The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Akin Gump’s first London trainee intake arrived in September 2015, following the firm’s City expansion. Headquartered in Washington D.C, Akin Gump has 20 offices across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and advises on a range of corporate and financial matters. Well-known practice areas include financial restructuring, capital markets, investment funds and tax.
The star performers
Bank lending – investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Corporate tax; Debt capital markets; EU and competition; Emerging markets; Financial services (contentious); Financial services (non-contentious/regulatory); International arbitration; Investment funds: hedge funds; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Oil and gas; Private equity: transactions: Large-cap deal capability; Private funds; Securitisation.
Recently acted for the par and secondary holders of private placement notes on the €2bn financial restructuring and subsequent bankruptcy of Royal Imtech; advised investors on North West Electricity Networks’ £305m fixed rate and RPI-linked notes issuance; acted for Lukoil on a $1bn project financing to develop the Shah Deniz gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan; advised borrower Omnium Telecom Algérie on two syndicated loans; advised Fitch ratings on the review of securitisation structures, principally UK RMBS.
BlueCrest; Damovo; ExxonMobil; Finisterre Capital; Harman International Industries; LEO Pharma; Lukoil; Soma Oil & Gas; Systematica Investments; VimpelCom.
This year marks Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s Lex 100 survey debut. The US firm hired the majority of what was Bingham McCutchen’s London office in 2014, including its trainees, and then added to this with the inauguration of its own training contract and the arrival of the first London trainee intake in September 2015. Respondents praise the firm’s ‘high-quality work’ and ‘reputation for excellence’, while first-years cite the ‘sector focus’ and ‘type of work’ as major attractions, with one elaborating: ‘I’ve always been interested in the financial side of law, and the firm’s strength in financial restructuring drew me in’. The firm is a Lex 100 Winner in the diversity and work quality categories. The ‘occasional long hours’ are ‘similar to other US and Magic Circle firms’, and this can produce an ‘expectation that, regardless of whether you are on holiday or it is the weekend, you are always in contact and ready to work’. To compensate for this is the ‘top salary’. The ‘small intake’ leads to Akin Gump’s trainees ‘being treated in many respects as an associate from day one’. As a result ‘there is a steep learning curve, but it is incredibly rewarding’, as evidenced by highlight moments including ‘being the client contact for a transaction’, ‘handling a complicated restructuring in Brazil almost single-handedly’ and ‘suggesting a new solution to an associate that was then used for a deal’. While ‘being the most junior lawyer in a very high-calibre team is sometimes daunting’, trainees appreciate that ‘everyone is very welcoming’ and they ‘integrate into the teams very quickly’. To take on ‘challenging work’ while ‘learning from some of the best people in their field’, apply to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
A day in the life of...
Rupert Cullen second-year trainee solicitor, Akin Gump LLP
Departments to date: Litigation, financial restructuring, tax, corporate (current)
University:University of Cambridge
Degree:Classics (First class)
9.00am: I arrive at the office, located where the City meets hipster Shoreditch – every other shop is an independent coffee outlet, so we are never short of breakfast options. I respond to any emails which have come in from the US overnight and take a few minutes to read the Financial Times . The deals I am working on for our investment fund clients will often be front-page news, and I have the inside track!
9.30am: Today is the firm’s monthly corporate breakfast, an opportunity for the corporate, energy and tax teams to meet up over croissants and bacon rolls to discuss any interesting new matters and legal issues. It is also a chance for the partners to discuss the firm’s strategy with more junior lawyers. This time, the focus is on both the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit.
10.30am: I catch up with one of the corporate partners about a document review which the firm is undertaking to see if a client investing into the UK needs to take any action with respect to the new ‘persons with significant control’ regime, which came into force in April. Because the teams at Akin Gump are small, trainees have the opportunity to work in close contact with partners from day one. I spend the rest of the morning working on the review and helping to draft a memorandum setting out its conclusions.
12.30pm: I now attend one of the firm’s lunchtime training sessions – these are often delivered by partners who are among the best practitioners in their field, or by external speakers such as leading commercial QCs. On this occasion, we hear about the latest developments in the restructuring of distressed debt. Other recent topics have included construction litigation, schemes of arrangement and the implications of Blockchain.
1.30pm: Shortly after lunch, I join a call with a client and our colleagues from the New York office to discuss the progress of a transaction. I have assisted with the preparatory work and am encouraged to contribute – our training contract offers plenty of chances to take on responsibilities that might come only after qualification at other firms.
2.30pm: Checking my emails, I see that another department is looking for a trainee to make a trip to Brazil at short notice. In the course of my training contract I have had my share of trips away from the office (including a week spent at the offices of a Paris investment fund) but this time I am busy and regretfully decline. I spend the next few hours preparing the first draft of a set of board minutes concerning the acquisition of a foreign company by a UK entity.
4.30pm: Later, I help to submit an application to incorporate a new UK company to sit within a client’s investment structure. I have been involved in planning this structure from its earliest stages and it gives me a warm glow to see it turning from a PowerPoint presentation into a reality.
6.30pm: With the UK company well on its way to incorporation, I move on to the next item on my list, reviewing and drafting amendments to a non-disclosure agreement. We are frequently sent these to comment on by fund clients, and for a trainee they are good drafting practice – like snowflakes, they are all similar but never exactly alike.
7.30pm: Before heading home, I unwind in the Health and Wellbeing Centre located in the basement of Ten Bishops Square.
About the firm
Address:Eighth Floor, Ten Bishops Square, London, E1 6EG
Telephone: 020 7012 9600
Fax:020 7012 9601
Senior partner : James Roome
Managing partner : Sebastian Rice
Other offices: Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Fort Worth, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Houston, Irvine, Longview, Los Angeles, Moscow, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonia, San Francisco, Singapore, Washington DC.
Who we are: Akin Gump’s London office is the hub of the firm’s international offices, practising at the top of its markets. Clients range from corporations and financial institutions to foreign governments and individuals.
What we do: Practices include: financial restructuring; corporate transactions; finance; energy; debt and equity capital markets; financial services regulatory; disputes; construction; investment funds; EU; competition; and tax.
What we are looking for: We hire the best and the brightest. We look for exceptional and consistent academic achievement combined with evidence of a driven outlook through extracurricular achievements. You should demonstrate intellectual curiosity, be solution-driven and keen for early responsibility.
What you'll do:Our London office is an exciting and inspiring environment to train in. By focusing on a smaller intake we maintain flexibility and seek to grow through our junior lawyer retention. Seats are tailored to three-or six-month durations to provide a breadth of experience.
Perks: Health insurance, income protection insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, dental insurance, season ticket loan, annual eye exam.
Sponsorship:GDL and LPC fees are paid in addition to a maintenance grant of £8,000 per year of study.
Facts and figures
Trainee places available for 2019: Up to 4
Applications received pa: 300
Percentage interviewed: 15%
First year: £43,000
Second year: £48,000
Newly qualified: £112,500
Total partners: 37
Apply to:Victoria Widdows – director of international legal recruiting and development.
When to Apply:By 15 July 2017 for September 2019 training contracts.
July (apply by 31 January 2017)