Berwin Leighton Paisner
Based across nine global offices, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is a full service law firm with over 850 lawyers and 1,500 staff. The firm is ranked in over 70 legal disciplines, with clients including FTSE 100 companies and financial institutions, major multinationals, the public sector, entrepreneurial private businesses and individuals.
Ambitious, collegiate, innovative.
- High levels of early responsibility and great quality of work
- Collegiate, open and positive atmosphere
- Ambitious and forward-thinking firm
- Strong support network, so you ‘never feel alone with something’
- Good retention rates
- Not a lot of freedom in your choice of seats
- The office is split over two buildings
- ‘Can be hard work and long hours’ at times
- No bonus scheme for trainees
Following the merger of property firm Berwin Leighton and commercial firm Paisner & Co in 2001, the newly formed Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) innovative approach to legal services has created ripples in the London legal market. Over the past decade, the firm has expanded into new specialties and markets, building on its strong offer in real estate and corporate, while growing their full service offer by adding to its tax, litigation and finance capabilities. In the process, they have grown turnover by 183 percent, increased headcount by hundreds, opened new overseas offices – most recently in Hong Kong, Berlin and Frankfurt in 2011 – and more than doubled profits per equity partner. The firm now boasts nine international offices and its reach extends to a network of ‘preferred firms’ in locations across the globe. In fact, international work now accounts for more than a third of turnover.
The origins of BLP go back to 1932, when Leslie Paisner founded law firm Paisner & Co to provide general legal advice. The firm built up a reputation for its corporate work and boasted major clients including Great Universal Stores and Penguin Books. Law firm Leighton & Co, founded towards the end of the 1940s, specialised in litigation and property advice for West End developers. Berwin & Co, which counted tax, M&A and corporate finance amongst its specialties, later merged with Leighton & Co, creating BLP as it’s known today.
The successful 2001 merger of Berwin Leighton and Paisner & Co suited both firms, with Berwin Leighton looking to take on more City work and develop its banking and M&A practices, while Paisner & Co was looking to expand and broaden their offer to clients.
The growth of BLP over the last decade has been impressive, especially with regards to corporate, banking and finance-related work. BLP’s real estate department is the leading practice in the City, with clients including The Crown Estate, Tesco, Blackstone, Liverpool City Council and Credit Suisse. The firm’s corporate practice has also expanded, from the firm’s corporate finance, AIM and private equity work. BLP’s policy of advising small companies as they grow, such as on their flotation on AIM, has ensured that the firm has not been short of corporate work.
In finance, BLP works with a number of major clients, including Barclays, ING International, UBS, Merrill Lynch, The Boeing Company, and the Olympic Delivery Authority. The firm is a leader in privately funded public projects, for both private finance initiatives and public private partnerships. Furthermore, the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution, and tax capabilities are not to be ignored. BLP has a highly respected tax practice that has expanded in recent years to become one of the largest and broadest legal tax teams in the City.
Additionally, BLP has revolutionised the way legal services can be delivered to their clients. The firm’s Lawyers on Demand program – a pool of highly trained freelance lawyers available to clients, and Managed Legal Service – where BLP can manage all or part of a client’s legal needs for them, mean that lawyers can vary their workload to suit their lifestyles. BLP has won three FT Innovative Lawyer Awards in the past four years, and at the same awards in 2011 was recognised as the fifth most innovative law firm in Europe.
When it comes to pro bono work, BLP has a committee which nominates a charity each year to which the firm then devotes its fundraising efforts. Furthermore, BLP is a patron of the Hayward Gallery, borrowing works of art regularly for the firm’s offices, and worked on the London 2012 Olympics bid.Read all 357 employee quotes
BLP recruits from a range of universities, with one trainee stating the firm’s attitude to recruitment seems ‘background-blind. I was really impressed by the diversity in my intake’. However, the one thing all trainees do have in common is academic achievement: BLP ordinarily expects good A-levels and a 2:1 degree from its candidates. Having said that, 'a first from Oxbridge alone is not enough to get the job, personality is key'. So how can you impress?
Due to the relatively small number of trainees the firm takes on each year, the competition for places is high, and you need to make yourself memorable in order to be successful. BLP looks for the standard coveted traits such as enthusiasm, determination and commercial awareness, but one trainee also places importance on a ‘good sense of humour’. Current advice is to ‘be yourself’ and not to try and sell yourself as someone you’re not as the firm will ‘see right through’.
After submitting your online application, BLP follows up with a phone interview. Here you might be asked about anything you put on your application form, as well as the odd question on current affairs. If successful, you’ll receive an invitation to an assessment day which will include a tour of the offices and tasks such as a negotiation exercise, a written exercise and a role-play exercise. Your overall performance in all of these assessments is taken into consideration, so it is a good idea to be confident and speak out throughout the day.
The final stage is the toughest and comprises an interview with two partners. The questions go ‘as far as your knowledge stretches’ and test your critical thinking and ability to deal with new situations. One trainee says that during this interview ‘you are challenged and forced to defend a position. There is nowhere to hide, so you have to be sparky and with it’. Although this final interview is demanding, it is ‘not designed to catch you out’. It gives you the opportunity to really display your interest in the firm and show off your knowledge about BLP’s latest deals and news.
If all goes as you planned (or should that be hoped), as a trainee at BLP you’ll undertake four seats and spend six months in each. There is a broad range of seats to choose from, although real estate, corporate and a contentious seat are all compulsory. A current trainee states that the firm ‘guarantees first choice at least once during your contract, but preferences are taken into account throughout.’ Furthermore, those with the wanderlust will be pleased to hear that there are opportunities to do a seat in one of the firm’s foreign offices, with trainees being seconded to locations as far flung as Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Singapore.
BLP Graduate Recruitment Info
Graduate Recruitment Team
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
Vacation Scheme: 31st January 2013
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 830
No. of lawyers in London: 670
Trainee intake: 40
Trainees retained: 80% (Sept 2012), 88% (March 2012)
1st year trainee: £37,000
2nd year trainee: £41,000
Newly qualified: £61,000
Commercial, TMT & Outsourcing
EU & Trade
Regulatory & Compliance
Restructuring & Insolvency
Tax & Private Client
Not unusual for senior partners to give away tickets to events free of charge - got to see Coldplay at Emirates!First year traineeHelpful?
No two days are ever the same. I work with most of the department on a number of matters, getting work from associates to partners. I mainly do discreet tasks but took responsibility for case management in the lead up to trial. There is some duller work, which is to be expected, but it is all part of the process and it never takes long.First year traineeHelpful?
Three compulsories, not a lot of choice but HR try to make sure you get your first choice at least once.First year traineeHelpful?
We won the Phwar factor for having the best looking employees on Roll on Friday.Second year traineeHelpful?
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London EC4R 9HA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7760 1000 or 020 3400 1000
St Magnus House
3 Lower Thames Street
London EC3R 6HE
Tel: +44 (0)20 7760 1000
No. of worldwide offices: 9
*The firm is named Goltsblat BLP in Russia