After some initial exploration into IP firms it became pretty evident that Bristows is a leader in the sector. Additionally, IP is a competitive area and many peoples first choice so it’s very rare to be guaranteed a seat in IP at all, let alone the chance to do 2 or 3 IP related seats. I had a great time in my Bristows interviews and I also really felt like they were willing to invest in my future as a lawyer. The initial procedure in applying for a Bristows training contract is much like any other firm, you complete some standard online questions and if you are successful you are invited to a video interview. Once you are past the video interview stage the process is slightly different from other law firms as there is no assessment centre or group interview step, just two separate interview stages.
My first interview was with a partner and an associate and was quite wide-ranging. I talked about my hobbies, the grades I had got at university, why I thought I’d done better in some modules rather than others and my general motivation for pursuing a career in law. A few weeks later I had my second interview with two partners. This was more focused on the type of work that Bristows undertake and my motivation for applying to Bristows specifically. There was also a written exercise which lasted for about an hour. A few weeks after that I received a call from one of the partners letting me know that I had been successful!
My typical daily activities are to arrive at work around 9:00, grab a coffee from the Hub (the Bristows canteen) and have a quick chat with whoever is around. I’ll then check my emails and start work on any tasks that I’ve got on the go, these can be procedural (e-filing documents for a matter) or might be more research-based (researching case law on a specific point). As a trainee in one of the larger departments, I may get emails/people dropping in with ad hoc tasks so it’s likely that I’ll pick up a few smaller things as the day progresses. I usually lunch around 1 and, depending on workload, will sit and eat in the Hub with the other trainees or have a quick bite to eat at my desk. Post-lunch there may be a call with an expert or counsel that I’ll need to take an attendance note for, these can last a few hours! Afterwards, I’ll have a quick discussion with the partner and the team where we’ll assess what will need to happen over the next few days and I’ll be assigned any relevant tasks. After grabbing another coffee (or two) I’ll finish off any other work that needs to be done and usually manage to get away between 18:30-19:00.
There are a few different levels to the supervision provided at Bristows. First and foremost you will receive guidance from the partner and associates who you share an office with and who can offer help with most of the basic things a trainee might not understand. Secondly, if I had any case-specific questions I would contact the team that I’m working with. This is less formal than it sounds and usually just requires popping your head around a door to ask for a minute of their time. At a more pastoral level, each trainee has a partner assigned to them who acts as their mentor and reviews their training contract diary for the duration of the two years. I sit down for a coffee with mine roughly every month though it is informal and can vary depending on your working style and time commitments. Day-to-day training involves anything from more formal sessions on how patents work and how they are used in commercial practice to informal discussions I have with my team concerning research I’ve been doing.
One of the most challenging aspects of trainee life is integrating into the different teams that you work with and understanding that every piece of work you complete creates a new impression. It can be hard to move between partners or departments when you feel like you’ve just finally grasped a topic or understood the key facts behind a matter. On the other hand, being a trainee means you often get the best picture of what’s going on in the firm as a whole due to the number of people you interact with and from your friends in other departments.
The exposure to partners for feedback and advice is fantastic and really helpful when starting out at Bristows. Approachability and friendliness really does make a difference – I’ve even had a partner give me his spare socks after mine were soaked through on a particularly rainy day!