Not sure which law firm would be the best fit for you? We have been lucky enough to speak with Joanne Smallwood and Samantha Lee, from Bond Dickinson’s recruitment team, about the advantages of working at a National law firm and why it can be really important for a trainee.


What is a national firm and what does it offer to trainees?

A national firm is a firm with a number of regional offices around the UK. The aim of having a vast array of offices is that the firm will be able to service the needs of clients across the UK. However, the benefits are not just restricted to the clients, it can also benefit trainees.Sam Lee Bond Dickinson

When we asked Samantha Lee about why a national firm like Bond Dickinson could be beneficial for a trainee, she told us that it “allows for flexibility with regards to the training contract. Our trainees can work in one location, collaborating closely with other offices, and ultimately qualify in their chosen business group and location.”

Rather than being restricted to one specific location, with a national law firm, you have a great range of opportunities and pathways to follow in order to train and develop, with a range of exposure to different environments and clients that suit you as a trainee.

Firms like Bond Dickinson pride themselves on offering their trainees the best possible platform in which to start their career in the legal industry. They focus on helping trainees get exposure to quality work, responsibility and exposure to partners and clients.


How many locations does a law firm need to have to be considered a national firm?

There is no specific number of locations, but to give you an idea of what kind of breadth a national law firm has, Bond Dickinson has offices in seven locations across the UK in which it recruits trainees: Aberdeen, Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, London, Southampton and Plymouth.

For those who may think that it is better or worse to train in certain locations, Samantha assured us that “regardless of location, all trainees will receive high quality work, supervision and experience a wide range of sectors.” Therefore, don’t feel as though working in a place like London means that you will get any better exposure or training in comparison to other locations across the UK.


So what are the differences between each location at Bond Dickinson?

“We work as one firm. However, candidates need to bear in mind each location has its own challenges. For example, our London office is still growing and as such we need to build on our brand and reputation. This is something that our trainees will be involved with whether through secondments or business development opportunities.”

This is consistent with what we hear from most law firms with multiple offices. The training and level of exposure is, in general, consistent company-wide. The challenges you may face can vary from location to location, so make sure you do your research, looking at what each office offers and what will suit you best.


Exposure is critical for prospective trainees

In order for potential trainees to develop, exposure to real work and clients is absolutely essential. Not only during their training contract, but in vacation schemes as well. We wanted to dig deeper, so we took the opportunity to ask Joanne Smallwood about the importance of encountering real challenging work, even during a vacation scheme. Joanne told us “candidates are given real work within teams they have expressed an interest in. The placements should be seen as an opportunity, not another hurdle to jump.”

She went on to say that “choosing the firm you want to train at is an important decision and the work placement gives a unique insight into what life as a trainee at Bond Dickinson might actually be like.” We really cannot stress enough the key point here; make sure you put in the time and effort to apply for work placements. Many people don’t think about their career path until they really need to, and by doing that, you might miss some of the most important and insightful opportunities. This leads nicely into our next point…


Look at the growth, development and culture at the law firms you are applying for

When you are applying for a training contract, you are looking to invest yourself in a firm, making it essential that you do everything in your power to ensure you are picking the right firm for you. That is why it is important to assess a firm based on what they are doing in the industry, what they offer that can benefit your development, as well as their future prospects.

Joanne SmallwoodFor example, Bond Dickinson merged in 2013, which has enabled them to grow their reputation greatly and win new business. This means they are able to offer more business development opportunities, a higher calibre of work and an increase in the choice of secondments in sectors such as insurance, financial institutions, and retail. This is one example of how a firm’s recent history can really influence the current work culture. A newly merged firm going into new areas is likely to be pushing to expand and grow more quickly, which can lead to great opportunities and exposure for trainees. Understanding the firms you are applying to might sound simple, but it is really worth doing your research and understanding each firm that interests you.

Before applying for any law firm, you must always conduct your research, meet representatives and attend presentations in order to find out if you are the right fit for the firm in which you are applying. An important factor in deciding where you will be best suited is the culture of the firm that you are interested in.

When asked about whether culture is something that varies from firm to firm, Joanne told us “culture tends to be the difference between most commercial law firms. Candidates should take every opportunity to meet with representatives from different firms, either at law fairs, presentations, workshops or joining groups such as the Junior Lawyers Division. This will help candidates make an informed decision rather than having preconceived ideas.”


Applying to Bond Dickinson? What you need to know

When we asked what Bond Dickinson look for in a trainee, we were told they are look for “intellectually able, motivated and driven candidates, who share our values and ambitions.”

“We’re in this for the long-term, so we want candidates who can see beyond the training contract and really want to contribute to the future success of our business.”


What can I expect from the application process for Bond Dickinson?

The graduate recruitment process starts with an online application form. At this stage, one thing they are looking at is academic results. “We ask candidates to achieve, or aim to achieve, a 2.1 in their chosen degree.” They are also interested in the candidates’ interests and achievements to date. They look to see how the skills gained will transfer into the role of a trainee solicitor.

Successful candidates will be invited to submit a pre-recorded video interview. This is an opportunity to show their personality and is a really interesting part of their process.

Bond Dickinson will hold assessment days for both the 2016 work placements and 2018 training contracts for those who impress during video interviews. These will take place during the Easter and summer months.


The assessment days are designed to be interactive. As with the placements, the assessment days should be seen as an opportunity to get to know the business and the personalities who work at Bond Dickinson.

Successful candidates are engaged throughout the whole process and have a genuine interest in joining Bond Dickinson for the long term.