Why Mills & Reeve?
Prior to starting my Training Contract at Mills & Reeve I was working in the firm’s Real Estate team as a Plot Conveyancer, therefore, I already had a true picture of working life at M&R. I decided Mills & Reeve would be the right fit for me because the firm truly has a relaxed, collaborative culture – yet undertakes really high-quality and interesting work for some brilliant clients.
Culture seems to be a buzzword for a lot of law firms. However, Mills & Reeve truly does have a special culture at all levels: the Partners will always make time for you; the senior lawyers will always be there to supervise you; and the juniors are always there for everything else!
Prior to starting my Training Contract I was also involved in the Innovation and Technology Strategy and I have been an “Innovation Champion” since 2016. The firm’s commitment to creative thinking and the implementation of LawTech really appealed to me and it’s an initiative I was really keen to get involved with. I have continued to be an Innovation Champion throughout my Training Contract – and all the new trainees are all encouraged to get involved too. I was personally nominated by the firm for (and subsequently shortlisted for) the LegalWeek Innovation Awards, Rising Star in 2018 – which was a really great achievement, but it goes to show that the people around us are always looking to reward us, in some way, for the hard work and efforts we put into our roles.
Best way to get here?
I would definitely recommend applying for the Vacation Scheme as this is the main recruitment tool that the firm uses to recruit trainees. The firm really likes to see their future trainees in action to see how they interact with the firm and settle in.
People do not tend to realise that Vacation Schemes are a two-way process. Obviously the firm is assessing your abilities and whether you are the right fit for us, but also it’s your only opportunity to assess whether we are the right fit for you! Law firms come in many shapes and sizes, so picking one that’s right for you is a really important part of the process!
It varies year on year but, on average, about 80% of our trainees come from the Vacation Scheme – which is quite a large percentage!
If you’re looking for information on the firm, we have a new website and graduate recruitment page with loads of useful content. The trainees were asked for their input on all the graduate recruitment to make sure it answered all the questions which we would have liked to have known the answers to! Mills & Reeve are also really active on social media, so follow us on Twitter (@MandRTrainees and @MillsandReeve) and Linkedin to learn about the projects and clients we have been working with.
The Training Contract
The Training Contract is split into six, four month seats. I have found this to be really, really great so far. As Mills & Reeve is a full-service commercial law firm, I would find it difficult to whittle my seat choices down to four!
When you take into account the fact that the jobs list comes out mid-March, ordinarily you would have only have done three seats had the Training Contract been split across only four seats. As we have four and a half, we get to make a really well informed decision about where we would like to qualify. Also, as we do such a breadth of work, you really get the chance to ‘try out’ things that you wouldn’t ordinarily have scope to do.
So far I have done seats in: Employment, Pensions and Immigration; Real Estate; Commercial IP & IT; and I am currently (September 2019 to January 2020) sitting with the Corporate team.
The firm encourages trainees to move around the offices and experience seats in different locations. This is supported with an accommodation allowance so the trainee is never out of pocket. The Norwich and Cambridge trainees most often switch between those offices or go to London (although currently two are in Birmingham and one has ventured as far as Manchester!). Whereas the Manchester and Birmingham trainees often interchange or go to London or Leeds.
The first week
The first week of the Training Contact is a residential stay at the Møller Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge and all the trainees from the different offices come together to complete the first segment of the Professional Skills Course. The Møller Centre is a great facility (they have ordinary and crispy bacon for breakfast) and it’s a really nice way to kick off your Training Contract and to meet and get to know your cohort of trainees. The next time you get to go to the Møller Centre is when you’re a Partner, so it’s where your journey as a lawyer begins!
Our trainee cohorts (although spread across the offices) are a really close and supportive group. At the beginning of every seat we all meet in one of the offices to complete the remaining parts of the Professional Skills Course, which means we remain close and connected throughout the Training Contract.
The responsibility varies from seat-to-seat and increases as you progress through your Training Contract.
The team where I found myself having the most responsibility was Real Estate – where I dealt with a Project which involved the purchase of £52,000,000 worth of petrol stations. As part of the Project, I carried out property due diligence, reported to the client and also liaised with the client, the seller’s solicitors and the bank’s solicitors directly. As part of the same Project I also handled the completion process for 32 separate sites over 20 days without supervision (except where I felt it was required!).
The work-life balance in the Norwich office is really great. I tend to arrive in the mornings soon after 9am and on average I tend to find myself leaving the office around 6pm. I am really precious with my lunch hour too, so I make sure I go out with the other trainees/NQs/paralegals and grab lunch from the City and go for a walk!
The latest I’ve been in the office so far is 9:30pm – which was the last day of my Real Estate seat and I wanted to make sure my work was complete in order to hand over to the next trainee.
Stuff that I do which isn’t being a lawyer!
I have already mentioned that I am Innovation Champion, but the firm is really keen that the trainees get involved with a lots of other activities, which aren’t necessarily all about being a lawyer!
I am a member of the Norfolk and Norwich Young Professionals Group (YPG), which is a professional networking group. The firm encourages us to get out into the marketplace and start building our network from the outset. The office supports this by paying for everybody’s attendance (not just trainees) at all the YPG events – the next one being the Annual Ball in September.
All trainees are also encouraged to participate in, or become the heads of their local office’s Sports and Social Committee, which I currently am. The Committee plans internal events for the benefit of all the staff. In August we organised the Summer Party BBQ for the Norwich office. The Committee heads have to manage the budget throughout the year and make sure there is enough left over for the Spring party, which (luckily) tends to fall just before the budget gets renewed! Other than that, the events are wholly planned within the Committee and we are free to organise what we like.
All trainees are also part of the Charity Committee. Each year, each office, designates a charity local to that office as their charity of the year. Currently, in Norwich, that charity is Little Lifts – a charity that supports women who have been diagnosed with primary breast cancer. Throughout the year we support the charity with different fund raising activities (including Partners in Stocks, where the Partners are pelted with wet sponges and SuperSoakers!... all in the name of charity!).
The trainees also organise the Charity Challenge. The Charity Challenge is the annual challenge where the entire office can come together to support a charity by carrying out some extremely gruelling activities. This year, we hiked the Old Man of Coniston, canoed over Lake Windermere and also did Ghyll Scrambling (think free-swimming, free-diving and mountain scrambling – all in one!). The trainees also get to choose the charity – this year electing for the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports members of the LBGTQ+ community who are homeless or living in hostile environments.
I once heard another lawyer say, “I love my job, but if I had to do it all day I’d get bored”…