Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Address: City Place House, 55 Basinghall Street , London , EC2V 5EH




Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 '‘Great experience on the vacation scheme’; ‘quality of work is high’; ‘the people are incredibly friendly’; ‘I wanted to work for an international firm, but in a smaller office environment’; ‘the people are incredibly friendly’; ‘flexible departments’; ‘flat hierarchy’; ‘very respected name’; ‘great salary and benefits’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘The atmosphere is great’; ‘partners are very easy to talk to and avoid any enforcement of a hierarchical structure’; ‘the work is really interesting’; ‘there is a culture of everyone trying their best’; ‘lock-step structure’; ‘relaxed about working from home’; ‘standard of the employees’; ‘reading about your work in the Financial Times’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘Associate pay not equivalent to peer group’; ‘the canteen could do with a bit of a revamp’; ‘poor work/life balance’; ‘it can be quite disorganised at times’; ‘the lift can take ages’
Best moment? 
 '‘Receiving good feedback’; ‘we were recently taken to Brussels for a weekend’; ‘the immediate client contact’; ‘replacing the associate on a deal when he stepped down and completing the deal successfully’; ‘getting a message from the other side telling me I had done a great job’
Worst moment?
 '‘Being stuck in the office doing due diligence on the weekend’; ‘being left unsupported on a very large transaction’; ‘working on an IPO’; ‘writing something wrong in a large email chain’; ‘2am bundling’'

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

The BFG – a giant that can appear daunting at first, but it soon puts you at ease and makes you comfortable

The Verdict

The firm

With approximately 1,200 lawyers based in 16 offices worldwide, Cleary Gottlieb has long held a reputation as an elite international firm. The firm is lauded for its M&A, private equity and acquisition finance work, and was one of the first US firms to set up in London, opening an office over 40 years ago. The firm was nominated for Dispute Resolution Team of the Year at the Legal Business Awards 2016. 

The star performers

Acquisition finance; Bank lending – investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Competition litigation; Debt capital markets; EU and competition; Emerging markets; Equity capital markets; High yield; International arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Private equity: transactions: Large-cap deal capability.

The deals

Advised Greece on a €7.16bn bridge loan from the European Union under the European Financial Stabilisation Fund; acted for Armenian bank Ardshinbank on a $100m offering of amortising notes; advised UBS and Deutsche Bank on Pershing Square’s inaugural $1bn Rule 144a bond offering; advised America Movil on its €3bn exchangeable bond offering; advised the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire on English law aspects of its $1bn Eurobond.

The clients

ArcelorMittal; BNP Paribas; Citigroup; Coca-Cola Company; Crédit Agricole; Fiat; Goodyear; NBK Capital; TPG; Warburg Pincus.

The Verdict

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has an ‘incredible reputation’, and the ‘international dimension to the work’ of this US firm makes it a ‘very respected name’ in the global legal market. It is said that ‘the quality of cross-border and international work is second-to-none’. Trainees certainly appreciate the ‘opportunity to work with very high-profile clients’ and regularly ‘work on deals which make the front pages of the FT’. The firm has claimed four Lex 100 Winner gongs, including for work quality and international opportunities. Recent highlights include ‘working through the night with a great team on an M&A deal’, ‘being given a great deal of responsibility early on in a litigation matter’ and ‘closing a small transaction by myself’. A few respondents mention the ‘unpredictability of the working hours’, and there are examples of trainees working past midnight and at weekends, though the ‘great salary and benefits’ available goes some way to remedy this. A common theme in Cleary Gottlieb’s feedback is the ‘non-departmentalised structure’, a ‘flexible’ approach that ‘allows you to experience a breadth of practice which would not be possible elsewhere’. The ‘quality of its training’ is also acclaimed, and due to the ‘lack of a formal training structure’ it’s ‘all about practical learning’. A couple of respondents reflected fondly on their ‘great experience’ of the ‘enjoyable’ Cleary Gottlieb vacation scheme. Away from the office, trainees went on a weekend trip to Brussels where they ‘got to meet colleagues from all the different offices across Europe’, and this is indicative of the ‘extensive cooperation across teams and offices worldwide’. To train at a ‘meritocratic’ firm where there is a culture of ‘always trying your best’, keep Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on your radar.

 A day in the life of...

Chloe Barrowman final seat trainee, currently on secondment to the Hong Kong office 
Departments to date:  Finance, Capital Markets, M&A
Degree:English Literature 

7.00am:  I get up early and take a hike up into the hills just behind my apartment – the views are beautiful and the walk sets me up for the day. I set off for work around 9.00am – it’s a nice day this morning so I forego the minibus and walk there in about 25 minutes.

9.30am:  I arrive at the office and catch up with my emails. I review the closing checklist for a finance deal I’m working on that’s due to close at the end of the month, and check I’m up to date with all the documents I’m responsible for. The finance team has been really keen to give me responsibility and I’ve become particularly familiar with various types of security documentation, so I’m quite comfortable that I understand the ongoing issues. I send a couple of follow-up emails on documents I’m waiting for from clients and co-counsel and file my emails so only outstanding work is sitting in my inbox.

10.00am:  I begin reviewing the latest draft of a subordination agreement we have received in connection with the finance deal. I mark up the document based on my previous discussions with my supervisor and some helpful precedents he has sent me, and make a list of points I need to discuss with him.

12.30pm:  This lunchtime there is a training session on rights issues and open offers, which is relevant to the more general corporate work I’d like to do when I return to London. The Hong Kong office provides lunch for the training, and the sessions are really helpful for making sometimes complex subjects more accessible.

1.30pm:  I turn to a pro bono matter I was involved with back in London. We are working with the International Refugee Assistance Programme, helping to produce submissions for refugee applications on behalf of Syrian and Lebanese refugees. It’s a fascinating project, although our regular phonecalls with our client can sometimes be upsetting given the difficult situation he’s in. I work with my co-trainee on the matter, who is also currently on secondment in the Hong Kong office, to incorporate the associate’s comments on our submission.

2.30pm:  I receive comments on some of the security documents I have been working on from local counsel. I review the comments, make a note of some points I want to check with my supervisor and check I’ve got everything ready ahead of our meeting at 3.00pm.

3.00pm:  I meet with my supervisor to discuss the points I made on the subordination agreement. He gives me some helpful pointers to go away with. I also raise my queries on the security documents, which he talks through with me so I can go away and mark the document up. I go back to the subordination agreement and review again based on my discussion with my supervisor. I then incorporate my comments on the security documents and send back to my supervisor for his review.

5.00pm:  I attend a meeting with one of the funds associates I’ve been working with. He briefs me on a deal he’s currently involved with for a major client – it involves making a number of filings in Japan and he needs me to review all the filings to check they are accurate and all the information is up to date. I familiarise myself with the documentation and make a start on my review.

7.30pm:  Having completed the first draft of all the filings, I send them through to the associate with a few important points he might want to look at. I check through my inbox again to make sure I’m up to date with my other deals and head out to meet some of the trainees for dinner. The trainee network in Hong Kong is fantastic and there’s always something going on if you’ve got the time to spare.

About the firm

Address:City Place House, 55 Basinghall Street , London , EC2V 5EH

Telephone: 020 7847 6860

Managing partner : Mark Leddy

Other offices: New York, Washington DC, Paris, Brussels, Moscow, Frankfurt, Cologne, Rome, Milan, Hong Kong, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Abu Dhabi and Seoul.  

Who we are: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is a leading international law firm with 16 closely integrated offices located in major financial and political centres around the world.

What we do: Core areas of practice in London are M&A, financing and restructuring, capital markets, international litigation and arbitration, and competition. In addition there are successful self-standing practices in tax, financial regulation, and IP and IT.

What we are looking for: We look for candidates who are enthusiastic about the practice of law in a challenging and dynamic international setting. While academic excellence is a pre-requisite, we place particular emphasis on recruiting candidates with whom we and our clients enjoy working. A sense of humour is as important as the ability to think critically.

What you'll do:By recruiting 12-15 trainees each year we are able to offer bespoke training that is tailored to our trainees’ interests, experience and aptitudes. We encourage our trainee solicitors to accept increased responsibility as soon as they are ready to do so.

Perks: 25 days’ holiday, employer pension contribution, gym membership subsidy, private healthcare, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, dental insurance, employee assistance programme, childcare vouchers, Bright Horizons back-up care and subsidised staff restaurant.

Sponsorship:LPC and GDL funding. A maintenance grant of £8,000 is paid for each year of professional study.


Facts and figures

Trainee places available for 2019: 12-15

Applications received pa: Approximately 2,000 

Percentage interviewed: 5% of applicants are invited to attend an open day. 


First year: £48,000

Second year: £52,000

Newly qualified: £105,000

Total partners: 193 (global)

Other fee-earners:1,200 lawyers globally

Total trainees:20

 Application process

Apply to:Claire Astbury

How: Cover letter and full CV via our website.

When to Apply:By 31 July, two years in advance of the year in which the training contract is due to commence.

 Vacation schemes

27 March–7 April 2017

26 June–7 July 2017 and 10–21 July 2017

 5-16 December 2016