The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Headquartered in Texas, USA, Vinson & Elkins is one of the largest international law firms and has repeatedly been ranked among the world’s leading energy law firms. The London office was established in 1971, making Vinson & Elkins one of the first US law firms to open in London and focuses primarily on corporate finance and securities, energy, mergers and acquisitions, tax, construction, project finance and international dispute resolution.
The star performers
Construction; Corporate Tax; International Arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Oil and Gas.
Assisted Albright Capital Management, as part of a consortium, in the take-private transaction of APR Energy; Represented investors in proceedings brought against Costa Rica concerning a resort development; Advised Africa Oil on the farm-out of 50% of its interest in a number of upstream oil and gas assets in Kenya and Ethiopia to a subsidiary of Maersk Oil; Advised Uzbekneftegaz on the $5.6bn construction and financing of a GTL project in Uzbekistan; Represented Panama Canal Authority in various adjudication board and ICC arbitration proceedings.
JP Morgan; PetroRio; Albright Capital Management; Africa Oil; Uzbekneftegaz; Deutsche Bank; Sinopec; Statoil; Panama Canal Authority; State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic; Saipem.
One respondent writes ‘I was always drawn to US firms for the big-ticket work with high levels of responsibility’, and that neatly summarises the feedback for Vinson & Elkins. The ‘promise of working on wholly international deals and cases’ was a ‘major driver’ for one trainee, and the firm’s international secondment opportunities ‘are very attractive’. Six months at the firm’s Houston headquarters were considered ‘one of my favourite parts of the training contract’ by one lucky recruit, while a fellow trainee divided six months across the Hong Kong and Beijing offices, a combined stint which ‘really put into perspective the offering this firm has across the world’. The firm is a Lex 100 Winner for international secondments. One negative result of being headquartered in the US is the perceived ‘lack of transparency in decision making’. Back in London, the ‘non-rotational system means that you are always challenged with varied work’, examples of which include ‘assisting with the signing of two deals in the M&A team in one week’ and ‘running the first stage of corporate restructuring, prior to the start of an investment by a major banking institution’. Trainees admit it is ‘challenging juggling work from two or three departments’ at one time, but they relish this ‘sink or swim’ reality. Vinson & Elkins offers a ‘very niche set of specialisms’ including arbitration, project finance and telecoms infrastructure, and this entails ‘exciting work’. The ‘long hours’ mean the ‘inability to make fixed plans during the week’, though the ‘great benefits’ and the ‘excellent salary’ help to make up for this. To train alongside ‘friendly, down-to-earth and driven’ lawyers at a US firm in London, consider Vinson & Elkins.
A day in the life of...
Departments to date: Energy, transactions and projects
University: Oxford University
Degree: Physics (2(1))
How does the summer vacation placement programme link into the training contract process?
Most of our trainees, if not all, are recruited from the summer vacation placement programme. This is how I started here. The programme gives applicants a valuable opportunity to showcase their skills and personality, as well as allowing them to get a feel for what a training contract at Vinson & Elkins would be like.
The vacation scheme students are treated as if they are trainees, so the best candidates will be the ones who are not work-shy and get along with people in the office. My advice to any future vacation placement student would be to look for work from a range of practice areas, as it will give a good idea of what it would be like to be a trainee here.
How is the training programme structured at Vinson & Elkins?
Instead of a traditional rigid seat-based system, the training programme here is “non-rotational”. This means that although you might be sitting within the tax department, your work will be spread across all the practice groups, which may range from employment matters to litigation to transactional work.
One of the biggest advantages of the non-rotational system is that trainees are often able to see a matter through from beginning to end, which is invaluable in helping trainees develop an understanding for the structuring and processes of a particular deal they’re working on, for example. It also means that, if your project is gathering speed, other trainees can step in to support.
What does a typical day as a trainee at Vinson & Elkins consist of?
So far in my experience, every day at Vinson & Elkins is different. There is so much variety in the work that we take on that we could be working on a piece of tax-related research in the morning and popping down to the Royal Courts of Justice in the afternoon; or equally we could be engrossed in the same finance project all day – we just have to be able to balance all of our work and make sure nothing falls behind! On a quieter day I’d also catch up on recent legal developments that are interesting to me or that are relevant to the work I am doing.
How much involvement do trainees have in the deals and transactions they are assisting on at Vinson & Elkins?
Trainees are encouraged to take on as much responsibility as they can, so we are usually very much involved to a similar extent as the associates on the case are. Even though most of the work taken on by the firm is highly complex, we can become completely included right from the start, diving into the details along with the rest of the team. We support and are supported by everyone else on the project, so we definitely are an integral part of the office, even though we are still learning! In fact, it is entirely possible to see trainees’ work being incorporated into a final statement of case, for example, or see trainees taking the lead on a particular aspect of a transaction.
What is the culture like at Vinson & Elkins?
We are a small and inclusive office – it is entirely possible to learn everyone’s name by the first week! You can often see people from different departments going out for a coffee together, or a group of colleagues gathering in the kitchen during lunchtime catching up on their week.
The people at Vinson & Elkins also put a lot of effort and commitment into what they are doing – so in addition to being extremely capable and hard-working lawyers, we are also people who enjoy playing sports and music and spending time with friends and family. Just last month, for example, the office organised a bike ride from London to Paris in aid of Bowel Cancer UK and Marie Curie.
What is the most exciting thing you have done since starting at Vinson & Elkins?
I really enjoyed getting stuck in right at the beginning of my training contract and within a week of starting I was asked to assist on a huge arbitration filing. Within two weeks of working on this matter, I’d already formed a bond with my fellow trainees.
I am now starting to take on more and more responsibility, and I cannot wait to see where my training will take me – fingers crossed it might even be to Beijing next week for a Business Development meeting!
Why did you choose Vinson & Elkins to train at?
The first thing that struck me about Vinson & Elkins was how approachable everyone was during my vacation scheme placement. Everyone who gave me work – from trainees to partners – was more than happy to take the time to explain concepts I found unfamiliar, or explain how to approach particular tasks, which made it an extremely comfortable atmosphere to work in.
As for the training programme itself, I was drawn to the flexibility and extra responsibility afforded by the non-rotational system. Being able to accept work from any department means that I can control my work load more easily, work on projects from their conception to completion, as well as develop all the skills I require as a solicitor in a more complimentary way.
About the firm
Address:20 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 3BY
Telephone: 020 7065 6000
Fax:020 7065 6001
Training Principal : Mark Beeley
Managing partner : Alex Msimang
Other offices: Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Moscow, New York, Palo Alto, Richmond, Riyadh, San Francisco, Taipei, Tokyo and Washington.
Who we are: Vinson & Elkins is a leading US-headquartered global law firm with approximately 600 lawyers located in 16 offices across the globe.
What we do: inson & Elkins advises clients in the sector’s most complex transactions, projects and disputes. We have extensive experience throughout the energy industry value chain: exploration, production, transportation, refining and marketing, petrochemicals, power and cogeneration, environmental, and regulation – in all major energy hubs and energy markets.
What we are looking for: We are looking to recruit ambitious individuals with exceptional academic results (2(1) degree minimum and at least AAB at A-level or equivalent), sound commercial awareness and rounded personalities. The ability to think laterally and creatively is essential, as is a need for common sense and a willingness to take the initiative. Foreign language skills are an asset, but by no means a requirement.
What you'll do:Vinson & Elkins operates a non-rotational training system and trainees work across our practice areas throughout their two years. This means that while trainees share offices with more senior lawyers and physically change where they sit every six months, they are available to receive work from all departments (and all our offices) at the same time.
Perks: Medical insurance, dental insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, Simply Health cash plan, subsidised gym membership, access to private GPs, employee assistance programme, pension and interest-free season ticket loan.
Sponsorship:We pay GDL and LPC fees and provide a stipend of £7,200 whilst studying the LPC.
Facts and figures
Trainee places available for 2019: 4
Applications received pa: 302
Percentage interviewed: 17%
First year: £45,000
Second year: £48,000
Newly qualified: £100,000
Total partners: 16
Apply to:Graduate recruitment.
When to Apply:31 July 2017
Summer: June to August summer vacation placement application deadline 31 January 2017.