Survey Results - Trainee feedback on BDB Pitmans LLP

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Its approach to diversity & inclusion and career changers’, ‘the firm had a strong drive towards improving and growing’, ‘it is a genuinely friendly firm’, ‘work/life balance, inclusive attitudes, open-door culture, friendly, fosters learning and collaborative working’, ‘friendly vacation scheme and assessment process’, ‘reputation for infrastructure projects’, ‘good work/life balance’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Efforts to keep us connected during lockdown and remote working’, ‘how friendly, accepting and willing to help everyone is’, ‘the familiarity – everyone gets to know each other, even across different departments’, ‘diversity & inclusion are not just buzzwords used on the website – they really are causes the firm cares about, supports and ensures that its staff are extremely competent in and familiar with’, ‘the culture’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The firm has big ambitions about where it would like to go and who it would like to compete with, but the trainee pay does not reflect this’, ‘some of the core practice area departments are fairly small compared with those of our competitors’, ‘some of the partners are unapproachable, a little backwards-thinking and hands-off’, ‘the remuneration in comparison to similar firms’

Best moment? ‘Getting involved in some very current contract drafting surrounding Covid-19’, ‘because of working remotely I have been able to attend more hearings than I would have usually’, ‘client meeting’, ‘representing the firm at an employment tribunal’, ‘being heavily involved in obtaining a Norwich Pharmacal order’, ‘working on high-profile cases’, ‘getting to know so many people in the firm’

Worst moment? ‘Working long hours’, ‘there was a week where I was particularly busy and worked both days of the weekend, though this is absolutely the exception rather than the norm’, ‘not being able to meet colleagues and trainees face to face’, ‘lack of partner supervision’, ‘I struggled with one partner I worked with in an earlier seat because they were a poor communicator’

The Lex 100 verdict on BDB Pitmans LLP

BDB Pitmans has a ‘range of specialist practice areas’ but it was the infrastructure, charities, corporate and public law teams which particularly attracted trainees. Recruits ‘felt comfortable and welcome from the first time I visited the office’ and appreciated that the ‘recruitment process is different from most firms’. An ‘open-door culture’, complete with ‘approachable partners and managers’ helps ‘foster learning and collaborative working’. ‘Not being able to meet colleagues face to face’ due to remote working has been difficult, but ‘the firm has made a big effort to be inclusive of trainees’ and has ‘sent home several treats’! BDB Pitmans is praised for its ‘dedication to wellbeing – we have an amazing team putting on events around mental health, international women’s day and our diversity and inclusion fortnight’. Whilst there is plenty of client contact and responsibility on offer, the firm ‘strikes the right balance between getting trainees involved and giving them quality work but not overwhelming them to the point that it affects work/life balance’. That said, ‘there is a difference in the work given to new recruits; some seats are extremely busy whilst others can be very quiet’. Some trainees would also like to see the salary rise. Best moments include ‘playing an integral part in a £2m mediation’ and ‘drafting a long email of advice to a client based on research I undertook alone’. Trainees were unimpressed at having to undertake a fair bit of administrative work and ‘working a weekend, although this is absolutely the exception and not the rule’. To train at a firm which offers a ‘wide range of seats’ but which is ‘not too enormous’, consider BDB Pitmans.

The firm: BDB Pitmans was established in 2018 following a merger between legacy firms Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB) and Pitmans Law. The firm brings together over 300 years of legal expertise across four locations – Cambridge, London, Reading and Southampton.

The clients: Highways England; Transport for London; Harwood Capital; Peel Holdings; Jones Lang LaSalle; Westcoast; Smurfit Kappa UK Limited; Novacyt; Sourcebio International Plc; Transport for Greater Manchester; Tenpin Limited; Harrods Limited; The Healthcare Management Trust; Royal Opera House; Covent Garden Foundation; Kurt Geiger Limited; Tony’s Chocolonely; Sipsmith Gin.

The deals: Advised on AIM admission of healthtech provider Trellus Health Plc, culminating in gross proceeds during the rundraising of £28.5m; advised British heritage brand Fred Perry on a new flagship store on the ground floor of Bruntwood Works’ iconic Afflecks building in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. BDB Pitmans carried out the legal work for Fred Perry in negotiating the lease documentation for the new store. The team advised on satisfying the detailed planning requirements at the site and on terminating Fred Perry’s existing tenancy in Police Street, Manchester; acted for the successful claimants in Craddock and another v Secretary of State for Transport [2021] UKUT 0002 (LC), concerning a disputed blight notice relating to Phase 2a of the HS2 project; successfully advised leading provider of construction intelligence solutions Thinkproject on its acquisition of mobile data capture and data processing systems firm Digital Field Solutions Limited; working with East Suffolk Council in its delivery of the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project to deliver significant flood defence structures in the area around the Port of Lowestoft to protect the town of Lowestoft from future tidal surges; acted for Bath and North East Somerset Council in developing Bath’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ), England’s first charging CAZ outside of London; acted on the £12.5m sale of Oxfordshire-based The Garden Trading Company Limited to the Joules Group plc; successfully advised long-standing client Ten Entertainment Group plc (TEG) on a new £14m secured term loan from The Royal Bank of Scotland under the government’s Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, as well as amendments to its existing £25m revolving credit facility, to assure sufficient funding to ensure that the business can successfully restart its operations after the Covid-19 pandemic; advised on the successful admission of Verici Dx plc, an immuno-diagnostics development company primarily focused on kidney transplantation, to trading on the London Stock Exchange AIM market; advised SourceBio International Plc on its successful admission to trading on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of just over £120m, as well as a placing as part of the IPO to raise £35m from institutional investors; advised existing client finnCap on the successful admission of the entire issued share capital of Fonix Mobile PLC to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market; advised Novacyt UK Holdings, an international specialist in clinical diagnostics, on its £12m acquisition of IT-IS International, a diagnostic instrument development and manufacturing company.

A day in the life of... Lore Millward, trainee (since September 2020), BDB Pitmans LLP

Departments to date: Litigation, Pensions

9.00am: I finish my coffee and settle in at my desk – I have spent most of my training contract working from home. I am attending a trustee meeting at 10.00am so I spend 30 minutes reading through the papers to get an overview of what will be discussed.

9.30am: My supervisor calls me to discuss some work he has for me to complete. One of my main tasks as a trainee is to produce deeds of appointment/removal of trustees and deeds of amendments to rules that govern the scheme. My supervisor needs me to draft a deed of appointment for a new trustee and draft an advisory note on securities over assets.

10.00am: I dial into Zoom for the trustee meeting. I am there to observe and note anything of interest to be able to update the partner afterwards. The trustees discussed the steps required to produce a valuation of a pension scheme and the factors that need to be considered. Before starting my pensions seat, I didn’t know anything about my own pension let alone pensions law, so meetings like this are a great opportunity to learn about this area.

11.45am: The trustee meeting has concluded so I begin to check the information I have available to set up a new client matter.

As we have all been working remotely since we started our training contracts the trainee WhatsApp group is a good source of support and how to guides! I send a message to the other trainees to ask for a good contact to open a matter as this isn’t something I have done before.

12.00pm: I complete the information needed to open a new matter on our system and draft a client care and an ‘appointment of legal advisors’ letter to send out to the client.

1.00pm: Time for some lunch.

1.30pm: I return to my desk and draft a deed to appoint a new trustee to a pension scheme. To do this I have to locate various documents from the scheme to confirm existing trustee details and confirm the rules that govern the appointment of trustees. Once drafted, I send to my supervisor for approval.

2.30pm: My supervisor has requested some research and a note on security over employer assets for an existing pension scheme. This is a requirement to protect members of the scheme from loss in the event of insolvency.

3.30pm: I am a mentor for a BPP student; she has been on a virtual vac scheme so we had a zoom call to discuss how this went and criteria to consider when selecting a firm to apply to/accept an offer from.

4.00pm: The Association of Pension Lawyers are running a conference and series of online webinars. A partner has asked me to attend training on liability insurance and take notes to feed back to the rest of the team.

5.00pm: I continue to draft a note for a client on security over employer assets to send to my supervisor for approval.

6.00pm: I log off for the evening – next week I am heading back into the office and will hopefully have a chance to meet up with some other trainees for a post-work/pre-train drink.

About the firm

Senior partner: Helen Ratcliffe

Managing partner: Andrew Smith

Other offices: Cambridge, Reading, Southampton

Who we are: Based at offices in London, Cambridge, Reading and Southampton, BDB Pitmans approaches every case with the bigger picture in mind.

At BDB Pitmans, our ‘BUILDING BETTER’ approach is about helping to shape what’s important to people and society. We work constructively with our colleagues and clients and explain things clearly in a friendly and approachable way.

Above all, our focus is on doing things right. And doing them well. So we build longstanding and mutually beneficial client relationships based on trust and genuine partnership.

You could be managing an established charity. Getting an exciting construction project or technology initiative up and running. Taking care of your family’s financial security for years to come. Wherever your business objectives or life goals take you, we’re as happy to work on complex (and sometimes unusual) challenges, as well as those more everyday legal matters.

What we do: The firm’s main practice groups are: charities, corporate and commercial, employment, family and matrimonial, infrastructure, litigation, pensions, private wealth, public law, real estate, and restructuring and insolvency. Our clients range from individuals, to public sector bodies, charities and large corporations.

What we’re looking for: At BDB Pitmans, we don’t look for one particular type of trainee. We believe individual differences bring great strengths to our firm. There are, however, some traits our trainees all have in common. They are confident, enthusiastic, commercially-minded, can search for (and find) innovative solutions to problems, and demonstrate a real passion for learning.

What you’ll do: Trainees take part in four six-month seats over the course of two years. Our trainees receive extensive legal and interpersonal skills training in addition to the mandatory Professional Skills Course (PSC) to ensure their expertise and career skills are constantly developing.

Perks: A minimum of 25 days’ annual leave per year; biennial medical; bonus scheme; company pension; CSR day; employee assistance programme; enhanced maternity and adoption pay; flexible working; life assurance; income protection; interest-free season ticket loan; private medical insurance.

Sponsorship: To support your legal studies we provide sponsorship for both the GDL and the LPC. This includes payment of full fees for courses which are yet to be completed.

We ask our future trainees to attend a BPP law school (Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, London, Liverpool and Manchester). If there are personal reasons as to why you need to study elsewhere, we will consider your request.

We have agreed a menu of LPC electives, which are related to our practice areas, with BPP law school that our trainees can select. If you are successful in obtaining a training contract with us we provide further guidance before you make your final elective choices. If you have already completed the GDL or LPC we do still welcome your application.

Diversity and inclusion

BDB Pitmans is committed to building an environment where all employees are not only free from any form of discrimination, harassment or bullying, but also where they are celebrated and valued for their differences.

We host a programme of lunch and learn seminars throughout the year on all aspects of diversity ranging from neurodiversity; faith in the workplace; working parenthood; and tackling hate crime, to transclusivity; physical and mental wellbeing; and generational differences. The firm holds annual Health & Wellbeing and Diversity & Inclusion fortnights, as well as celebrating, among others, LGBTQ History Month, PRIDE and Black History Month. Additionally, all employees undertake mandatory education sessions on inclusive behaviours. Alongside the inclusive behaviours training, all partners and line managers undergo additional inclusive leadership training.

The firm is proud to be a founding member of LeGal BesT, and works closely with external organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors. We also actively support our internal Business Impact Groups – SHINE (BDB Pitmans’ multicultural group), and Best Self (our LGBTQ+ group) – both of which work closely with our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group.

BDB Pitmans recently hired its first Diversity and Inclusion Manager to help develop and deliver on its D&I commitments to employees and clients alike, and in January announced its first group of trained Inclusion Champions from across all four offices who will help to drive forward the D&I strategy and role model inclusive behaviours.

‘Diversity and inclusion isn’t just a tick-box exercise at BDB Pitmans; we really are trying to build an inclusive firm where everyone’s differences are embraced and valued. I’m proud to be a member of the Strategy Group and ensure that diversity and inclusion at BDB Pitmans is given the priority and support it deserves.’
Andrew Smith, Managing Partner