Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Commercial and private client opportunities’, ‘for its sports practice, work/life balance and quality of work’, ‘I knew someone at the firm who rated it very highly and encouraged me to apply’, ‘I experienced the firm’s culture during the vacation scheme and could see myself working there’, ‘compared to its main competitors in the private wealth sphere, it is much more international with many overseas offices and a lot of multi-jurisdictional work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Socials and how approachable everyone is’, ‘the culture of the firm which I think is unmatched across the City’, ‘inclusive, conscientious culture’, ‘good work/life balance’, ‘other people at the firm have made an effort to reach out and get to know me’, ‘the firm works with big clients, so you’re sure to get involved with some interesting, high-quality work’, ‘its collaborative nature – there is always that strong feeling of support behind you’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘I haven’t had as much client contact as I would have liked’, ‘seat preferences could be handled better’, ‘there could be more international secondments’, ‘everyone is so nice that it’s hard to bring up negatives at times’, ‘the London office is spread across two different buildings, which means you don’t always get to meet people outside of your department’

Best moment? ‘Completing multiple transactions on the same day’, ‘living and working in Zurich for six months’, ‘celebrating after a big deadline’, ‘the praise at the end of a seat review’, ‘Christmas party’, ‘successfully working on a contentious matter with a partner’, ‘getting involved with an urgent application to extend an administration’, ‘virtual team socials’, ‘very positive feedback from a client’

Worst moment? ‘Having incredibly quiet days with little work on’, ‘huge disclosure or due diligence projects’, ‘a bout of exceptionally late nights and weekend working’, ‘working remotely’, ‘receiving a piece of work back almost entirely changed by a supervisor’, ‘working late to sift through upwards of 9,000 emails for disclosure’, ‘the first lockdown – it took everyone a while to get used to training and task delegation’

The Lex 100 verdict on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Charles Russell Speechlys’ ‘strong private client outfit’ continues to be a draw for lawyers to be. The firm’s ‘outstanding family team’, ‘private wealth disputes work’ and ‘specialisms in sports regulatory and intellectual property’ were also big enticements. That CRS is ‘focused on still being approachable and friendly’ did not go unnoticed by trainees, who appreciate working with colleagues who ‘stem from a variety of backgrounds and experiences but are united in delivering the best service to clients and providing the best support for each other’. What’s more, ‘having a good work/life balance is actively encouraged by partners and other fee earners’. Little wonder CRS has amassed seven Lex 100 Winner awards this year, with job satisfaction and supervisor approachability among them. On the flip side, despite acknowledging the inevitability of having to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trainees felt that they ‘could have been better supported through the move to remote working’. The ‘lack of parking’ at the Guildford office, especially given the distance to the main train station, is also an annoyance. It helps that the quality of work is extremely high, with recruits enjoying ‘advising pro bono clients on setting up charities’ and ‘assisting with the negotiating and drafting of a partnership agreement between a premier league player and a global clothing brand’! Not all the work is fun though; ‘working for 36 hours straight’ and ‘starting a new seat and being thrown in at the deep end without instructions or much supervision’ were more stressful. To be ‘fully included in both the work and social aspects of a firm and feel that your input in both respects is valued and encouraged’, research Charles Russell Speechlys.

The firm: Charles Russell Speechlys is an international law firm specialising in the full spectrum of business and personal needs. It is headquartered in London, with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

The clients: Bellway; Central Bank of Bahrain; Derwent; Howard de Walden; Stonegate; NIKE; Cafe Nero; Coinbase; FarFetch; Cyba plc; Ascent Capital Africa.

The deals: Advising Marcus Rashford MBE on a range of brand protection and commercial matters, as well as aspects of his high-profile children’s food poverty campaign; advising Nike and its subsidiary, Converse, across the full range of practice areas, including ecommerce, digital and social media, sponsorship, sports marketing, advertising, regulatory, privacy and data protection, litigation, employment and real estate; acted for various celebrity claimants in the group voicemail interception litigation against News Group Newspapers Limited (News of the World and The Sun) relating to the unlawful gathering of private and confidential information, achieving a number of successful settlements since 2018 for clients including Caroline Quentin, Nikki Saunderson and Ryan Thomas; advised TDR Capital LLP and the Issa brothers on the real estate aspects of the ASDA acquisition followed by the sale and leaseback of Asda’s warehouse portfolio; advised the owner of No.1 Lounges Ltd, the operator of UK airport lounges (also operating under the brand ‘Clubrooms’), on its sale to SwissportALD, a joint venture between Swissport and Airport Dimensions; advising IFS, the global enterprise software company, on the acquisition of Axios Systems Plc, a global provider of cloud-based enterprise service management (ESM) software. 

A day in the life of... Ed Garton, trainee, Charles Russell Speechlys

Ed Garton, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Departments to date: Tax, trusts and succession; Banking and finance

University: University College London

Degree: Classics, first class

8.45am: As I walk to our office in Blackfriars, I check the news and read any emails that have come in overnight.

9.20am: I grab a coffee and breakfast from Charlie’s, the firm’s canteen, and have a chat with colleagues before making my way to my desk. I prepare my to-do list for the day and start responding to any emails that I can action quickly. At Charles Russell Speechlys, trainees are given a large amount of responsibility on files from the outset of the training contract while also being provided with a strong support network by other fee-earners.

9.45am: One of the senior associates and I have an all-parties call at 10am. We take the time to discuss any outstanding issues ahead of the call. Afterwards, we discuss how best to approach each point and agree on an action plan. I draft an email summarising the content of the discussion and send it to the client.

11.30am: I have been involved in drafting a pack of security documents for an upcoming transaction. I read over what I have prepared before handing it over to the associate for comments. We then review each document individually and discuss any comments that she has made. Trainees are frequently encouraged to give their opinions on matters and so I explain my reasoning behind a number of my amendments. After a lengthy discussion, I make any required changes and draft an email to the other side’s solicitors, attaching the documents for comment.

1.00pm: A couple of the other trainees and I meet up for lunch. We head out to Paternoster Square to get some food and take some time out in the sun. There are plenty of options for food and drink around the office, but lunch is always available every day in Charlie’s. There is even a food market outside of the office every Tuesday.

2.00pm: A signing meeting with one of our clients is scheduled for 2.30pm. I help to prepare the meeting room and set out the documents (a number of which I have drafted) for signing. I explain the purpose of each document to the client and ensure that all the documents have been signed correctly.

3.30pm: After the meeting, I return any missed calls and reply to any emails that have come in while I have been away from my desk. I make a start on a legal opinion relating to an ongoing transaction.

4.00pm: I attend a business development meeting with a few of the other trainees. We are planning a networking event for the trainee intake and for any contacts that they might have. At Charles Russell Speechlys, there are plenty of opportunities for trainees to get involved with BD. The firm actively encourages us to take those opportunities and is supportive of trainee initiatives in this area.

6.20pm: I review my to-do list and make a note of any tasks that need to be addressed over the next few days before heading off to play football for the firm. There are plenty of sports teams to get involved with during the week and ideas for new clubs are always welcome. A group of trainees will also attend a local legal advice clinic every Wednesday as one of the firm’s many pro bono initiatives. On Fridays, you will always find a large group of trainees and other members of the firm at the bar on our doorstep, Little Fable.

About the firm

Senior partner: Bart Peerless

Managing partner: Simon Ridpath

Other offices: Cheltenham, Guildford, Doha, Dubai, Geneva, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Manama, Paris, Zurich.

Who we are: We’re only human. And we consider that our superpower, not a weakness. We’ve built our firm on establishing trusted, personal relationships with our clients.

After all, we are here to guide them through their most pressing challenges and most rewarding opportunities. We do this by getting to the heart of our clients’ needs to bring them best-fit solutions – based on our years of experience, collective legal expertise and international outlook.

We have a broad range of skills and experience across the full spectrum of business and personal needs. We know it’s not enough to understand the law – we have to understand our clients just as well. So we apply a people-focused lens to every action we recommend to our clients. Our unique approach to law has made us a leader in the world of dynamic growth and family businesses, and among the world’s leading creators and owners of private wealth and their families. Major corporates and institutions benefit from our personalised approach as we embed ourselves in the teams of our clients. Working alongside them and connecting them with the right people across our firm to help them excel in new opportunities.

Our firm is headquartered in London with offices across the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Our international connections mean we can work with clients anywhere in the world. Whether a business operates in a single country or across borders, we’ll put together a team pulling from our sector and geographical expertise and our partnerships with the best law firms across the world covering 200 legal jurisdictions.

What we do: We offer a broad range of work so as a trainee you’ll be able to experience a variety of types of client and sector across your programme.

In our corporate and commercial practice we work with everything from early stage, entrepreneurial businesses through to established, international operations. Our corporate team advises on corporate and private equity deals, fundraising from the capital markets, and offers ongoing corporate advisory services. Our commercial team provides legal and commercial advice to UK and international clients across a variety of sectors, with a particular specialism in technology, retail and financial services. This could involve commercial contracts work, supporting in-house teams through deal structure planning, leading on negotiations to advising on implementation and operational issues.

Our private client group is a dynamic division, spanning a wide range of practice areas including tax and estate planning, family and relationships, property and philanthropy. Our expertise is bolstered by being a full-service city firm, with a strong regional and international presence. Consistently ranked as a leading private client group, the team is trusted by a diverse global client base – whose stories are often as interesting as the work!

In our construction, real estate and disputes practice, we support large and small-scale projects both in the UK and internationally. Our construction team represents both suppliers and purchasers (including employers, major contractors, specialists and leading engineering consultancies) to provide the full range of construction services including procurement, transactional, project advisory services and disputes advice. Our real estate and disputes teams span transactional and contentious work over a range of development, planning, environmental, regeneration and investment specialisms.

Our employment, banking and immigration teams work with a range of private and corporate clients. The employment team advises employers from a broad range of sectors on how to manage and mitigate employment law risks, covering issues arising in the day-to-day operation of a business, in the course of corporate transactions and in the context of disputes. Our banking team advises corporate entities and private clients on domestic and cross-border financing transactions and restructuring, working closely with other CRS departments at such as corporate, real estate and construction. The immigration team provides advice for private individuals and employers. Individual advice often ties in with other disciplines such as international tax, family and private client. Immigration advice for employers focuses on sponsor licence compliance and international hires, dovetailing well with the firm’s employment and corporate disciplines.

Our litigation and dispute resolution division works on diverse mandates – ranging from commercial disputes, contentious insolvency and fraud, right the way through to private wealth disputes (including contested estates and arts and heritage), healthcare and regulatory issues, and IP litigation.

What we’re looking for: We require candidates to achieve a minimum of a 2(1) in their degree and to be able to demonstrate other key attributes outside academia, such as teamwork, communication skills and drive.

What you’ll do: We offer training contracts in our London, Cheltenham and Guildford offices. In 2024, we will be running both a training contract under the current LPC route and new SQE route. Both pathways are designed to give you the best possible training with the firm and are two-year contracts.

I have started or completed the LPC – If you have already started or completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at point of offer, you will be able to undertake a ‘recognised period of training’, also referred to as a training contract.

I have not started or completed the LPC – If you haven’t started or completed the LPC at point of offer, you’ll undertake the new SQE route: sit the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam; two years of ‘qualifying work experience’ with the firm.

While at the firm, both routes will consist of four six-month seats, giving you the opportunity to experience a range of different practice areas and engage in high-level work with both private and commercial clients. We provide a practical learning environment for trainees, where emphasis is given to early responsibility and supervised client contact. Your legal training will also be supplemented by our CRS Business School, which has specific programmes designed for trainees to develop professional and commercial skills.

Throughout the training contract there are regular catch ups and reviews between the trainees and supervisors to support your development and ensure you are continuing to receive a broad range of quality work. This, together with our in-house training programme, the Charles Russell Speechlys Business School, ensures that you’ll develop the required legal and business skills to become a successful lawyer.

Perks: 25 days annual holiday, plus long service accrual; private medical insurance; income protection; life assurance; pension scheme; employee assistance programme; enhanced maternity/paternity/shared parental benefits; cycle to work scheme; season ticket loan; qualification leave; dress for your day policy.

Sponsorship: We provide sponsorship for full-time and part-time Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDip – replacing the GDL), SQE prep courses and SQE exam costs with our chosen provider, The University of Law. During your period of study we will also provide you with a maintenance grant of £6,000 if you are based in London and £4,500 if you are based outside London.

Diversity and inclusion

We are committed to ensuring we offer a work environment where equal opportunities are available to all, everyone is assessed on their own abilities and we maintain a culture of mutual respect; where everyone can bring their whole self to work and where our differences are welcomed and celebrated.

This commitment is driven from the top and it is a key part of the firm’s business strategy. We have partner-led action groups in place, with a specific focus on improving our female talent in partnership and senior leadership roles and to improve our ethnic diversity across the firm. Our dedicated diversity and inclusion (D&I) team, together with D&I partners and their respective focus groups, meet regularly to identify initiatives, changes to policies and processes, training, events and other ways to raise awareness, support and promote an inclusive work environment.

The firm’s focus groups include:

LGBTQ+ and Allies: It is important to us that we provide an inclusive environment where everyone within our organisation can feel comfortable being who they are. Our LGBTQ+ and Allies Committee plays an active role to help ensure we offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ colleagues and clients. Our initiatives and engagement to support the LGBTQ+ communities saw us secure a space in the Top 25 of the legal sector in the last Stonewall Equality Index.

Gender: The Gender Committee helps to support the ‘Achieving Balance’ programme which specifically looks at different initiatives to support an increase in our gender balance in partnership and leadership roles. The committee is also focused on identifying other initiatives to engage greater engagement from underrepresented genders, for example promoting shared parental leave.

Religion, Belief, Race and Ethnicity: The Religion, Belief, Race and Ethnicity (RBRE) Committee plays a key role in supporting our ‘Race Action’ initiative, which is specifically focused on improving our ethnic diversity within the firm and in encouraging a greater representation within the profession. It also focuses on raising awareness and helps to identify ways in which the firm can better support colleagues from different religious, racial and ethnic communities.

CAPability: We do not see disability as barrier to an individual’s success. As a signatory to the Valuable 500, we are committed to ensuring disability inclusion remains on the agenda and actions/initiatives are undertaken to provide better support, inclusion and awareness for colleagues, candidates and clients who are living with a disability.

Mental Health and Wellbeing: Mental health and wellbeing is a major focus for our firm, particularly as the difficulty of recent months has shed light on the strains suffered by many. We have over 60 trained mental health champions and first aiders in place and continue to promote training and initiatives to raise awareness, encourage conversation and to ensure everyone knows where and how to access the appropriate support. As a signatory to the Mindful Business Charter, we are committed to removing unnecessary workplace stresses and promoting best working practices.

Social Mobility: Our flagship social mobility initiative, the Career Start Talent Pipeline Programme, provides five years’ contact and support to Year 12 students who join the programme through our work experience or mentoring schemes. During the five-year period the firm hosts various skills sessions, employability events, networking and other informative events at key milestones in the student’s academic and career journey. In addition, we also partner with the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) to deliver a week-long skills and insights programme, where our students get the opportunity to experience a day at four different high-profile organisations, with the fifth day provided by a professional sports club delivering the SMBP Resilience day. Our commitment and initiatives relating to social mobility saw us rank 72 in the Social Mobility Index 2020.