support charity for people with terminal illnesses’

Worst moment? ‘A situation where there was counterproductive micromanagement’, ‘being extremely busy for a couple of weeks and feeling like I wasn’t working to the best of my capabilities because of it’, ‘spending too much time preparing PowerPoint presentations for partner talks’

The Lex 100 verdict on Bates Wells

The firm: “A City firm with a difference. We advise thousands of charities and social enterprises alongside a growing commercial client base, focusing particularly on the “impact economy”. Our values are at the centre of who we are as a firm and we’re a proud B Corp.”

The deals: Successfully represented two Uber drivers in the Court of Appeal in a landmark case concerning employment rights; advising most of the former trustees of Kids Company in respect of investigations by the Charity Commission (CC) and Insolvency Service and director qualification proceedings brought by the Official Receiver; advising Oxfam on its response to the CC’s statutory inquiry into the allegations of misconduct by staff involved in its humanitarian response in Haiti; advising RNIB on the CC’s statutory inquiry into whether there had been sufficient trustee oversight of safeguarding at the charity; acted for F Hinds on its rescue of Chapelle jewellery stores from administration.

The clients: BBC Children in Need; College of Policing; Comic Relief; Elecosoft plc; Financial Ombudsman Service; FM Conway Limited; Global Innovation Fund; Green Party for England and Wales; Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; Samaritans.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Administrative and public law; Brand management; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial contracts; Commercial property: corporate occupiers; Electoral; Employment: employers and senior executives; Immigration: business; Local government; Media and entertainment (including media finance); Professional discipline; Property litigation; Sport.

The verdict

Bates Wells is revered for its ‘focus on social impact’. Trainees report meeting ‘down-to- earth, approachable and normal people’ during the recruitment process, which assured them that ‘they could really fit in’ at the firm. There is a ‘unique level of charity law work’ on offer at Bates Wells and respondents appreciated being given ‘high levels of responsibility early on’, going so far as to say they ‘started doing work that actually mattered from very early on into the first seat’. ‘Assisting on an urgent, high-profile court case that also went to the Court of Appeal’ was a clear highlight for one trainee. Indeed, ‘a high level and range of work’ and ‘lots of client contact’ is the norm. Sometimes this can lead to ‘being insanely busy for a couple of weeks and feeling like you’re not working to the best of your capabilities’. Generally, though, the work/life balance is good at Bates Wells. A ‘friendly, non-elitist culture’ pervades, where ‘senior staff are more approachable’ than at some other firms. As the firm grows, there is increasing ‘difficulty getting to know new joiners’, which irked some recruits. Exacerbating the situation, ‘social events aren’t always so well attended’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pro bono is a ‘core part of our charity offering’, including ‘lots of volunteering and outreach opportunities with schools and students, which feels like a nice way to get involved in the firm and give back’. If a firm whose ‘ethos and charity law work’ appeals to you, consider Bates Wells.

A day in the life of… Matthew James, trainee, Bates Wells

Matthew James, Bates Wells

Departments to date: Charity and social enterprise, immigration, public and regulatory, and real estate

University: Nottingham

Degree: Physics

9.00am: I arrive in the office and settle down at my desk to check my emails and update the day’s to-do list (making sure I’ve also had that all-important first coffee of the morning!)

9.15am: I head over to our atrium where the charity and social enterprise department holds a weekly meeting to discuss capacity and work coming up.

9.35am: I’m due to head to a client meeting with one of the partners at 10am, so spend some time reading into the matter.

10.00am: The client has arrived and we meet them in reception. The client wishes to establish a new charity in the wake of a recent humanitarian disaster, so I take a detailed note of the proposed activities of the charity and the advice given in the meeting.

11.30am: The meeting has ended and the partner tells me that a detailed note of the meeting isn’t urgent, but she would like me to draft an email to the client summarising both the advice given and suggested next steps. There has been plenty of client contact throughout my training contract and it is likely that I will be the first point of contact for this client as we work towards a successful registration.

12:30pm: My supervisor asks me to give a potential new client a call to find out more about the advice he wants. I do so, draft a quick note of the call and update my supervisor. Bates Wells has given me a lot of client-facing responsibilities, which I’ve enjoyed.

1.00pm: It’s summer, so a few of us head up to the roof terrace to have lunch looking out over the Thames – double-checking the weather forecast before we head up there!

2.00pm: I am back at my desk promptly as I have a call with a client and need to brief the partner beforehand. We have been advising the client on their submissions to HMRC regarding the human rights impact of the new common reporting standard for certain charitable trusts. I update the partner on my review of the current draft HMRC guidance documents and my proposed improvements. The emphasis on early responsibility was something that attracted me to the firm as I enjoy taking initiative. She agrees with my proposals and we call the client. The client is very happy with our approach and asks us to draft a letter to HMRC.

3.20pm: On my way back to my desk I catch up with a colleague about Bates Wells’ upcoming B Corp reassessment. B Corp certifications are like Fairtrade for businesses – if you pass, it’s a recognition that your business values people, the environment and making a positive impact on society as much as it values profit. The assessment is rigorous and is undertaken every two years to ensure we’re keeping up standards. I return to drafting the letter.

4.00pm: An associate asks if I can join them on an urgent call. We pop into one of the ‘pods’ so we don’t interrupt anyone in the open plan office.

5.30pm: I finish my first draft of the letter and read it through for typos. I draft a covering note for the client and send it to the partner for review.

5.45pm: I’m a member of the firm’s social committee and we have arranged a firm-wide pub quiz for tonight. I double check the questions I have written and head over to the venue to set up for a 6.00pm start. The firm embraces the opportunities to get all colleagues together for social events.

About the firm

Managing partner: Martin Bunch

Who we are: A professional services firm, combining a UK 100 legal practice with impact and advisory consultancy services. Also the UK’s first B Corp law firm.

What we do: A leading firm for charities, social enterprises and impact-focused organisations, with additional top directory rankings for immigration, real estate, education and electoral law.

What we’re looking for: The brightest future commercial lawyers who understand our work, our clients and our values. Excellent communicators with sound academic backgrounds.

What you’ll do: Two six-month seats, followed by three four-month seats. Trainees can select seats during their training contract. We occasionally offer secondments to clients. Seminars for trainees and a mentoring scheme offer further development.

Perks: These include a firm pension scheme with match funding provided, interest-free season ticket loan, permanent health insurance (PHI), health cash plan, death in service scheme, subsidised use of gym/corporate gym membership, wellbeing classes, cycle to work scheme, access to complementary therapies, option to purchase additional leave, Christmas shopping day, volunteering days, firm-wide profit sharing scheme, policies for flexible and remote working.

Sponsorship: The firm will provide full fee support for both the GDL and LPC course. Fees will only be paid for courses that commence after the training contract has been successfully applied for.