Jumpstart your legal career with a Bryan Cave Leighton Paisne training contract or vacation scheme. BCLP is a prestigious international law firm with a rich heritage and commitment to innovation and inclusivity. In this student guide, you will learn all about the application process, entry requirements, and essential tips for you to succeed.

Ensure that you increase your chances of success by creating a tailored CV and a perfect legal cover letter.

What is the BCLP Training Contract?

The BCLP Training Contract is a structured two-year program where trainees are involved in challenging projects from the start, holding a significant level of responsibility. Trainees rotate through four six-month seats, experiencing different parts of the business. This rotational system is designed to provide a comprehensive learning experience across various legal disciplines, both contentious and non-contentious while working with some of the firm’s most prestigious clients.

Each trainee receives full departmental training for every seat they occupy, ensuring a deep understanding of each specialization. Notably, BCLP guarantees each trainee at least one “first choice” seat, allowing them to tailor part of their training to their career interests. This is complemented by the firm’s use of AI programs to streamline routine tasks, freeing up time for trainees to engage in more complex legal work. Check out our training contract deadlines calendar to know when you should apply to BCLP.

BCLP Training Contract Graphic

BCLP has also introduced sector-specific training contracts in areas like real estate and financial services. The real estate training contract, for example, includes a mandatory six months in the firm’s core real estate seat, with the option for the other seats to cover various specialities such as planning and zoning, commercial construction, tax, investment management, real estate disputes, and real estate finance. This initiative is part of BCLP’s strategy to enhance sector-specific expertise among its future lawyers. Find out how to answer why this law firm application question.

BCLP Training Contract Requirements

To qualify for the BCLP training contract, candidates need to meet certain educational criteria. The program is open to:

  • 2nd and 3rd-year law students (or 3rd and 4th-year law students on a four-year degree),
  • 3rd-year non-law students (or final-year non-law students on a four-year degree),
  • Graduates and postgraduates from any discipline.

Candidates must be in at least the penultimate year of their law degree or the final year of a non-law degree. Importantly, BCLP does not have stipulated academic requirements regarding degree subjects or preferred universities, which broadens the eligibility for applicants from diverse educational backgrounds. The firm’s online application process also allows candidates to inform of any extenuating circumstances that may be relevant to their application. Learn the perfect way to answer why study law question that often comes up on job applications.

What is the BCLP Vacation Scheme

The BCLP vacation scheme is a comprehensive initiative designed to provide aspiring lawyers with a practical glimpse into the life of a trainee lawyer at the firm. Stay up-to-date with vacation scheme deadlines with our comprehensive calendar.

The two-week summer vacation schemes are run twice a year at the BCLP London office, typically one in June and another in July. Each scheme takes in about 15-20 students, providing them with first-hand experience of the firm’s work and life as a trainee lawyer. This shorter scheme is particularly beneficial for those seeking a brief yet intensive introduction to the legal profession​.

BCLP has extended their vacation scheme to a European program, allowing students from Queen Mary to apply for a four-week summer vacation scheme at BCLP’s London office after their second year. Successful participants may also get the opportunity for an eight-week secondment in BCLP’s Paris office after their third year of study at Paris 1, demonstrating BCLP’s commitment to offering a wide-ranging experience that spans different legal systems and cultures.

Summer Vacation Scheme at BCLP

The summer vacation scheme at BCLP is a pivotal experience designed to give participants a thorough understanding of what it’s like to work at the firm. These are the key points to consider:

  • Remuneration: BCLP generally pays students for participating in the summer vacation scheme £750 per week.
  • Selection Process: There’s a bespoke test involved in the application process, designed to evaluate key skills and strengths necessary for a successful trainee solicitor at BCLP. This includes a strengths-based assessment with scenario-based questions to test situational judgement and critical reasoning.
  • Opportunities in Different Locations: Besides London, BCLP also runs month-long internships in their Hong Kong office, usually taking in 5-8 students per scheme.

What You Will Do During BCLP Vacation Scheme

During the BCLP vacation scheme, participants will engage in a variety of activities designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the firm and its culture, as well as to develop valuable skills for a legal career. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Workshops and Training: The scheme includes workshops about the firm, the role of a trainee, and the application process for a training contract. These sessions are educational and help in preparing for the next stages in your legal career.
  • Real Work Experience: Participants spend time in specific legal sectors, such as Real Estate Disputes, where they get to feel part of the team and carry out administrative and legal tasks, contributing to real cases and projects.
  • Professional Development: There is an emphasis on personal training and development, with opportunities to learn from partners, trainees, and paralegal secretaries. Participants can develop practical skills such as writing memos and attending client meetings.
  • Understanding Firm Culture: The scheme provides an insight into BCLP’s culture through social activities and workshops, revealing a team-oriented spirit and a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude. This helps in understanding the work-life balance and community involvement at the firm.
  • Networking Opportunities: Social events, networking lunches, and evening entertainment are organized to facilitate interaction with employees from different levels within the firm, including new trainees, partners, and associates.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Information about activities outside of work, such as sports teams, charity events, Pro Bono work, and music events, is also provided, showing the firm’s commitment to a holistic work environment. Learn how to answer questions about extracurricular activities on your training contract application. 
  • Feedback and Recommendations: Participants often find the experience highly valuable, leading some to secure a training contract with the firm, and many would recommend the insight to peers interested in a legal career.

Application Process for Training Contract and Vacation Scheme at BCLP

The application process for the BCLP training contract and vacation scheme is comprehensive and multi-staged, designed to assess the suitability of candidates for a career in law at the firm:

  1. Online Application Form: The initial step involves completing an online application form, which includes questions about your reasons for wanting to work at BCLP, your skills that are relevant to being a good lawyer, and your commercial awareness.
  2. Online Test: Following the application, candidates take an online test that is specific to BCLP. This test assesses necessary solicitor skills through scenario-based questions and cannot be prepared for in advance. It is designed to evaluate situational judgement and critical reasoning.
  3. Interview with the Graduate Recruitment Team: Successful candidates from the test stage move on to an interview with BCLP’s graduate recruitment team.
  4. Assessment Centre: The next stage involves participating in an assessment centre, which includes a case study and a presentation exercise. Candidates will create a presentation from a brief, followed by a Q&A session, and engage in a group negotiation task acting on behalf of a client.
  5. Partner Interview: The final step of the process is a partner interview. This takes place on the day of the assessment centre for those applying for a training contract or during the vacation scheme for those who have completed it.

Find out how to prepare for the Watson Glaser Test in our comprehensive guide.

BCLP Training Contract Application Process Graphic

Why You Should Apply to BCLP?

Applying to BCLP offers significant benefits:

  • Inclusivity: BCLP has removed academic weighting as a gateway standard, promoting fair access to opportunities regardless of background​.
  • Financial Support: The firm increased maintenance grants to £20,400 in London and £18,400 in other regions to support students facing rising living costs.
  • Competitive Salary: Vacation scheme pay was raised to £750 per week to align with trainee salaries, and trainee pay in London starts at £48,000, rising to £52,000 in the second year.
  • Career Potential: Newly qualified associates can earn a salary of £95,000, highlighting the firm’s investment in long-term career growth.

These benefits signal BCLP’s commitment to providing an equitable and supportive environment for aspiring legal professionals.

History of BCLP

The history of BCLP reflects a significant journey of growth and integration between two legacy law firms, culminating in a global legal practice:

  • Origins and Early History: BCLP’s lineage can be traced back to 1873, with the establishment of King, Phillips & Stewart in St. Louis, Missouri. The firm underwent several evolutions in its early years, including a notable merger in 1911 that led to the firm becoming Stewart, Bryan, Christie, and Williams. By 1917, with the addition of Rhodes Cave, the firm was known as Bryan, Williams, and Cave​.
  • Transatlantic Merger: In 2018, a significant event in the firm’s history occurred with the merger of Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner, one of the most substantial transatlantic mergers in the legal sector. This merger brought together the expertise and legacies of two well-established firms, forming a fully integrated international law firm with more than 1,200 lawyers across 30 offices worldwide.
  • Global Expansion: While BCLP was officially formed in 2018, the foundations laid by the original firms span more than 140 years of legal service. The firm’s global heritage includes many milestones, indicating a long-standing commitment to providing legal services with an international reach. This expansive history underscores the firm’s ability to adapt and grow in a changing legal landscape.

What Makes BCLP Stand Out

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) stands out in the legal landscape for a variety of reasons, particularly in their approach to training contracts and vacation schemes:

  • Global Integration: Unlike many international firms, BCLP operates as a single, fully integrated global team, allowing lawyers to collaborate across 31 offices around the world.
  • Immersive Experience: From day one, trainees tackle challenging projects with a high level of responsibility and rotate through different parts of the business to gain a wide range of experiences.
  • Sector-Specific Training: The firm offers sector-specific training contracts in areas like real estate and financial services, enhancing sector expertise for future lawyers.
  • Diversity and Innovation: BCLP values diversity, innovation, and excellence, providing opportunities to work on complex cases across different practice areas and jurisdictions.
  • Thought Leadership: The firm is committed to transforming the legal field with groundbreaking thought leadership and market-leading solutions.
  • Multiple Career Pathways: Offering a unique Legal Apprenticeship program and direct training contracts, BCLP provides varied routes into the legal profession.
  • Competitive Salaries: Trainees are offered competitive salaries, reflecting the firm’s commitment to attracting top talent.
  • Fair Recruitment: Utilizing RARE contextual recruitment ensures a fair assessment of candidates’ achievements in relation to their personal circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to the frequently asked questions regarding the BCLP training contract and vacation scheme:

Do Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner recruit on a rolling basis?

Yes, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) recruits on a rolling basis for certain locations, meaning it’s beneficial for applicants to submit their applications early. However, for the Manchester and Hong Kong training contract positions, the firm does not recruit on a rolling basis.

What makes Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner different?

BCLP sets itself apart by being purposefully structured as a single, fully integrated international team. They serve a diverse clientele, including 35% of the Fortune 500 companies, providing comprehensive legal services to protect their interests and achieve their business goals.

BCLP’s approach combines the expertise of over 1,200 lawyers across various specializations and 31 offices globally, offering tailored solutions and fostering strong client relationships. The firm is also recognized for its innovation in legal services, having been acknowledged for its advancements in law firm innovation multiple times in the past decade. Although BCLP is a highly renowned firm, it is not part of the magic circle law firms group.

How much does a partner at BCLP earn?

A partner at BCLP earns a total pay that ranges between $310,000 and $574,000 per year. This includes a base pay range from $182,000 to $335,000 and additional pay that can amount to between $128,000 and $239,000 annually. Learn all about UK solicitor salaries in our guide.

Why work at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner? 

Working at BCLP offers a unique experience due to the firm’s global reach and forward-thinking culture. BCLP is known for its groundbreaking thought leadership, market-leading solutions, and collaborative culture that encourages curiosity and innovation, unbound by tradition. It operates on the foundations of thinking differently and is driven to shake up the legal space with its approach.

This is a firm structured to provide clear, connected legal advice internationally, priding itself on its fully integrated team and valuing its people as its greatest asset. BCLP emphasizes inclusivity, where diversity breeds innovation and better services as a trusted advisor to clients. Working on major projects for prestigious clients as part of a globally connected team offers critical experiences to its people, along with rewards and opportunities for interesting work in a national and international practice​.

What does BCLP look for in a trainee? 

BCLP seeks candidates who demonstrate a desire to work at the firm and possess the necessary skills to be successful lawyers. Their application process focuses on identifying individuals with strong commercial awareness and solicitor-relevant skills. The selection process includes completing an online application form that assesses commercial awareness, an online test specific to BCLP based on scenario-based skills, an assessment centre involving a case study, presentation exercises, a group negotiation task, and an interview discussing career motivation and commercial awareness. The final stage is a partner interview​​​​.

What is the BCLP bonus scheme? 

BCLP has introduced a “time-off bonus” scheme designed to allow lawyers to switch off while on holiday. Associates who meet certain bonus targets are eligible to receive billable hours credit for a week’s holiday during the financial year, along with cash vacation bonuses for those who meet the highest bonus eligibility target.

This initiative aims to encourage lawyers to spend time on outside interests and with family and friends, aligning with the firm’s values of supporting the mental and physical health of its workforce. Additionally, lawyers can allocate up to 5% of their billing on non-client matters, which includes areas such as learning, diversity, wellbeing, knowledge, and innovation, all contributing towards bonus eligibility​.

Is BCLP a full-service firm? 

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP (BCLP) is a full-service firm providing a wide array of legal services to clients globally. It operates with over 1,275 lawyers in 31 offices across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, offering connected legal advice in various sectors such as M&A, real estate, and financial services.

How many trainees does BCLP have? 

While BCLP doesn’t provide a specific number of trainees, the program is designed to deliver first-class training across a range of departments, with trainees expected to receive 232 hours of training by the time of qualification. Regarding the number of trainees, BCLP offers a comprehensive two-year training contract program in London, Manchester, and Hong Kong. The firm is sizeable, with 200 partners and a staff of 3,200.

What is the retention rate for BCLP trainees?

The retention rate for BCLP trainees provides insight into the firm’s ability to retain its talent. Generally, the retention rate is around 80% across London and Hong Kong, with 14 out of 18 trainees accepting roles within the firm. Specifically, in London, the retention rate is around 81%.