Being a lawyer in… Bristol

November 20, 2014

In the first of a series, we look at life in the UK’s biggest legal hubs

Photo: Creative commons


Lawyers don’t just live in London, despite the impression you might get from mainstream media. In this series of articles, we’re going to take a look at some of the bigger legal hubs around England, outside the capital, that you might consider working in. First up, Bristol.

Why would I want to live there?

Forget the West Country stereotypes of cider and silly accents. Actually, don’t forget them, they’re still alive and well. However, there’s much more to Bristol than the fact that locals sound like they’ve just stepped out of The Archers.

With plenty of green spaces, good shopping and beautiful Georgian architecture, Bristol is consistently voted one of Britain’s best cities to live in. It has a somewhat murky heritage, being built on the proceeds of tobacco and the slave trade, but at least its colourful history means there is an interesting cultural vibe to the place.

Bristol also has a very cool side. There are plenty of indie cinemas and art galleries, heaps of restaurants and microbreweries and a cider barge (exactly what you’d expect – a boat which sells cider). Banksy graffiti is everywhere and there’s a fantastic live music scene, with plenty of festivals throughout the year.

You’re also not far from the Mendip Hills and the Brecon Beacons if countryside is more your thing, and surfing in Devon, Cornwall and South Wales is possible as a day trip if you must.

Bristol has some of the best law firms outside London, with several national and international firms based in the city. The quality of work on offer, then, matches the high quality of life.

So break it down for me…

Bristol is a fairly small city and you can walk almost everywhere – handy as the public transport is pretty rubbish and the hills mean cycling is only for the dedicated. Most of the bigger law firms are clustered around the main railway station, Temple Meads.

The town centre has thankfully been regenerated in the last few years and there’s even a Harvey Nichols in Cabot Circus, should your bonus be a particularly good one. St Nicholas Markets has good lunch options if you manage to leave your desk at lunchtime (chances are high – this is Bristol).

Clifton Village is the place to be seen if you can afford it. Yummy mummies rub shoulders with retired rich people and everyone wears pashminas. The Coronation Tap provides welcome relief from the overpriced bistros and sells cider so strong that it only comes in half pints: perfect for getting over that nightmare client.

Gloucester Road is the more grungy part of town, where students and those pursuing ‘alternative’ lifestyles hang out. There’s a lot of tie dye and shops selling lentils in bulk.

South of the river, you’ll find places like Bedminster: a popular choice for graduates who can’t bear to leave the city but who can’t afford to live in Clifton.

What kind of work might I do?

Bristol is the third largest financial services centre in the UK outside London, with AXA, Lloyds Banking Group, Hargreaves Lansdown and the Bank of Ireland all having a significant presence.

Ethical investment is a particular specialism in Bristol and this tells you a lot about the city, along with the fact that environmental technology is also a major growth sector.

Aerospace and defence industries are also big business in Bristol and there are several large engineering firms and a big Ministry of Defence site just north of the city, which no doubt creates work for happy lawyers.

The so-called ‘creative industries’ thrive in the city, including Aardman Studios, the people behind Wallace and Gromit. What do they say when they open the surprisingly low invoice from their lawyers? ‘Cracking fees, Gromit.’ (Sorry, sorry. We’re trying). The BBC’s natural history unit is found at the bottom of the unfortunately named Whiteladies Road.

Drawbacks to the place, if any

It rains a lot, being on the west side of the country. It’s also expensive – house prices and rents are not far below London standards but without the inflated salaries to match.

Biggest law firms in the city

Osborne Clarke

Bond Dickinson

CMS Cameron McKenna

Withy King (just down the road in Bath)

Burges Salmon

Simmons and Simmons

Learn the lingo

‘Gert lush’ – ‘Jolly good’

Niche fact

Ribena was invented in Bristol.

Do say…

I’ve just got to pick up some organic focaccia for supper.

Don’t say…

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester.


Tempted? Have a look at our current vacancies in Bristol here. LM

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