The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Westminster-headquartered Bircham Dyson Bell works with clients across a variety of practice areas, with a focus on planning and major projects, public law, corporate and commercial and real estate. These skills complement the traditional strengths the firm has in private wealth, family, employment, litigation, charity and the not-for-profit sectors.
The star performers
Administrative and public law; Art and cultural property; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial contracts; Commercial property: Cambridge; Commercial property: corporate occupiers; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate and commercial: Cambridge; Court of protection; Employment: employers and senior executives; Family; Immigration: business; Infrastructure (parliamentary); Local government; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Professional discipline; Property litigation; Rail; Residential property
Advising TfL on the extension to the Bakerloo Line and the Holborn station upgrade; representing The Doctors’ Laboratory in claims relating to the employment status of its internal courier team; advising Ten Entertainment Group on the employment aspects of its IPO on the London Stock Exchange; advising Transport for Wales on its ownership and the operation of the Core Valley Lines to be converted into a light rail operation; assisted The American School in England with the lease of a school estate in Thorpe Surrey
Birmingham City Council; BMW; C40 Climate Leadership UK; Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity; Inotec AMD; London Luton Airport Limited; London Zoo; National Audit Office; Smurfit Kappa UK; Transport for London
With ‘unique departments’ and a ‘welcoming culture’, it’s no surprise Bircham Dyson Bell is much loved by its trainees. New recruits praised the ‘friendliness’ and ‘commitment to equality and diversity’ and the firm has earned three Lex 100 Winner medals. Trainees are ‘involved in real work’ meaning they have ‘responsibility and client contact’. They are ‘given autonomy on a day-to-day basis and feel trusted’. Whilst new recruits are given ‘good-quality work’ and responsibility, that’s not to say they’re working all hours of the day; on the contrary, trainees at the firm enjoy a good work/life balance, their ‘hours much better than those at Magic Circle, corporate firms (as would be expected)’. Some recruits voiced concern over the firm’s ‘lack of recognisable branding’ which means the ‘awareness of the firm by non-lawyers’ was felt to be low. Other issues related to the ‘limited number of support staff’ and corresponding ‘ad-hoc tasks trainees have to do such as taking minutes of internal meetings’. ‘Being told off in front of others’, ‘sitting without work’ and ‘answering the phone to an angry client’ were also grievances aired by trainees, however, they experienced many positive moments such as ‘winning a tender in my first seat and bringing in nearly £40k worth of work’. Also momentous was when one trainee ‘conducted advocacy for an application for a charging order in court’. The firm offers client secondments which trainees described as a ‘fantastic opportunity’, saying they ‘gained insight into life as an in-house lawyer’. If you’d like to be part of a ‘smaller size’ intake and carry out work for government departments and charities, Bircham Dyson Bell is a great option.
A day in the life of...
Ben Godfrey trainee, Bircham Dyson Bell
Departments to date: Private wealth, real estate
9.15am: I arrive at the office to find a voicemail from the director of a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company. The company owns a long lease of a flat in central London. There has been a mistake at the Land Registry in the registration of the ownership of the property, and we have been trying to rectify it so that the client can sell the flat. I phone the client back straight away to update them, explaining that the next step is to contact their landlord to enlist their help.
9.30am: I dictate a quick letter to the landlord of our client. I then catch up on emails that have arrived since yesterday. This week is the firm’s annual rowing regatta, and I am organising a crew for the trainees v partners race. I email my fellow team members to ensure we are ready for practice this evening.
10.00am: I am running a file negotiating a wayleave agreement and licence for alterations for a landlord client. The tenant of their property is a car showroom which is upgrading its telecoms equipment, but this will involve a telecoms operator installing apparatus at the premises. I review the latest amendments to the documents sent by the other side. I annotate the documents, ready to discuss with the supervising partner later.
10.50am: I am interrupted by a phone call from one of our senior associates from the Cambridge office who has an urgent task – I am to print engrossments of a development agreement and take them immediately to Kensington to get them signed by a company director who is leaving the country at lunchtime and won’t be available to sign thereafter. I liaise with our print room to produce the documents and travel over to Kensington to meet the client. I catch them with 30 minutes to spare.
12.30pm: Back in the office, the letter I dictated earlier is typed, and I edit it and take it to the supervising partner. He makes a few minor amendments, which I incorporate into a final version and send off to our client’s landlord.
1.00pm: I head to nearby St James’s Park where I have lunch and unwind within sight of Buckingham Palace. It is a glorious July day.
2.00pm: I am to give a presentation at the forthcoming department knowledge sharing session. I discuss with our PSL potential topics to present on, and we decide that I will update the team on a recent government consultation on ‘Overcoming barriers to longer tenancies in the private residential sector’. I print off the consultation paper from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government website and read through it, noting the salient points that I wish to highlight to the department at next week’s presentation. I begin to outline the structure of my presentation.
3.30pm: I have been part of a team working on a £12m refinance of a portfolio of Islington properties. The refinance completed last week, involving redeeming an existing loan, transferring several freehold and leasehold properties, and charging the properties to a new lender. Now I am attending to the post-completion registration of these transactions. I had liaised with the lender’s solicitor (a large city firm) prior to completion to draft the registration applications in a form acceptable to the lender. Now I collate everything and upload our applications to the Land Registry.
4.50pm: My supervisor requests my assistance. She has been working on the surrender and re-grant of a lease to our (tenant) client. Since our client paid stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on the original lease, she wants to look into the availability of ‘overlap relief’ upon the grant of the new lease, so that our client avoids having to pay SDLT twice. I delve into the HMRC SDLT manual to research the point, and also find out the reporting requirements. I report back and my supervisor asks me to draft an SDLT return tomorrow for client approval.
5.40pm: I shut down my computer and gather together my rowing crew mates. We head down to Fulham for an evening of rowing practice on the Thames, ahead of Friday’s race.
About the firm
Address:50 Broadway, London, SW1H 0BL
Telephone: 020 7783 7000
Senior partner: Helen Ratcliffe
Managing partner: Andrew Smith
Other offices: Cambridge.
Who we are: Bircham Dyson Bell is an award winning, top 100 UK law firm with offices in London & Cambridge. Many of our Lawyers are recognised leaders in their practice areas.
What we do: The firm's main practice groups are; real estate, private wealth, charities, corporate and commercial, employment, government and infrastructure and litigation. Our clients range from individuals, to public sector bodies, charities and large corporations.
What we are looking for: We are looking for hardworking individuals who will work collaboratively and demonstrate a real passion for learning. They will have high professional standards and demonstrate commercial awareness along with enthusiasm for a career in law.
What you'll do:After your first week induction programme you will receive legal and interpersonal skills training over four six month seats. Trainees are asked to express a preference for seats.
Perks: 25 days holiday per year, private medical insurance, medical screenings, cycle to work scheme, payroll giving, on-site gym, sports teams, yoga and pilates classes, interest free season ticket loans, matching pension contributions up to 7%, life assurance, employee assistance programme, income protection insurance, enhanced maternity and paternity pay.
Sponsorship:We sponsor the GDL and LPC with BPP.
Facts and figures
Total partners: 48
Total trainees: 11
Trainee places available for 2021: 5
Applications received pa: 400
Percentage interviewed: 7.5%
First year: £36,500
Second year: £37,500
Newly qualified: £57,000
Apply to:Graduate recruitment
When to apply:Training contract: by 30 June 2019 for training contracts commencing 2021.
What's involved:Two stage assessment centre including panel interviews, in-tray and group exercises.
Summer:Deadline for applications is 31 January 2019 for vacation scheme to take place in June/July 2019.