Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Farrer & Co

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Farrer & Co

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Beautiful office’, ‘I felt it matched the interests I wanted to pursue in my legal career’, ‘the clients and broad range of practice areas’, ‘location next to Lincoln’s Inn Fields’, ‘a partner told me Farrer tended to be on the side of the good guys!’, ‘diverse practice areas and quirky work’, ‘friendly culture’, ‘the chance to do six seats in order to get a feel for what I do and don’t enjoy’

Best thing about the firm? ‘It still (just about) retains the feel of a family business – there’s a sense of being part of an institution that exists for something greater than just making a profit’, ‘exposure to exciting work and exciting clients’, ‘I adore all the trainees in my year’, ‘almost everyone you bump into is friendly’, ‘the Peacock Room is a marvel’, ‘good hours’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Sometimes we run out of biscuits’, ‘the sick pay is not great’, ‘lack of dining facilities’, ‘we seem to be slightly behind the curve when it comes to IT. This can get frustrating but improving it is a major focus of the firm’s management board’, ‘no canteen or social spaces’, ‘limited secondment opportunities for trainees’, ‘some of the older, stuffier partners’

Best moment? ‘Assisting on a charity investigation’, ‘playing table tennis at a client event’, ‘the general level of independence when you are given a project to work on’, ‘receiving great feedback from colleagues’, ‘writing a technical advice note to the client from scratch which was sent out with very few amendments’, ‘attending a Court of Appeal case’, ‘a disciplinary hearing for one of our sports clients’

Worst moment? ‘Writing an essay when asked to write an article’, ‘being given a complex drafting task early on and not hitting the required standard’, ‘bundling at 8pm on a Friday’, ‘undertaking a large-scale, monotonous administrative task’, ‘working on a particularly time-pressured and stressful case with one of our contentious teams’, ‘working one Saturday’

The Lex 100 verdict on Farrer & Co

The firm: Farrer & Co is an independent law firm with a centuries-long tradition of advising private families, individuals and charitable institutions. This is complemented by the firm’s work with businesses and entrepreneurs. A focus on long-term client relationships has ensured Farrer & Co’s continued success and the firm is highly regarded for its private client capabilities.

The deals: Acted for Credit Suisse on a £30m term loan facility to fund the acquisition of a commercial office property in Manchester; advising Natura Cosmeticos on the employment components of its acquisition of The Body Shop from L’Oréal; defending the British Airline Pilots’ Association in the High Court against Thomas Cook Airlines’ application for an injunction to stop strike action by its pilots; acting for The British Library in connection to the disposal of land for the St Pancras development site, and the construction of gallery facilities and public spaces; advised the Football Association (FA) on the Select Committee inquiry into its handling of bullying and discrimination allegations lodged against former England women’s manager Mark Sampson.

The clients: Bauer Media; CCLA Investment Management; Charities Property Fund; Coutts & Co; Deutsche Bank; Emirates NBD; Imperial College London; Lawn Tennis Association; National Gallery; Royal Bank of Canada.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Agriculture and estates; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Commercial property: development; Contentious trusts and probate; Employment: employers and senior executives; Family; Fraud: civil; Media and entertainment (including media finance); Partnership; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Planning; Property finance; Reputation management; Residential property; Retail funds; Sport.

The verdict

‘Four things: the clients, the fascinating (and usually tricky) work, the culture and the lovely main building’ all make Farrer & Co an attractive choice. ‘The quality and uniqueness of the clients seemed to be unparalleled’ said one recruit, ‘this promised to bring with it some challenging work, which was confirmed to me when I completed the vacation scheme’. The firm is correspondingly a Lex 100 Winner in this category. A small intake of ten makes for a ‘friendly, collegiate atmosphere’ where trainees ‘feel like human beings’ rather than ‘a cog in a huge machine’. What’s more, ‘working closely with partners throughout the training contract’ is the norm. The work/life balance is ‘brilliant’, and the hours are ‘much more sociable than at some other firms’. It’s clear to see why Farrer & Co is ‘not a workhouse’ but a ‘place to build a career’. The main complaint was that the firm ‘does not have a canteen or any communal areas’. This means that ‘there are lots of people you never bump into informally’, something which is exacerbated by the office being ‘spread across two buildings’. Trainees did not enjoy ‘receiving a phone call from a very distressed tenant’ nor ‘having half an hour to draft two interim applications before the post went out on a Friday’. More positive moments included ‘spending the day taking a note on a very juicy investigation’, ‘assisting the head of department with a controversial article for an academic journal’ and ‘attending a client meeting with a public figure’. For a firm with a ‘winning culture’, a ‘distinguished history’ and expertise in a number of different practice areas, consider Farrer & Co.

A day in the life of… Chloe Westerman, trainee, Farrer & Co

Chloe Westerman, Farrer & Co

Departments to date: Disputes, employment, corporate (current seat).

University: Manchester

Degree: History

8.30am: I normally arrive in the office between 8.30 and 9am. We are encouraged to turn off our phones in the evening (unless you know that important emails will be coming in over night and you need to action these) and so I like to get in a bit earlier than our official start time of 9.30am to go through my emails.

10.00am: At Farrers you are given considerable responsibility from an early stage and so this morning I am tasked with drafting a fairly complicated suite of documents including a loan agreement, board minutes, shareholder resolutions and Companies House forms. Trainees work closely with partners and so once I have finished drafting the documents, I will send them over to the relevant partner to review. The partners in corporate are great at giving feedback and if they have time, they will take you through the documents explaining the changes you need to make.

12.00pm: The trainees have a meeting with the senior partner, Anne-Marie Piper, about the trainee Christmas review. Each year at the office Christmas party, the trainees perform a pantomime about the firm written by the second-year trainees. Today was our first trainee meeting about the Christmas 2019 review and we are coming up with ideas and working out what costumes we have in the firm’s dressing up box.

1.00pm: Lunch with the trainees in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. We are lucky to work right next to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the largest public square in London and so in the summer you can see numerous members of the firm sitting on the grass having lunch.

2.00pm: I have my mid-seat appraisal with my supervisor in corporate. We have a mid-seat and an end of seat appraisal with our supervisors. At the mid-seat appraisal, we discuss how the seat is going generally and we are encouraged to identify types of work which we would like to gain more experience in. I have really enjoyed working on family business transactions and so my supervisor and I discuss how I will take on more of this type of work. Supervision at the firm is brilliant and the appraisal system is only one element of this. Trainees sit in a ‘pod’ with their supervisor so your supervisor is there if you have questions or need help. Trainees are also assigned a training partner, a partner in the firm, who is responsible for your welfare generally.

4.00pm: I join a completion call for a special purpose vehicle (SPV) transaction. Completion is the final stage of a transaction where the legal formalities necessary to conclude the transaction are performed. Once you have received executed (signed) versions of all the relevant documents and the funds are in place, you move to completion, which normally takes place via conference call with the other side’s solicitors. On this call you agree to date the documents and send the funds (if applicable); then you let the client know that the deal has gone through! I have been responsible for checking all the signatures of the documents on this deal and I am also responsible for dating the documents and sending these out to the client.

5.30pm: I normally leave the office between 6 and 7pm but today I leave early to take part in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge: a 3.5 mile run in Battersea Park. Individuals across the firm take part in the run and we have a picnic in the park after the run. There are numerous post-work opportunities on offer at the firm, both sporting and non-sporting. Sporting activities include football, netball, rugby, cricket and hockey and non-sporting activities include the Christmas choir and weekly pro bono sessions at Mary Ward, the local legal advice centre.

About the firm

Senior partner: Anne-Marie Piper

Who we are: Farrer & Co is a leading modern law firm with a distinguished history of providing expert advice to a diverse range of clients, both UK and international.

What we do: We are leaders in private client, agriculture, sports, defamation, heritage, family and charity law. Our IP and commercial practice, disputes and employment teams are also highly rated.

What we’re looking for: Team spirit, leadership, dynamism, versatility, a questioning mind, great communication skills, commercial awareness and a sense of fun.

What you’ll do: The trainee will experience six seats across the firm, handling ‘real’ work with early responsibility and an excellent legal and skills-based training programme.

Perks: Flexible benefits scheme, sporting teams/clubs, season ticket loan, 25 days’ holiday, group income protection, group life assurance, company doctor, subsidised yoga/pilates, subsidised gym membership, pension scheme, private medical insurance after one year, wellwoman/wellman checks.

Sponsorship: We pay all LPC and GDL fees, plus a maintenance grant of £7,000 per year of study.