Address: Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, London, EC4N 6AF



Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 '‘Strong IP practice’; ‘opportunity for secondments’; ‘for the high levels of responsibility given to trainees’; ‘really good vacation scheme experience’; ‘quality of training’; ‘blue-chip clients’; ‘inclusive culture’; ‘ambitious’; ‘wanted to do London-quality work in a regional office’; ‘inclusive of women from entry level through to senior partnership’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘The firm thrives off of its diversity’; ‘offices are impressive’; ‘we’re given Surface Pro tablets’; ‘good support network and support staff’; ‘secondment opportunities’; ‘its modern, dynamic approach’; ‘culture of respect’; ‘tight-knit environment’; ‘there’s genuine opportunity for growth’; ‘the annual football tour’; ‘high-value and complex transactions and disputes’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘The long name’; ‘becoming lost in the numbers of people working here’; ‘the hours can be extremely demanding’; ‘some of the software is ancient’; ‘the staff restaurant is really poor and expensive’; post-qualification salaries’; ‘managerial organisation’; ‘lack of time for proper supervision’; ‘sometimes regional offices are forgotten about’
Best moment? 
 '‘The three-week induction at the beginning to help settle us in’; ‘the client commending me on my work’; ‘winning a judicial review’; ‘being trusted to go to a signing meeting in Luxembourg alone’; ‘client secondment’; ‘seeing my work have an impact’; ‘attending the CMS football world cup in Amsterdam with colleagues from four continents’
Worst moment?
 '‘Being kept in the office post-midnight on concurrent days with no role to play except ordering pizza for the partner’; ‘bundling until 10pm the day before Christmas Eve’; ‘designing brochures in the early hours of the morning’; ‘forgetting to back up a document I was working on and having to redo the work’; ‘being unsure if I’ve understood instructions correctly’; ‘not getting a secondment’; ‘trying to get to grips with all the terminology’'

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

The Three Musketeers – three independently successful entities combine to create an unstoppable force while still maintaining a friendly demeanour

The verdict

The firm

Following the 2017 merger between CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, the newly formed CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang is now one of the largest firms in the UK by revenue. The global, future-facing law firm works across six core sectors including energy, financial services, infrastructure and project finance, life sciences and healthcare, real estate and technology, media and communications. The firm was crowned Restructuring Team of the Year at the 2018 Legal Business Awards. 

The star performers

Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Education; Employee share schemes; Environment; Fintech; Franchising; Healthcare; Intellectual property; International arbitration; Local government; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Media and entertainment (including media finance); Parliamentary and public affairs; PATMA: Trade mark attorneys; Planning; Power (including electricity and renewables); Professional negligence; Property finance; Transport

The deals

Advising Day Group on a successful appeal against a complex and rare refusal by the Environment Agency to issue an environmental permit for a multimillion facility to recycle incinerator bottom ash (IBA); acting for Chinese developer R&F Properties Group on their multi-billion pound portfolio of major London developments, consisting of Vauxhall Square, a hostel at Wendle Court and The Nestle Tower, London; represented Sky on an EU trade mark litigation against Skyworth, which recently launched its own branded televisions; advised LittleStar Films, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Judy Craymer on the development, financing, production and distribution of the new Mamma Mia film; Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again; advised GlaxoSmithKline on the competition law aspects of disputes with generic companies over infringement of trade mark rights in multiple European jurisdictions

The clients

AECOM; ASOS; Biffa; Bioquell; Braemar Shipping Services; Deliveroo; Nuffield Health; Scottish Widows; Unilever; Veolia

The verdict

Following the merger between CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, the newly combined firm is now a ‘big player in various fields, able to compete with the best for the biggest and most valuable work’. Trainees from all the legacy firms now enjoy working with ‘blue-chip clients’ and have access to a ‘wide range of secondment opportunities’ (both client and international) for which the firm has earned a Lex 100 Winner medal. Equally impressive is that ‘CMS is frequently named one of the top 50 employers for women’: it is ‘a firm that is inclusive of women right from entry level all the way through to senior partnership’ reports one recruit. Employees are ‘genuinely good friends’ with each other: ‘CMS trainees have opportunities to socialise and travel with colleagues to, for example, the football tournament based in a different European city each year, and the annual Christmas party’. The firm’s offices are ‘impressive’, however, the ‘staff restaurant is really poor and expensive’ says one respondent. IT systems were described as ‘sub-par’. The merger has caused issues for a handful of trainees who believe the firm is ‘now too big’ and ‘impersonal’. It is also occasionally ‘difficult to engage with the graduate recruitment team who are based primarily in London’ reports a Bristol-based newbie. Trainee highlights included ‘winning a judicial review’ and ‘attending a contract negotiation meeting for a development contract worth over £100m’. Moments like this made it easier to deal with days spent ‘proofreading’ and ‘working till 2am on a Bank Holiday’. For ‘City-level work under the umbrella of an international firm’, add CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang to your shortlist.

 Trainee profiles

edmund roper

Edmund Roper:  The firm’s recognised expertise in particular practice areas together with its sector-led approach, market-leading clients and the reputation of certain teams and lawyers fed into my decision to train with the firm. Training at a firm with industry leaders who are able to deliver client-orientated solutions to varied legal challenges involving multi-jurisdictional aspects was appealing for me.

As a legacy Olswang trainee, I found the prospect of a smaller trainee intake appealing as it would provide the opportunity to carry greater responsibility. This notion holds true at CMS. Despite an increased trainee intake, CMS trainees are still provided with ample responsibility as many matters involve smaller core teams. I have partner and client contact as well as the opportunity to engage with complex issues. These opportunities only increase with greater experience as a trainee.

In the corporate department I was exposed to transactions varying from a newly incorporated company seeking investment to a sale by a listed company. I assisted the team which advised a Munich-based technology and media company on its acquisition of several household UK magazine titles. I helped with document organisation and producing first drafts. As a litigation trainee, I have assisted with trial preparations on a case involving the contractual interpretation of an SPA and understanding the factual matrix between the parties.

josh kaiser

Josh Kaiser:  I am a legacy Nabarro trainee and I applied to the firm because of its market-leading real estate practice. Trainees have significantly benefited from the merger as there is now a full spectrum of sectors to choose from, including energy, financial services and technology.

I have a particular interest in real estate, so have targeted property-focused seats. I am currently in real estate disputes, but have previously sat in planning and real estate transactions. I have handled a real variety of work, including securing planning permission for development projects, negotiating large-scale sales and purchases, and advising commercial landlords on a range of asset management matters.

My knowledge has dramatically improved since starting my training contract. Trainees are given a high degree of ownership over matters and are required to apply a commercial approach to all work. The client interaction that I have experienced has been fundamental to developing my confidence.

The firm’s expertise in the real estate sector is unique and it has been fantastic working with and learning from colleagues with such a breadth of knowledge and experience. I hope to do my next seat in the corporate department so I can experience a different element of the firm.

charlotte choules

Charlotte Choules:  The firm’s ever-expanding international presence, the practice areas and sector expertise and our strong market-leading clients are some of the reasons I chose to train at CMS. CMS has 74 offices worldwide and having the opportunity to work with our international offices on fast-paced, multi-jurisdictional transactions attracted me to CMS as well as the opportunity to undertake an international secondment. As a corporate trainee I have had the opportunity to work on international energy transactions with our Spanish and Amsterdam offices and I am about to commence my next seat in energy in the Dubai office. Prior to commencing my training contract, I had two-and-a-half years’ experience in banking and finance law as a paralegal at Olswang LLP. My seat in corporate has exposed me to M&A transactions in a variety of sectors including acting for one of the largest non-profit healthcare providers, the sale of a well-known cloud-based software, acquiring additional stakes in a competitive energy company and numerous transactions for a worldwide technology giant. Each transaction has exposed me to a variety of work, the opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills and autonomy to progress particular aspects of the deals.

About the firm

Address:Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, London, EC4N 6AF

Telephone: 020 7367 3000



Senior partner:  Penelope Warne

Managing partner:  Stephen Millar

Executive partner:  Duncan Weston

Other offices: Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester, London, Reading, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and over 70 other global locations. 

Who we are: CMS is a future-facing law firm combining top-quality sector expertise with international scale and a strategy to become a progressive technology-driven firm. The firm focuses on delivering rewarding futures for its clients, its communities and its people. Across its six core sectors, CMS is immersed in the clients’ worlds, are genuine experts in their fields and are knowledgeable about business issues faced daily by organisations.

What we do: Our main practice areas include banking and finance, commercial, competition and EU, consumer products, corporate/M&A, dispute resolution, employment and pensions, energy, funds, hotels and leisure, infrastructure and projects, insurance, intellectual property, life sciences, private equity, public procurement, real estate and construction, tax, technology, media and communications.

What we are looking for: We have a range of opportunities which are open to law and non- law students and graduates. Eligibility criteria for both programmes can be found on our website.

What you'll do:Upon starting a training contract, trainees complete a comprehensive induction programme. During the training contract, trainees undertake four six-month seats across various practice areas. There may be an opportunity to be seconded to one of the firm’s clients or to a UK or international office. The CMS Academy is currently the main route to securing a training contract.

Perks: Childcare vouchers, dental and eye care, 50% subsidy off gym fees, interest-free season ticket loan (for travel), pension, private medical insurance, cycle scheme and 25 days’ holiday plus an option to purchase five more days. The firm also offers critical illness cover, eye care and life assurance.

Sponsorship:Payment of GDL and LPC fees, plus maintenance grant upon securing a training contract with CMS.


Facts and figures

Total partners: 1,000

Other fee-earners: 4,500

Total trainees: 130

Trainee places available for 2021: 65

Applications received pa: 3,000 on average 

Percentage interviewed: Varies 


First year: £43,000 (London), £38,000 (Bristol), £25,000 (Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow), £27,000 (Sheffield)

Second year: £48,000 (London), £40,000 (Bristol), £28,000 (Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow), £30,000 (Sheffield)

Newly qualified: £73,000 (London), £50,000 (Bristol), £40,000 (Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow), £41,000 (Sheffield) - plus bonuses

 Application process

How: Via the website.

When to apply:By 4 January 2019 for both the First Steps Programme and the CMS Academy.

What's involved:The process will include an online application, an online test, video interview and assessment day.