Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Forsters LLP
The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Forsters LLP
Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Retention rates’, ‘small trainee intake’, ‘reputation for good work and work/life balance’, ‘really enjoyed the vac scheme’, ‘medium-sized firm’, ‘meritocratic approach’, ‘lots of amazing female role models’, ‘I did a vac scheme and felt it was a good fit for my personality’, ‘the reputation of the private client and commercial real estate teams’, ‘the people’
Best thing about the firm? ‘The people are really friendly’, ‘responsibility is given to you and when you do well, it is recognised’, ‘the inclusive and fun culture’, ‘there is opportunity from a very early stage to progress and do well’, ‘there is very rarely too stupid a question to ask’, ‘the work/life balance’, ‘they are excellent at managing the fact that you are trainees and still learning, whilst still making you feel valued’
Worst thing about the firm? ‘No staff canteen’, ‘people can be slightly posh’, ‘no qualification leave’, ‘lack of certainty about qualification’, ‘it is unfortunate that there are no international secondments’, ‘the gym subsidy scheme is not very good’, ‘it would be good to have a subsidised canteen’
Best moment? ‘Looking after a licence from inception to completion under the supervision of the head of department’, ‘working on a sale of a property and getting to have direct contact with the clients’, ‘interesting research’, ‘finding a department that I loved and wanted to qualify into’, ‘running a client meeting all by myself’, ‘a very moving thank you email from a client’
Worst moment? ‘Changing departments and knowing nothing’, ‘doing admin tasks’, ‘leaving my notes at home when I was mid-way through an urgent attendance note’, ‘the prospect of competing with close friends for a job is unpleasant’, ‘being overwhelmed by the quantity of work’, ‘changing seats every four months is frustrating if you were really enjoying the one you were in’
The Lex 100 verdict on Forsters LLP
The firm: Forsters is a leading London law firm based in Mayfair which delivers exceptional legal advice to clients principally drawn from the real estate and private wealth sectors.
The deals: Assisted The Crown Estate with its £120m acquisition of three Central London properties; acted for Investra Capital in connection with the sale and leaseback of a retail portfolio; advises on multimillion pound pre-nuptial agreements; acts for trustees and high-net-worth individuals and families on a wide variety of contentious trusts and probate cases, in addition to professional negligence claims that arise in the context of trust and estates work; advises clients who own and invest in art; advises domestic UK families on wealth structuring.
The clients: British Airways Pension Fund; Hunter UK Retail Unit Trust; Investra Capital; LXB Retail Properties; OakNorth Bank; Rothschild Bank International; The Crown Estate; United National Trust Bank.
The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Agriculture and estates; Art and cultural property; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial litigation; Commercial property: development; Contentious trusts and probate; Family; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Property finance; Property litigation; Residential property.
Forsters ‘combines the quality of work of a larger City firm with the atmosphere of a smaller, West- End practice’. The sector-focused, Mayfair-based firm is ‘excellent in commercial real estate in particular’, which pleased trainees who had an interest in property law. An impressive six Lex 100 Winner medals have been awarded to Forsters for job satisfaction, living up to expectations, work/life balance, social life, vacation scheme and salary. Recruits enjoy working with ‘very approachable and normal people’ who have ‘interests outside of just law’ and ‘get to know who you are as a person’. The partners in particular are ‘incredible role models’. Moreover, trainees are given ‘far more responsibility’ from an early stage, setting them up ‘for the sort of work you will be doing as an associate’. Being immersed in complex matters from an early stage can be a double-edged sword, though, due to the very real possibility of ‘getting muddled’ or ‘making embarrassing errors’. The work/life balance, which far exceeds that of City firms, was commended, with respondents claiming that ‘it is rare to stay later than 6.30pm’. However, the absence of qualification leave irked trainees. ‘Closing a massive bank refinancing with just the partner – the level of responsibility was intense and it involved the partner relying on me for knowledge’ is an example of the type of work to which trainees at the firm can look forward. ‘Being asked to manage a finance transaction’ and ‘attending a High Court trial which garnered significant press attention’ were similarly exhilarating experiences. To train at a firm which ‘combines very high standards with a light-hearted and positive outlook’, consider Forsters.
A day in the life of… Jack Beeston, NQ solicitor, Forsters LLP
Departments to date: Commercial real estate, residential property, planning, property litigation
University: University of Bristol
Degree: English literature 2(1)
8.15am: I arrive a bit early so that I can have a quick coffee and clear some of my more challenging tasks early in the day.
9.30am: I have a meeting with one of the associates in my department who asks me to do some research for her on rights of way. After the meeting, I get started on the memo, which requires me to draw together statute, case law and some commentary too.
11.00am: One of the partners in my department asks for some help doing the due diligence on the purchase of a large plot of land in London. I am asked to review the titles and searches and I begin drafting the report on title which will eventually go to the client, as well as making a note of some enquiries which will need to be raised with the seller.
12.00pm: I catch up with the associate for whom I have undertaken the research and we go through my work. She raises a couple of points which we will need to consider going forward and asks me to draft an email advising the client of their position and highlighting their various options. When this draft is approved I email the client.
1.00pm: I attend a lunch time know-how meeting hosted by the property litigation department, who raise some points to consider in the light of recent court rulings.
2.00pm: I am asked to attend a meeting with a client who wants some advice on an option agreement. I attend the meeting with the partner in charge of the matter and take an attendance note. Following the meeting we divide up the action points between us.
3.00pm: A new client pops in to provide us with their proof of identity and I am asked to meet them in reception. I take the necessary anti-money laundering documentation and we have a general chat. When I return to my desk I process the documents with our compliance team.
3.45pm: I type up the attendance note of the meeting and compose a follow-up email to the client, summarising our position and outlining the next steps.
4.45pm: I receive the memorandum of sale for a house outside London. I am told that I will be largely running the file and begin gathering the relevant documentation which will need to be sent to the buyer’s solicitor. I then draft the sale contract.
6.30pm: I finish off my work, get changed and head off to play for the firm’s football team.
What is the training like at Forsters? I have really enjoyed myself so far. From the very beginning of each seat I have been made to feel as though I am an important member of the department and I was given a lot of responsibility which was challenging but also extremely rewarding. Each department works in a different way, and as you move every four months you are able to develop a range of working styles and broaden your knowledge of different areas of the law too.
What is the most interesting thing you have done at Forsters to date? I have spent time in all three of my seats so far working on the same large redevelopment project in London. I find this really interesting as I get to work alongside people from almost all of the firm’s departments, as well as developers, council representatives and many other interested parties. Although there are a number of lawyers from across the firm involved, I always feel as though my contribution is valuable, and as a Londoner I find being involved in projects to do with regeneration really engaging.
About the firm
Senior partner: Smita Edwards
Managing partner: Paul Roberts
Who we are: We are a dynamic, successful firm committed to being the best at what we do. Based in Mayfair, Forsters was founded in 1998 and has since more than trebled in size.
What we do: While we are best known for our top-flight real estate and private client practices, we have thriving corporate and dispute resolution teams. Forsters offers interesting, intellectually challenging work, high-quality clients and fantastic people to work with and learn from. We are dedicated to providing outstanding client service in a highly professional, collaborative and supportive environment.
What we’re looking for: In addition to proven academic ability, we are looking for drive and ambition, commercial awareness, resilience, a strong work and service ethic, creativity, the ability to solve problems and thrive under pressure.
What you’ll do: Trainees at Forsters undertake six four-month seats and are given real work and responsibility from day one as well as comprehensive training (see graduate recruitment website for more details).
Perks: Trainee benefits include 25 days’ holiday, pension scheme, private medical insurance, private dental insurance, subsidised gym membership (interest-free annual loan), season ticket (interest-free annual loan), cycle to work (interest-free annual loan), life assurance, group income protection and employee assistance programme. There are also plenty of sporting, fund-raising and social events to get involved with!
Sponsorship: Full payment of GDL and LPC course fees, plus a maintenance grant of £6,000 per year of study, is offered to future trainees who have yet to complete these courses.