Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Burges Salmon LLP

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘It offered the best quality of work outside London’, ‘six-seat training contract’, ‘wide range of sectors and practice areas’, ‘the promise of a work/life balance with quality work and being able to live in a relatively affordable and beautiful city’, ‘I knew the culture was genuine from the vac scheme’, ‘it makes a difference when you are all headquartered in one office and can learn from the very best’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Incredibly social with far fewer egos’, ‘great training with likeable people in the UK’s best city’, ‘everyone is approachable’, ‘calibre of work’, ‘the culture between staff no matter what level’, ‘the six-seat training contract – I couldn’t imagine only having four choices!’, ‘the canteen’, ‘there are opportunities to get stuck into lots of things’, ‘lovely place to work’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The agile working policy is very varied depending on where you sit’, ‘some departments offer better training/support than others’, ‘occasional long hours’, ‘limited secondment opportunities’, ‘the expectation to work London hours (in some departments) without London pay’, ‘inconsistency in attitudes towards supervision, delegation and flexible working among senior staff’

Best moment? ‘Attending a meeting with the entire board of a large international client’, ‘a one-day mediation at our London office’, ‘winning the firm’s charity event of the year – a version of Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘taking responsibility for a tenancy agreement where I was the first port of call for the client’, ‘attending a large-scale completion of a one-of-a-kind rail deal’

Worst moment? ‘Getting a seat I didn’t want’, ‘a difficult series of early-morning finishes’, ‘a due diligence project which was horribly dull and took up a quarter of my first seat’, ‘being told off for not staying late enough’, ‘nearly missing a deadline for a courier to get documents out to a client in Abu Dhabi’, ‘cancelling Friday night plans to complete work only to be told on Monday that it wasn’t required anymore’

The Lex 100 verdict on Burges Salmon LLP

The firm: Burges Salmon counts wealthy private individuals, entrepreneurial businesses and public bodies among its clients, and has highly-regarded corporate, private client and TMT departments. The Bristol-headquartered firm also works with a select number of like-minded independent law firms across the world.

The deals: Advised National Express on a bilateral SONIA loan facility from NatWest, the first of its kind for the UK banking sector; worked with Virgin Sport on its multi-year partnership with Nike; advised East Coast Trains, a subsidiary of FirstGroup PLC, on its procurement of a new fleet of trains manufactured by Hitachi; advised Causeway Capital Partners on its acquisition of Patisserie Valerie following its fall into administration; advised Capital Dynamics on a £63 million loan from Aberdeen Standard Investments to finance The Whiteside Hill Wind Farm.

The clients: Babcock International Group; Costain Group; ENGIE; Financial Services Compensation Scheme; FirstGroup PLC; John Lewis Partnership; Octopus; The Crown Commercial Service; HSBC; Temporis.

The star performers (top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) : Agriculture and estates; Commercial litigation; Commercial property: development; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate and commercial; Corporate tax; Education; Environment; EU and competition; Immigration; Intellectual property; Licensing; Media and entertainment; Organisation; Pensions: non-contentious; Professional negligence; Property finance; Rail.

The verdict

Bristol-based Burges Salmon has a ‘reputation for high-quality training and a good standard of work’ and offers ‘the best quality of work outside London’ in the opinion of its trainees. The firm boasts an ‘expertise in energy and renewables’ and offers ‘private client, as well as commercial work’. Moreover, thanks to a six-seat programme, recruits ‘benefit from being able to see more areas of law’. Respondents found Burges Salmon staff to be ‘approachable during the vacation scheme and assessment centre’, which cemented their decision to accept a training contract at the firm. Correspondingly, the firm is a Lex 100 Winner for its vacation scheme, as well as for its social life. A palpable ‘attitude of hire to retain’ has earned the firm another Lex 100 Winner gong for confidence of being kept on post qualification. That ‘some departments have completely different cultures’ irked some trainees because of the discrepancies in ‘ways of working and approaches to work/life balance’. There were also some grumbles about the pay, which some recruits perceived is a bit low in relation to the increasing expectation to work longer hours. On the plus side, ‘being given ownership of, and then credit for, setting up a football agency for a client’, ‘attending a mediation with HMRC’ and ‘holding a client meeting independently on a pro bono matter’ stood out to recruits for positive reasons. Conversely, ‘having all of my meals in the office’ and ‘thinking I had shredded an original document’ were memories trainees would rather forget. For a firm which offers the ‘best mix of high-quality work and lifestyle’, where trainees are ‘treated as human beings, not robots’, choose Burges Salmon.

A day in the life of… Isabella Pill-Williams, first-year trainee, Burges Salmon LLP

Isabella Pill-Williams, Burges Salmon LLP

Departments to date: Dispute resolution, planning and compulsory purchase, pensions

University: University of Exeter; University of Law (Bristol)

Degree: Law LLB, 2(1); MSc in Law, Business and Management (Distinction)

8.15am: I live in the Harbourside area of Bristol, which is within walking distance of the office and makes for a very scenic commute along the river. It’s great to be able to get my steps in for the day – and it’s free!

8.45am: I arrive a little early so that I can head straight to our restaurant, Glassworks, for some breakfast. I make my way up to my current department, which is pensions, and potter to the kitchen to make myself a coffee. I return to my desk ready to start the day.

9.15am: I review my to-do list for the day and have a quick chat to my supervisor about what I’m currently working on, and what I should be prioritising. The nature of the work can be extremely varied in pensions – from black-letter law research, to drafting deeds of amendment, to attending trustee meetings. My supervisor is supportive and keen to ensure I have a varied workload. An objective I set for this seat was to assist with more business development work – I discuss this with my supervisor and he asks me to carry out some research on a public sector pension scheme for an upcoming pitch.

10.30am: I pick up a task from a senior associate. Our client (the trustee board of a pension scheme) is in the process of setting up a new trustee company. I am asked to review the new company’s articles to check they are in keeping with the rules of the pension scheme. A number of questions crop up while I am reviewing the documents, so I pop back to the senior associate to discuss the thornier points. I continue my review, and once finished, document my findings in a draft email to the client for the senior associate to review.

11.30am: I attend a department training session on employment law for pensions lawyers, led by a member of the employment team. We are well supported with regular and timely training – both within our constituent departments and with other departments and business professionals across the firm.

1.00pm: I sit down by the river and catch up with my fellow trainees. We take a walk afterwards to stretch our legs, passing the slightly more energetic trainees who are part of the firm’s weekly running club.

2.00pm: I am asked to join a call. The subject matter is quite complex and around 10 international trustees of a large pension scheme are on the line, but this is what I enjoy about pensions. It is highly technical, regulated and constantly evolving – not to mention it has a direct impact on people’s lives.

3.30pm: My calendar reminds me that I am meeting a vacation scheme student for coffee and cake. The student wants to know a little more about what life is like here as a trainee. We discuss my experience over two rather large slabs of millionaire’s shortbread.

4.00pm: The rest of my afternoon is taken up with drafting an article for the firm’s website on the Pensions Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints made in relation to pension schemes, and I have been tasked with providing a legal update on the Ombudsman’s activities in the last year, along with a more general case law update. This entails some detailed research. As a trainee in pensions, you can expect to get involved in some interesting legal research, which I really enjoy.

6.15pm: Tonight we have a team night to celebrate the end of a successful financial year and to welcome the new trainees to the department. We all walk down to the harbourside and begin the evening with a fun team-building exercise: escape rooms. As a new trainee, this is a great way for me to get to know people in the department. We then have dinner and drinks together. By the end of the night, I’m glad I live only a stone’s throw away.

About the firm

Senior partner: Chris Seaton

Managing partner: Roger Bull

Other offices: London, Edinburgh

Who we are: Based at the heart of one of the UK’s best cities to live in, we’re an independent UK law firm with an enviable range of national and international clients. Joining our award-winning training programme, you’ll enjoy exposure to our high-profile client list and friendly, collaborative culture as you gain quality experience across a broad range of legal practices.

What we do: Our practice areas include dispute resolution, real estate, corporate, private client, employment, projects and banking.

What we’re looking for: What all our people have in common is an enthusiasm for the law and a drive to deliver top-quality results for clients. We look for a minimum 2(1) degree in any discipline alongside excellent communication and analytical skills.

What you’ll do: As well as the professional skills course we provide a range of in-house training and on the job training across a six-seat programme with an allocated qualified lawyer supervisor.

Perks: Pension, life assurance, private health insurance, firm-wide bonus scheme, discounted local gym membership, sports and social club, corporate responsibility programme.

Sponsorship: All GDL and LPC fees plus £7,000 maintenance grant for each course.