We’ve put together a few of our commonly asked questions covering topics such as what is your assessment process to is the legal world for me? Take a look below or reach out to our early ambitions team.
Life at Shakespeare Martineau
We are inquisitive and constantly exploring and creating new ways of doing things. We work in collaboration with each other, taking our own individual opinions, challenging and learning from others to reach an exciting outcome. We have integrity in our work, we do the right thing and not the easy one. We are optimistic, adaptable, brave, and ambitious.
We are a group of individuals, all different, but working together to achieve ambitious goals for ourselves and our clients. Our mind is on tomorrow, so it matters less what you achieved in the classroom in the past, and is more about what you can bring to the table now, and how you will drive your legal career moving forward. Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? Of course it does!
Want to find out more? We are hosting a series of live events that you can attend to hear from people in our business on what life is like here, and the different routes to qualification at our firm.
Your adventure starts today, and it starts right here.
We like to work flexibly and encourage all our staff to, honestly!
Shakespeare Martineau’s core working hours are 9.00 am – 5.30 pm but what matters is getting the work done that you need to.
We certainly don’t promote a culture of being at your desk after hours for the sake of it, but if you have a deadline to meet then these need to be met and if that means working a little later, then on occasion this needs to happen.
However we also encourage employees to fit their work in around their life, so if that means starting early and finishing early, that is fine (as long as it fits in with your team and your manager). Additionally, if you would rather take a big break in the middle of the day to go to the gym for instance, and work later, that is fine as well. It all falls under what we call empowered working.
We have a dress for your diary policy here at Shakespeare Martineau.
If you are meeting clients then you should dress in a professional, smart manner but other than that, it’s a case of being ...you!
We have a strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) offering, and we are always keen on volunteers. Individuals across our business are able to volunteer their time to a range of initiatives as part of our 10,000 hours of volunteering ambition and are also encouraged to volunteer to become People, Communities, or Environment champions as part of our Responsible Business strategy. Additionally, we love our Trainees to get involved with different outreach programmes and initiatives to help encourage the next generation of Solicitors down the legal pathway.
Find out more by visiting our trainee contracts hub.
The Training Contract application process
At Shakespeare Martineau, we offer 4 main routes to qualification
The Training Contract
You will complete 5 seats (4 legal and one short 3 month seat in Operations) and have a well established development programme designed to give you the best experience possible so that not only are you a great NQ Solicitor on qualification, but are geared up and ready to take on the future of your career.
From 2024, our preference is that individuals progressing through this route go through the SQE and will complete their SQE1 and 2 in advance of their Qualifying Work Experience (we have a preferred supplier in place!). However, if you have already commenced down the LPC route, we would be happy for you to continue through this route to its conclusion.
Interested? We recruit 2 years in advance, find out more through our events, and trainee portfolios in our trainee contracts hub, or check out the designated section below.
The SQE Graduate Apprenticeship
This will launch internally for individuals in the business who are eager to qualify into the areas of law they are already working in from September 2022. These opportunities are available dependent on the need for an NQ in the team and the ability to support the apprenticeship for the duration of the 27+ months. As an apprentice, you will stay primarily in your team and complete a structured development programme to assist your qualification into the team you are in. You will work 80% of the time, with the remaining 20% of the time as designated study time towards the SQE1 and SQE2 which will be completed whilst you work.
The self-funded SQE
We welcome individuals looking to qualify themselves through the SQE. We will support you as much as possible if you choose to do this, however, you will financially be responsible for your qualification, as well as holding full responsibility for ensuring your qualification readies you to become an NQ Solicitor. If you choose to progress through this route, we strongly advise that you plan 3-4 years in advance, as we are expecting the bottleneck that currently exists for Training Contracts to move to NQ level, and you will need to think strongly about how you ensure you have all the right skills and stand out when you qualify.
The CILEx route to qualification
This is a great route to legal qualification for whatever stage you enter the profession - if you have a degree or not.
CILEx allows you to work and study and where there is the capacity in your team, your team may be able to fund your qualification. If you don’t have a degree, you will need to complete the CPQ from the ground up.
If you already have a law degree, you will be fast tracked to a later point in the qualification.
If you have an LPC, you be deemed as having completed all legal qualifications, but would just need to complete your final qualifying work experience (3 years of which at least 1 year needs to be after registration with CILEx) before qualifying.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an easier route to qualification. It requires a lot of self-discipline, focus and time management. But for those of you who are seeking a less competitive route to qualification, this may be a great route for you. You can find out more here.
Here at Shakespeare Martineau, it’s about the rounded person - not about the numbers and levels. We are looking for people who have the skills and competencies to be a great lawyer and future star at our firm. We don’t believe that we will find that on a university certificate, but through your application form, your assessment centre and our interview process.
Our CEO, Sarah Walker-Smith wrote a blog on our stance on qualifications, you can read the blog here
No. As long as you will have completed the LPC/ SQE by the time your training contract starts, you will be eligible for a training contract with us.
Additionally, if you are successful in obtaining a training contract offer at Shakespeare Martineau, we will sponsor your SQE qualifications (exams and prep courses).
Not necessarily. We mind little about the quantity of experience, and more about the quality. What did you do, and what did you learn during the experience you gained? And how will that help you in your career as a lawyer?
Additionally, we mind just as much about non-legal work experience as we do legal. Make sure you give us a fully rounded understanding of your experience, challenges overcome, and how it has helped you prepare for your legal career.
That is a tricky question and one that is even more difficult to answer. Many applications we see fall down because they don’t fully read, understand and answer the question. Ensure you know what is expected and make sure you answer this. It may help to spend some time pulling apart the question, circling key bits of information, and questioning what it is you need to show in your answer before you start to draft your response.
A couple of specific tips which may help you when completing your application:
- Tailor your answers to our business. Particularly in the case of questions that ask you to pull on your commercial awareness. It is one thing to know what is happening in the world, it is another to know how it impacts on us specifically.
- In structuring your answer, our advice, at all times is to consider the STAR technique of question response. This will help you answer the question fully and also works for structuring responses to questions asked in any assessment/interview process.
Still unsure, a quick google search will give you loads of advice and resources to help!
- Don’t just tell us you have the right skills – how can you show us? Demonstrate them and give us tangibles – it all helps you to stand out.
- #BeYourself – we aren’t looking for robots! We are looking for people who know who they are and who aren’t afraid to share what makes them great. What is your USP? Make sure we know it!
Finally, double and triple-check your application before you hit that submit button. You have spent a lot of time on your application, the last thing you want to do is press submit and find out there are a few spelling errors you missed!
From the applications, we will select candidates to attend an assessment centre at the firm. We embrace different ways of working so this may be face to face or virtual. After the assessment centre, strong candidates will be selected for an interview with partners at the firm.
We consider the assessment centre a two-way process – it is as much about working out whether you are right for us, as it is for you to work out whether we are right for you. With this in mind, we fill the assessment days with plenty of opportunities for you to engage with us, providing you with the opportunity to explore the firm and our team and explore whether we are the firm you want to trust to help you develop your legal career.
You can expect a variety of activities that have been designed to test and understand your fit for a role not only as a trainee solicitor, but as a future leader at our firm. We appreciate assessment days can be a daunting prospect, and so if selected to attend, we run a ‘welcome event’ in advance of the day to take you through what to expect and to answer any questions you may have.
When considering how to prepare for your assessment centre, we recommend really understanding our business and our ethos, who we are, and the markets we operate in. Understand the role of a solicitor and the skills needed to operate at a high level, and how this will change over the coming years. We value authenticity at Shakespeare Martineau, so when preparing, think about what you are passionate about, what makes you unique, and how you can demonstrate this on the day.
Finally, if you need any reasonable adjustments, please make sure you share this with us in advance of your assessment day.
We will, of course, provide feedback on your application should you not be successful in progressing to the interview stage from the assessment centre, or be unsuccessful in obtaining a training contract from your interview. You have put a lot of time into us, so we will endeavour to ensure the feedback you receive is not only thorough but also constructive and helpful to you in progressing your legal career.
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications we receive, we are unable to provide individual feedback to those who have been unsuccessful in obtaining a place at the assessment centre. However, we would like to help you to learn from your experience as much as possible, so we do offer group feedback sessions after our process concludes. If you are unsuccessful with your application, you will be invited to a group feedback session where we will break down the questions, share common pitfalls as well as areas where people scored strongly. We want to help you learn where you went wrong so you can put your best foot forward next time.
No. You will be ready for your Training Contract when you are ready. For some people, it takes longer than others and that is absolutely fine, we are happy to receive your application as many times as it takes. However, we would expect that for each subsequent application, we are able to see how you have taken on feedback and improved yourself over the year.
During the Training Contract
On your application, we will ask you to identify your preferred location: West Midlands, East Midlands, or London for Training Contracts in England (If you are interested in qualifying into Scotland, please see separate advice relating to our SHMA Glasgow Training Contract).
Whilst we will endeavour to provide you with seats in that location, we now work much more flexibly than we used to so location is less of an issue for us. This means that if you are interested in a seat that was previously only available in a different location, you will likely be able to complete that seat with travel to that hub when required.
Likewise, in order to give you the best experience, we may need you to spend a portion of your time in a different location to the location of your ‘base’. If this happens, we will reimburse travel fees incurred and where necessary pay for you to stay overnight.
Before you start each seat, we will meet with you to discuss your interests, career ambitions, and where you would like to go next.
However, we do need to take the businesses needs into consideration too, so whilst we will do our best, we can’t guarantee you will always get your first choice. We also prioritise those who are in the second year of their qualification. If you are given a seat you are not expecting, be open minded. You never know – it may become your favourite seat after all!
For each seat, you will be assigned a training supervisor, whose role it is to make sure you are developing against the SRA Practice Skills Standards as required. They will make sure you are involved in a range or exciting work aimed to test you and develop you in that area of law.
Additionally, you will have the support of your training principal, and a buddy to help guide you through your role and welcome you into the firm. Aside from this, we are proud of the training we provide internally to all individuals through different online platforms as well as our own programme ‘The Academy’.
We are pleased to be able to offer secondment opportunities to our trainees when the opportunity arises through our client relationships. If a secondment is available while you are a trainee solicitor with us, we make sure you have a supervisor both at the client business and at Shakespeare Martineau to ensure your full training continues to be overseen, and you are developing as needed.
Additionally, you may be able to take a seat in one of our other brands within the Ampa group e.g Lime Solicitors.
Qualifications and after
Yes, we do (where we can!)
A reduction in time of your training contract is not guaranteed. In order to qualify for time to count you will need to complete an application form and evidence your experience.
Should this be accepted, our ability to confirm that reduction will depend on the availability of an NQ role in the area you wish to qualify into. Should you decide not to qualify at Shakespeare Martineau, we would expect you to complete the full duration of your two-year training contract.
Whilst we love people to stay with us, unfortunately, we are not able to guarantee a permanent role to trainees.
Appointments to NQ roles depends both on individual performance, and business need. For example, if you are interested in qualifying into a particular area of law where the team is already either at or over capacity, qualification into this area will be more challenging.
We are proud of the improvements we have made to our retention rate over the years. In 2018, our retention rate was 50%.
This rose to 71% in 2019, and most recently we had an 85% retention rate from our 2020 qualifying trainee solicitors. Most recently, in 2021, we have retained 87.5% of our trainees.
We have thrown away the formal appraisal process for all employees at the firm.
Recognising that no two people are the same, we prefer focused and timely conversations, adapted to suit each individual's own developmental goals – helping you get where you want to be!
We know you will want to achieve your best and to help you achieve those goals, we offer support tailored to your needs to help you develop your career, for example, our NQ conference which you will be invited to attend shortly after qualification, mentoring and reverse mentoring opportunities, continued support through our Academy, and through your own line manager.