Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner was created in 2018 when London-based international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner merged with Bryan Cave LLP, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
The merged firm offers clients a full-service legal provision including M&A, real estate, financial services, litigation and corporate risk practices.
The BCLP training contract is offered in London, Manchester and Hong Kong, and is a comprehensive two-year programme that aims to provide first-class training across a variety of departments.
Trainees will expect to receive 232 hours of training by qualification, and are encouraged to take a secondment either with clients or at an overseas office.
There are opportunities to progress to associate level at the firm on qualification.
The training contract is one of five possible graduate opportunities offered by BCLP, which also include brand ambassador, London Insight Scheme, an open day and a vacation scheme, all of which have a set process and different deadlines.
The firm has 200 partners and 3,200 staff. The starting salary for trainees in London is £40,000.
- When Do I Need to Apply?
- What Key Skills and Qualifications Are Sought?
- The Application Process
- Receiving an Offer
- Further Reading
When Do I Need to Apply?
BCLP training contract deadlines are in the summer, with applications invited from the previous September.
The London training contract has a rolling application process, and applications are encouraged from September. Applications received on or near to the deadline may be missed.
The Manchester and Hong Kong training contract application process does not conclude until the deadline has passed. Successful applicants are then invited to the assessment centre.
What Key Skills and Qualifications Are Sought?
BCLP looks for candidates who think differently. It has won ‘leader in law firm innovation’ four times in the last ten years, and recruits individuals who can come up with good ideas.
Applications are invited from candidates of all backgrounds, disabilities and health conditions. Candidates must be in at least the penultimate year of a law degree or final year of a non-law degree.
Beyond that, there are no stipulated academic requirements and no preferred degree subjects or universities.
The BCLP online application process allows applicants to advise of any extenuating circumstances that are relevant. They also use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System when screening applications, to increase greater diversity of backgrounds at entry level.
The key skills that BCLP look for are typical of an international firm. Candidates must be able to demonstrate the following:
- Commercial awareness
- Strong written and verbal communication
- Interpersonal skills
- Teamwork and collaboration skills
- Time management and organisational skills
- Be hardworking, willing to learn and actively seeking to self-develop
Diversity and inclusion are taken very seriously at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. As well as recruiting diverse members of staff, BCLP also wants to recruit those that actively promote and seek out such initiatives.
So if you can demonstrate this through your activities and interests, you should find a way to include this in your application.
Trainees should expect to demonstrate that they will be capable of the tasks asked of them, which include client contact, legal research, drafting, proposing a course of action, and supporting other team members during client negotiations.
The Application Process
The application process for the BCLP training contract traditionally consists of four distinct parts, which you will need to pass to move to the next:
- Online Application Form
- Verbal Reasoning Test (currently discontinued)
- Assessment Centre
- Final Interview with Two Partners
Online Application Form
You will need to register to complete the online form and will then have five days to complete it.
The application form consists of basic questions pertaining to your personal details, academic qualifications and work experience.
If you do not complete the application form within the five day period, your application will be rejected.
All applications submitted within the five day period before the deadline will be considered. You stand a better chance of not being missed by making an earlier application, due to the rolling nature of the process.
Questions may include variations on the following, usually with a short limit of 250 words:
- ‘What can BCLP do to increase profits?’
- ‘What should BCLP highlight to its clients when pitching for work?’
- ‘How does BCLP align with your future ambitions?’ (This may also be formatted as 'Why did you apply to BCLP', which is a slightly different question).
- ‘Imagine you are a trainee at BCLP and your supervisor has asked you to present to a client. You feel that you have gaps in your knowledge on the subject area and you are already busy with other matters. How would you react?’
Application Form Tips
- Demonstrate your knowledge of BCLP’s strengths, culture, reputation, competitors, legal market dynamics and strategic vision. That includes its tech strategy (such as tech advancements, AI disruption, and its investment in legal tech startup Swiftagree – with that stake sold to Lawyers on Demand).
- Research thoroughly and plan your answers carefully, staying within the word count. Consider all the skills and requirements in the job description.
- All answers should be impeccably drafted, showing a strong written style with no punctuation or spelling errors.
- Think about the person reading the application and why they are asking the questions. What else might they be implying or inferring? They will have thousands of applications to whittle down to the 35 trainee places – make sure to make it hard for them to reject you.
Verbal Reasoning Test
Prior to March 2019, the online application included a verbal reasoning test (which is currently not in use). This may change again though.
Successful candidates are invited to attend a day at the assessment centre, typically lasting from 9:30am until 4 pm.
The assessment centre includes:
- A drafting exercise;
- Business role play;
- Team-based negotiation exercise;
- Pre-interview with a senior associate.
No prior knowledge is expected for the drafting exercise, business role play or negotiation exercise.
You will be given documents and instructions to review, and will be asked to write an analysis of a business.
You may be asked to recommend a company for a merger with your client, justifying your position.
Alternatively, you might need to analyse the market standing of an organisation, give advice on maintaining a competitive edge, or analyse whether a company should be acquired.
To prepare, research recent deals that BCLP has been involved with, and be familiar with business and legal market dynamics.
You may need to write this report by hand, and you only have one hour to complete the task – which includes reading, preparation and drafting.
Business Role Play
Using a briefing document that outlines a scenario and your objectives, you will have 15 minutes to prepare before meeting with a partner of the firm.
This role play will be based on the same subject as the drafting exercise.
Be prepared to verbally summarise your report and conclusions, and to justify your decisions when challenged.
Pick a position and be robust in your defence of it.
During this 75-minute long task, you will have 30 minutes of preparation time and 30 minutes negotiation time, during which you will be assessed by a partner of the firm, followed by 15 minutes of questions.
You will be partnered with another candidate and will be working against another group of candidates. You and your negotiating partner will be acting on behalf of a client.
All parties will receive information available to both sides, then each side will also receive specific information not available to the other side.
After the 30 minutes of preparation time, you will then have 30 minutes to negotiate terms and achieve a positive outcome for your team.
You may have a set number or list of items that will need to be negotiated, so use your time wisely. Make sure you play your own role but also that you listen to others.
You will then be expected to discuss the negotiation, including reflecting on its success or otherwise, how you thought it went, what you might do differently if you could do this exercise again, and so on.
Interview with Associates and HR
During this interview (usually around 30 minutes long), BCLP will want to evaluate your career motivation, the processes surrounding the way you work, your commercial awareness and how you build relationships.
You will want to prepare thoroughly for this interview and ensure you have practised questions which may be asked.
These may be similar to the ones you answered in your application form, but they may also be more specific or technical. For example:
- “Why law?”
- “How does BCLP align with your ambitions for your career?”
- “Talk about a deal which BCLP was involved in that caught your attention.”
- “How do interest rates affect the market?”
- “What's an event you're following in the media that would affect our company?”
- Legal questions: such as whether a legal principle is in a client’s best interests.
- Ethical questions: such as balancing loyalties to the firm and to clients.
If you are successful at the assessment day, you will be invited back for a final interview with two partners.
Final Interview with Two Partners
You should be prepared to answer questions relating to the work of a trainee, BCLP and its market position, competitors and strategic thinking, and positioning – particularly in light of its 2018 merger.
In addition to the questions discussed above, you might be expected to answer the following:
- “Why have you chosen a career in law?”
- “Why commercial law?”
- “Why Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner?”
- “What distinguishes BCLP from its competitors/who are its competitors?”
- “Why have you decided on a City firm over regional firms/smaller firms?”
- “What are the day-to-day aspects of a trainee's work?”
- “What recent BCLP cases were of interest to you?”
Receiving an Offer
Successful candidates have four weeks to accept their offer from BCLP.
If you have been unsuccessful early on in the process, BCLP offers email feedback, which will outline the main reasons you were not invited to the next stage.
You cannot complete another application for the same intake, but you may reapply in the next recruitment intake.
You will be sent a link to sign up for a 10-minute slot where a member of the graduate recruitment team will call you to discuss the reasons why you were unsuccessful.
There is little point making an application without thorough research and preparation. That includes reading all available recruitment material produced by BCLP, as well as understanding its market position, strategic vision, focus on diversity and client offering.
Applications should focus on post-merger integration efforts, legacy and transatlantic strength, and the new integrated firm core principles of diversity and innovation.
You should aim to make the application as soon as possible after applications open in September. Give yourself sufficient time to complete the application thoroughly in the required five day period, and to complete the further steps when required.
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