Matthew James


I graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Physics in 2007 and subsequently completed my GDL and LPC at Nottingham Law School. Throughout this time, I (as everybody else) found it increasingly difficult to obtain a training contract. At the time, I knew little about Bates Wells Braithwaite (BWB) and even less about charity law, however, in order to gain much needed legal experience I joined BWB in 2011 as a legal administrator in the Charity and Social Enterprise Department. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Within my first few weeks at BWB, I saw the firm’s dedication to its client base, from its hosting of events to its involvement in the policy consultations that affected the sector as a whole. By 2012 I had progressed to the role of paralegal in the same department.

Training at BWB appealed to me as it offered me the opportunity to become involved in ground-breaking work which helps to shape the wider law. I was excited by the opportunity to continue to learn from those who are leaders in their field. It is due to my role at BWB that I now have the proud distinction of registering the second CIO ever in England and Wales as well as having assisted with advising the European Commission on the regulation of social enterprise across Europe.

The emphasis on early responsibility was something that attracted me to the firm. I have had the opportunity to take clients from initial meeting through to a successful charity registration. I have also been seconded to the legal teams at two national charities to advise on a variety of commercial, charity law and regulatory issues.

Being at BWB has given me the opportunity to become a trustee of a charitable theatre company and clerk of a primary school governing body. Through these experiences I have been able to gain the ‘front-line’ experience I consider vital to be able to give clients the practical advice they require. In addition, BWB gives trainees and paralegals the opportunity to get involved as a volunteer advisor at the South West London Law Centre. Perhaps most importantly, having worked at BWB and experienced life at the firm first-hand, I couldn’t imagine training anywhere else.

I started as a trainee in September 2015 in the Immigration Department. Although I was nervous moving to a new area, everyone has been very supportive and the tasks I have been given have developed my knowledge of a fascinating area of law, increasingly the focus of national debate and scrutiny.

Being slightly older than many of my peers from the LPC were when they started their training contracts has been a huge advantage as my experience has meant that I was not overawed by the working environment and was able to jump straight into being an active participant for the firm. For those who are coming to apply for a training contract a little later than usual, either as a change of career or after a couple of years of paralegal experience, then do not be put off applying to BWB.

Finally, the firm encourages everyone to contribute to BWB on both professional and personal levels. The firm’s social committee puts on a multitude of events from Shakespeare at the Globe to exhibitions at the British Library and from tours of a gin distillery to pub quizzes and bowling. There are also football and netball teams to get involved with. BWB provides a challenging and supportive environment, in which I believe that I can continue to thrive and grow.