Travers Smith is one of the darlings of the mid-market UK legal scene. A quality corporate boutique as well as highly regarded teams in each of its other chosen fields, Travers Smith has resisted the temptation to grow too fast – instead focussing its attention on securing the very best deals that a firm of its size can handle.
A big player while being friendly and down to earth.
- Small firm feel where everyone knows each other
- No billable hours targets
- Early responsibility encouraged, with a good support network
- Very flat hierarchy and an open office
- Slight lack of flexibility
- Bonuses are not that generous
- Certain lack of transparency over firm decisions
- Only one international seat available, Paris
Training Contract: This year, we’re looking to recruit 25 trainees. Not many, but we want the best -- we are looking for bold modern thinkers who are looking to be challenged from the start, stretched by top quality work for blue chip clients, and inspired by the leading lawyers in their fields. In return, we offer the chance to be part of a firm that has earned a phenomenal reputation relative to its size, is recognized as a leading specialist in each of its chosen disciplines and routinely wins headline-grabbing work. A law degree is not a necessity – around half the trainees who join us come from a non-law background. We look for people who combine academic excellence with common sense. You’ll need to be articulate – on your feet and on paper – as well as determined, self-motivated and with a healthy sense of humour.
When to Apply: For the September 2015 training contract, the deadline is 31st July 2013.
Salary: Our current starting salary for trainee solicitors is £38,000, rising to £43,000 in the second year of training.
Vacancies: We recruit 25 trainee solicitors each year.
Travers Smith manages to punch well above its mid-market weight, landing knockout deals without the advantage of a network of international offices. The firm has resisted temptation to grow too quickly, instead remaining with around 280 lawyers, and focussing its attention on getting the very best deals that a firm of its size can handle. Travers Smith is a full-service firm with a propensity for corporate, banking, financial services, private equity, M&A, and tax, but strength in depth in other areas too – their litigation department won "The Lawyer's" Litigation Team of the Year Award in 2011, and the real estate team was ranked second in their category. Travers Smith is applauded for its focussed but relaxed ethos and working environment in what is a notoriously demanding industry.
Travers Smith is one of the oldest law firms in the City, in fact one of its earliest partners drafted the constitution of the first Stock Exchange, in 1801. The firm took its name from its senior partner, in 1851, Joseph Travers Smith, whose clients included the Westminster Bank. The arrival of Stephen Braithwaite, in 1873, brought a change in name to Travers Smith Braithwaite; however, the firm truncated its title back to its original moniker in 2005. Despite its long history, the firm has grown without acquisition or merger – something that very few law firms worldwide can claim.
While much of the City went expansion-mad in the 1990s, Travers Smith bucked the trend by maintaining its focus on the London market. All along, the firm has emphasised organic growth in order to preserve its preciously guarded culture – one of its major selling points when it comes to recruiting new talent. However, the firm does have a small liaison office in Paris staffed by UK lawyers. On the international front, the firm has a trusted policy of ‘best friends’ that has seen it build up excellent relationships with independent corporate firms across the Continent, Asia and North America.
This ‘best friends’ network is fastidiously maintained, with lawyers seconded back and forth at regular intervals, and partners racking up the air miles visiting potential colleagues. In fact, 45% of Travers Smith’s deals involve cross-border advice, so it’s probably fair to say that this system appears to be bearing fruit.
The firm's largest department is Corporate (takeovers and mergers, IPOs and funds), for which it has built up a phenomenal reputation, not least in private equity. The firm boasts an impressive roster of clients, including Equistone Partners, 3i, Bridgepoint Capital, Pinewood Studios, Shepherd Neame, Pret a Manger, Force India (the F1 team), Shazam and Channel 4.
Prospective lawyers choose Travers Smith because of its relatively small size, which guarantees that even trainees are given lots of responsibility from the start. Another attractive prospect is how the actual office is set up – trainees, associates and partners sit together so the level of on the job training is very high. Though employees at Travers Smith commend the firm for this flat hierarchy, there still seems work to be done on the diversity front, though the firm is actively addressing this. But everyone agrees that the collegiate atmosphere is one of the pluses of working at the firm.
Travers Smith makes a good contribution to its community and has a healthy commitment to pro bono work. The firm has acted on a number of death row cases for the Caribbean Capital Cases Committee, and has taken on cases from the Bar Pro Bono Unit. Other examples of pro bono work have included advice to St Bart’s Church, Macmillan Cancer Support and Coram. Trainees in the litigation department are encouraged to take on their own pro bono cases through the Free Representation Unit and all trainees can participate in the drop in legal advice clinics run by the firm at the Paddington Law Centre. There are also opportunities to join the firm's “Reading in Schools scheme” helping children in a Tower Hamlets primary school learn to read. Employees have even done a sponsored climb of Mt. Everest, helping to raise money for the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust. The firm is also a legal partner of Advocates for International Development.Read all 574 employee quotes
At Travers Smith there are only 25 training contracts available, so competition is extremely fierce. Given its size, Travers Smith looks for people who will contribute to its close, friendly and collegiate culture. Moreover, current solicitors advise that candidates need to be ‘bright, interesting and interested self-starters. You need to be able to communicate your point of view well and stick up for it to fit in here’.
Travers Smith is ‘not a place for shrinking violets as everyone is expected to get involved from an early stage.’ Trainees ‘tend to be drawn from the more academically respected institutions’ and successful candidates will most likely hold a minimum 2:1 degree from a good university. However, stuffy types should leave their pretentions at the door – Travers Smith looks for people with a sense of humour who ‘take their work, but not themselves too seriously,’ one solicitor tells us. Soft skills are also really important as the firm needs to trust trainees to deal with clients on their own. The firm is definitely interested in candidates who enjoy ‘a variety of things and are not one dimensional’ so any extracurricular activities will surely spice up your application!
Successful applicants will be able to benefit from excellent training opportunities which a Travers Smith trainee says is ‘highly prioritised and always well-tailored to meet the demands of the department’. Training sessions run throughout the four six-month seats. Trainees need to complete a corporate seat and then have a choice between banking or property, between employment and litigation, and a final ‘wild card’ choice. If your French is up to scratch, you may also be able to do your corporate seat in Paris.
Fortunately, the application process is straightforward: just apply online via the firm's website. Two rigorous interviews are the rewards for successfully negotiating this initial hurdle, the first with one partner and the second with two. These interviews are designed to determine character and reactions to questioning. ‘Interviews are very tough... The partners are notorious for wielding the axe ruthlessly’, one trainee commented, but as long as you stay confident and focussed there should be nothing to worry about! The first interview is likely to last around 30 minutes, whereas the second will be one hour. In the second interview ‘some of the questions are commercially focussed, but most aim to examine the way that you think and whether you can think laterally and have the ability to back up your opinions and arguments’. There won’t be any assessment days, so don’t be shy during the interviews and sell your skills!
Travers Smith offers a two-week vacation scheme in the winter and runs three two-week schemes in the summer. If you’re a law student or graduate you will be able to apply for the latter whereas non-law students can sign up for the winter vac scheme. During the vac scheme you’ll be able to sit in two different departments and attend workshops that should get your legal skills going. With places filling rapidly, you’ll have to come armed with more than good grades. To get a place on one you’ll have to master an interview with a graduate recruitment partner. These interviews are described as ‘relaxed’ and ‘general in scope’ with less of a focus on legal questions, instead centering on current affairs and your strengths, weaknesses and interests.
Travers Smith Graduate Recruitment Info
Graduate Recruitment Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7295 3546
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
When to Apply:
For the September 2015 training contract, the deadline is 31st July 2013.
The current starting salary for trainee solicitors is £38,000, rising to £42,000 in the second year of training.
Travers Smith recruits 25 trainee solicitors each year.
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 212
No. of lawyers in London: 209
Trainee intake: 41
Trainees retained: 95% (Sept 2013), 89% (Sept 2012)
No. of applications per year: 2,000
TRAVERS SMITH: 2013 LAW RANKINGS
# 21 Most Reputable Law Firm (6.34/10)
# 1 in Partner & Solicitor Relations (9.29/10)
# 5 (Tie) in Culture (8.50/10)
# 5 in Informal Training and Mentoring (8.29/10)
# 6 in Career Prospects for Solicitors (7.71/10)
# 7 in Selectivity (8.42/10)
# 8 in Formal Training (8.36/10)
# 8 in Trainee Retention (7.79/10)
# 9 in Solicitor Training (7.29/10)
# 10 in pro Bono (6.63/10)
£38,000: First year trainee
£43,000: Second year trainee
£61,000: NQ – Sept 2012
£63,000: March 2012 – 6 months – PQE
£67,000: Sept 2011 – 1 year – PQE
£70,000: March 2011 – 1 ½ years – PQE
£73,000: Sept 2010 – 2 years – PQE
£76,000: March 2010 – 2 ½ years – PQE
£82,000: September 2009 – 3 years – PQE
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Lots of training on soft skills as well as on law and commercial awareness e.g. listening, presentation, networking, etc.Second year trainee, LondonHelpful?
The firm is not very diverse, but it recognises that and it seems efforts are under way to rectify this.First year trainee, LondonHelpful?
I feel like I'm trusted to run jobs, either stand-alone assignments or as part of wider matters - made much easier by the knowledge that there's someone standing by to help if you need. Life can get busy and challenging, but supervisors keep a close eye and tend to cut you some slack if you're struggling at any point, which may be in the form of the odd day off if you've had a particularly hard time.Second year trainee, LondonHelpful?
Graduate recruitment do regularly hold events for ethnic minority students who are high achievers to come and spend a day at the firm.First year trainee, LondonHelpful?