Survey Results - Trainee feedback on RPC

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on RPC

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The culture for sure – the people really are super friendly and approachable’, ‘the firm is very good at what it does and the people are great’, ‘it has an incredibly strong reputation in commercial litigation, which I was keen to explore’, ‘RPC seemed to go against the grain in terms of traditional corporate City firm culture and values’, ‘it is progressive and the much smaller cohort allows for more meaningful work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people’, ‘the culture – everyone is so friendly and supportive. You are encouraged to be yourself at work and everyone has a genuine interest in getting to know the “real you”’, ‘the innovation’, ‘the people, the clients, the quality of work’, ‘I feel fairly relaxed about being myself at work’, ‘it has a café (London)’, ‘the high level of training’, ‘supervisors and team members seem genuinely invested in you and treat you as one of the team’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Slightly lower pay than other City firms but we’re still expected to work long hours’, ‘the old IT systems and lack of kitchens’, ‘the technology – since working from home the document management system is extremely unreliable and slow’, ‘I think the salaries could be better and in line with peers in the market’, ‘the out-of-date IT system’, ‘late nights bundling’, ‘the lifts (London)’, ‘the free coffee in the vending machines’

Best moment? ‘Attending the trial of a defamation case’, ‘attending multiple court hearings and client meetings’, ‘attending a pivotal meeting with one of the firm’s biggest clients’, ‘attending a mediation on the second day of my training contract’, ‘drafting a witness statement that was relied on in evidence’, ‘essentially leading on a project for a huge tech client’, ‘attending a judicial review application hearing with a QC as the sole firm representative’, ‘producing a research note on a matter, which counsel agreed with’

Worst moment? ‘Meeting lots of deadlines in a short space of time’, ‘running the disclosure exercise in a massive case – very time consuming and boring’, ‘some very late hours spent on a bundling task’, ‘not being able to experience the social side of the job because of Covid’, ‘staying past midnight to fix a witness statement exhibit that had gone very, very wrong’, ‘finalising bundles/statements of costs within tight timeframes’

The Lex 100 verdict on RPC

‘Interesting work, including lots of litigation experience’ plus ‘friendly people and a supportive culture’ describe RPC. The firm’s litigation and corporate/ commercial expertise is top notch and highly praised by its trainees. As a City firm, RPC stands out for its smaller intake size, progressive attitude and breadth of seat opportunities. As one trainee comments, ‘the firm is progressive, and much smaller, allowing for more meaningful work and contact as a part of a smaller cohort. The firm also specialises in areas where I want to potentially work’. Another added that ‘RPC seemed to go against the grain in terms of traditional corporate City law firm culture and values’. The vacation scheme was also praised: ‘the culture was head and shoulders above the rest. I felt as though I was treated with a lot of respect and given proper responsibility during my vacation scheme on live matters’. Negatives mentioned include the pay (compared with other City firms) and the IT systems, but overall there is lots of positivity. Highlights of training demonstrate the firm’s approach being experiential, as a trainee emphasises: ‘my training contract is more hands on and I’ve been given more responsibility than peers at other firms’. Trainees say the best thing about the firm is ‘the people and culture’; ‘virtually everyone from all levels I have met and worked for has been approachable and have been reasonable about things like deadlines and will try to help you manage your capacity as a trainee, especially at the start of a seat’. If looking for stellar contentious expertise, impressive client list and a City experience with a smaller intake, RPC is worth a serious look.

The clients: Frasers Group (Sports Direct); LINK; England Lacrosse; Facebook; Google; Associated Newspapers Limited; Federal Republic of Nigeria; Mr Oleg Deripaska and Filatona Trading Limited; QBE; Globe Trotter.

The deals: Supported longstanding technology client and the world’s largest social network, Facebook, on the setting up of its much anticipated oversight board, which hears appeals and issues binding decisions about content moderation on Facebook’s platforms; acts for ANL (Associated Newspapers Limited) in respect of a claim for misuse of private information, breaches of the GDPR and copyright infringement brought by the Duchess of Sussex following the publication in the Mail on Sunday of a letter written by the Duchess to her father, Thomas Markle; instructed by Google in connection with a claim brought by Epic Games concerning ‘Fortnite’, the rights of which are owned by Epic, and its distribution in app format on Android devices, via the app store, Google Play; represents the Federal Republic of Nigeria in separate claims against JP Morgan (JPM), Shell and Eni, arising out of the oil majors’ fraudulent and corrupt acquisition of an oil prospecting licence (OPL 245) for the sum of $1.3b; advised the liquidators on the sale of the UK newspaper Jewish Chronicle to a newly incorporated company, JC Acquisition Limited, established by a consortium led by Sir Robbie Gibb, former head of communications at 10 Downing Street.

A day in the life of… Noonie Holmes, trainee, RPC

Noonie Holmes, RPC

Departments to date: Construction insurance; Tax disputes

University: University of Oxford

Degree: Modern Languages (French and Linguistics), 2(1)

8.30am: I do my virtual commute, which consists of a walk around my local park with an iced coffee. I find it really helpful to get out of the house before the workday starts to clear my mind and help me focus later on. I currently work from a desk in my bedroom, and I start my day by catching up on a few emails and writing out my to-do list.

9.15am: The tax team has meetings via Zoom every Wednesday and Friday morning: we’re supposed to use these to catch up on the work everyone has been doing, but we often end up chatting about our weekend and evening plans (we don’t miss out on bonding as a team just because we’re working from home!). As a trainee these meetings are a great way to get to know everyone in the team and learn about the matters that others in the team are working on.

9.45am: The tax disputes team at RPC has a pretty varied practice, doing both civil and criminal work on issues from customs disputes to tax fraud and judicial review. A large matter I’m working on at the moment relates to import duty that HMRC allege is owed on some goods that our client bought from overseas and imported into the UK. Last week we had a call with a potential witness, and I’ve been asked to draft a witness statement for him. I spend the first part of the morning tidying up the statement and send it to a senior associate to review.

11.00am: One of the partners in the team calls me to ask for help with some research for a case. He is interested in finding out what parliament intended the meaning of a piece of legislation to be, and he wants me to review some parliamentary records at the National Archive. I spend some time signing up for a reader’s card and booking a slot to view the relevant documents next week. A great thing about being a trainee in the tax team is that the tasks are usually quite technical and involve researching detailed points of law. I’ll use the information I find to draft a research note to share with counsel.

12.30pm: I knock on my housemate’s bedroom door to see if she wants to break for lunch. We eat together in the kitchen, and then I pop out to a bookshop to buy a birthday present for a friend.

1.30pm: For one of the matters I work on, we have a weekly team strategy meeting to keep track of all the moving parts in the case. I draft the agenda for the meeting and circulate it to the team before our call. On the call, we discuss how the case is progressing, review upcoming deadlines and assign tasks for the week. We have just received a hard drive of documents from the client which will hopefully be a key piece of evidence in the case. I volunteer to review them in the coming week.

3.00pm: I’m on the rota to speak at the next quarterly trainee know-how presentation, in which trainees across the commercial disputes department are given the opportunity to present to the whole team on a recent case of interest. I’m presenting on a Supreme Court decision on limitation periods, and spend some time producing slides to accompany my presentation.

3.15pm: A trainee from another team calls me to chat about a 5k run we have both signed up to do with the firm later this week. We discuss our non-existent training plans and arrange to go for drinks after the run.

4.00pm: I get a call from a senior associate who needs help with an urgent application for a criminal matter she is working on. She asks me to review the skeleton argument that she has drafted in support of the application and pull together some key documents to file alongside it. As the application is urgent, I scrap my to-do list for the afternoon and get to work on it.

5.45pm: I send the documents back to the senior associate so that the application can be sent off first thing tomorrow morning. I then start reviewing the hard drive of documents. This is another customs case, and the client has sent over the records they have of purchasing and shipping the goods that are the subject of the dispute with HMRC.

7.00pm: Time to leave the virtual office for the day. A friend is having birthday drinks in her garden tonight, so I wrap up the book I bought for her at lunchtime and hop on the tube.

About the firm

Other offices: Bristol, Hong Kong, Singapore.

Who we are: At RPC, you can be you. In an environment that’s real. Strikingly real.

Do you want a career in a firm that values personality as much as professionalism? For us, business success comes from building personal relationships and thinking creatively to achieve the best solutions.

So, if you value character over conformity, the unique over the uniform, and ambition over apathy, let’s talk.

What we do: Our lawyers are market leaders. Our clients are often household names. And together we achieve award-winning results. Results that have seen RPC regularly voted amongst the best for commercial advice.

Our business is built on mutual respect and trust. That’s where you come in. From day one, you’ll have contact with our partners; you’ll have contact with clients; and you’ll be given real responsibility. As a trainee, you could be assisting with large-scale global disputes, or offering business-critical commercial advice.

What we’re looking for: Although proven academic ability is important (we require a 2(1) degree or above, not necessarily in law) we value personality, flexibility, energy, creative thinking, business sense, loyalty and diversity just as highly.

What you’ll do: As a trainee, we believe you’ll deliver your best if you’re free to be you. And that means being able to ask questions openly, being supported to develop your strengths, and having the right opportunities to grow. Our physical offices are non-hierarchical and open plan. This means from day one you’ll be sitting close to a partner. In our virtual office, we use video call and messaging technology to ensure support is available and to maintain our non-hierarchical culture. Whether you’re handling complex insurance claims, resolving large-scale global disputes, or providing commercial advice and transactional support, your opinions will be listened to and respected.

Perks: Along with a competitive annual salary, you’ll be offered a creative and comprehensive package of benefits.

We’re all unique. And that’s why RPC’s benefits package is, too. We respect we’re all real people with passions, families and lives away from our desks. So we offer you the chance to tailor your benefits, offering choice and flexibility to everyone who works here.

Our benefits package covers almost everything, from wellness festivals and social events, to extra annual leave, and family and wealth-related rewards.

Sponsorship details: Postgraduate Diploma in Law at the University of Law (only if you are a non-law graduate) funding: fees and SQE paid, plus up to £7,000 maintenance.

Masters in Legal Practice at the University of Law funding: fees and SQE paid, plus up to £7,000 maintenance.

Diversity and inclusion

 Rachel Pears, Inclusion & Diversity Lead / Internal Employment Counsel

Why is having a diverse workforce important?
In a nutshell: diversity of thought. Who wants their lawyer to think inside the same box as everyone else? All of our experiences inform our perspectives, judgements, relationships. And we want those elements to be as creative, different and reflective of society as possible.

What initiatives does the firm have in place to ensure it recruits a diverse workforce?
We have used Rare’s contextualised recruitment tool since 2015, which enables us to consider a more diverse range of candidates for our apprentice and training contract opportunities using social mobility metrics. We are able to understand the context within which a candidate has achieved what they have.

We also entered a partnership with Aspiring Solicitors in 2018. AS works to increase diversity in the legal profession through a series of programmes aimed at underrepresented groups.

RPC is a corporate sponsor of SEO, an organisation dedicated to helping talented students, primarily from ethnic minority and/or low socioeconomic backgrounds, secure graduate positions and internships.

The firm offers legal and business apprenticeships (including solicitor, paralegal and finance apprenticeships) across our UK offices.

We also participate in a number of additional diversity initiatives at the early talent stage including:

  • BAME City Law Open Day in collaboration with Target Jobs
  • University of Law Legal Access Scheme
  • DiversCity in Law event
  • Bright Network Black Heritage Future Leaders annual event

How has the firm been working to improve diversity in senior/leadership positions?
It’s a complex issue that doesn’t, unfortunately, have an easy quick fix. But we are committed to improving the make-up of our senior positions and believe we are on the right track.

We are invested in a number of different initiatives to drive further diversity at the top. A few examples of this:

  • We have signed up to the Law Society’s Women in Law Pledge pursuant to which we have pledged to reach 30% women in our partnership. As part of this commitment the firm implemented a tailored and specific 15-point Gender Balance Plan to identify the areas where barriers to gender balance may occur.
  • We run a number of programmes through our learning and development team to support our lawyers from training to partnership.
  • We have recently signed Rare’s Race Fairness Commitment which requires a number of actions to support the recruitment, progression and promotion of Black and all ethnic minority people.
  • We believe that data tells a compelling story and so we analyse our demographics information to look at promotion and attrition figures for certain groups – for example from an ethnicity or gender perspective.
  • We are very supportive of flexible and agile working at all levels. We offer enhanced pay and benefits for anyone taking certain forms of parental leave (maternity, paternity, shared, adoption, etc) and we offer a maternity leave returners programme to support our female talent transition back to work.

How do you avoid diversity becoming a box-ticking exercise?
You have to go about it meaningfully and authentically. Don’t sign a charter or a pledge and then move on to the next. Create accountability. Consider how you can create tailored action plans for your organisation. Have passionate and engaged people driving it forward. Don’t try to tackle every challenge at the same time. Listen to your people. We all have something to learn.

What assurances would you give to individuals who want to apply for a training contract but feel hesitant to do so because of their gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/background/disability/any other diversity-related reason?
While the legal sector (like most sectors) has a way to go in diversity and inclusion, we are certainly moving in the right direction. Most firms (RPC included) have made huge strides forward with a multitude of programmes, networks and initiatives to support people from minority or underrepresented groups. There are also plenty of people like me to challenge the norm. I am a great believer that most skills are transferrable and people who have overcome difficult hurdles in their life are some of the most resilient people you’ll ever meet. Be confident in who you are and how much you have to offer.