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? ‘It had a culture of being inclusive, diverse and maintaining a work/life balance’; ‘I wanted to stay in Norwich and it was the best firm in the region’; ‘the culture that was portrayed and its reputation in Manchester in the sectors I was interested in’; ‘friendly working atmosphere and purported good work/life balance’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Four-month seat rotations and opportunities to work in different offices and client secondments’; ‘my fellow trainees’; ‘they don’t just put you in seats based on business needs, they really try to accommodate what you do/do not want to do’; ‘everyone at the firm is approachable and willing to help regardless of their position’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘At times there is a lack of accountability, both in terms of recognising good traits or challenging poor performance’; ‘the canteen in the Birmingham office’; ‘it could do with more social opportunities internally’; ‘not many communal areas for mingling in the Manchester office’; ‘the pay’

Best moment? ‘Attending court twice in one week’; ‘organising the Charity Challenge – an annual charity event to raise money for a good cause’; ‘the feeling of satisfaction after completing a £2m share sale following months of work’; ‘giving a speech introducing the firm to a visiting delegation of Chinese business people’; ‘an extremely positive end-of-seat review’

Worst moment? ‘Misunderstanding a task given to me by a partner and doing the wrong thing’; ‘having no work to do for three days straight’; ‘having to deal with a difficult client over the phone and becoming upset’; ‘conducting a role-play trial in the advocacy PSC course’; ‘long days’; ‘I didn’t enjoy my real estate seat’

The Lex 100 verdict on Mills & Reeve

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 deals: Acting for the University of Salford on its £850m masterplan to redevelop Salford University and surrounding areas in conjunction with Salford City Council; advising the Department for Education (DfE) and Institute for Apprenticeships on introducing the first technical level qualifications (T Levels) – the largest ever change to technical education in the UK; advising on the disposal of the first phase of parcels at Waterbeach, north of Cambridge, just three miles from the Cambridge Science Park; advised the owners of leading fashion and lifestyle brand hush on a major investment into the company by private equity investor True Capital; appointed by Greencore to provide strategic legal advice and representation in relation to a dispute concerning major upgrade works to one of its main manufacturing facilities in the UK.

The clients: Jaguar Land Rover; University of Cambridge; Ministry of Defence; Lendlease; British Cycling; AIG; Wellcome Trust; Department of Health and Social Care; RPMI Railpen; Wells Fargo.

The verdict

An ‘excellent regional firm with an international reach’, Mills & Reeve offers training contracts in Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester and Norwich. Many were drawn to the firm’s ‘sector strengths in education, tech, not-for-profit and government’, as well as to the ‘wide range of seats, including family law’. Others were ‘most impressed with the quality and organisation of the vacation scheme’, for which Mills & Reeve has earned a Lex 100 Winner award. Two further gongs have been awarded for job satisfaction and social life. Trainees are ‘not used as cheap labour’ and are ‘actually allowed to go home and have a life’, something which they do not take for granted. The workload can vary, though, and conflicting worst moments included ‘lulls when not given enough work’ and ‘late evenings when I have stayed to complete urgent work’. Responsibility and supervision go hand in hand at Mills & Reeve – ‘it isn’t an either/or here!’ and senior team members ‘are not afraid to let you loose on a first draft’. There was no avoiding complaints about the salary which some recruits feel is a little low in comparison with certain other firms. This was raised in relation to Cambridge in particular, where the cost of living is perceived to be higher than in other regions outside of London. Others feel that the remuneration doesn’t ‘match up to the quality of work/intellectual demand’. At least the work is exciting: ‘a week in the Royal Courts of Justice’ and ‘attending the Court of Appeal’ stood out as clear highlights, as did ‘being invited to various dinners with partners and being able to socialise with key clients at these events’. For a firm where trainees are ‘treated like a valuable member of the team from day one’, consider Mills & Reeve.

A day in the life of… Megan Whitaker, first-year trainee, Mills & Reeve (Norwich)

Megan Whitaker, Mills & Reeve

Departments to date: Employment, corporate, commercial, IP and IT

University: University of East Anglia

Degree: Law with European Legal Systems, 1st

7.00am: I leave the house early as I have a long commute to work. I choose to live outside Norwich as it suits my personal circumstances but most trainees live in the centre of Norwich. Norwich is a great place to live as it has the buzz of a city but is really close to the countryside and the coast, so you get the best of both worlds. The office is in the centre of Norwich so a lot of people walk to work, but there is also great transport around Norwich, and the office has a car park.

8.30am: Once I arrive in the office, I eat my breakfast and have a coffee while setting up my timers for the day for the matters I know I’ll be working on. I then always check my emails and my to-do list to see what I need to do.

9.00am: This morning I am working on some consumer terms and conditions for a longstanding client’s new website. I continue working off my draft from the previous week and note down any questions/queries that I have to discuss with my supervisor later. I am always given a good level of responsibility to work on matters independently while also being given the support and feedback I need to help me learn and develop.

10.00am: Every Monday at 10.00am we have our team meeting to discuss the matters that everyone in the team is working on and delegate out any new work, and it is my job to lead the meeting. Once back at my desk, I update this information into a spreadsheet and send round to the rest of the team so everyone has visibility of each other’s capacity.

11.00am: Today a client has attended the office for a meeting which my supervisor is leading. This is regarding some corporate support work in which we have produced a due diligence report on a business our client is purchasing. I accompany my supervisor to the meeting and take a note of what is discussed. I am able to converse directly with the client, where appropriate, as I carried out the due diligence analysis, and produced the DD report.

1.00pm: Usually at lunch, the other trainees and I tend to meet and walk into the city to grab some lunch or just to get a bit of fresh air! When the weather is nice, we will sit in the Cathedral grounds next to the office, or when the weather isn’t so nice, we will sit in our staff canteen, Edos.

2.00pm: Something urgent has come in this afternoon for a large client of the firm who needs a settlement agreement drafting. My supervisor and I discuss the client’s instructions, he gives me a steer in the right direction and I am then left to work on the first draft.

4.00pm: Once I have finished the draft, I send it to my supervisor who marks it up with a few comments. I tweak the agreement based on my supervisor’s feedback and then send it to the client with a covering email. The firm is great at allowing us to have direct contact with clients.

5.00pm: The last part of my day often involves ensuring I have sent out any work which had a deadline for close of business that day and then updating my to-do list for the next day. I also fill out my timesheet to make sure all my time recording for that day is entered. I tend to leave the office between 5.30-6.00pm on average but could have earlier or later finishes depending on my workload. M&R is great at allowing us to have a good work/life balance.

6.00pm: Tonight we have an office ‘crazy golf’ social arranged by the Sports & Social committee. The office is very active at socialising often, which is a great way to meet colleagues in other teams.

About the firm

Senior partner: Justin Ripman

Managing partner: Claire Clarke

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

Who we are: We are a major UK law firm renowned for our outstanding service to national and international clients.

What we do: We offer a huge range of different practice areas spanning numerous different sectors. Core sectors are automotive, charities and social enterprise, education, energy, food and agribusiness, government, health and care, insurance, life sciences, mid-market, private wealth, real estate investment, sport, and technology.

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 highly motivated with excellent interpersonal skills, initiative and business acumen.

What you’ll do: You will receive more opportunities and experiences than many firms. 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, and completing a seat in a different office is encouraged and supported with an accommodation allowance.

Perks: Flexible benefits scheme, pension scheme, life assurance, bonus scheme, 25 days’ holiday a year, sports and social committee, subsidised restaurants, season ticket loan, employee assistance programme, membership costs for junior lawyers groups.

Sponsorship: Full course fees for the GDL and/or the LPC while you are studying. Maintenance grant during both the GDL and the LPC year.

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 https://www.mills-reeve.com/about-us/diversity-and-inclusion.