Survey Results - Trainee feedback on CMS

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on CMS

Why did you choose this firm over any other? ‘Good range of clients in FTSE100 down to small start-ups’;  ‘inclusion and diversity networks and activities’; ‘range of practice areas, media/tech practice’; ‘really liked their vision for the future’; ‘friendly culture’; ‘the Academy programme was engaging and well organised. Showed the potential of the firm and the investment they put into their future employees’; ‘great vacation scheme’; ‘international reach, top clients, breadth of practice areas’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Approachability of everyone no matter what their position’; ‘offices worldwide’; ‘the people and breadth of practice areas’; ‘the best thing about the firm is that despite its size there is a very friendly and inclusive environment’; ‘genuine sector focus, international capability/opportunities and future-facing’; ‘the training is excellent’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Given the large intake number, often people do not get to do the seats they are interested in’; ‘the size can mean that getting to know everyone seems like an impossible task’; ‘the IT’; ‘open-plan offices’; ‘long hours’; ‘England / Scotland divide – regional offices doing similar work but different salaries’

 Best moment? ‘Researching points of law in a mediation meeting and presenting conclusions to the client’; ‘team night out’; ‘being in a client call’; ‘completing my first deal three weeks into my training contract – with very complimentary words from my team’; ‘completing a sale of a property in my first seat from start to finish with minimal supervision’ 

Worst moment? ‘Moving to WFH and uncertainty with Coronavirus’; ‘working past midnight for a couple of weeks’; ‘having to stay late in the office working on administrative tasks’; ‘making errors’; ‘feeling very overwhelmed with an urgent matter when others were on holiday’


The Lex 100 verdict on CMS

‘A growing and ambitious full-service firm’ with ‘atmosphere and global reach’, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang is a powerful international firm with over 40 offices worldwide. Trainees highly rate the firm’s ‘unique sector approach’ and its top-tier specialties in sectors such as energy, tech and media. CMS is a full-service firm with regional offices in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Bristol, Sheffield and two offices in London. Described as having ‘similar work opportunities to Magic/Silver circle plus international secondments and better work/life balance’, the firm scores highly among its trainees for the quality of its training and its working culture having ‘less vertical hierarchy’ than competitors and being ‘more open and future-facing’. The ‘approachability of others, from trainees to equity partners’ defines the working culture, according to some trainees, and it is ‘not a stuffy and totally hierarchical place – it is open to modern working and ways of thinking’. It’s ‘big, broad, international opportunities’ are applauded, including international secondments which receive a Lex 100 Winner award. CMS is also highly regarded for being ‘very strong on diversity’ and its ‘open, progressive culture.’ Complaints centred around the differences between the English and Scottish cohort of trainees in terms of remuneration with ‘regional offices doing similar work with different salaries’ and ‘given the large intake number, often people do not get to do the seats they are interested in’. But there is praise for the firm’s pro-bono and CSR opportunities and the international experiences. If you are looking for a large firm with a global reach, top-tier client list, and a progressive attitude CSM is one to check out.

The firm: CMS is a future-facing, global law firm well-equipped to help clients confront challenges and seize opportunities with confidence. It puts the interests of clients at the heart of everything it does across 70+ offices in 40+ countries in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America. With more than 1,000 partners and 4,800 lawyers, CMS works in cross-border teams to deliver top-quality, practical advice no matter how complex the situation.

The deals: Please see following links for more details of deals. and

The clients: See website

Trainee profiles

 Dylan Walter

Departments to date: Real estate

University: Newcastle University

Degree and class: Law LLB 2(1)

CMS was my first choice as a firm due to the market-leading practices in many sectors. My experience on the CMS Academy included a client visit to Amazon, highlighting the calibre of the work and how strength across different practices is key in providing a comprehensive service. CMS enabled us to get client contact even at this early stage and this is something that continues through your training contract, with numerous secondment opportunities available both internationally and domestically.

As a trainee I’ve been able to work with different partners and associates on an array of matters. There is a real emphasis on your development, with feedback readily available and regular appraisals, meaning that you have a good idea of how you are progressing and target areas to improve. The guidance and training provided is tailored to the work that you will be doing on a day-to-day basis and really prepares you for working as a future facing lawyer.

The culture at CMS is great and I have been able to get involved in societies and corporate responsibility initiatives, even in the first few weeks of my seat. There was the opportunity to do pro bono work at the Islington Law Clinic, assist with charity events and get involved with the football team. From my first interaction with CMS, I was impressed by how welcoming and supportive the people are and how keen they are for you to get involved.

One piece of advice I would give to my student self is to make the most of the opportunities available to you, whether that is through your university or work. It’s worth going to as many talks and events about the legal sector as possible, as really understanding where a firm sits within the market will make writing applications much easier. It will make them more interesting if you can make distinctions about where firms position themselves. I would also focus on writing fewer, well-researched applications that really show that you have researched and are knowledgeable about the firm.

 Aoife Fenlon

Departments to date: Corporate transactions, employee incentives

University: Queen Mary University of London

Degree and class: Law LLB (Hons)

I attended the CMS Academy in 2018 and was attracted to the firm’s international presence and diverse service offering. Being Irish, and growing up in Brussels, I was eager to retain an international element to my career.

As a trainee, I realised that taking initiative and being proactive in your learning is crucial. CMS offers a wide range of avenues to pursue and life as a trainee at CMS is full of variety. No two days are the same and no two clients are the same. Emphasis is placed on the importance of taking a considered and tailored approach to interacting with our diverse client base. From publicly quoted companies to our equIP clients, each requires a bespoke perspective and skillset to be applied when considering what advice they should receive.

I am delighted to have started my training contract in corporate, a transactional seat where I worked on a number of matters including assisting on the sale of two subsidiaries of a large publicly listed company. My role on the transaction was constantly changing, from assisting on disclosure to drafting documents to put into effect a large restructuring of the business. Employee incentives has provided me with an incredible opportunity to hone my technical skills, developing my insight into the advisory work we do here at CMS. My role in the employee incentives team varies from research on key legal developments in the industry to answering questions on points of law.

My training contract has been filled with variety, whether that be in terms of my professional career, or more broadly, in respect of the pro bono activities, employee networks, or the numerous sports and social events I have been involved with. Volunteering in various pro bono initiatives and playing with the CMS football club have enhanced my learning and experience as a whole. I enjoy embracing the new challenges we face every day and am thankful to do so in an environment where taking initiative and taking responsibility as a trainee is encouraged and supported.

About the firm

Senior partner: Penelope Warne

Managing partner: Stephen Millar

Offices we recruit into: Bristol, London, Sheffield, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen.

Who we are: CMS is a future facing, global law firm well equipped to help clients confront challenges and seize opportunities with confidence. We put the interests of clients at the heart of everything we do across 70+ offices in 40+ countries in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America.

What we do: We are recognised for our sector excellence and focus on consumer products; energy; financial services; hotels and leisure; infrastructure and project finance; life sciences and healthcare; real estate; and technology, media and communications. Our legal expertise is therefore matched by real world, commercial understanding of the markets in which our clients operate.

What we’re looking for: Personal effectiveness, professional communication, drive for achievement, creative thinking, leading self and others, future-facing lawyer, relationship-building and commercial awareness.

What you’ll do: Our training contracts feature four six-month seats or secondments nationally, internationally or client-based. Trainees will have the opportunity to work across different practice groups covering at least three distinct areas of law.

Perks: 25 days’ flexible holiday allowance; pension scheme; interest-free season ticket loan; eye tests and dental insurance; private medical insurance; corporate gym membership and subsidy; cycle to work scheme; membership fees to professional organisations; study assistance; employee referral scheme.

Sponsorship: Sponsorship may be available for your GDL and LPC for England and Wales qualifying trainees and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland.

Diversity and inclusion


We also offer annual apprenticeship schemes in both London and Sheffield; visit our apprenticeship profile or go to for further details.