Survey Results - Trainee feedback on RPC

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘I found it considerably more friendly and supportive than other firms I visited’, ‘RPC encourages its people to be themselves’, ‘the combination of high-quality work and good hours’, ‘media/commercial contract work/clients’, ‘the insurance focus’, ‘top-tier rankings for commercial and IP’, ‘variety of interesting seats’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The work/life balance’, ‘the culture – people are very friendly and extremely easy to work with’, ‘the friendliness of all the staff’, ‘the supportiveness of the people’, ‘partner approachability’, ‘the culture’, ‘the team I am currently in has made me feel very welcome and I would like to qualify here’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘No kitchens’, ‘lack of additional benefits for trainees; bonus etc.’, ‘the canteen’, ‘the IT system is old and very slow’, ‘some departments have a hands-off approach to trainee supervision’, ‘the remuneration could be improved given that the hours can be long’, ‘having to travel between Bristol and London to attend various training events as this takes time out of actual chargeable work’

Best moment? ‘Seeing articles with your name on as an author’, ‘attending court alone with counsel to observe proceedings and feeding back directly to the client’, ‘attending a networking event at an embassy, at the request of a partner’, ‘being sent to Cyprus in my second week to complete a deal by myself’, ‘going to a high-profile client meeting’

Worst moment? ‘Bundles. Par for the course at a litigation firm though!’, ‘document review’, ‘drafting a statement of costs until 1am’, ‘making exhibits to accompany the other side’s witness statements because they didn’t make them, ‘very long hours on work that was admin heavy rather than intellectually challenging’, ‘rushing around to file a bundle when half the evidence was missing’, ‘billing’

The Lex 100 verdict on RPC

‘I felt comfortable in the RPC environment from the moment I stepped in’, said one trainee about the London and Bristol-based firm. The vacation scheme, during which ‘the firm’s ability to attract and retain high-quality, interesting work really shone through’ has earned the firm a Lex 100 Winner award. RPC has ‘impressive media clients’ and an ‘insurance focus’. The firm also has a particularly ‘strong reputation for commercial litigation’, although this does lead to trainees having to do ‘late-night bundling’ and ‘costs scheduling’. Recruits at RPC are ‘much more likely to get exposure to top-level work’, whereas ‘at much larger firms this probably wouldn’t be possible’. The people and the culture were almost unanimously dubbed the best things about the firm: ‘everyone is very driven but happy to help you develop’ and there is a ‘laid-back atmosphere that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of work for friendliness’. Training was also praised: ‘there are frequent departmental sessions and there is a genuine motivation to turn the trainees into confident solicitors’. New joiners also have two supervisors: a senior associate and a partner. Recruits found it less than ideal that there are ‘no fridges, microwaves or kettles’, especially as they also felt that ‘the canteen has gone downhill’. Others lamented the limited seat options, particularly in popular practice areas, and thought that this should be made clearer prior to their joining. At least there are work highlights such as ‘attending court with the client and team and winning a knockout victory’ and ‘working for exceptionally big names’ to soften the blow. For a firm which ‘supports the fact you have a life outside of work’ and which ‘encourages its people to be themselves’, research RPC.

The deals:  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; 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 $1.3bn; acts for Mr Oleg Deripaska and his company Filatona Trading Limited in Commercial Court proceedings Filatona & Anr v Navigator & Ors (CL-2016-000775), where Mr Deripaska is challenging the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal under ss67-68 of the Arbitration Act 1996; instructed by the editor of the Financial Times to conduct an independent and privileged investigation into allegations of market abuse concerning alleged collusion between Financial Times journalists and short sellers in relation to reporting on German company Wirecard AG; advised new client Ebury, the best-in-class trade and foreign exchange facilitator for SMEs, on its £350m strategic investment arrangement with Santander, where Santander acquired a 50.1% shareholding in Ebury, comprising a mixture of new primary equity and a secondary share purchase from numerous existing shareholders.

The clients: Sports Direct; LINK; England Lacrosse; Facebook; News Group; Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEO); Federal Republic of Nigeria; Mr Oleg Deripaska and Filatona Trading Limited; Ingenious Media Holding Limited; Corin Limited.

A day in the life of… Poppy St John, first-year trainee, RPC

Poppy St John, RPC

Departments to date: Commercial disputes; media

University: Durham University

Degree: Combined Honours in Classics and English, 2(1)

8.45am: I arrive at the virtual office (AKA my kitchen) and ease in to the day by spending a few minutes checking through the firm’s intranet hub, Edge, to see if there is any firm news. At the moment, the Community Hub has lots of tips on how to cope with working from home, including webinars on how to improve focus and links to weekly online meditation classes.

9.30am: The team has a (now Skype-based) weekly capacity meeting led by the partner, during which everyone takes turns to discuss what we are working on. These meetings are very useful for managing our individual workloads, as you can let people know how busy you are and discuss how best to meet internal deadlines. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about how different matters are progressing across the team.

10.00am: The media team at RPC specialises in acting for the defendants in defamation, data protection and privacy claims. If one of our clients is defending a defamation claim regarding an article that they published, they may wish to advance a ‘public interest’ defence, if they can prove that the article was on a matter of public interest and they reasonably believed that publishing the article would contribute to the general public debate on the matter. If there are other articles published around the same time in the press on the same subject, this may help the client to prove that the article complained of was on a matter of public interest. I spend some time researching the press for articles similar to one which is the subject of a claim against a client, a newspaper, to see if this defence is viable.

12.30pm: I have a video call with the other trainees during my lunch break to catch up and find out about what’s going on in other departments. I then head out for a quick walk around the local park.

1.30pm: An associate asks me to join her on a call with a client who is defending a privacy claim concerning an article that allegedly revealed private information. We are interviewing one of the reporters who helped to write the article in question. My job is to take a detailed attendance note of what the journalist says so we can use it as the basis of a witness statement. After the call, the associate asks me to use my attendance note to plan out a skeleton for the witness statement, which we will then flesh out over the next week or so with more detail.

4.00pm: Trainees across the firm write for the Trainees Take on Business blog on the firm’s website. According to the rota, my turn to submit a blog is coming up. Topical content seems to do well, as do articles related to the firm’s key sectors. I do some online research for inspiration – perhaps something on cyber-crime might be interesting…

4.45pm: A client emails me with a few questions about an interim application we are preparing for them, specifically asking for clarification on the process and the deadlines for submitting evidence. I write a brief note responding to their queries and ask an associate to check it before replying.

5.30pm: An associate calls me via Skype to brief me on a new matter that has come in regarding an injunction that one of our clients has been threatened with. Once he has explained the background, he asks me if I can do the first draft of a letter to the claimant tomorrow morning pushing back against the injunction. I put it at the top of my to-do list.

6.30pm: One of the trainees sends round a group email suggesting we have group drinks over Zoom. I tidy up a few loose ends by drafting some emails ready to send out tomorrow and log out of my virtual office.

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 among 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 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: GDL funding: fees paid plus up to £7,000 maintenance. LPC funding: fees paid plus up to £7,000 maintenance.

Diversity and inclusion

Rachel Pears, Inclusion and 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? 
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 gender balance may face barriers.

We run a number of programmes through our learning and development team to support our lawyers from training to partnership.

We have also 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 also 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 perspective or gender perspective.

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 people like me to challenge the norm.

Be great and go for it!