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February, 2022

CMS Training Contract and Beyond

A comprehensive student guide of CMS training contract for aspiring legal professionals.

CMS is an international law firm that traces its roots back to 18th Century London, now with more than 4,800 lawyers based in almost 80 offices across 40 countries. However, the CMS brand was founded just 22 years ago, and is dispersed across four continents: Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. At the core of CMS’ sprawling international network lies seventeen legacy firms, six of whom originally came together in 1999. These legacy, or ‘member’ firms have retained their original names and are now formulated as ‘CMS Adonnino Ascoli & Cavasola Scamoni’, for example.

In 2017, the UK’s largest ever tie-up resulted in CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, through which the firm strengthened its real estate and technology offering. Pre-pandemic plans to open in North America, announced after this most recent merger, have been delayed. But CMS’ steady revenue growth (3% in the last year) and progress in other areas such as innovation and inclusion makes the firm a great choice for future lawyers.

CMS has ranked highly in the Social Mobility Index since it was established five years ago, and placed 13th this year compared to 41st last year. Inclusion is a core part of the culture: the firm supports secondary pupils to build a career in law with its Solicitor Apprenticeship programme, scholarships and the #CMSBuildingBetterFutures Hub. The latter equips students for the legal and commercial working world through online resources created by the firm.

During the vacation scheme (uniquely called the ‘CMS Academy’) participants have each presented their strongest proposals to a panel of diversity and inclusion experts, Graduate Recruitment and partners. Upon joining CMS, a multiplicity of employee networks showcase just a glimpse of the firm’s wider commitment to inclusion. Long-time client Microsoft has also recognised CMS as a top performer among its law firm partners, and the firm has even advised clients on their diversity and inclusion policies.

CMS also offers a Business Development & Marketing Graduate Programme and has recently joined a consortium of firms that will offer a Legal Operations Graduate Programme.

CMS has a significant presence across the UK in comparison with other City firms that have regional offices. This is reinforced by the ‘One North’ campaign, which enables trainees to move between the Sheffield and Manchester, and Edinburgh and Glasgow offices.

Behind CMS’ expansion lies a growth strategy built on sector expertise in seven key areas – Consumer Products, Energy & Utilities, Hotels & Leisure, Infrastructure & Project Finance, Lifesciences, Real Estate & Construction and Technology, Media & Telecommunication.

The firm works across real estate financings, acquisitions and disputes for household names including Sainsbury’s, and investments for clients like Landsec. It also boasts a large and respected pensions practice that received the ‘European Pensions Law Firm of the Year 2021’ title, and has recently advised the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Legal & General and Deutsche Bank. Sector specialisms mean the firm is well-placed to advise on corporate/M&A across industries, such as Mexican fast-food joint Tortilla’s IPO.

CMS also has a number of well-established energy clients, including EDF Energy and Equinor. Its Scottish offices have played an important role in developing the oil and gas practice, but the firm has been quick to embrace change.

As a top ESG legal advisor, CMS has counselled traditional clients like BP on the transition to sustainable energy. Strong ties with such clients mean plenty of opportunities for trainees to spend one or even two seats with their in-house legal teams. Secondments are available within and beyond the energy sector: think Goldman Sachs, Amazon, IBM, NatWest, Unilever, ITV and more. Stints abroad are less common, but trainees have found themselves seconded to locations like Beijing, Rio, Prague and Dubai.

The firm has previously sold itself as ‘CMS: law – tax’ but has now rebranded to ‘CMS: law – tax – future’. This is a nod to the firm’s enterprising nature and future-facing sophistication, strengthened by its own start-up accelerator, ‘CMS equIP’, and document management platform ‘CMS Collaborate’. Legal Cheek also crowned CMS the ‘Best Law Firm for Working From Home 2021’. Even CMS Academy participants get to use the latest tech, in the office and remotely.

CMS also characterises itself as “the leading relationship law firm”. As part of this, CMS reaches its clients through ‘CMS Law-Now’; a simple signup sends industry-specific updates and commentary from lawyers to your mailbox, from sustainability to data protection and privacy.

Good news for aspiring solicitors: with a 100-strong trainee intake, there is no one-size-fits-all at CMS. At this firm, you need to be a team player open to opportunities and willing to soak up the expertise of lawyers that work at the cutting edge of their practice. Fairly steady working hours leave plenty of time to get involved in non-billable activities, from diversity and inclusion initiatives to global and office-specific pro bono projects tailored to local needs.

And trainees reportedly spend their weekends together; not at work either. If that isn’t enough to convince you, how about a firm choir? The epitome of team spirit.

Practice Areas 

Experts in legal and tax advisory services, the firm is known for services in the: Energy sector, Financial Services sector, Infrastructure and Project Finance sector; Lifesciences and Healthcare sector, Real Estate and Technology; Media and Telecommunications section.

Culture

A strong focus on innovation and achieving the best outcome for the client, through working as team and helping all members to think successful. Inclusion to constantly build a culture of trust, respect and encouragement for the benefit of all.

Involvement with Equality Schemes

Key member of the 30% club launched to try and ensure that there are at least 30% of women on FTSE-100 board. CMS also launched the ‘Athena Project’ to showcase amazing achievements of women to the outside world. Celebrates International Men’s day supported by UNESCO. The Glass Charter was introduced to the firm to promote principles of LGBT+ equality and diversity in their workplace. CMS host and sponsor events promoting and supporting ethnic minorities in the legal profession (Black Solicitors Network’s Junior Lawyers Division and Black Brexit with the Black Culture Archives). CMS are part of the Mindful Business Charter, promoting better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Statistics of Inlusion

64% female associates. 33% female partners. 10% senior partners are LGBT+. 27% partner are part of an ethic minority.

Covid-19 Response

Working from home but has also been able to open the office safely.

Pro Bono

The firm is known for their LGBT+ Pro Bono’s. They are so incorporated into the training contract, contributing 5 hours a week.

Interview Process

Day is split into 2 parts. Morning consist of doing a presentation, interview with HR and analysis exercise. Afternoon consisted of a group exercise and partner interview (10 minutes long).

Opportunities

19% of trainees have the chance to go on a secondment abroad and 34% of client secondment (client secondment is more popular in UK as there are more corporate sectors).
CMS Solicitor Apprenticeship Deadline
31 May 2022 Learn More

More About CMS

Learn more about what CMS has to offer.

Work Experience Opportunities Available

PRIME, First Steps, CMS academy and training contract.

Entry Requirements

128 UCAS points (320 UCAS points prior 2017). On track to or have achieved 2:1 degree or equivalent.

Assessment Process

Application form on education, work experience background. Then a critical thinking test on analytical reasoning and logic. Video interview (15 minutes). Lastly the assessment day.

Location of Offices in UK

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Manchester and London.

Number of Places Available

Training contracts have 80 places and 100 vacation scheme places

Training Contract Details

2 years long, with four six-month seats or secondments nationally, internationally or client based. There are 19 seats in total so its choice but you have to cover 3 distinct areas of law.

Retention Score of Trainees

72%

Introduction by Fareeha Noorani and breakdown by Caitlyn Ayers