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 other? ‘I was working there as a legal administrator when I applied and really enjoyed it’; ‘I was interested in the areas of law offered at this firm and the emphasis on an inclusive culture and good work/life balance’; ‘the work culture and the type of people that work here’; ‘the size of the firm and the wide variety of seats available’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The lack of a face-time culture and the openness and friendliness of everyone from the facilities staff through to the managing partner’; ‘the different offices and the good range of seats’; ‘everyone is very approachable and the variety of work available is impressive’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The worst thing about BDB Pitmans is that post-merger many people seem to no longer know who the firm is’; ‘the pay; ‘the coffee machines!’; ‘since the merger it is not clear what direction the firm is going in and trainees are less certain about qualification’

Best moment? ‘The best moment of my training contract to date is when I assisted with the submission of a Transport and Works Act Order to the Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs’; ‘going to court’; ‘experiencing matters from start to finish’; ‘being trusted to take on own files and assisting with some very high profile matters’

Worst moment? ‘The commute for seats in other offices’; ‘over-stretched by workload’; ‘having to deal with angry or disgruntled representatives or other parties’; ‘almost missing a court deadline’; ‘late nights waiting for a client to decide on a course of action’; ‘worked very long hours on a deal with very little partner supervision’

The Lex 100 verdict on 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: TfL; Highways England; Toshiba; The Chief Coroner of England and Wales; Harwood capital; Westcoast; Smurfitt Kappa; JLL; Peel Holdings; Government Legal Department (GLD). 

The deals: Advised on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, involving a road tunnel to the east of London, the largest project ever promoted by Highways England and the largest investment in the road network since the M25; advised Maecenas (which operates under the name Help the Animals) in relation to the fundraising campaign it has been running in an innovative partnership arrangement with Channel 5, to help facilitate Channel 5’s philanthropic ambitions to support UK animal welfare causes; advised luxury department store Harrods Ltd as it opens a second outlet in nearby London Westfield to ease congestion when its stores resume trading; advised Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust in connection with the long-term search for the East Asia Squadron of the German Imperial Fleet sunk on 8 December 1914 during the battle of the Falkland Islands; advised Contango Holdings PLC on a £6.8m acquisition by way of reverse takeover, gross placing of £1.4m and simultaneous readmission to the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange.  

The verdict

BDB Pitmans combines the strengths of a specialist private client and property law firm with the ‘variety of work’ offered in the network of offices in London, Cambridge, Reading and Southampton. The result attracts trainees looking for a small intake and a firm with ‘approachability, reputation, work/life balance and quality of clients’ plus ‘the quality of work without the negative culture sometimes associated with larger firms’. Typifying the reputation of comparable firms within its circle, BDB Pitmans has a ‘friendly and open atmosphere’ but what sets it apart, trainees say, is the ‘variety of seats available’ and the ‘client exposure’. Training here is ‘much more hands on’ as ‘you are given much more responsibility than at bigger firms, and exposed to a broad range of issues’. The training is described as ‘very good’ and trainees are ‘given quality work and treated as a trainee rather than just a resource’. According to trainees the merger of Bircham Dyson Bell and Pitmans has been largely successful, but there are some sticking points, such as commuting between offices, some issues with ‘security after qualification’ and ‘division’ between the London and Reading locations ‘meaning the two offices have not yet blended in terms of culture’. With the expansion of trainee seats available in Cambridge and a new office in London on the horizon, further changes lie ahead. Trainees highlight the quality of their training, commenting that there is a ‘clear structure with how work is distributed within teams’ and ‘scope to take a lead with tasks’. Others say that ‘the lack of a face-time culture and the openness and friendliness of everyone from the facilities staff through to the managing partner’ endear them to the firm.

A day in the life of… Aranya Tharumakunarajah, trainee, BDB Pitmans

Aranya Tharumakunarajah, BDB Pitmans

Departments to date: Corporate, planning, infrastructure and public law, litigation

9.15am: I arrive at the office and settle in at my desk. I have been working on an employment dispute relating to the retention of confidential information. I continue drafting the witness statement, using information from various emails, documents and my attendance note of a telephone call with the client. I ensure that I flag details that need to be confirmed or expanded on by the client. I send the final draft to the senior associate working on the matter and she asks me to schedule another phone call with the client for us to confirm the details of the witness statement.

10.50pm: I am asked by the court clerk if I can help with an urgent task. The matter is quickly explained to me and I rush to the Family Central Court to issue a divorce petition under an emergency request. We are granted approval. On the way back, I make a quick call to tell the office the news so that the client can be told immediately.

12.05pm: I get back to the office in time for the call with the client. I take a detailed note of the call as the senior associate goes through the witness statement line by line. She then proceeds to talk the client through the likely next steps of the case and answers questions on the potential outcomes of the dispute. The call ends and the senior associate asks for my opinion, and explains the other tasks that I can assist on.

1.00pm: I meet the other trainees and we head to our usual spot in St James’s Park to have lunch. We’re all looking forward to a film night for the firm that one of the trainees is organising with the firm’s LGBTQ+ group – Best Self.

2.00pm: I return to my seat and am asked to assist with a presentation that members of the team will be giving on statutory consultation and judicial review. I start my research into recent case law that provides an insight into the practical steps that public bodies can take. I outline the main points to the partner and he advises me on which cases he thinks would be most useful to discuss so that I can tailor my subsequent research, which will be needed later in the week.

3.30pm: My supervisor requests my assistance with a property dispute. We have received a Part 36 offer from the other side. I am given the task of comparing this offer to what our client’s ideal resolution is and explaining the differences to the client as well as the costconsequences of the Part 36 offer. My supervisor and I discuss the potential responses we could offer to the other side and I briefly outline these to the client.

5.00pm: I have a hearing at a county court in the morning, where I am advocating on behalf of a housing charity. I re-read my notes and make sure that I have the latest details on any developments of the case from the charity. I double check I have all the documents that the judge may ask for and set these aside for the morning.

5.30pm: I submit my time recordings for the day and head off to meet the other trainees so we can make our way to Paddington for a trainee dinner and drinks so that we can catch up with trainees from across the offices.

About the firm

Senior partner: Helen Ratcliffe

Managing partner: Andrew Smith

Other offices: Cambridge, Reading and Southampton

Who we are: Many of the firm’s lawyers are recognised leaders in their practice areas – their knowledge and expertise helps BDB Pitmans to provide a unique, client-centred approach to law.

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, restructuring and insolvency, and white-collar crime and investigations. 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: 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. 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 that our trainees can select. If you have already completed the GDL or LPC we do still welcome your application.