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? ‘It offers brilliant training due to its small size – trainees are given real work from day one’; ‘I was attracted to the firm’s work with high-net-worth individuals and its stellar reputation’; ‘I was impressed by the location and the buildings during my assessment centre’; ‘I wanted greater responsibility during my training as I felt it would make me a better solicitor’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Everyone is so welcoming, friendly and helpful, from partners to support staff. They want you to succeed and are receptive to you asking questions and checking things’; ‘the free lunch every Thursday’; ‘it is small enough that a lot of people know me and I them, but the partners are still highly recognised in their fields and the quality of the work is excellent’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The heating is rather temperamental and the old buildings can get very cold’; ‘efforts to modernise are largely ignored’; ‘there is little consistency in how different files are built and, depending on the fee-earner in charge, you can sometimes be brought in on matters where the documents you need are not accessible to you quickly’

Best moment? ‘Being trusted to draft a substantive document on my own and receiving positive feedback from my supervisor and from the client’; ‘small moments of acknowledgement and praise, especially in front of clients, have been lovely to receive’; ‘succeeding in striking out a significant case and explaining this to the client’

Worst moment? ‘I received an aggressive phone call from the other side’s client, due to a longstanding frustration that had very little to do with me’; ‘awkwardly having to be stuck in the middle between personality clashes within a department and having to pretend to be oblivious’

The Lex 100 verdict on Payne Hicks Beach

The firm: 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. 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.

The verdict

Payne Hicks Beach boasts an ‘excellent reputation’ in the fields of private client, family law and dispute resolution in particular, and it was these specialisms which drew current trainees to the firm. The ‘small, personal and human nature of the firm’ was evident during the recruitment process where ‘there was an interest in us as individuals and what we could offer the firm throughout’. The enviable location in London’s Lincoln’s Inn was also a big draw, and is perfectly suited to the firm’s many high-net-worth clients. Payne Hicks Beach’s intimate size and trainee intake means that recruits get a ‘much higher level of responsibility, client contact and quality of work’. Another upside is that ‘the partners take time and a genuine interest in helping you learn the principles behind what you are doing and making sure you get offered a wide range of work’. Trainees were proud of ‘drafting documents’, ‘attending a high-profile employment tribunal hearing where I had drafted the witness statement’ and ‘seeing a matter through from opening to billing’. But such high levels of responsibility can also lead to trainees ‘having to deal with difficult clients’. Complaints about PHB tended to centre on ‘the reluctance to modernise’ by some fee earners and departments, who have been ‘slow to adapt to the new online centralised system’. ‘The chintz in the meeting rooms’ was also a bugbear for one respondent. To work with people ‘who all have a fantastic sense of humour’ and clients ‘whose issues are always interesting and challenging’, research Payne Hicks Beach.

A day in the life of… Verity Sherwin, first-year trainee, Payne Hicks Beach

Verity Sherwin, Payne Hicks Beach

Departments to date: Private client

University: Jesus College Oxford

Degree: Classics, 2(1)

9.00am: I arrive at the beautiful office in Lincoln’s Inn, and go up to the room which I share with my supervisor. (Or I usually would. At the moment coronavirus means we are all working from home, but my work is the same. Meetings and catch-ups are just through video calls instead!) I check my emails and calendar, and then update today’s to-do list.

9.20am: I am currently researching the tax implications of a client’s plans to travel abroad for a year. I am considering the application of the temporary non-residence rules, and looking at the impact both for him and property he owns through a foreign company. It is great to get stuck in to complex points like this.

10.30am: I meet the partner to discuss my research. She provides me with helpful guidance and feedback, and asks me to prepare a first draft of the letter of advice.

11.00am: An email has come in from the lawyers representing the residuary beneficiaries in a complex probate matter where we represent the executors. I draft a reply, striking a balanced tone as we are trying to avoid the matter becoming contentious. I will be attending a conference with counsel later in the week to get an opinion on how best to proceed.

11.30am: I have a catch-up with a partner and associate I work with regularly. There are various strands of work, so it is important to make sure that we are all clear with our different tasks. I get to work with a wide range of members of the department, which is excellent for learning different preferences and styles of working.

12.15pm: A partner asks me to review a trust deed for him, checking the provisions relating to protectors. I get this done before lunch.

1.00pm: Today I am joining a departmental training session covering offshore tax issues. We have a very wise and approachable professional support lawyer who runs this and other sessions. The whole department is really good at sharing knowledge and encouraging us to learn, ask questions and improve.

2.00pm: I draft the letter of advice based on my tax research, which I will review with the partner tomorrow.

3.30pm: I attend a client meeting to take instructions for a will and lasting powers of attorney. It is fascinating to learn about the life and intentions of individuals when they come to prepare their wills. The more of these meetings I attend the more I learn which questions should be asked at what time and the types of wills which suit different scenarios, whether there be the risk of divorce, equalising legacies after lifetime gifting or property abroad which needs careful consideration.

4.30pm: Coming out of the meeting, I see that I have received an email from a member of the probate team, asking me to update the register where an individual has died and his property has passed to his wife by survivorship. I send a quick email to an associate in the property department about the necessary procedure, and I have a helpful email back almost straight away, meaning that I can prepare the forms tomorrow.

5.00pm: I write the attendance note of today’s meeting and check that I have all the instructions I need. I will be preparing the first drafts of the will, letters of wishes and lasting powers of attorney in the next few days.

6.30pm: If we weren’t in lockdown, I would join the firm’s quarterly drinks. The firm puts on lovely social events, and it is great to get the opportunity to get to know my colleagues in a relaxed environment after work.

About the firm

Chairman 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 that provides 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 (a 2(1) 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; contributory pension scheme; cycle to work scheme; season ticket loan; 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.

Equality and diversity

Equality and diversity

Payne Hicks Beach is committed to achieving an environment which provides equality of opportunity to all, in which everyone is given the opportunity to realise their full potential in a transparent culture free from discrimination and harassment. We aim to provide and maintain an inclusive, supportive, understanding and friendly workplace.

Clients

We treat all clients equally and fairly and do not unlawfully discriminate against them. We will also, wherever possible, take steps to promote equal opportunity in relation to access to the legal services that we provide, taking account of the diversity of the communities that we serve.

Suppliers

We are committed to the principle of equality and diversity in all our procurement practices and procedures. We expect our chosen contractor or supplier to demonstrate that it maintains effective policies and procedures for ensuring equality and diversity.

Diversity and inclusion

The firm is a signatory to the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter which requires us to carry out a regular diversity survey, submit the responses to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and publish the data. A summary of the latest survey can be found below.

Please note that the summary is based upon responses received to the survey, so is not necessarily fully reflective of the diversity of the firm.

Recruitment and selection

All applications will be considered on the merits of their applicant against the job specification, regardless of age, sex, gender re-assignment, marital/civil partnership status, race, nationality, caste, disability, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.

Job specifications will include criteria which are objectively required for the duties and responsibilities of the vacancy and which it is lawful to require.