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? ‘When I talked to trainees ahead of me, they were able to give examples of how the firm actually puts its values into practice’, ‘private client offering is one of the best in the country and the work/life balance is incredible’, ‘I felt it was the right culture for me to train in and be able to feel comfortable and supported in these initial years of my career’, ‘the lack of overly exhaustive billable hours targets’, ‘I attended a vacation scheme and enjoyed the broad practice offered, as well as the culture’

Best thing about the firm? ‘I feel valued without having to be someone who isn’t me’, ‘the people really make the firm as they are genuinely great people to work with’, ‘everyone works together. The trainee cohort is very tight-knit and sociable’, ‘the teams are of a size that you are able to get to know people well during the training contract. This also makes it easier to get involved in lots of different areas of work’, ‘the work/life balance’, ‘the people – the perfect combination of kindness/approachability and legal brilliance’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Some dark offices (in London) and the pay is slightly lower than other similar firms’, ‘the disparities in treatment of the regional offices in Cheltenham and Guildford compared to London’, ‘despite better working hours, the pay could still be higher (especially in the regional offices) in comparison with its competitors’, ‘the difference in culture and experiences of employees between the three UK offices’, ‘the quality of work can vary from team to team’

Best moment? ‘The moment I got a call from a client I had been working with for most of my first seat saying he could now sleep at night’, ‘going to the High Court to attend a hearing for our client’s application relating to a matter only dealt with by our firm once in its history (and having the application granted!)’, ‘significant involvement in highly complex and challenging tax aspects of a transaction’, I attended a few client meetings alone, which was great for building my confidence’, ‘receiving praise from a high-profile client and a partner’

Worst moment? ‘Mistakes made (partly as a result of too much independence!)’, ‘working 24 hours straight’, ‘moving seats is often the most challenging point for me’, ‘nothing stands out – sometimes the hours have been really tough but this comes with the territory’, ‘lack of communication between team members during busy times led to large quantities of work with tight deadlines’, ‘being left out of a team event to respond to a non-urgent client request’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

A ‘unique mixture of commercial and private client work’ sets Charles Russell Speechlys apart. The ‘humanity in the recruitment process’, the ‘opportunity to train in a number of different practice areas’ and a ‘commitment to ESG and the future of the firm’ encouraged trainees to choose the London, Guildford and Surrey-based firm. It follows that the firm is Future Lawyers Winner for sustainability. Some of the benefits of working at Charles Russell Speechlys are ‘the established base of landed estate clients’, ‘the approachability of the partners and senior fee earners’ and the people: ‘everyone who works at the firm has a great perspective on life and similar values, which makes for a great working environment’ – ‘there is no dog-eat-dog atmosphere’ here! Another plus point is that the ‘work/life balance is extremely reasonable given the quality of work we do. Some trainees complained about the ‘over-popularity of some seats, such as private client, family and employment’ which can ‘make seat rotations unpredictable’. There is also a ‘push towards real estate and corporate seats, something which some recruits say they were not aware of before joining. Trainees would also like the firm to be ‘more transparent about job opportunities post qualification earlier on in the process. Best moments include ‘sitting in on a meeting with a celebrity’, ‘independently running matters for a charity in my real estate seat’ and ‘attending a five-day hearing at the High Court for a high-net-worth divorce’. Less enjoyable times were ‘reviewing 20 boxes of files for ‘relevant documents’’, ‘a few late nights, and ‘messing up on a completion’. For a ‘breadth of practice areas without compromising on quality of work’ at a firm with ‘a very good level of support and supervision’, research Charles Russell Speechlys. 

A day in the life of... Leigh Stimpson, trainee, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Leigh Stimpson, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Departments to date: Banking and finance; Construction, engineering and projects; Corporate client secondment; Financial services and funds

University: University of Law

Degree: Law, First class

9.00am: I arrive at the office, get a cup of tea from the kitchen on our floor and then log on and check my emails and diary for the day. Trainees are required to be in the office at least three days a week but the firmwide policy is very flexible and is based on a hybrid model. I’m checking to see if there is anything that has come in overnight which is likely to be discussed in the team meeting this morning that I should be aware of. Some of the team will start a bit later but I like to get in and feel prepared for the day ahead.

9.30am: We have a team meeting in one of our board rooms so that we can use the technology facilities for Luxembourg colleagues to join in. We also are joined by the funds team and a corporate partner who work closely alongside the financial services team. In the meeting we go around the table for each person to discuss any new business, networking opportunities they are aware of or have attended in the last week, current industry issues and any learning from the last week.

10.00am: After the meeting a few of us grab an iced coffee from the canteen and catch up on what we did at the weekend. It is a great informal way of getting to know team members better and also to ask questions about anything discussed in the meeting that I’m not sure about. My supervisor and an associate are there and we also use the time to catch up on a matter that we are all currently working on.

10.30am: I have been asked to help draft certain sections of a legal opinion for a client and I need to conduct some research on the relevant legislation and how this interacts with the FCA’s Handbook rules. Once I have read and understood this I summarise the legal position into a style that is sufficiently accurate but also succinct for the client to be able to read and understand. I have a reasonable deadline to return this to the partner by but I prefer to get more technical work done in the mornings and know that I have calls scheduled in afternoon.

1.00pm: I head up to the canteen (‘Charlies’) to meet a few of the other trainees for lunch and we decide to sit outside on the roof terrace to get some fresh air.

2.00pm: My supervisor and I have a call with a client. They are a client of the commercial team and have asked for a contract to be reviewed that has regulatory aspects to it so we are providing input on these. I have already set out comments in the contract to respond to the client’s queries and we explain these on the call. I take some brief notes and send a follow up email after the call to my supervisor and the commercial team partner so that we have a record of the agreed actions and next steps.

2.30pm: I continue working on the legal opinion and take a short break to read through some current awareness articles that have come into my inbox during the day. I am particularly looking out for articles in relation to the financial promotion of cryptoassets as I am delivering a presentation to the team on this topic in a few weeks.

3.30pm: We have a very high-profile ongoing matter where there are daily calls with the regulator. The partner of our team has asked me to join all the calls and take accurate minutes so the client has a record of what has been said and is free to focus on participating in the meetings.

4.15pm: I respond to emails that have come in during the day and I start pulling together the information for my presentation. I am asked by the partner of the team to look into a query that a client has emailed to him concerning whether an FCA-authorised firm must keep recordings of internal telephone conversations as well as those with external customers relating to investments. The partner needs the answer before he has a call with the client at 5.30pm so I do some research online and also have a quick call with one of the associates on the team who I know has previously done some work on this topic. I then set out the answer in an email and go and discuss this with the partner once I have sent it to check whether they need anything else.

5.30pm: I finish responding to emails and saving the work I was doing during the afternoon. I start updating tomorrow’s to-do list and check my calendar for any meetings/events tomorrow to ensure I have done anything required in preparation for these.

6.30pm: I log my billable hours for the day against the relevant clients and catch up with a few members of the banking and finance team to confirm plans for tomorrow morning when we are attending an external breakfast networking event.

7.00pm: I leave the office and head home to get to gym class. There is usually at least one team holding a social event or drinks on any given evening, including the trainees organising to meet up and opportunities to join any early talent team events that are going on.

About the firm

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

The clients: Bellway; Central Bank of Bahrain; Derwent; Howard de Walden; Stonegate; NIKE; Caffe Nero; FarFetch; 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, Singapore.

Who we are: Our ability to understand people makes us who we are. Our firm is built on establishing trusted, personal relationships with our clients. Relationships that matter. We are an international law firm with a focus on private capital, at the intersection of personal, family and business.

We offer legal services across the private capital space and a broad range of integrated advisory, transactional and contentious services. The results are deep and trusted relationships that deliver meaningful value.

We are here to guide our clients through their most pressing challenges and rewarding opportunities. We do this by getting to the heart of their needs to bring them the best-fit solutions.

Our firm is headquartered in London with offices across the UK, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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 such 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 ideally a minimum of a 2(1) in their degree as well as showcasing how you align with our values of being authentic, collaborative, committed and forward looking. We also look for other key attributes, such as being client centric, committed to driving high standards, commercially minded, and mindful of your own personal impact and growth.

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.

You’ll undertake the new Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) route, unless you have already started or completed the LPC at point of offer.

If you haven’t studied a law degree: If you have studied a non-law degree, we’ll sponsor you through a Post Graduate Diploma in Law (PGDL). Usually this takes 9 months to study full-time but we appreciate that this isn’t feasible for everyone so we also offer a 20-month part-time option too. If you prefer to study part-time, you’ll be able to choose the approach that works best for you from a range of weekend or evening plus online options.

SQE Course and Exams: In order to support you through the SQE exams, we have partnered with the University of Law to provide comprehensive courses focused on SQE 1 and SQE2. Alongside studying for SQE 1 and SQE 2, our programme with The University of Law includes the SQE Plus Programme. You’ll chose modules from our CRS Elective list to study in more detail. This will prepare you well for practice at the firm by focusing on our areas of specialism, alongside developing practical legal skills. The SQE 1, SQE 2 and SQE Plus programme combines together so you’ll be studying for a Masters in Legal Practice (LLM).

‘Qualifying work experience’: Once you’ve passed your SQE LLM (including your SQE 1 and SQE 2 exams), you’ll join us at the firm for two years of ‘qualifying work experience’. This will consist of four six-month seats, giving you the opportunity to experience a range of different practice areas and get involved in high-level work with both private and commercial clients. We provide a practical learning environment 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, Luxembourg, or Paris offices.

We also expect 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. We place a strong emphasis on pro bono work during your training contract, and you’ll have the opportunity to support our social housing, family or employment pro bono clinics alongside our other programmes such as disability benefits appeals. 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. You’ll also have broader career conversations with our early talent team to support your wider development as you consider your longer term qualification options.

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 or online.

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 helps 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 is also focused on identifying other initiatives to achieve 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. It also focuses on raising awareness and helping 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.

Diversity & Inclusion | Charles Russell Speechlys

Percentage of female associates: 58.61%

Percentage of female partners: 32.84%

Percentage of BAME associates: 12.4%

Percentage of BAME partners: 12.5%

Reporting and Statistics | Charles Russell Speechlys