Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Travers Smith LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Travers Smith LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Very friendly and approachable partners and associates combined with top-quality City work’; ‘great vacation scheme and the unique training structure’; ‘the people and the work/life balance’; ‘quality of reputation and emphasis on training’; ‘private equity work, reputation and opportunities’; ‘friendlier, more relaxed atmosphere and culture compared to other firms’; ‘I really felt like part of the team as a vacation schemer’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The friendly people’; ‘social life and team events’; ‘the trainee culture, we’re all friends’; ‘room sharing structure’; ‘you get to meet and speak with partners and associates at all levels which makes you feel involved’; ‘sense of humour’; ‘the collaborative and supportive working environment’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The seat system isn’t very transparent’; ‘the hours can be tough’; ‘occasional poor work allocation’; ‘the canteen’; ‘the toilets could be improved’; ‘IT systems at times can be frustrating’; ‘socially, it can be very cliquey in certain teams’; ‘being able to complete complex tasks without asking for much help and getting good feedback’

Best moment? ‘Serving witness statements by hand on the other side’; ‘genuinely every day that I get to have lunch with my close friends’; ‘being allocated my first seat preference’; ‘producing a comprehensive Brexit planning note for a major client which subsequently became part of the firm’s knowhow’; ‘being allowed to run a small corporate matter and being trusted’; ‘working as a sole client contact for specific work’

Worst moment? ‘Working an all-nighter before completion’; ‘the churn of administrative tasks in the litigation team’; ‘late night pre-hearing bundling’; ‘realising I’d made an error in an email to the client’; ‘occasional long days or weekend work’; ‘late night IT glitches’; ‘bibling’

The Lex 100 verdict on Travers Smith LLP

The firm: City law firm Travers Smith advises on a broad range of corporate matters and is widely respected for its finance expertise. The firm counts publicly-listed and private companies, financial institutions, private equity firms and other businesses among its clients. A second office in Paris practising exclusively English law is also part of Travers Smith’s network.

The deals: Advised Micro Focus International on its proposed $8.8bn merger with HP Enterprise’s software business segment; acted for Carpetright plc on its recent financial and operational restructuring by way of inter-linked CVA and £60m equity fundraising; provided regulatory input for TA Associates on its acquisition of a £26bn global fund management business from Old Mutual Wealth; represented various Hewlett-Packard group companies (HP) in $5bn fraud proceedings in the Chancery Division, which arose out of the $11bn acquisition of Autonomy Corporation by HP in 2011; acted for finnCap (as NOMAD and sole bookrunner) in PROACTIS’ $132.5m acquisition of Perfect Commerce by way of a reverse takeover.

The clients: Burger King; Caffe Nero; Cath Kidston; Jack Wills; Pret A Manger; Pure Gym; Racing Post; Shazam; Sky plc.; Zoopla.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Corporate tax; Employee share schemes; Employment: employers; Environment; Equity capital markets; EU and competition; Financial services; Flotations: small and mid-cap; Franchising; Fraud: civil; Investment funds; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals; Media and entertainment (including media finance); Pensions; Private equity: transactions; Property finance

The verdict

Trainees at Travers Smith love the ‘room-sharing system which guarantees full involvement in transactions and gives you the opportunity to work with senior lawyers’, enabling them to ‘easily build relationships’. Many enjoyed the ‘partner-led, high-quality formal training with regular sessions both firm-wide and directed at different levels of seniority’. Some trainees found that their ‘peers were surprised by how supportive and flexible the teams are and by the pastoral support we receive’, such as ‘accommodating flexible working arrangements, allowing trainees to work from home when necessary and supporting and encouraging lawyers of all levels to make time for CSR or pro bono initiatives’. ‘The people’ were unanimously praised as the best thing about the firm, with respondents claiming that ‘we’re all friends here, there’s no competitive edge’. This makes ‘it so much easier to work long hours when necessary’. The canteen was also popular: ‘the food is amazing and the subsidised prices are very reasonable’ and others agreed ‘our kitchen team is all-round incredible’. However, ‘unpredictable work schedules’ due to ‘small team sizes can lead to you being overworked sometimes’ and ‘the lack of international secondments other than the Paris office’ disappointed trainees. The ‘corporate team trip to Italy’ and ‘completing a deal on my own in the absence of the partner and associate’ were but a few best moments. The work/life balance and high retention rates are impressive and Travers is a Lex 100 Winner for social life, salary and vacation scheme. If a firm with a ‘strong transactional focus’ which ‘listens to what trainees want out of their training contracts’ interests you, consider applying to Travers Smith.

A day in the life of… Natalie Batra, trainee solicitor, Travers Smith LLP

Natalie Batra, Travers Smith LLP

Departments to date: Corporate finance and commercial, IP and technology

University: Leicester University

Degree: Law

9.00am: I attend a spin class next to work using our subsidised gym offering. I head over to our in-house café and meet my secretary there. I then head upstairs and find the associate I sit with and we all sit down for breakfast in the communal kitchen.

9.30am: The partner I sit with explains that a trade mark infringement claim has come in overnight from the corporate finance department – I am tasked with drafting the ‘cease and desist letter’ which involves working closely with my previous department which was corporate finance. This allows me to put to test my understanding of a niche market and how to best distinguish our client’s goods and services from a competitors.

I call a colleague who points to the prospectus we had worked on for our client when they first listed – the document is very helpful in helping me draft my claim. I only have the afternoon to do this and so I complete my first draft of the letter.

10.30am: After the phone call, I take the lead on drafting to a set of specific disclosures in respect of a private equity deal we are assisting on. As the senior associate is away, I use my understanding of the wider deal context and our internal precedents and decide which changes to make before this is reviewed by an associate.

1.00pm: An associate in our room has just got engaged so my friend and I head out for lunch on a flower expedition for her and grab some lunch to go.

1.40pm: When I get back to my desk, I receive some feedback on my trade mark letter before a senior associate sends this out. We join a conference call with the client on our next steps which allows me to understand how dispute resolution and commercial departments complement each other within the task. We consult counsel on a specific point and press ahead with our documents.

2.15pm: Meanwhile, a new query has come in from a client requiring a draft response to the Information Commissioners Office on a subject access request; the associate and the partner I sit with have a discussion and ask me to complete a first draft; it’s a great way to get to grips with the technicalities of the General Data Protection Act (GDPR). The associate is very pleased with my draft; we eventually turn this into a know-how note for others in our departments to use.

3.00pm: I am a part of our firm’s BAME society and today’s meeting agenda is on building opportunities with the Leicester law school. An associate and I feedback to the society on our planning thus far for an open day in September. This is a really meaningful chance for me to target the university that I studied at.

4.00pm: I have been asked to attend an afternoon session with students who are competing in a commercial awareness competition having reached the semi-finals. We chat about how the morning of presentations went and I give them some tips on how I handled the competition a few years ago. It’s a great way to get to know the students, and catch up with people across the firm.

9.00pm: I return to my desk, and respond to a few emails. I plan what I need to get done tomorrow and head upstairs to the kitchen to participate in the annual departmental cook-off competition which involves baking choux pastry (not a natural skill of mine). Once the cook off is finished we all sit down to eat our meal in the client dining rooms which is the perfect end to a busy day.

About the firm

Senior partner: Kathleen Russ

Managing partner: David Patient

Other offices: Paris. Our international strategy has resulted in over 50% of our work now having a multi-jurisdictional aspect and in any year we will typically work with over 100 foreign law firms from around the world.

Who we are: Travers Smith is an award-winning independent City law firm with a reputation for enterprising thinking and uncompromising quality in all of its chosen fields, and a focus on advising clients on international matters.

What we do: The main areas of our practice are commercial, IP and technology, competition, corporate, derivatives and structured products, dispute resolution, employment, finance, financial services & markets, incentives and remuneration, operational risk & environment, pensions, real estate, restructuring & insolvency and tax.

What we’re looking for: We’ll give you responsibility from day one – you will quickly find yourself on the phone to clients, in meetings and handling your own work with all the guidance you need. As such the firm looks for people who can combine academic excellence with plain common sense; who are determined, articulate and able to think on their feet, and who take their work but not themselves seriously.

What you’ll do: The firm’s comprehensive training programme ensures that trainees experience a broad range of work. All trainees sit with partners and associates, which ensures a refreshing lack of hierarchy. During the two-year training contract, trainees spend six months in our corporate department and another six months in either the dispute resolution or the employment departments. The firm offers you a choice for your other two seats in two of our other specialist departments. Trainees may also have the opportunity to spend six months in the firm’s Paris office.

Perks: Benefits include private medical and permanent health insurance, life assurance, health screening programme, on-site physiotherapy, dental insurance, pension scheme, cycle to work scheme, subsidised café/restaurant, subsidised gym membership and season ticket loan.

Sponsorship: GDL and LPC fees, plus maintenance grant of £8,500 in London.

Vacation scheme insider

 Oliver Creamer, second-seat trainee. Departments to date: Dispute resolution, Derivatives and structured products (DSP).

Before getting into law, I did a degree in History at Durham University. While there, I began thinking about my next steps, and was drawn to law; the skills I had learned in my degree – the research, building an argument, understanding large amounts of information on new topics – provided a great foundation to take into the legal profession. In my second year, I therefore decided to attend a couple of open days, and built my applications from this.

Why Travers Smith?

After attending a couple of open days, and speaking to trainees, it quickly became apparent that City law firms can actually be very varied, and it’s important to apply to firms into whose culture you think you would fit. At Durham, I’d been quite involved in various committees and societies within my college, and had massively enjoyed the experience of working in smaller teams, allowing me to work closely with interesting and kind people. From what I could see, Travers was therefore exactly what I was looking for: a relatively small trainee intake (around 25) with tight-knit teams in which you work closely with associates and partners, who provide excellent and hands-on training. On top of this, the firm had a fantastic reputation, and obviously took on high-quality, interesting work. I therefore decided to apply for a vacation scheme so I could find out if an experience at the firm accurately reflected the reputation it had.

The vacation scheme

Culture

The scheme lasted two weeks, and I spent the first in corporate (in the corporate finance team) and the second in employment. One of the unique aspects of Travers Smith is the room-sharing system – each trainee shares an office with a partner and an associate or two – and as a vacation scheme student, you get to experience this from day one. This allowed me an immediate insight into what it’s like to work at the firm, and what I’d heard was quickly confirmed: everyone I met was incredibly friendly and welcoming, whatever level they were. The partners I sat with didn’t hesitate to take time out of their days to explain the background to the work they were doing and make sure I was included in it, inviting me along to calls or meetings and giving me pieces of work that could help me understand what it would be like to be a trainee at the firm. I also had a trainee buddy in each department, who sat in the same room, and made sure to find work for me to do that was interesting and reflected the sort of work they did, and who was keen to engage with me and answer any questions I had.

Throughout the two weeks, the graduate recruitment team put on a lot of social events, including a welcome event at Bounce, softball, and a farewell reception at the end. These were a fantastic opportunity to get to know people in the firm in a slightly more casual environment, and learn if it was somewhere I could see myself working. Being able to talk to the trainees at the firm out of the office about what it was really like to work there confirmed for me everything I had gathered during my two weeks; the openness with which they spoke about the firm told me it was a great place to work.

Work

The work I did provided a fantastic insight into both life as a trainee generally, and more specifically as a trainee at Travers. I was exposed to a very varied amount of work, from the complexities of immigration employment law (in particular in the context of Brexit) to research into various European stock exchanges. Because of the friendliness and approachability of everyone at the firm, I ended up working with people from all levels, from paralegals to partners, and this only increased the variety of work I did.

Tasks I was given included proof-reading documents, preparing research notes and presenting case law updates at the weekly department meeting. The work was not limited to such assignments, as there is also an ongoing project throughout the vacation scheme. Split into teams, we were given a commercial scenario and told to prepare for a negotiation with another team at the end of the scheme. This allowed us the opportunity to work with the other vacation scheme students and learn how the firm approaches working with and against other law firms – everyone was happy to give negotiating tips and teach us the key skills we would need to succeed in a career in the legal industry.

Conclusion

I would absolutely recommend applying for a vacation scheme at Travers Smith. The incredible working environment mixed with the fantastic array of interesting work means that, from your first day as a vacation scheme student to your life as a trainee, you are able to learn huge amounts in a supportive and friendly workplace. This allows you to really be yourself on the scheme, and prove to the firm why you’ll make a good lawyer and fit in. It also gives you a chance to see if it is right for you, providing an accurate and interesting experience of life as a trainee, and helping to show whether it is the place you want to pursue a career.