Life at a City Law Firm
Laura Anderson of Bristows details unique aspects of the firm and the areas of law they specialise in. With clients such as Samsung, Google and the BBC, life at Bristows is a very interesting one indeed.
Editor's note: Laura sadly passed away in December 2019. You can read the firm's obituary here.
How do you encourage trainees to take advantage of working in the City of London?
There is plenty to get involved with, particularly in regards to corporate social responsibility (CSR). All of the trainees are encouraged to give back to the local community by volunteering in the local primary school reading scheme or becoming a mentor to Year 9 students at a school in Lambeth.
There is also additional training that the trainees can sign up for. Bristows is part of the INN Group, a network of similar sized law firms in the area, and trainees are invited to attend training and legal update sessions run by the group at lunchtimes.
What kind of social programmes and facilities are in place with Bristows?
We have a very active social scene at Bristows ranging from sports teams to evenings out. Every month we hold a drinks evening in the office common room to which everyone is invited and the social committee organises larger events every three to four months. Recent events have included a night at the open-air theatre, comedy nights, and pub quizzes. For those of us who are more actively inclined, there are yoga classes, a netball team, hockey and football teams. There is also the opportunity to join one of our CSR committees and take part in pro bono work and charity fundraising.
How many trainees do you take on a year at Bristows? Do you take groups on yearly or every six months? What is the retention rate?
Each September we take on between eight to ten trainees. Our retention rates are very good as we invest a lot of time and energy in recruiting and training each individual with the aim of them all staying with us.
Do you offer international and/or client secondments at Bristows?
Most of our trainees will go on a secondment to one of our key client’s in-house legal teams for three months. The firm places a lot of value on the skills that a trainee can develop during this time as well as the insight they gain into our clients’ businesses.
What does Bristows do to support and guide trainees?
As well as trainees receiving regular feedback from their work providers and supervisors, each trainee also has a monthly meeting with one of the partners on the Trainee Committee. This meeting gives trainees the opportunity to discuss the work they have been undertaking and areas they have developed in as well as discuss their ongoing objectives.
Bristows also allocates a mentor to each trainee for the duration of their training contract and into their first year as a qualified solicitor. The mentors are a group of experienced individuals who are all senior fee-earners, who have worked at the firm for a considerable amount of time and who are well versed in the workings and culture of Bristows. The mentor provides confidential help, guidance, and advice, to enable focus on personal and professional development.
How is your work unique compared to other firms?
Bristows is unlike other firms in that we are very focussed on particular business sectors. Our clients are often leaders in their fields and come to us for cutting edge, specialist advice – while we compete with the largest of law firms, we still enjoy the benefits of a mid-sized environment.
Two of the main sectors we work with are Life Sciences and Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT). Within these areas we cover the full spectrum of matters from litigation to licensing, and from mergers and acquisitions to regulation, real estate and competition law to name but a few.
What the Firm Looks for in an Applicant
How important is a legal background?
We have lawyers with all kinds of academic backgrounds in all departments of the firm, including our IP department. Many of lawyers have a science background and this can definitely help for certain types of technology-based work, but Bristows is not just about technology. We have excellent teams across the board. The key to success at Bristows is an appetite for learning and an interest in working for clients in our target sectors.
What kind of academic record and qualifications does Bristows expect from applicants?
We look to recruit trainees who have strong academic backgrounds and have achieved a 2.1 or above in their undergraduate degree.
What personal qualities do you look for in an applicant?
Maintaining our friendly yet hard-working culture is an important consideration for us. We look for applicants who show the drive to succeed, but are who also able to work successfully as part of a team. The work we do is complex, so it is essential that future trainees of the firm enjoy engaging their brain in challenging matters, take responsibility and think independently.
Is extracurricular activity worth mentioning, for instance non-legal work experience?
Absolutely. Extracurricular activities and non-legal work experience can help you showcase the different skills you can bring to the firm such as team work, communication and organisational skills. They also give us more of a flavour as to who you are as a person and this helps you stand out from other applicants.
Is there anything else an applicant can do to stand out from the crowd?
What really stands out is when an applicant is able to demonstrate individuality in their application form. Tailored forms are more likely to be successful than those with little personal detail.
Could you take us through a typical or representative deal which Bristows would oversee with a client? For instance, what the process involves, who gets involved, and what has to be considered?
Bristows successfully represented Thomas Pink in its 2014 High Court trade mark infringement battle with Victoria’s Secret, which began opening PINK branded shops in the UK in 2012. The case was run by one brands partner with the help of two associates and one trainee over an 18 month period. The work involved constructing the legal arguments, gathering evidence (both on-line and in store), liaising with the client and barristers and co-ordinating with lawyers in other jurisdictions where the battle was also being fought.
What calibre and kind of clients does Bristows tend to work with? Do you have a diverse portfolio of clients, or any consistent/returning clients that you support?
We have a diverse portfolio of clients operating in different sectors but what they tend to have in common is an emphasis on innovation. Longstanding clients of the firm include Sony, Google, Samsung, IBM, Novartis, AstraZeneca, the BBC, Diageo (makers of Smirnoff, Guinness etc.), Cadbury and McDonalds. As well as acting for leading blue-chip companies, we also advise research institutes, universities (such as UCL), charities, non-for-profit organisations and specialist funds and investors. That said, not all of our clients are household names as many of them are developing the technology, brands and products that you will be using in the future.
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