What can you expect from a Training Contract with Collyer Bristow?
We asked a selection of our current Trainees and recently qualified Associates to share their experiences of training with CB:
FIRST YEAR TRAINEE
I am currently in my first seat in Tax and estate planning. In Tax and estate planning trainees are given a wide variety of work and real responsibility from day one. I have been involved with everything from drafting Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney on a daily basis, to assisting fee earners on more complex tax planning matters, including those with an international element. Other work that trainees can expect in this seat includes providing immigration advice and even working on contentious probate matters.
I applied for a training contract at Collyer Bristow as I felt that both a smaller sized firm and trainee intake would give me the best possible training. As there is generally only one trainee in each department, trainees are really valued and utilised by your team. Therefore, I would say that you get a higher level of exposure to clients and real work compared to trainees at larger city firms. For example, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a mediation within a month of joining the firm, which I found very interesting.
Despite the challenges posed by starting a new job in a predominantly virtual office, my colleagues have been very welcoming and supportive towards me. When you start as a trainee you are assigned both a ‘development coach’ and a ‘mentor’. You have a different development coach in each seat who you meet with each month to discuss how you are performing – providing you with invaluable feedback. Your mentor is a previous trainee so they can offer useful tips and advice and is someone with who you can discuss how you are finding the training contract. Although life as a trainee can, of course, be hard work, this framework ensures that the firm is a friendly and supportive place to work.
FIRST YEAR TRAINEE
My first seat has been in Real estate litigation, primarily working on landlord and tenant disputes. The team are approachable and willing to get you involved. Early on in the seat, I assisted with an urgent interim possession claim against trespassers, filing various documents at court. Another highlight was attending a week-long trial in the County Court, for which I prepared the trial bundle and got to sit in on client/counsel conferences.
The firm has put on an extensive training and induction program. I particularly enjoyed the sessions with a clinical psychologist. Other topics have included networking, legal drafting and ‘Reputation and Visibility Raising’, an event run by Collyer Bristow’s ‘Higher’ initiative – a project focused on promoting women in the legal industry.
The firm is very friendly and welcoming. As a future trainee, you are given a trainee ‘buddy’ and invited to attend the firm Christmas and Summer parties. When you start, you are assigned a mentor who checks in with you throughout the training contract. Internal departmental training, such as the Dispute Resolution Foundation Program, is another great way to meet others across the firm; something particularly important when primarily working from home. I’ve also enjoyed attending the Hub (our current office) for the team days, as well as the team Christmas meal and trainee welcome drinks.
SECOND YEAR TRAINEE
I am a second-year trainee at Collyer Bristow and I am currently working in the Dispute Resolution department. This involves working across three connected teams in Banking & financial disputes, Commercial disputes and Intellectual Property. The variety of work has made for a very interesting seat, and given me an opportunity to learn a great deal from lawyers working across a number of different sectors and practice areas. My previous seats have been in Real estate and the Family team, so I have also had the opportunity to gain experience across the firm’s commercial and private client offering.
As a trainee at Collyer Bristow you are given responsibility for meaningful tasks (with appropriate supervision) and have contact with clients from an early point. My training contract started during the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore for the vast majority of my time with the firm we have been working remotely. Nonetheless, I have been proactively welcomed into the various teams, and invited to join calls and meetings that enable me to feel I can still get that more informal learning that comes from observing senior colleagues and how they operate. Training opportunities for the trainee cohort as a whole have also continued both remotely and in-person when possible.
Collyer Bristow is a friendly and open law firm and that atmosphere has continued even during the period of remote working, with a number of social and interest groups keeping going or starting up remotely and teams and other groups meeting in person as guidance allowed. The senior leaders are genuinely interested in and care about staff wellbeing, and are very open to discussions, learning and training in this area. As someone for whom law is a second career, and having taken a slightly different route to get here, I have found that supportive atmosphere particularly beneficial.
I applied for a training contract in the summer after completing my undergraduate degree and before undertaking the GDL and LPC. While I completed these qualifications, I was in regular contact with one of the current trainees at Collyer Bristow as my “buddy”, and was kept in the loop with invitations to the summer and Christmas parties. Once I actually started the training contract, I found that this welcoming atmosphere continued throughout. Each trainee had a “mentor” whom they could talk to about general issues and settling in, and “development coaches” for each seat to ensure that learning objectives were appropriately set and managed.
My first seat was in Banking and Financial Disputes. Much of my time was spent on a particular high value claim. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to travel to visit our client in Italy as part of the process of interviewing key personnel for witness statements. As well as the usual trainee tasks of bundling, attendance notes and legal research, there was also a fair amount of technical and non-legal research involved in this seat.
My second seat was in Real Estate, covering a combination of the firm’s contentious and non-contentious practice. In contrast to my first seat, I found myself working over a wider variety of matters and with a broader array of partners and fee-earners. I was also given greater responsibility over some smaller matters, particularly some ongoing landlord and tenant disputes.
My third seat was primarily spent working with the firm’s Private Wealth team, although roughly ten to twenty per cent of my time was spent working with the Family team. This was the seat where I felt I was given the most responsibility to run with matters, drafting legal documents, getting involved in the billing process, and managing a varied workload (including Wills, trusts, LPAs, and divorce proceedings) with appropriate supervision. There were very few occasions where my responsibilities to the two teams clashed, and when they did both sides were very understanding and agreed between them how best to spread out the work.
My final seat was with the firm’s Commercial disputes team, and the return to litigation saw a return to working on predominantly one high value matter (albeit a different one). This matter was in the final stages of trial preparation and so it was an incredibly busy period with some quite long days, exacerbated by a particularly combative approach from the other side. That being said, I had a positive experience in the seat, largely thanks to the camaraderie of the team working on the matter and their good-humoured approach. It helps that we won too!
As well as the work itself, there were a number of extra-curricular activities on offer, including the Collyer Bristow choir and various committees (e.g. the charity committee and the social committee) in which we were encouraged to participate.
My training contract set me up well for qualification. The responsibility I was given throughout (particularly my third seat) has made the transition to associate much less daunting than it might have been otherwise.
I joined Collyer Bristow as a trainee in 2019 and completed seats in Commercial Disputes, Family, Banking and Financial Disputes and the Commercial Services department with my role split between the Employment and Corporate and Commercial teams. I qualified into my last seat.
I applied to Collyer Bristow because I wanted to train at a firm with a small trainee intake as I felt that this would give me the best possible training. The small intake means that the trainees are really valued and utilised by your team and you definitely get a high level of exposure at the firm. For example, I attended court alone as a trainee with Counsel, which is something that my friends at bigger firms did not have the opportunity to do.
The firm is also very friendly, and the sheer number of training events, lunches and social opportunities allow you to meet a wide range of people from across the firm although, like at most firms, this has reduced during the pandemic.
Once you have secured your training contract, you are also invited to attend the Christmas and Summer parties, which is a great opportunity to meet future colleagues and the rest of your cohort early on. Trainees are also invited and encouraged to attend business development opportunities, and the firm historically has hosted many of these. Trainees are also encouraged to help write articles for the websites or put together comments on particular topics for journalists to include in articles and this continues as an Associate.
Since qualifying, I have worked on a large range of matters, including large transactions. I have also been able to run smaller matters largely on my own under partner supervision, which has been great experience.
Life as a trainee can, of course, be hard work, but the support you are given and the great people who work here also make it fun.