UK challenger bank OakNorth has debuted a training contract after receiving authorisation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The bank obtained approval from the regulator last April and it is currently hosting weekly training sessions to ensure compliance with relevant obligations.

OakNorth currently houses three paralegals in London who would otherwise leave for external law firms without the ability to offer training contracts. At the same time, it also aims to recruit graduates from straight from university.

Its first trainee will be Magdalena Wierzchowska, who is currently working at the startup and was seconded to OakNorth in 2016 from Reed Smith, where she was a paralegal in the banking and finance practice. Meanwhile, future trainee Numaira Choudhary will join once she has completed her LPC.

The bank says it has the potential capacity to take on three to five more trainees by the end of the year.

The trainees will be involved in lending transactions, tasked with reviewing and negotiating loan and security documents, and ensuring compliance along the way. OakNorth says they will also interact regularly with clients and finance directors, as well as taking part in automation projects.

While OakNorth can offer finance and real estate seats in-house lasting 3 to 6 months each, a litigation seat with a similar length will be available through secondment to firms such as Reed Smith, Mishcon de Reya and Joelson, with which the startup has previously collaborated.

OakNorth remained silent on what trainees would be paid except to say it would be “above the regular market rate”.

Other players in the market are rolling out training contracts outside private practice. Yesterday, The Lawyer revealed that litigation funder Harbour has launched one, with one trainee beginning the two-year period in September.


OakNorth was first launched in 2015 by co-founders Rishi Khosla and Joel Perlman. It provides loans to UK-based companies and property developers.

Last February, it raised $440m in a funding round that saw cash injections coming from investors such as Softbank’s Vision Fund. Following the investment, OakNorth was valued at $2.8bn.

Its head of legal and transaction management Ben Wulwik, who joined OakNorth in 2016 from Reed Smith and launched the legal team, has recently hired senior associate Ryan Magee from Allen & Overy. His first hire was former Reed Smith banking and finance paralegal Magdalena Wierzchowska, who is undertaking the training contract in-house. 

The company has a legal team of 14 globally.

OakNorth has recently adopted a bank operating system called nCino from cloud-based software Salesforce to manage the process around the origination of new loans. The platform shows up-to-date information on who is involved in the work, the progress of deals from underwriting to signing and estimated length of the process. For this use of technology, it was listed in the innovation shortlist at this year’s The Lawyer awards.