Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Top-tier tax and trusts work with the option to also gain corporate experience’, ‘met several members of the firm and thought that I would want to work with lawyers like that’, ‘the welcoming, inclusive culture which I felt would be beneficial for training. Also, interesting CSR initiatives and potential opportunities for secondments’, ‘the size of the private client department’, ‘inclusive ethos, investment in junior fee earners, and high quality of work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The level of responsibility and trust afforded to trainees’, ‘the people!’, ‘trainees seem to be valued and most departments take trainee capacity seriously and have reasonable expectations’, ‘the excellent landed estates and private client work on offer’, ‘really great and in-depth training’, ‘no presenteeism – if you are done with work, feel free to take off’, ‘I have always felt able to knock on someone’s door and ask a question and know that they will take the time to help me’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The pay does not match the calibre of the firm/work/clients’, ‘the lack of social events organised. This may be because of Covid’, ‘too many people work from home too often’, ‘the remuneration’, ‘could be more diverse’, ‘we don’t often get to meet people who work on different floors (in the London office)’, ‘attendance at smaller social events can be lacking, which I guess is more expected in a regional office where people have family commitments and longer commutes’

Best moment? ‘Being invited to a champagne evening hosted by Bonhams (a key intermediary) to view a private auction sale’, ‘Geneva secondment’, ‘being personally thanked by a client we were trying to impress and seeing the client share articles about the work on social media’, ‘getting involved on large litigation matters, including attending all the meetings and hearings’, ‘working on a £110m purchase of a country estate and performing all of the title reviews’

Worst moment? ‘How busy I was during my real estate seat’, ‘managing the range of tasks in a large department’, ‘working remotely’, ‘having quiet days with little to do’, ‘some late hours’, ‘dealing with client due diligence’, ‘making my first mistake’, ‘the limited social interaction with my team and fellow trainees’, ‘working during lockdown last year’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Charles Russell Speechlys has ‘very strong private client expertise, whilst also offering a varied choice of seats’. The ‘wide range of practice areas offers a great opportunity to explore different areas of law and gain a broad understanding’. The firm is a Future Lawyers Winner for quality of work and international secondments with offices in London, Guildford and Cheltenham and is ‘one of the only international law firms with a private client strength’. What’s more, management is ‘dedicated to making the firm a key player in the future of law and to growing the firm in a responsible way’. In terms of training, there is ‘more client contact, more partner exposure and more intellectually-stimulating work’ than at some comparable firms. Trainees appreciate ‘the emphasis on individuality’ and ‘enjoy feeling like a part of the family, rather than a slave labourer’! ‘Senior members of staff are approachable’ and ‘people are quick to check in with trainees and see how they are managing their workload’. The downsides are that ‘the remuneration is a little lower than market standard, especially considering the long hours that many departments put in’. Due to the ‘naturally fluctuating nature of the workload’, worst moments ranged from ‘quiet days with no work’ to ‘having to cancel evening plans to complete bundles/costs budgets in a contentious seat’. But recruits loved ‘the satisfaction of completing a transaction that I have worked on independently’ and ‘having the opportunity to do a corporate secondment in Paris’. If you ‘really want to have a varied training contract, which the firm most certainly delivers on’, research Charles Russell Speechlys.

A day in the life of... Ranjana Nair, trainee, Charles Russell Speechlys

Ranjana Nair, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Departments to date: Real estate; Family; going on to private wealth disputes

University: London School of Economics

Degree: Law, First class

8.00am: I try to make it into our London office nice and early so I can read any emails that have come in overnight and get ahead of the day. I try to come into the office at least three times a week as it is a good way of getting to know the team, and there are always people around to keep you company and help answer your questions! We are usually required to be in office at least three days a week – the firmwide policy is very flexible and is based on a hybrid model. In the family team, we have a fortnightly ‘in office’ day when everyone is required to be in the office at the same time so we can catch up.

8.30am: I read through the family law news updates to check if there have been any new cases published or new articles/commentaries. I make a note of any developments that I may want to bring up in our monthly team ‘current awareness’ meetings.

8.45am: I catch up with a few of my colleagues in the family team, with our topics of conversation ranging from cases we’re currently working together on to plans for the weekend! I then make my way to my desk. As barristers’ chambers usually open around 8.30am, I take this opportunity to call the clerks at these chambers and book in any meetings or hearings with counsel if required.

9.00am: I have been working on preparing the first draft of a ‘section 25’ witness statement for the past few days, in preparation for a final hearing. This statement will act as the client’s evidence in chief at the hearing, and they will be cross-examined on this statement in the witness box, so it is important that it is accurate and covers everything the client wants to include. I do a final check of the statement to ensure that all the points we would like to cover are included, which involves checking through the correspondence the client has sent to us and the documents we have already submitted to the court/the other side. I then send the draft to the associate and partner working on this matter to review.

9.30am: On another matter, we suspect that the spouse on the other side has not provided full financial disclosure in an attempt to hide the source of some of their assets and wealth. I go through the spouse’s disclosed bank statements to find any significant payments to and from their accounts and make a note of any payments that require further explanation. I then draft a schedule of deficiencies and further questions. I send this draft to the partner working on the matter and to counsel, who will rely on this document when making oral submissions at the upcoming financial dispute resolution hearing.

11.00am: I attend our weekly family team meeting (usually in person at the office). This is an opportunity for the team to share any interesting points that have arisen in their cases or any recent events/presentations they have attended. The team sometimes invites guest speakers (including barristers, litigation loan providers or experts that we may later rely on for our matters) to present on topical issues at these meetings. Trainees are also given the opportunity to present on a matter of interest.

12.00pm: I attend a client meeting with a partner. I have been lucky enough to have worked on this matter since the first client meeting and have developed a good rapport with them. After discussing the general status of the case with the client, the partner leaves me to liaise with the client regarding outstanding financial disclosure documents and any other points she would like to raise with regards to the interim finances. Following the call, I then draft a follow up email to the client summarising the advice given and the next steps, which I then send out with the partner’s approval.

1.00pm: Some trainees will usually arrange to have lunch either in Charlies or outside if the weather’s nice!

2.00pm: I have been asked to make a quick call to a client to go through her proposed budget, which we are required to submit to the other side and to the court in the next few days. I talk the client through the purposes of the budget and we discuss any potential aspects of the budget that she would be willing to reconsider. I take an attendance note of the call and make the relevant amendments to the budget, sending these onto the matter partner for approval. I have also recently accompanied the matter partner and client on a con (meeting with counsel) for this matter, so I look through my attendance note of the con to check through the agreed action points and have a quick chat with the matter partner to discuss the remaining action points before the first appointment in September.

3.00pm: I am given another research task for a separate children matter, which involves calling a supervised contact support centre to check their availability so that the father will permit the mother, our client, to have contact with their child pending the outcome of an upcoming hearing. There are ongoing children proceedings for this matter. I am asked to research the schools that both parties are proposing that the child attends to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of our case. I compile my findings into a short summary email and send these to the senior associate and partner.

3.30pm: An associate in the family team and I go out for a coffee for a quick catch up.

4.15pm: We receive a letter from the other side (representing the husband in a divorce and finances matter) proposing that we use the upcoming hearing to agree directions for a financial dispute resolution hearing. I arrange for the matter partner and I to have a call with counsel on this matter to update him on this development and seek advice on the directions we should propose. After the call, I prepare the draft letter in response to the other side’s proposals for the partner’s approval. We set a time to discuss this with the client later this week.

5.15pm: I have been working on a matter where the client is unable to support herself financially while her divorce and financial proceedings are ongoing. After receiving confirmation from a litigation loan lender that they may be able to assist on this matter, I start preparing the draft application for a litigation loan on behalf of the client.

6.15pm: Counsel for a matter I am assisting on send through a draft order that has been agreed with the other side following a first appointment hearing. I diarise the court deadlines mentioned in the draft order, sending this through to the partner and associate who are working on the matter so we know exactly when we are required to file documents with the court or serve these on the other side.

6.30pm: I start preparing my to-do list for the next day; as I am assisting on a few matters that have upcoming court deadlines I prepare rolling action lists and send this to the associate and partner working on the matter so we can cross off all completed actions in the coming weeks.

7.00pm: If there are a large number of trainees in the office on a particular day, we will try to arrange to go out for drinks after work. There are also usually department social events too.   I meet for drinks with a few trainees who are currently sitting in private wealth disputes in preparation for my upcoming seat move and for a general catch up.

About the firm

The firm: Charles Russell Speechlys is an international, law firm with a focus on privately held capital, at the intersection of personal, family and business needs. We are based in London, Guildford and Cheltenham in the UK with international offices in Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

The clients: Bellway; Central Bank of Bahrain; Derwent; Howard de Walden; Stonegate; NIKE; Cafe Nero; Coinbase; FarFetch; Cyba plc; Ascent Capital Africa.

The deals: Advising Marcus Rashford MBE on a range of brand protection and commercial matters, as well as aspects of his high-profile children’s food poverty campaign; advising Nike and its subsidiary, Converse, across the full range of practice areas, including ecommerce, digital and social media, sponsorship, sports marketing, advertising, regulatory, privacy and data protection, litigation, employment and real estate; acted for various celebrity claimants in the group voicemail interception litigation against News Group Newspapers Limited (News of the World and The Sun) relating to the unlawful gathering of private and confidential information, achieving a number of successful settlements since 2018 for clients including Caroline Quentin, Nikki Saunderson and Ryan Thomas; advised TDR Capital LLP and the Issa brothers on the real estate aspects of the ASDA acquisition followed by the sale and leaseback of Asda’s warehouse portfolio; advised the owner of No.1 Lounges Ltd, the operator of UK airport lounges (also operating under the brand ‘Clubrooms’), on its sale to SwissportALD, a joint venture between Swissport and Airport Dimensions; advising IFS, the global enterprise software company, on the acquisition of Axios Systems Plc, a global provider of cloud-based enterprise service management (ESM) software.

Senior partner: Bart Peerless

Managing partner: Simon Ridpath

Other offices: London, Cheltenham, Guildford, Doha, Dubai, Geneva, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Manama, Paris, Zurich.

Who we are: We’re only human. And we consider that our superpower, not a weakness. We’ve built our firm on establishing trusted, meaningful relationships with our clients globally. After all, we are here to guide them through their most pressing challenges and most rewarding opportunities.

We do this by creating rewarding relationships and adopting a personal approach with total focus on client needs. We do this with kindness, empathy, attention, and clarity. No jargon, no attitude. The results are deep and trusted relationships between our clients and us. Relationships that deliver value and peace of mind long-term. We make a difference to someone’s life.

We have a diverse range of skills and offer legal services globally through a broad range of integrated advisory, transactional and contentious services. We know it’s not enough to understand the law – we have to understand our clients just as well. So we apply a people-focused lens to every action we recommend to our clients. Our unique approach to law has made us a leader in the world of dynamic growth and family businesses, and among the world’s leading creators and owners of private wealth and their families. Major corporates and institutions benefit from our personalised approach as we embed ourselves in the teams of our clients. Working alongside them and connecting them with the right people across our firm to help them excel in new opportunities.

We are based in London, Guildford and Cheltenham in the UK with international offices in Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong. Our country desks focus on key international markets where we do not have offices including the USA, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Israel, India and China as well major European markets. Our international connections mean we can work with clients anywhere in the world. Whether a business operates in a single country or across borders, we’ll put a team together pulling from our sector and geographical expertise and our partnerships with the best law firms across the world covering 200 legal jurisdictions.

What we do: We offer a broad range of work so as a trainee you’ll be able to experience a variety of types of client and sector across your programme.

Business advisory and transaction services: In our ‘business advisory and transaction services’ practice we work with a range of individuals and clients from early stage, entrepreneurial businesses through to established, international operations.

  • Our corporate team advises on corporate and private equity deals, fundraising from the capital markets, and offers ongoing corporate advisory services.
  • Our commercial team provides legal and commercial advice to UK and international clients across a variety of sectors with a particular specialism in technology, retail and financial services. This could involve commercial contracts work, supporting in-house teams through deal structure planning, leading on negotiations to advising on implementation and operational issues.
  • Our financial services and funds team advises both authorised and unauthorised funds both on and offshore, as well as working with a range of banks, lenders and investment funds.
  • Our banking team advises both corporate entities and private clients on domestic and cross-border financing transactions and restructuring, working closely with other CRS departments such as corporate, real estate and construction.
  • The employment team advises individuals and employers from a broad range of sectors on how to manage and mitigate employment law risks, covering issues arising in the day-to-day operation of a business, in the course of corporate transactions and in the context of disputes.
  • The immigration team provides advice for private individuals and employers. Individual advice often ties in with other disciplines as international tax, family and private client. Immigration advice for employers focuses on sponsor licence compliance and international hires, dovetailing well with the firm’s employment and corporate disciplines.

Private client: Our ‘private client’ group is a dynamic division, spanning a wide range of practice areas including tax and estate planning, family and relationships, property and philanthropy. Our expertise is bolstered by being a full-service city firm, with a strong regional and international presence. Consistently ranked as a leading private client group, the team is trusted by a diverse global client base – whose stories are often as interesting as the work!

Construction, real estate and disputes: In our ‘construction, real estate and disputes’ practice, we support across large and small-scale projects both in the UK and internationally.

  • Our construction team represents both suppliers and purchasers (including employers, major contractors, specialists and leading engineering consultancies) to provide the full range of construction services including procurement, transactional, project advisory services and disputes advice.
  • Our real estate and disputes team spans transactional and contentious work over a range of development, planning, environmental, regeneration and investment specialisms.

Litigation and dispute resolution: Our ‘litigation and dispute resolution’ division works on diverse mandates – ranging from commercial disputes, contentious insolvency, and fraud, right the way through to private wealth disputes (including contested estates and arts and heritage), healthcare and regulatory issues, and IP litigation.

What we’re looking for: We look for candidates to achieve a minimum of a 2(1) in their degree as well as showcase their other key attributes, such as teamwork and communication skills.

What you’ll do: We offer training contracts in our London, Cheltenham and Guildford offices. Our preference is for candidates to undertake the Solicitors Qualifying Exam going forward, however our training contract will also support those who have already commenced or completed the LPC. Please note, we will only sponsor the SQE going forward.

Both pathways are designed to give you the best possible training with the firm and encourage you to develop the key legal and business skills to enable you to become a successful lawyer.

I have started or completed the LPC – If you have already started or completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at point of offer, you will be able to undertake a ‘recognised period of training’, also referred to as a training contract.

I have not started or completed the LPC – If you haven’t started or completed the LPC at point of offer, you’ll undertake the new SQE route: sit the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam; two years of ‘qualifying work experience’ with the firm.

While at the firm, both routes will consist of four six-month seats, giving you the opportunity to experience a range of different practice areas and engage in high-level work with both private and commercial clients. We provide a practical learning environment for trainees where emphasis is given to early responsibility and supervised client contact.

We actively encourage our trainees to go on either a client or international secondment. These opportunities help you build a wider skillset and see things from a client’s perspective, or enhance your international outlook by gaining exposure to work in a different jurisdiction. Secondments vary depending on business need, but our current client secondments include a private equity fund manager, a commercial bank, and an in-house commercial team for one of our large construction clients. Our international secondment opportunities include private client in our Swiss offices, or a mixture of practice areas in our Hong Kong, Dubai or Paris offices.

We also encourage you to get involved beyond the day to day work through our responsible business activities, whether that’s through our pro bono practice, volunteering with our CRS Foundation, or getting involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives. You can find out more in our responsible business reports on our website.

Throughout the training contract there are regular catch ups and reviews between trainees and supervisors to support your development and ensure you are continuing to receive a broad range of quality work.

Your legal training will also be supplemented by our CRS Business School which has specific development programmes for each stage of your career, including the Ignite programme which is designed for trainees to build professional and commercial skills.

Furthermore, as part of our sports and social committee offering, you could get involved with a range of additional activities from football or netball to yoga or tennis. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, it doesn’t matter – it’s about connecting with your colleagues and taking part.

Perks: 25 days’ annual holiday, plus long service accrual; private medical insurance; income protection; life assurance; pension scheme; employee assistance programme; enhanced maternity/paternity/shared parental benefits; virtual GP access, cycle to work scheme; season ticket loan; qualification leave; dress for your day policy.

Sponsorship: We provide sponsorship for PGDL and SQE LLM courses with our chosen provider, the University of Law, alongside covering the cost of the SQE exams with Kaplan. During your period of study, we will also provide you with a maintenance grant of £8,000 if you are studying in London and £6,500 if you are studying outside London.

Diversity and inclusion

We are committed to ensuring we offer an inclusive work environment where equal opportunities are available to all, everyone is assessed on their own abilities and that we maintain a culture of mutual respect; where everyone can bring their whole self to work and where our differences are welcomed and celebrated.

This commitment is driven from the top by our dedicated Future Firm Group (FFG), co-chaired by our managing partner and senior partner and supported by senior operational leads, D&I partners and other key roles to ensure D&I is embedded in the firm’s business strategy and weaved into all elements of our business. We also have a dedicated D&I team and five active employee networks that focus on specific strands of diversity, who meet regularly to identify initiatives, changes to policies and processes, training, events and other ways to raise awareness, support and promote an inclusive work environment. Each network has a dedicated D&I partner or senior associate who acts as a champion/ambassador.

The firm’s focus networks include:

LGBTQ+ and Allies: It is important to us that we provide an inclusive environment where everyone within our organisation can feel comfortable being who they are. Our LGBTQ+ and Allies Network plays an active role to help ensure we offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ colleagues and clients. Our initiatives and engagement to support the LGBTQ+ communities saw us secure a space in the Top 100 Employers in the last Stonewall Equality Index, ranking 53rd overall, 11th in the legal sector and achieving both a Gold Award and Highly Commended Network Award.

Gender: The Gender Committee help to support our ‘Achieving Balance’ programme which specifically looks at different initiatives to support an increase in our gender balance in partnership and leadership roles. The network are also focused on identifying other initiatives to engage greater engagement from underrepresented genders for example promoting shared parental leave.

Religion, Belief and Ethnicity: The Religion, Belief and Ethnicity (RBE) Network plays a key role in supporting our ‘Race Action’ initiative which is specifically focused on improving our ethnic diversity within the firm and in encouraging a greater representation within the profession. They also focus on raising awareness and help to identify ways in which the firm can better support colleagues from different religious, racial and ethnic communities.

CAPability: We do not see disability as barrier to an individual’s success. As a signatory to the Valuable 500 we are committed to ensuring disability inclusion remains on the agenda and actions/initiatives are undertaken to provide better support, inclusion and awareness for colleagues, candidates and clients who are living with a disability.

Mental Health and Wellbeing: Mental health and wellbeing is a major focus for our firm, particularly as the difficulty of recent years has shed light on the strains suffered by many. We have over 60 trained mental health champions and first aiders in place and continue to promote training and initiatives to raise awareness, encourage conversation and to ensure everyone knows where and how to access the appropriate support. As a signatory to the Mindful Business Charter we are committed to removing unnecessary workplaces stresses and promoting best working practices.

Social Mobility: Our flagship social mobility initiative, the Career Start Talent Pipeline Programme, provides five years’ contact and support to Year 12 students who receive both mentoring and work experience in their first year on the programme, followed by relevant workshops throughout their academic and career journeys. During the five-year period the firm hosts various skills sessions, employability events, networking and other informative events at key milestones in the student’s academic and career journey. In addition, we also partner with the Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) to deliver a week-long skills and insights programme, where our students get the opportunity to experience a day at four different high-profile organisations with the fifth day provided by a professional sports club delivering the SMBP Resilience day.