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? ‘Exposure to high levels of responsibility at an early stage’; ‘friendly culture and lack of hierarchy’; ‘the firm’s reputation as a regional market leader’; ‘the level of work is exceptional, varied and interesting’; ‘really personable throughout the whole application process’; ‘M&R manage to combine technical expertise with an appreciation that you have a life outside of work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Trainees are treated as valuable members of the team that are crucial to its functioning rather than people who can help with the printing’; ‘the inclusiveness and collegiate nature of the firm’; ‘the personality of the firm lives up to the reputation’; ‘working for major education clients/multi-million pound disputes and a growing sports practice’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘There is a quite a rigid top-down structure which, although it focuses on innovation, is still very traditional’; ‘sometimes being thrown in at the deep end without enough support’; ‘quality of training in some departments’; ‘there are not many social activities’

Best moment? ‘Being able to build such a strong relationship with the client that I was trusted to attend their offices alone to run a client meeting’; ‘my close friendship with the other trainees in my office’; ‘attending a three-week inquest and liaising directly with and managing counsel, witnesses and the client, often by myself’

Worst moment? ‘Feeling stressed over my workload’; ‘making a mistake in a document that was sent out to a client very early on in my first seat’; ‘not being given enough secretarial support, resulting in large amounts of time doing scanning and printing’; ‘bundles’; ‘having to prepare representations at the High Court hearing with limited supervision’

The Lex 100 verdict on Mills & Reeve

The firm: “You will often hear us say “Achieve more. Together”, and while many law firms talk about teamwork and collaboration, it’s not just a catchphrase for us. It’s the cornerstone of our culture and how we work.”

The deals: Successfully enforced Jaguar Land Rover’s iconic Defender trade mark against Bombardier; advising the Wellcome Trust on the £249 million acquisition for the farming business of the Co-operative Group; working with the Department of Health and Social Care to design, procure and implement Future Operating Model project – a system governing some £5 billion plus annual NHS spend; advised Tate & Lyle on the €144 million financing of its European sugar refinery; acting for the University of Northampton on its £330million Waterside Campus development.

The clients: AIG; Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; England Golf; Greene King; Jaguar Land Rover; Lendlease; Ministry of Defence; Paypoint; University of Cambridge; Wellcome Trust.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Corporate and commercial; Crime, fraud and licensing; Dispute resolution; Family; Finance; Human resources; Insurance; Private client; Projects, energy and natural resources; Public sector; Real estate; TMT (technology, media and telecoms)

The verdict

Mills & Reeve ‘promises a good work/life balance without having to compromise on high-quality work’. With the ability to do ‘six seats as opposed to the traditional four’, trainees benefit from ‘great exposure to multiple practice areas’, which ensures an informed decision upon qualification. ‘The collaborative, friendly culture’ was unanimously voted the best thing about the firm. Respondents also enjoyed the open-plan office, working very reasonable hours, and the opportunities to liaise directly with clients from early on. Newbies say there is an ‘expected dip in salary compared to similar firms because of the benefit of a having a decent work/life balance’ but many felt that it ‘didn’t match the cost of living, particularly in Cambridge’. Furthermore, the ‘lack of secondment opportunities’, as well as the ‘variance in supervision between departments’ also upset some respondents. Others relished the opportunity to ‘manage several transactions with minimal supervision’ which made them feel trusted to deal with their own workload. Indeed, having ‘high involvement in high-profile cases’ such as ‘attending and winning an appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice’, gave applicants ‘a real sense of responsibility and value’ which is why many chose to apply to Mills & Reeve in the first place. As expected, ‘bundling’, ‘admin tasks’ and ‘not being given much supervision’ were less favourable experiences. However, many appreciated the proactive CSR committee and look forward to being part of the annual ‘charity challenge’. Impressively, Mills & Reeve has earned six Lex 100 Winner medals this year. If you want to be part of an ‘ambitious, collaborative and inclusive’ firm whilst ‘benefitting from high-calibre clients’, apply to Mills & Reeve.

A day in the life of… Gabriel Swales, first-year trainee, Mills & Reeve (Manchester)

Gabriel Swales, Mills & Reeve

Departments to date: Regulatory public and commercial disputes, corporate, private client

University: University of Manchester; University of Sheffield

Degree: History 2(1); GDL & LPC

8.15am: I live in the centre of Manchester which means that I only have a 15-minute walk to the office which is a huge bonus! Some trainees choose to live outside the city centre but the great transport links mean that the commute is relatively easy.

8.30am: The first things I normally do are make a coffee and have a look through my to-do list, which I prepared the previous evening, and consider the emails I have received. The team or individual fee-earners will discuss what needs to be actioned that day and I will make a note on my to-do list of anything further which needs to be done.

9.00am: This morning my supervisor and I sit down to discuss a probate matter which we will be dealing with. We talk through the background and facts of the matter and I am told what needs to be done to progress the case. I make a detailed note of this in order to ensure that I can carry out the work as effectively as possible when I return to my desk.

10.45am: I am informed that a client has come to the office to drop off some documents in relation to a probate matter. I greet the client in reception and to collect the documents and make sure they are correctly filed.

11.45am: I have been asked to prepare some inheritance tax forms in relation to an estate. I have been provided with all of the relevant documents in the matter and therefore begin the process of obtaining the salient information from these documents for the purpose of completing the forms.

1.00pm: At lunch time I go into Manchester city centre to buy some lunch and return to the kitchen in the office to eat with a couple of the trainees and other members of staff. If the weather is good (a luxury in Manchester!) we tend to eat outside not far from the office.

2.00pm: I begin drafting a statement of truth for a client and I provide a copy of this to my supervisor who checks that the information is accurate. My supervisors, and Mills & Reeve staff generally, are really helpful in providing advice and feedback in relation to work I have carried out.

3.00pm: A fee-earner in my team has asked me to carry out a piece of research into the requirements for the signing of a lasting power of attorney. I begin the process of carrying out research using a variety of the resources available to the firm including e-sources and provide my findings to the fee-earner.

4.00pm: As I am part of the firm’s annual Charity Challenge Committee, I have a conference call with the other committee members in relation to the organising of this year’s Charity Challenge in Coniston.

5.15pm: The last part of my day is spent dealing with smaller tasks such as reviewing documentation, checking work that I have carried out and also diarising important dates in mine and my colleagues’ calendars.

5.45pm: Before I leave the office I always update my to-do list to ensure that any tasks for the following day are listed and anything completed has been removed. I also organise my folders and documents that I keep in my drawer. There can be some late nights at Mills & Reeve from time to time, however, the firm has a keen focus on its people maintaining a healthy work-life balance. My usual finish time is somewhere between 5.30-6.00pm.

6.00pm: Today marks the end of the week so a few of the Mills & Reeve staff across the office have decided to go out for drinks. This offers a great opportunity to get to know people across the office in different departments.

About the firm

Senior partner: Justin Ripman

Managing partner: Claire Clarke

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

Who we are: Mills & Reeve is a major UK law firm renowned for its 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, 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, confidence and commercial awareness.

What you’ll do: You will get 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 LPC and GDL while you are studying. Maintenance grant during the LPC year and GDL year.