Survey Results - Trainee feedback on BDB Pitmans

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Unique work and small trainee intake’, ‘work/life balance’, ‘the firm’s personability and approachability’, ‘its commitment to diversity and inclusion’, ‘friendly atmosphere during the vacation scheme’, ‘good quality firm with quality clientele’, ‘they offered me an immediate start’, ‘I had worked as a paralegal at (legacy) Pitmans for 14 years’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Friendliness of colleagues’, ‘the interesting work and clients you get involved with’, ‘working hours are good’, ‘seat options and type of clients’, ‘the people’, ‘the atmosphere is friendly, open and inclusive’, ‘well run and organised’, ‘exposure to high-quality work at an early stage’, ‘work/life balance’, ‘my colleagues’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The IT’, ‘lack of transparency in general’, ‘no staff seating area’, ‘commuting to Reading for a seat if living in London and vice-versa’, ‘not enough trainee work at times’, ‘we have recently undergone a merger, which has caused the usual disruption to working life. Thankfully, this is now settling down’

Best moment? ‘Regularly meeting with clients’, ‘running an eight-week project in my first seat’, ‘completing an agreement on my own and assisting with getting a big deal over the line’, ‘attending trustee meetings’, ‘the diversity of the matters with which I have assisted’, ‘working independently on matters’, ‘attending a final hearing in the High Court’

Worst moment? ‘The induction day – there was so much to take in on only one day’, ‘long days/nights in order to complete deals by a deadline’, ‘not having enough work for half a seat’, ‘being told by a partner not to query our approach on a matter I had taken over from a previous trainee’, ‘some of the partners are quite old fashioned and hierarchical’

The Lex 100 verdict on BDB Pitmans

The firm: BDB Pitmans brings together over 300 years of legal expertise across four locations – Cambridge, London, Reading and Southampton. The firm works with clients across a variety of practice areas, with a focus on planning, public law, corporate and commercial and real estate. BDB Pitmans also has strengths in private wealth, family, employment, litigation, charity and the not-for-profit sectors.

The deals: Advising TfL on the extension to the Bakerloo Line and the Holborn station upgrade; representing The Doctors’ Laboratory in claims relating to the employment status of its internal courier team; advising Ten Entertainment Group on the employment aspects of its IPO on the London Stock Exchange; advising Transport for Wales on its ownership and the operation of the Core Valley Lines to be converted into a light rail operation; assisted The American School in England with the lease of a school estate in Thorpe Surrey

The clients: Birmingham City Council; BMW; C40 Climate Leadership UK; Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity; Inotec AMD; London Luton Airport Limited; London Zoo; National Audit Office; Smurfit Kappa UK; Transport for London

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Administrative and public law; Art and cultural property; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial contracts; Commercial property: Cambridge; Commercial property: corporate occupiers; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate and commercial: Cambridge; Court of protection; Employment: employers and senior executives; Family; Immigration: business; Infrastructure (parliamentary); Local government; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Professional discipline; Property litigation; Rail; Residential property

The verdict

‘An interesting spread of work’, including a ‘good reputation in the field of planning law’ and a ‘specialism in private client and family law’, attracted trainees to recently-merged BDB Pitmans. The modest size of the firm ‘warrants higher levels of responsibility and client contact’ where the tasks given to trainees ‘actually add value, i.e. they are more than just bundling and photocopying’! Recruits ‘work closely with partners’ who offer trainees ‘excellent exposure to varied cases and clients’. Following the merger between Bircham Dyson Bell and Pitmans, some respondents felt that there was some ‘ambiguity regarding the training programme and qualification process’ whilst others felt that ‘the firm has really tried to balance the salary and ensured the training contracts merged well’. There were also a few grumbles about the ‘lack of staff seating area’ and ‘there not being enough trainee work at times’. Nevertheless, recruits enjoyed standout moments such as ‘completing a property transaction by myself’ and ‘attending court on a police corruption case which was in the national press’. One trainee particularly relished a ‘client secondment at a multinational oil and gas company’, which they described as a ‘brilliant opportunity’. It is not unheard of for trainees to be lumbered with ‘administrative tasks such as billing’ or ‘archiving’, but perhaps these are not such unusual tasks for lawyers who are working their way up the career ladder! If you’re seeking a firm with ‘high-quality clientele’ where trainees are granted the opportunity to ‘work independently on matters’, BDB Pitmans may be the one for you.

A day in the life of… Ben Godfrey, trainee, BDP Pitmans

Ben Godfrey, BDB Pitmans

Departments to date: Private wealth, real estate

9.15am: I arrive at the office to find a voicemail from the director of a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company. The company owns a long lease of a flat in central London. There has been a mistake at the Land Registry in the registration of the ownership of the property, and we have been trying to rectify it so that the client can sell the flat. I phone the client back straight away to update them, explaining that the next step is to contact their landlord to enlist their help.

9.30am: I dictate a quick letter to the landlord of our client. I then catch up on emails that have arrived since yesterday. This week is the firm’s annual rowing regatta, and I am organising a crew for the trainees v partners race. I email my fellow team members to ensure we are ready for practice this evening.

10.00am: I am running a file negotiating a wayleave agreement and licence for alterations for a landlord client. The tenant of their property is a car showroom which is upgrading its telecoms equipment, but this will involve a telecoms operator installing apparatus at the premises. I review the latest amendments to the documents sent by the other side. I annotate the documents, ready to discuss with the supervising partner later.

10.50am: I am interrupted by a phone call from one of our senior associates from the Cambridge office who has an urgent task – I am to print engrossments of a development agreement and take them immediately to Kensington to get them signed by a company director who is leaving the country at lunchtime and won’t be available to sign thereafter. I liaise with our print room to produce the documents and travel over to Kensington to meet the client. I catch them with 30 minutes to spare.

12.30pm: Back in the office, the letter I dictated earlier is typed, and I edit it and take it to the supervising partner. He makes a few minor amendments, which I incorporate into a final version and send off to our client’s landlord.

1.00pm: I head to nearby St James’s Park where I have lunch and unwind within sight of Buckingham Palace. It is a glorious July day.

2.00pm: I am to give a presentation at the forthcoming department knowledge sharing session. I discuss with our PSL potential topics to present on, and we decide that I will update the team on a recent government consultation on ‘Overcoming barriers to longer tenancies in the private residential sector’. I print off the consultation paper from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government website and read through it, noting the salient points that I wish to highlight to the department at next week’s presentation. I begin to outline the structure of my presentation.

3.30pm: I have been part of a team working on a £12m refinance of a portfolio of Islington properties. The refinance completed last week, involving redeeming an existing loan, transferring several freehold and leasehold properties, and charging the properties to a new lender. Now I am attending to the post-completion registration of these transactions. I had liaised with the lender’s solicitor (a large city firm) prior to completion to draft the registration applications in a form acceptable to the lender. Now I collate everything and upload our applications to the Land Registry.

4.50pm: My supervisor requests my assistance. She has been working on the surrender and re-grant of a lease to our (tenant) client. Since our client paid stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on the original lease, she wants to look into the availability of ‘overlap relief’ upon the grant of the new lease, so that our client avoids having to pay SDLT twice. I delve into the HMRC SDLT manual to research the point, and also find out the reporting requirements. I report back and my supervisor asks me to draft an SDLT return tomorrow for client approval.

5.40pm: I shut down my computer and gather together my rowing crew mates. We head down to Fulham for an evening of rowing practice on the Thames, ahead of Friday’s race.

About the firm

Senior partner: Helen Ratcliffe

Managing partner: Andrew Smith

Other offices: Cambridge, Reading, Southampton.

Who we are: BDP Pitmans is an award winning, top 100 UK law firm with offices in London & Cambridge. Many of our Lawyers are recognised leaders in their practice areas.

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

What we’re looking for: We are looking for hardworking individuals who will work collaboratively and demonstrate a real passion for learning. They will have high professional standards and demonstrate commercial awareness along with enthusiasm for a career in law.

What you’ll do: After your first week induction programme you will receive legal and interpersonal skills training over four six month seats. Trainees are asked to express a preference for seats.

Perks: 25 days holiday per year, private medical insurance, medical screenings, cycle to work scheme, payroll giving, on-site gym, sports teams, yoga and pilates classes, interest free season ticket loans, matching pension contributions up to 7%, life assurance, employee assistance programme, income protection insurance, enhanced maternity and paternity pay.

Sponsorship: We sponsor the GDL and LPC with BPP.