Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Mills & Reeve

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Mills & Reeve

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Culture, work/life balance, range of practice areas, best pay locally’, ‘diversity of seat options and six seat rotations instead of four’, ‘culture and the ability to do City-quality work from a regional perspective’, ‘it is innovative and forward thinking’, ‘I knew it was a firm that encouraged staff to have a good work/life balance’, ‘my experience on the vacation scheme was excellent; it was really well organised and thought-out’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people and the approachability of staff. For trainees specifically, the support system is second to none and I have never felt alone or unsupported’, ‘the working culture – positive, inclusive, supportive’, ‘the work is very interesting and varied and the people are highly intelligent and friendly’, ‘the combination of high-quality work with being a great place to work’, ‘good work/life balance’, ‘high-quality clients for a firm outside of London’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Trainee pay only goes up by £1k between the first and second year’, ‘lack of pro bono opportunities for trainees’, ‘probably the pay’, ‘the salary for Cambridge is out of kilter with the quality of the firm and local prices’, ‘the IT team could respond to issues a bit faster’, ‘salary is low for the hours worked’, ‘I have only been able to go into the office a handful of times, which has made socialising and getting to know the rest of the team difficult’

Best moment? ‘Attending a hearing and getting involved in the preparation for it’, ‘assisting on a multi-million-pound claim, particularly doing the investigative work and being trusted to do so’, ‘taking on an influential role in a complicated disclosure matter’, ‘working on large deals which were later reported in the news and knowing I was part of something special’, ‘receiving calls from key stakeholders from two of our most well-known clients was a unique experience’, ‘settling a claim for several hundred thousand pounds for £60k’

Worst moment? ‘Days when too many tasks are fired my way with too many same-day deadlines’, ‘missing all social events due to lockdown’, ‘having to work long hours for several days reviewing documents’, ‘finishing work at 2am (an exception, of course)’, ‘beginning the training contract remotely felt a little like being thrown in at the deep end’, ‘a few very late nights – they are rare but do happen’, ‘taking on too much work and having to work through a weekend to meet deadlines’

The Lex 100 verdict on Mills & Reeve

Mills & Reeve continues to impress its trainees, living up to a reputation for ‘culture and work/life balance’ and being ‘innovative and forward thinking’.  It’s no surprise that the firm is a Lex 100 Winner in five categories: job satisfaction, firm living up to expectations, work/life balance, vacation scheme and approachability of supervisors. Trainees commonly highlight the six-seat rotation system and the high quality of work in the regional offices. One trainee says the firm has a ‘proven appreciation for the importance of wellbeing as well as producing excellent work for clients’. In terms of training the firm rates highly: ‘training is exceptional here. We are encouraged to ask questions and I often have partners giving me direct supervision and feedback. I feel like everyone takes an interest in my development’. Another trainee commented that ‘it appears that the firm is far more transparent in communicating’. The firm’s response to the pandemic has also been praised: ‘I feel very lucky to be a trainee here; we have been very well supported by the firm during Covid, more so than at some other firms where friends work’. The few negatives mentioned mostly related to teething problems with IT systems amid the pandemic. Mills & Reeve’s ‘notoriously friendly’ atmosphere, popular vacation scheme, and work/life balance shine through, making it a top choice for trainees.

The firm: You will often hear Mills & Reeve say ‘Achieve more. Together’, and while many law firms talk about teamwork and collaboration, it’s not just a catchphrase here. It’s the cornerstone of the culture and how the firm works.

The clients: Jaguar Land Rover; University of Cambridge; Ministry of Defence; Professional Footballers’ Association; AIG; Wellcome Trust; Department of Health and Social Care; HSBC; Paypoint; Adnams.

The deals: The firm’s Life Questions app, available free to NHS workers, received a ‘standout’ mention in the FT European Innovative Lawyers Awards; acted for longstanding client PNC Business Credit in its £52m financing of Berry Bros & Rudd (BB&R), Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant; advised SYNLAB UK and Ireland on their successful bid to become the new outsourced provider of pathology services in south east London via a procurement run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts; instructed by Axis Managing Agency Limited to act in a coverage and monitoring capacity on behalf of insurers in connection with a multimillion-euro claim made under the policy by an international producer of lead and lead derivatives that has been the subject of a debilitating ransomware attack; advised F-Star Therapeutics – a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on transforming the lives of patients with cancer through the development of innovative tetravalent bispecific (mAb2™) antibodies – on all UK aspects of its reverse merger with NASDAQ-listed Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals; instructed by the University of Birmingham in relation to the development partnership with Bruntwood SciTech Limited (a joint venture between Legal & General and Bruntwood) to build a £210m life sciences campus in Birmingham; represented the interests of professional footballers in the English Football League on behalf of their union, the Professional Footballers Association, post Covid-19 where clubs were looking to cut their salaries.

A day in the life of... Alexandra Illingworth, trainee, Mills & Reeve

Alexandra Illingworth, Mills & Reeve

Departments to date: Education disputes, Planning, Commercial disputes

University: University of Oxford

Degree: English Language and Literature, 2(1); GDL; LPC

8.00am: I get ready for the day. I live with two other trainees in the centre of Cambridge so the office is only a 15-minute walk away, but Covid has shortened my commute even further to the few feet between my bed and desk. It’s my housemate’s birthday so we put some banners, cards and flowers out for when she comes downstairs. We chat about our days, make some iced coffees and head up to work.

8.15am: I usually spend some time reviewing my emails and to-do list before I start work. I highlight tasks that are urgent and think about how I will prioritise my day.

8.30am: I review the policies of an education client that we are supporting in a dispute and draft an email of advice on a particular point for review by the lawyer supervising me on the matter.

9.00am: I have a Zoom call with my supervisor and another lawyer about the same education matter. My supervisor has already given me the facts and background of the matter, but today we have a call with the client on strategy so we discuss options going forward.

10.00am: I finish my draft email of advice, having discussed some points I was unsure of on the Zoom, and send it to the relevant lawyer for review.

10.30am: I am assisting with a bundle for a hearing that I am attending later in the month, involving information law. Having drafted the bundle index last week, I email the executive assistant who is putting the bundle together about some additional documents from the client and have a phone call with the relevant lawyer to talk through some changes we are making.

11.00am: An associate in our team calls me about a research task I did yesterday regarding execution of a deed by directors in different countries. We discuss my findings and how we will proceed with the execution in light of this. He gives me a follow-up task of drafting the signing instructions and sends me an example of one that he has done before. I have also been sent the settlement agreement and given the background of the matter; I am especially interested in the cross-border element.

12.00pm: We have a call with the education client on the matter we discussed this morning. I am introduced to the client, as I will be sending them regular updates on our progress on the matter. Following the call, I am given some research tasks to do which involve getting in touch with the education team’s professional support lawyer and contacting the library for some articles. I send these emails off and then go for lunch.

1.00pm: I have lunch in the garden with my flatmates. Living with other trainees has been lovely. Some other trainees live nearby and we have been meeting up for walks and drinks to get to know each other even though we’re working from home. We have been able to go into the office when it’s essential. I was able to go in and meet my team in person last week which was great. In the meantime, regular Zoom team meetings and catch-ups with my supervisor ensure that I can ask any questions I have.

2.00pm: I have a call with an associate in the team about a letter of response I drafted. We go through the changes that he’s made and he lets me know what I did well and what I could improve on for next time.

2.30pm: I carry on with my research tasks, using the wide variety of resources available at the firm, and start writing up my findings for the relevant lawyer.

4.00pm: I have a phone call with a lawyer about the hearing bundle and some comments on it we have received from counsel. I talk to the executive assistant on our team about the changes we need to make.

5.00pm: I draft an email updating the client on the education matter for my supervisor to review. Once she has reviewed it, I send it out to the client.

6.00pm: I update my to-do list ready for tomorrow. Once this is done, I finish work and head off for my housemate’s birthday drinks!

About the firm

Senior partner: Justin Ripman

Managing partner: Claire Clarke

Other offices: Cambridge, Leeds, London, Manchester, Norwich.

Who we are: Mills & Reeve is a dynamic, modern and thought-provoking firm. We’re personal and passionate about the law.

What we do: Delivering value to our clients through highly commercial, pragmatic and practical advice, we follow the highest possible standards of professional service, in the most personable and approachable way we can. Our 1,000-plus people and over 500 lawyers work from six offices nationally and through handpicked relationships with law firms across the globe. Our work spans a broad range of legal sectors and jurisdictions for a diverse range of clients: from the FTSE 250 to fast-growth start-ups, from individuals to some of the world’s most established and prestigious organisations.

What we’re looking for: We want people who are ready for early responsibility because that is what we will give you. You will be driven, have a positive attitude and an agile approach. You will enjoy untangling complicated issues and thrive on building relationships with clients and colleagues.

What you’ll do: We want you to really understand what it’s like to be a lawyer and the best way to do that is to give you responsibility. You’ll be working with national and international clients where you are given the freedom to learn in a supportive environment.

Trainees take on six four-month seats to allow you to experience the breadth of the work we do and you will be supported by dedicated supervisors, a partner mentor, a trainee buddy and the graduate team throughout the two-year training programme.

Perks: Everyone has different priorities and preferences, so at Mills & Reeve you can choose the benefits that appeal to you. From buying holiday and undergoing health screening to leasing a bicycle – the choice is yours.

Benefits include: pension scheme; life assurance; bonus scheme; 25′ days holiday a year as standard with the option to buy or sell a week each year; extra day of leave for wedding, civil partnership, religious holiday, moving house; option to take qualification leave at the end of the training contract; sports and social committee; subsidised restaurants; season ticket loan; confidential employee assistance programme; membership costs for junior lawyers groups.

Sponsorship: Full course sponsorship and £5,500 maintenance grant, plus travel and accommodation allowance for SQE 2 exams.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at Mills & Reeve

Diversity and inclusion is a key strand of our 2025 vision. At Mills & Reeve, we recognise the foundation of the firm’s success is our people. Our aim is to ensure that everyone working for or with us feels valued and supported, not only for how they perform in the working environment but also for who they truly are.

  • We are committed to being a fair employer, which recruits, develops, promotes and retains a diverse and talented workforce.
  • We recognise the need to provide an inclusive and positive workplace where people are able to do their best work.
  • We recognise we cannot achieve our vision as a firm without developing and implementing best practice in diversity and inclusion, not only as an employer but also as a provider of legal services, as a purchaser of goods and services, and in our wider role in society.

We have the following objectives for the firm to help us achieve our goals:

  • Achieve a more diverse workforce by identifying and communicating a number of diversity and inclusion workforce profile goals.
  • Embed good equality, diversity and inclusion practices into our daily activities and decision-making processes.
  • Celebrate, communicate and promote equality, diversity and inclusion both within and outside of the firm.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing initiatives

We believe that embedding diversity and inclusion creates a positive workforce environment. It will make us a better law firm and helps us to attract the best talent, drive innovation, and deliver the best experience for our employees and clients. We have a number of initiatives in place to support us to embed diversity and inclusion practice.

For more information, please visit our website at