The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
International firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton employs 1,200 lawyers from more than 50 countries in 16 offices worldwide. The US firm is highly regarded for its M&A, private equity and acquisition finance work, and clients include international and national business organisations, financial institutions and sovereign governments. Cleary was nominated for International Arbitration and Restructuring Teams of the Year at the Legal Business Awards 2017.
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; Emerging markets; EU and competition; High yield; International arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals. £250m+; Private equity: transactions: Large-cap deal capability.
Advised Qatar Investment Authority on the financing of its acquisition, alongside Glencore, of a minority stake in Russian oil producer Rosneft; represented a large group of initial purchasers that included J.P. Morgan Securities and Deutsche Bank on a €350m offering by Cable Communications Systems; acted for The Coca-Cola Company on the merger of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola Iberian Partners and Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke to create the €28bn Coca-Cola European Partners; leading cross-practice advice to Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic in the sale of their 50% stake in Santander Asset Management to Banco Santander; represented Sony in a damages claim brought by Microsoft Mobile in relation to rechargeable batteries; acted for Goldman Sachs International and Nordea Bank in connection with Ahlsell's SEK6.9bn IPO.
Arcelor Mittal; Codere; Continental Foods; Hillhouse Capital Management; HSBC Holdings; LG Display; Lone Star; Loxam; Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation; Morgan Stanley.
US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton's London office boasts 'high-quality international work' and 'a flexibility that larger offices do not enjoy'. Trainees enjoy working in 'smaller teams', as a result of which they get 'more responsibility' and 'often seem to end up opposite junior associates at other firms on deals'. 'A wide variety of complex tasks' are the norm, as is exposure to 'impressive clients', which leads to a 'more comprehensive' training experience. Cleary has won a colossal eight Lex 100 Winner medals this year, including for quality of work, international secondments and salary. Trainees love the 'intellectual focus' championed by 'incredibly clever colleagues' and despite the fact that 'everyone is working hard', the atmosphere is 'friendly' and 'senior lawyers are always good-humoured'. It follows that there is a 'lack of hierarchy' and trainees are 'able to voice their opinion, even as the most junior member of the team' and still feel as though their input is valued. As is to be expected of a firm of Cleary's status, the 'unpredictability' of the working hours means that having to cancel social engagements and 'working straight through a bank holiday weekend' are not unheard of. Although there is a perceived 'lack of formal structure', trainees do get very involved in matters, for example 'attending a full arbitration hearing' and 'drafting documents to facilitate a $1 billion transaction. There is also a 'very varied programme' of CSR and pro bono activities such as 'helping to teach everyday legal knowledge in a local school'. If the idea of 'international work' in an 'ambitious environment' and 'good remuneration' excites you, apply to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
A day in the life of...
Eloise Skinner final seat trainee, currently on secondment to the New York office
Departments to date: Capital markets, finance and restructuring, tax
University:Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge
9.00am: The day begins with a check of my phone to review and respond to emails that have arrived overnight. Living in New York means I'm five hours behind the London office, and emails tend to build up quickly! Still, this isn't unique to being on secondment - working at an international firm with offices spanning multiple jurisdictions, emails constantly arrive at all hours of the day (and night)!
9.30am: I arrive at the firm's New York offices and head to the cafeteria for breakfast. The office is much bigger in New York and the cafeteria is busy in the mornings, so it's a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues. It's also a great time to review the morning's financial news - trainees are encouraged to keep up their commercial awareness.
10.00am: I create a to-do list and prioritise the tasks in order of urgency. At Cleary, a high degree of responsibility is placed on trainees, and it's often the case that I'll be working directly with a partner. The level of trust can be intimidating - but as qualification approaches, it provides a smooth transition into associate life. I'm currently working with the tax team in New York, and the work covers a wide variety of practice areas. I've been able to experience capital markets, M&A, finance, funds (and much more!) during my seat.
10.30am: After prioritising my work for the day, I join a client meeting for an M&A deal. The client is bidding to acquire the target in an auction, so the negotiations dynamics are intense. The tax team is responsible for drafting a number of technical points, and, after explaining the analysis to the client, we spend the remainder of the morning producing a revised purchase agreement.
12.30pm: Lunchtime training is a frequent event in the New York office. Today, there's a presentation by a couple of junior members of the tax team. Understanding the tax laws of another jurisdiction is quite challenging (and US tax law is known as one of the most complex!) but I attempt to follow the technical explanations and the group discussion that follows.
1.30pm: I'm back at my desk for the afternoon and working on another project - this time, a capital markets transaction. We've marked up the prospectus and are negotiating final comments with the lawyers on the other side. After reaching agreement, we jump on a call with the client to confirm some final diligence questions. If market conditions are favourable, the deal will launch in the next few days.
4.00pm: I take a quick break to catch up with a fellow trainee from the London office. It's great to have someone else from London out on secondment here! We're working in different teams, and we share our experiences and chat about home over iced coffee in the firm's cafe bar.
5.30pm: I'm on to my final piece of work for the day - assisting a partner with the first draft of a legal opinion. I've always loved writing, and greatly enjoy the academic and technical research that goes into a legal opinion. I get stuck into reading a couple of cases, and make notes to follow up on specific points that I think might be helpful for the draft.
7.30pm: Freedom awaits - the evenings are still warm in New York, and I head out of the office to make a yoga class before dinner. New York is full of excitement and activity - the experience of living and working in the midst of it all is certainly one that I won't forget!
About the firm
Address:City Place House, 55 Basinghall Street, London , EC2V 5EH
Telephone: 020 7847 6860
Managing partner: Michael Gerstenzang
Total partners: 193 (global)
Other fee-earners: 1,200 lawyers globally
Total trainees: 26
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 15-20 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
Training contracts available for 2020: 15-20
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: £120,000
Apply to:Claire Astbury
What's involved: We recruit the vast majority of our future trainees from among our vacation scheme students. Selection for vacation placements is through an open day comprising presentations on the firm, case study workshops and interviews. Candidates applying outside the vacation scheme have two interviews with graduate recruitment, partners and associates.
When to Apply:
Training Contract: By 31 July, two years in advance of the year in which the training contract is due to commence.
Spring Vacation Scheme: By 19 January 2018.
Summer Vacation Scheme: By 19 January 2018.
Training partner interview – Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Please explain your role as graduate recruitment/training partner.
As the training principal I have overall responsibility for ensuring that our trainees obtain the skills and experiences they need in order to become successful qualified solicitors. The trainee programme is overseen in London by a committee of four partners (of which I am one), together with our dedicated HR team. That committee meets regularly to discuss seat allocation, staffing issues and any other matters related to the trainees. Each of us mentors two or three individual trainees on a one-to-one basis, meeting with them regularly throughout the two year training contract. In addition, I have breakfast with all of the first year trainees every month to check in and make sure everyone is happy with how things are going.
What work do your trainees get involved in?
Our trainees have direct exposure to client work from day 1. We aim to give them as much responsibility as they feel comfortable with as early as possible. We believe in ‘learning by doing’, so aim to make our trainees integrated members of our deal teams. The precise nature of the work depends on the practice group the trainee is sitting in, but because we do not have rigidly defined departments the diet of work is often varied – just because you are sitting with a finance lawyer doesn't mean you won’t get opportunities to work on other matters.
How does your training contract differ from other firms?
Although we’re a big office, our trainee intake is still small enough to be able to tailor our training contract to each individual’s aspirations. We hope that our trainees should gain exposure to as many different practice areas as possible, so that they can become well-rounded lawyers that can thrive in our non-departmentalised office. Our practice groups collaborate with each other closely, so we usually work with our trainees throughout the 2 year programme. That allows us to get to know them better, develop faster, and gain more responsibility quicker.
What does a strong application look like?
Like all City firms we look for strong academics. Beyond that, we are looking for energetic and intellectually curious people who have the street smarts to roll their sleeves up and figure things out, adopting practical solutions. This is a people business, so outgoing and charismatic candidates who are willing to help others out are often successful here.
What impresses you about students when you meet them at fairs?
Students looking to work in a City law firm now have so much choice. Although we all do the same sorts of things, we are all quite different. So I am always impressed by students who have done a bit of homework and ask smart questions. It’s important for students to develop a deep understanding of what the different firms are like – you spend so much of your adult life at work it is critical that you work somewhere you’ll be happy and fulfilled in the work. We always ask our associates to be 100% honest with candidates about what it is like to work here, so students should ask as many questions as they can.