Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Payne Hicks Beach LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Payne Hicks Beach LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Reputation in the family law sphere’, ‘its location’, ‘it offers top-quality work, especially private client’, ‘I had heard good things from people who worked there’, ‘because of the areas of law it practises in, and its excellent reputation in those fields’, ‘its size and key areas of success’, ‘its The Legal 500 tier 1 ranking for family law’, ‘the clients, culture and work/life balance’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The work/life balance’, ‘the location’, ‘the size of the firm – everyone knows each other – and the client contact’, ‘most people are very friendly and willing to help’, ‘the independence granted to trainees’, ‘the quality of work and types of clients’, ‘friendliness, social life within departments; the trust that partners place in you from day one’, ‘the culture; it feels like a giant family, and the reasonable hours’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Some antiquated views from a few individuals’, ‘the pay – although I will take it to work these hours and in this environment’, ‘there is no designated social area in the office’, ‘supervision can vary from partner to partner and from department to department’, ‘the pay on qualification could be better, but the trainee salary is pretty good’

Best moment? ‘Receiving positive feedback from colleagues whose opinion of me I had thought to be rather lower!’, ‘assisting a partner in preparing some complex advice for a client. The client was delighted with the service we provided and I felt like I had been really involved and able to contribute to it’, ‘being actively involved in drafting an affidavit in real time to meet a tight deadline – which we made – just!’

Worst moment? ‘Having to work with a very difficult partner but the firm were good to respond to this, and that is no longer the situation for trainees’, ‘an instance where my supervisor was in a terrible mood and was dismissive and rude when I asked for supervision and direction on the work I was doing’, ‘having to print and distribute a huge number of letters and enclosures for a deadline that felt impossible to meet’, ‘doing a seat I didn’t want’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Payne Hicks Beach LLP

Payne Hicks Beach ‘excels in family and private client work, whilst still providing a full offering and a well-rounded training contract’. The ‘prestigious’ Lincoln’s Inn firm reputation precedes it, with many trainees citing the high-quality work and clients as their reason for applying. The environment at Payne Hicks Beach is ‘less intense and more cerebral than at other firms’. ‘We are given more mentally challenging tasks’ said one respondent, ‘and we have more interaction with senior team members and more direct involvement with cases’. A ‘close trainee group’ means that recruits enjoy coming to work: the idea that ‘we are more friends than colleagues’ was a thread which echoed through the feedback. The firm is a Future Lawyers Winner for quality of work, confidence of being kept on post qualification and work/life balance. The amount of client contact on offer was also highly commended: ‘I am constantly being taken to court and client meetings at the drop of a hat’, said one respondent. The ‘eclectic personalities of some colleagues’ were celebrated by some recruits, whilst frustrating others due to ‘the old-fashioned views which linger amongst the most old-school partners’. Trainees also feel that the ‘pay could be better’, although most recognised that ‘this is the trade-off for reasonable working hours’. Worst moments included ‘being given a time-pressured task to do in too short a timeframe’ and ‘finding it difficult to get input on a matter from a partner, and feeling alone whilst under pressure from third parties’. On the upside, best moments such as ‘drafting instructions to counsel on a self-contained matter and getting positive feedback’, ‘attending a final hearing and watching cross examination live’ and ‘getting involved in sports litigation matters’ enthralled trainees. To train at a close-knit firm with a glittering reputation in family and private client work, where trainees are treated like valued members of the team from the get-go, consider Payne Hicks Beach.

A day in the life of... Matthew Franks, trainee, Payne Hicks Beach LLP

Matthew Franks, Payne Hicks Beach LLP

Departments to date: Property; Private client

8.45am: I arrive at work. Normally I aim to arrive at about 9.00am, but today a training breakfast is taking place. Trainees are encouraged to be in the office as much as possible across the firm.

While my computer loads, I make a coffee and burrow in my desk drawers for any light snacks which I might have been kind enough to leave there for myself. Sadly, today I find only a stapler and some sticky notes. I then review the emails I have received since yesterday evening, making a note of new tasks arising from them.

9.00am: At the training breakfast we are given a brief history of inheritance tax and also, much to my relief, croissants. Many senior members of the firm have an academic appreciation of their specialisms, which helps add colour to the work we do as trainees.

10.15am: As nothing very urgent has come to my attention yet, I consider the note I made of a meeting yesterday with a client who would like us to draft her will. I have been copied in to all the emails with this client, and was asked to attend the meeting by a senior associate, so I feel well-informed and confident enough to draft her will. However, were a complicated issue to come up, I would feel very comfortable asking the senior associate, or indeed any associate in the team, for guidance on that point.

11.30am: Having sent a further few doses of caffeine hurtling through my bloodstream, and with the will’s provisions fresh in my mind, I also draft a covering letter to the client explaining the functioning of her will. Although everything I do will be checked by the senior associate (and any amendments explained to me), it feels meaningful to lay the foundations of the work we are doing for this client.

12.00pm: I receive a visit in my room from a partner who specialises in art law. The department has a sociable feel to it, and almost everyone is happy for me to waltz into their room for a brief chat, or to visit me themselves.

The partner asks me to produce a first draft of an exhibition loan agreement for one his clients. This piece of work is good practice for my drafting skills and requires strong attention to detail, as it is quite different to the other documents I have been drafting in my seats so far, such as wills and leases.

12.45pm: Narrowly avoiding a Tupperware spillage down the carpeted office corridors, I head out to lunch with the other trainees. As it is summer, we sit in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Ever the conscientious trainee, I remember 8.45am with a shudder and replenish my stock of edible office supplies.

2.00pm: I print off and tab up for signature some lasting powers of attorney which I have drafted for a meeting with a client.

3.00pm: I attend the meeting, noting the senior associate’s client-friendly explanation of the documents. I have already mastered the art of waiting until the client has left in order to eat the biscuits in the conference rooms. Clients do not want crumbs in their wills.

4.00pm: Returning upstairs to my desk, I tidy up my attendance note and prepare to send the LPAs out to the attorneys for their signatures. I also have an informal chat with my supervisor, who takes an interest in the work I have been doing and offers thoughtful advice.

5.00pm: A partner in the family department asks me to conduct some research, as a party to a divorce in which he recently acted has died, and he wishes to understand the consequences of the financial settlement for that party’s estate. One of the advantages of training in a firm of this size is that it is easy in each seat to establish working relationships with people across departments.

6.30pm: I record my time and log off. Although I am sometimes required to stay late in order to work on urgent tasks or catch up with my to-do list, today I have important business to conduct at the pub just outside the office.

About the firm

The firm: Payne Hicks Beach is a Lincoln’s Inn firm established in 1730 providing a full range of legal services to domestic and international private and commercial clients.

Chairman of the management board: Robert Brodrick.

Who we are: Payne Hicks Beach is a medium-size London law firm with a global reach, a 300-year history at the same location in Lincoln’s Inn and a thoroughly 21st-century approach to client service. The firm provides solution-led advice and legal services to domestic and international private and commercial clients including individuals, families, businesses and trustees. Much of the firm’s work has an international element, building on strong links with the US, Canada, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Far East, the main offshore centres, Switzerland and other European countries. Work is regularly handled in French, Italian, Danish and Arabic. The firm consistently ‘punches above its weight’ in the complexity of the clients it serves and matters it handles, and specialist advisers work in close-knit teams to deliver a seamless service across all its practice areas. Trainees invariably feel part of the team from the moment they arrive.

What we do: The firm’s reputation has been built on family and private client work as one of the few UK firms that provides these services at the highest level. Its commanding position in these areas is complemented by an excellent reputation for contentious trusts, dispute resolution, privacy and media law, company and commercial law, employment, residential and commercial property, and citizenship and immigration work. Despite its position in the market, Payne Hicks Beach’s lawyers pride themselves on the confidentiality and discretion with which they conduct their work, not least because the firm’s clients include many household names, as a result of which the firm is one of London’s best kept secrets.

What we’re looking for: Applicants should have an excellent academic record (a 2(1) degree is a minimum), a high degree of drive and determination, and will need to demonstrate an ability to analyse problems accurately, to be creative in finding practical commercial solutions and communicating these clearly, as well as a flair for building relationships.

What you’ll do: Trainees spend time in each of four departments, with their preferences being taken into account in this rotation so far as possible. With only one trainee per department, they play an important role, with a high level of responsibility, real work and supervised client contact from the outset.

Trainees are subject to regular assessment, and engage in the required Professional Skills courses, as well as in-house training. However, with the firm’s team outlook and open-door policy they also have access to help and support from colleagues who are acknowledged experts in their fields.

Perks: Private medical insurance; permanent health insurance; employee assistance programme; life assurance scheme; health screening; contributory pension scheme; cycle to work scheme; season ticket loan; wellbeing programme; staff introduction bonus.

Sponsorship: Full GDL, LPC and SQE funding, and a maintenance grant each year of study. BPP Law School is the firm’s preferred provider.

Diversity and inclusion

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