Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Payne Hicks Beach

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Payne Hicks Beach

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘In every department there are solicitors at the cutting edge of their field’; ‘great learning and development opportunities’; ‘friendly colleagues’; ‘the mix of private client work and commercial work’; ‘expertise in family and private client law’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people are brilliant and everyone gets on well with each other’; ‘the support network’; ‘interesting clients’; ‘challenging high-quality work’; ‘the people at the firm are at the top of their game’; ‘you can always find someone who will give you their time to help where possible’; ‘inclusiveness’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Outdated work methods e.g. recent efforts to go paperless have failed’; ‘it seems old fashioned at times, even the office decor is quite retro’; ‘not knowing if there is a position for you at the firm upon qualification’

Best moment? ‘I love meeting clients. I went to a client meeting on my very first day and always find them extremely interesting’; ‘receiving positive feedback for good work’; ‘feeling like a valued team member rather than just a trainee’; ‘being given a complex tax problem to solve by my supervisor and finding a practical solution for the client’

Worst moment? ‘Switching to my next seat has been quite a challenge, as the day-to-day work, and the pace of work, varies substantially between departments’; ‘feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of my training contract’

The Lex 100 verdict on Payne Hicks Beach

The firm: Established around 1930, London-based Payne Hicks Beach is renowned for its expertise in family and private client law. This is complemented by the firm’s strong commercial, privacy and media law capabilities. Payne Hicks Beach includes individuals, families and businesses among its client base.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Agriculture and estates; Art and cultural property; Commercial property: development; Commercial litigation; Contentious trusts and probate; Employment: employers and senior executives; Immigration: business; Family; Residential property; Partnership; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Property litigation; Sport

The verdict

Payne Hicks Beach is ‘a smaller firm that truly focuses on personal development’. Applicants were impressed by ‘approachable partners and high-quality work’. The size of the firm and clientele also motivated many recruits to join as PHB is ‘unique in being able to provide a strong education while competing with top-tier firms with well over double the number of fee-earners’. Respondents felt they received far greater client contact than peers, and Payne Hicks Beach is a Lex 100 Winner in this category, as well as for quality of work. Newbies enjoy the high level of responsibility they are granted, a direct consequence of the smaller size of the firm as there is ‘only one trainee per department’. Subsequently, ‘the department rely on you as a significant member of the team’ meaning ‘each trainee gets great exposure’ during their training contract. Certainly, ‘the people are fantastic’ creating a ‘real sense of camaraderie’. Many recruits consider the firm ‘incredibly inclusive and supportive’ which balances well with ‘high levels of responsibility, client contact and an interesting workload’. ‘The old-fashioned nature of the firm’ was noted by many, but it was also recognised that there is ‘potential for development’. The ‘substantial varied workload and pace of work between departments’ can be quite challenging, but this makes for ‘well-versed NQs’. Memorable moments include ‘attending client meetings on the first day’ and ‘feeling part of the team and being acknowledged for good work’. if you’re looking for ‘better working hours, higher quality work, and great client contact’, choose Payne Hicks Beach.

A day in the life of… Cameron Crees, trainee, Payne Hicks Beach

Cameron Crees, Payne Hicks Beach

Departments to date: Private client and dispute resolution

University: Durham

Degree: Combined Honours in Arts, 1st

9.00am: I arrive at the office. I review my to-do list, updating it as I go with the jobs that have come in overnight or dropped off the bottom of my list from the day before, and check my calendar. Lunch today is the weekly ‘Staff Lunch’ which is prepared by our excellent kitchen and it provides an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and fellow trainees.

9.15am: I am currently helping out in relation to a historic phone hacking claim. I am reading and compiling articles in which the client was potentially hacked. The way in which the tabloids have written has changed drastically in the last ten years. I am amazed at the number of times the phrase ‘a perfectly placed informant tells me’ appears. I discuss my progress with my supervisor on this matter who provides me with some helpful feedback.

10.00am: Departmental meeting. This is an informal chat over some coffee about what has come in over the last week, our workloads and any updates on current matters. The meeting gives me a good opportunity to engage proactively with some of the new cases. This also gives each fee-earner the chance to share or take on more for their workload; there is definitely a collegial work ethic at the firm.

11.30am: My next piece of substantive work is to do with a disputed will claim. I am tasked with reviewing a valuation report from a London auction house to present to the client. This is to establish the total value of the residual estate. I have found it fascinating to see how the value of an estate can accumulate through even some of the most mundane items. I never knew that cutlery could be so expensive.

1.00pm: The staff lunch is a convivial affair. It is always nice to see colleagues from my previous departments and is also a great way to get to know new people in the firm. The litigation department works quite closely with the other departments, for example we work with the private client department on contentious trust work and with the family department on reputation management. It is helpful to gauge what other departments are working on to contextualise my own work.

2.00pm: One of the partners has asked me to attend a conference with counsel on a defamation claim. Defamation cases can be heavily front loaded as interim injunctions are the first obvious remedy. We discuss the overall strategy and what potentially could happen, assessing the benefits and drawbacks of the claim and attempting to second guess the other side.

3.00pm: After a short call to my colleague in the property department, I draft an internal memo to a property litigation associate explaining some research on party walls that I had undertaken over the last few days. This is another example of how the litigation department operates closely with others.

4.30pm: I begin drafting a statement of costs. With litigation I have found that the workload peaks before a court hearing. It can be exciting when one has to reprioritise the workload in a hurry if a client asks for an injunction or a similar emergency application.

6.30pm: I have organised to meet up with my mentee from Coram’s Fields. The firm has a close relationship with Coram’s Fields, a children’s charity based on the site of the original Foundling Hospital, and encourages trainees and junior solicitors to volunteer. My mentee and I set each other challenges. So far my mentee has excelled in all of her challenges. She has tasked me with running a half marathon in the Autumn on behalf of Coram’s. After finishing my meeting with her, and to ensure I do her proud, I don my gym gear and get running.

About the firm

Chair of the management board: Robert Brodrick

Who we are: Payne Hicks Beach is a Lincoln’s Inn firm established in 1730 providing a full range of legal services to domestic and international private and commercial clients.

What we do: The firm’s reputation has been built on family and private client work as one of the few UK firms who provide these services at the highest level. Its commanding position in these areas is complemented by an excellent reputation for contentious trusts, dispute resolution, privacy and media law, company and commercial law, employment, residential and commercial property and citizenship and immigration work. Despite their position in the market, Payne Hicks Beach’s lawyers pride themselves on the confidentiality and discretion with which they conduct their work, not least because the firm’s clients include many household names, as a result of which the firm is one of London’s best kept secrets.

What we’re looking for: Applicants should have an excellent academic record (an upper second class degree is a minimum), a high degree of drive and determination, and will need to demonstrate an ability to analyse problems accurately, to be creative in finding practical commercial solutions, and communicating these clearly, as well as a flair for building relationships.

What you’ll do: Trainees spend time in each of four departments, with their preferences being taken into account in this rotation so far as possible. With only one trainee per department, they play an important role, with a high level of responsibility, real work and supervised client contact from the outset. Trainees are subject to regular assessment, and engage in the required professional skills courses, as well as in-house training. However, with the firm’s team outlook and open door policy they also have access to help and support from colleagues who are acknowledged experts in their fields.

Perks: Private medical insurance; permanent health insurance; employee assistance programme; life assurance scheme; health screening; contributory pension scheme; cycle to work scheme; season ticket loan; childcare vouchers; staff introduction bonus.

Sponsorship: Full GDL and LPC funding, and a maintenance grant each year of study. BPP law school is the firm’s preferred provider.