Case study

Thomas Challen — Trainee solicitor

Employer
RPC

Thomas is a second-year trainee currently working in RPC's Bristol office. Here he discusses some of the benefits of the programme

You enjoy contentious legal work

RPC's Bristol training contract is insurance-based. You will complete four, six-month seats, all of which are in insurance practice areas. Additionally, the work is primarily contentious. If your preference is to focus on litigation then it is rare to be able to complete all your training contract in contentious seats.

Insurance can sometimes have a reputation as being boring for those outside the sector, but in practice it is not too different from working with private clients in litigation. You will still run a case in a similar way - the only difference is that you are usually reporting to two clients (the insurer and insured) and there is often more of an eye on commercial solutions, which is an important skill to cultivate.

As the work is for major insurers it is also top quality and high end. Often the work we do in Bristol is reported within the legal and wider press. You don't need to go to London to do this kind of work.

There’s a smaller intake of trainees

In Bristol, RPC has increased the number of trainees from two to four in recent years. This is a much smaller intake than many London-based firms, some of which have almost 100 trainees. The smaller intake tends to form closer bonds and we all have a good sense of camaraderie.

It also means that you are likely to be either the only trainee in a department, or one of two, meaning there are always opportunities to get involved in exciting work within the team, such as attending hearings, mediations, and conferences with counsel.

Links to the region

Most trainees in Bristol (and often in other regional training contracts) will have a connection to the city or the area. I was born and raised in Bristol, only leaving for a short period to go to university.

You might have attended university in Bristol and decided to stay because you loved the city. Bristol is also ideal for Welsh lawyers looking to work in a larger legal market, but still maintain a link with their home country. Bristol is even commutable from Cardiff and Newport if so desired.

Work/life balance

RPC prides itself on ensuring that their trainees and lawyers have a good work life balance. In many firms it is often the case that trainees work very long hours. But in my experience, RPC's Bristol Training contract has allowed me to have a great work/life balance. While I do have to work hard as a trainee, I am able to finish at a reasonable time each day, which means there is time for me to switch off and do other things I enjoy in the evenings.

In addition, as Bristol is a relatively small city, the commute time is much less than in London, which also contributes towards a positive work/life balance.

Plenty of initiatives and activities to get involved in

There are lots of opportunities to join the firm's charity work initiatives. RPC's Bristol office selects an annual charity to support and will run various events throughout the year. Trainees are encouraged to get involved in many of these activities. Of particular note is the office's annual ‘festive fun day’, during which trainees run self-designed games for the rest of the firm with all proceeds going to the office charity. The firm also supports a local school through mentoring activities and trainees often volunteer to help with this.

Being a smaller office, the team in Bristol is close knit, which makes social events very enjoyable. The firm makes a real effort to run regular and different kinds of extracurricular activities from the traditional whole office parties (usually one at Christmas and a summer party), to monthly drinks in the office, sports clubs and even an office choir.

Overall, Bristol is one of the biggest legal markets outside of London and it is an ideal place to train and practice law.

Find out more