I'm interested in intellectual property - will I be guaranteed an IP seat during my training contract?
Yes – all trainees will gain experience in IP, including a compulsory seat in Patent Litigation. You may also experience transactional, advisory and contentious IP in our Brands, CTC Disputes and/or Commercial IP seats. This sets our training contract apart as most firms cannot guarantee an IP seat, even those with a strong IP practice. Our client secondments for trainees are usually to companies that have brands or technology at their core.
I like the sound of Bristows but I don't have a science background - does this matter?
No - don't be put off if you don't have a science degree. We’re looking to recruit trainees who have strong academic records from a range of academic backgrounds. A science background can definitely help for certain types of work, but is not essential. We have lawyers with all kinds of academic backgrounds in all departments of the firm, including our IP department. The key to success at Bristows is an appetite for learning and an interest in working for clients in our target sectors, as well as the drive to be a first-class lawyer.
How does the selection process work - do you do psychometric testing or personality profiling?
Our selection process is straightforward and mainly interview-based, with a focus on face-to-face assessment. We review all application forms personally and choose candidates for video interview. These are reviewed by partners who then select candidates for interview. The first interview is with a partner and a senior associate followed by a tour of the firm with one of the current trainees. Partners then choose candidates for a second interview, normally with two partners who are members of our Trainee Committee. We’ll also ask you to do a written exercise. But we don't do psychometric testing or personality profiling.
Will the selection process accommodate my disability?
Yes. We encourage anyone with a disability (visible or non-visible) to let the trainee recruitment team know, so we can make reasonable adjustments in your assessments. We’ll manage all information you disclose confidentially. Similarly, we work with disabled employees while they are at the firm to make sure they have the necessary tools to perform their role.
I'm looking for vacation schemes or work experience at Bristows. How can I apply?
We run IP-focused workshops to get to know the firm, rather than vacation schemes. While these are shorter, we pack the day with learning opportunities, interactive sessions and lots of networking so you still finish the workshop with a true insight into Bristows. Check out 'What we offer' for more information.
What are the requirements to apply for a training contract?
Typically, successful trainees have a consistent academic record and are working towards (or have gained) a 2:1 in their degree. Do tell us about any mitigating circumstances or other factors in your application if you feel your academic results don’t reflect your ability. Our trainee recruitment team will review all information and make a decision holistically — there’s no automatic filtering.
How much responsibility do trainees get during their training contract?
Plenty - this is a particular feature of a training contract at Bristows. We recruit up to ten trainees in each trainee intake; this means that no trainee can get lost in a crowd - everyone has to make a real contribution. We want our trainees to be eager to take on responsibility, share their ideas and develop their skills.
Your website mentions client secondments. Do all trainees go on secondment?
Most trainees go on secondment for a three-month period during the course of the training contract. In the last couple of years, all trainees have done a client secondment, but we can't always guarantee this as it depends on how many clients need seconded trainees and on the structure of each individual's training contract. Secondments are always to a UK client's in-house legal department, in or near London.
What is the retention rate like at the end of the two-year period?
Our retention rates are very good. Each trainee intake is small, and we invest a lot of time and energy in recruiting and training each individual, as our aim is for them all to stay with us. It doesn't always work out, though, and on average there may be one person per year who doesn't stay at the end of the training contract. We are very proud to have a 90% retention rate in 2023.
When looking at retention, another important question is: what are the retention rates like further down the line? At many firms, the culture grinds people down, and high staff turnover is a fact of life. At Bristows, we pride ourselves on high staff retention at all levels.
Would I get feedback on my performance during the training contract?
Yes. You’ll have regular appraisals at the end of each seat and a more informal mid-seat appraisal as well as day-to-day feedback on the work you do - this is the best way to learn quickly. You’ll also have regular meetings with your allocated training partner throughout the two-year training contract.
If I accepted a training contract at Bristows, does the firm keep in touch before I start work?
Yes — we encourage social communication among year groups before they join the firm and we'll keep in touch with you, providing opportunities to meet up, for example for drinks and social activities. We’ll stay in touch via email — but we won't hound you.
What sort of training programme does Bristows run?
We run an in-house training programme that covers both legal and professional skills training. We’re also part of a training network set up with other firms. The most important part of your training contract is on-the-job training and you will get plenty of this, either sharing a room with a partner or a senior associate.
I am aware that a legal career can be quite high-pressure. How will my wellbeing be taken care of at Bristows?
As a trainee you’ll be well looked after. The Trainee Committee, your supervisors and the Mental Health First Aiders are all well-placed to make sure your wellbeing is cared for. There are also plenty of opportunities for trainees to get involved with the firm’s wider Wellbeing Programme, which encompasses the ‘four pillars’ of physical, financial, mental and community wellbeing. As well as a generous benefits package and firmwide initiatives that trainees can be a part of, there are also wellbeing activities just for trainees — including specific resilience and personal leadership programmes and the opportunity to volunteer at a local soup kitchen with your cohort.
Should I do the SQE before applying for a training contract?
There’s no need to start or complete the SQE before applying to Bristows for a training contract. We typically recruit two years in advance, so there’ll be time before starting your training contract to complete all legal studies (funded by the firm). If you have time out from university before applying for a training contract, think about gaining some legal/office experience that will strengthen your application.
I have already started my PGDL/LPC/SQE. If I secured a training contract with Bristows, would the firm reimburse my fees?
Yes, we reimburse fees for the PGDL and LPC and SQE that you have already paid. We also backdate the maintenance grant to the beginning of the month in which you accepted your training contract.
I think I might want to take a year out. When is the best time to do this? Should I apply for a training contract and then defer?
If you want to take a year out, that's fine but we prefer our trainees to do so before starting Law School rather than between Law School and starting the training contract. If you think you want a year out, it’s still worth applying to Law School to get a place and you can then defer the place. For a training contract, we prefer if you apply for the year when you want to start, rather than accepting a training contract and then asking to defer the start date.
I have already started or completed the PGDL or LPC, do I need to switch to the SQE?
No, Bristows will not ask any future trainees who are already on the old route to qualification to switch to the SQE route. If you haven’t already started or completed the LPC, you will be required to study the SQE.
I have already completed X amount of time which counts towards ‘qualifying work experience’, can I shorten my Training Contract with Bristows?
No. Bristows will expect all trainees to complete their full two-year training contract regardless of what previous work experience they have. This will give them the full benefit of our in-house training and allow them to benefit from 2 years of seat rotations in order to get to know the firm and maximise their qualification options.
The firm’s qualification process will continue to take place at the end of the training contract, so there will be no option to take on a qualified position earlier if you have recorded additional ‘qualifying work experience’ before joining the firm.