The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
International firm Watson Farley & Williams has established an impressive network of 14 offices in 11 jurisdictions through Europe, Asia and the US. It is an undisputed leader in maritime law, and also advises UK and overseas clients on litigation, projects and real estate issues. The firm’s revenue rose by 5% over 2015/16, in part due to a spate of lateral hires in New York and London.
The star performers
Asset finance and leasing; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Commodities: physicals; Corporate tax; EU and competition; Employment: employers; Flotations: small and mid-cap; Immigration: business; International arbitration; M&A: mid-market, £50m-£250m; Mining and minerals; Planning; Power (including electricity, nuclear and renewables); Private equity: transactions: Mid-cap deal capability; Property finance; Rail; Shipping; Trade finance.
Advised Citibank as co-ordinator for a syndicate of lenders on a $357m term loan facility for Subsea 7, to fund the construction of two new oilfield service vessels; acted for lenders including HSBC on a $500m reserve-based lending facility for Petroceltic International; assisted Mariana Resources with a number of mandates, including its acquisition of Aegean Metals; assisted PNE Wind with the £100m sale of its UK wind farm project pipeline to Brookfield Asset Management; advised CACEIS on the £6m financing of the acquisition of residential real estate in Holland Park.
88 Energy; All Leisure Group; Ascendos Rail Leasing; Budapest Airport; Flybe; MSC Cruises; Maas Capital Investments; Nacco; Nordea Bank; Swiss International Air Lines.
A ‘good-sized City firm with an excellent reputation’, Watson Farley & Williams handles ‘high-quality work’. Trainees see the firm as ‘top of the class in finance and projects work’, while its ‘reputation in shipping’ is that of a market leader. Respondents cite this ‘sector focus’ as a ‘key factor’ in their decision to join. The ‘six-seat rotation’ has also proved popular, as it ‘provides for greater opportunities to experience different departments’. Stand-out trainee moments include ‘being involved in the closing of a huge deal’, ‘completing a corporate deal for a portfolio of over 30 hotels’ and ‘assisting on large-scale renewable deals and receiving recognition for my role’. At times there can be a ‘lack of secretarial support for trainees’, and this can lead to ‘some very late nights doing menial tasks’. On the plus side, WFW is one of the few City firms to offer a ‘guaranteed international secondment’, and this is identified as one of the best things about the training contract and earns a Lex 100 Winner medal. Seats abroad have given recruits access to ‘challenging work’ and the opportunity to ‘run your own matters’, all while experiencing ‘a lot of fun living somewhere completely new’. There is a ‘friendly atmosphere’ at WFW and a ‘supportive work environment’, as exemplified by the ‘approachable partners’. Yet some trainees grumble about the lack of a ‘social aspect’ to the training contract, with one respondent saying ‘it would be nice if there were more organised departmental social events’. But the current trainee cohort is buoyed by the firm’s ‘continued organic growth’. To experience life at a ‘truly international’ firm which offers ‘high levels of responsibility at an early stage’, consider Watson Farley & Williams.
A day in the life of...
Natasha Seel trainee, Watson Farley & Williams
Departments to date: Finance (London and Paris), litigation (London)
Degree:French and Social Anthropology 2(1)
9.00am: When I get to my desk, I check the emails that have come in overnight and prioritise those which require immediate attention. While preparing my ‘to-do’ list for the day my supervisor, a partner and head of the English law practice in the Paris office, brings in fresh orange juice and we discuss how I will apportion my time today and throughout the week. I will be preparing for an aviation closing scheduled for this afternoon as well as ensuring I keep progressing the shipping transaction I am currently working on. I try to work as efficiently and proactively as possible given the busy nature of the department, but in a small, supportive team such as this one I don’t hesitate to check with a colleague if I am unsure about a task.
9.30am: I attend a conference call in respect of the conditions precedent to this afternoon’s closing. The transaction is an international, innovative and complex aircraft financing involving numerous parties, so organisation is key. I take notes of points to be followed up on and after the call, I action these – including keeping track of the signed counterparts we receive, assessing when conditions precedent have been satisfied, and making amendments to documents that have been agreed pre-closing. As one of the parties is based in Malaysia, six hours ahead of Paris, I telephone local counsel to ensure the relevant documents are signed and circulated to us before the end of their working day.
11.30am: I turn to focus on a separate transaction that I am working on, an international shipping deal involving the financing of two large tankers currently under construction – I have been tasked with drafting corporate authorities and security documents. I discuss the drafts with the senior associate who is overseeing the work and make the suggested amendments.
1.30pm: I head out to one of the local cafés for some lunch with the associates and as I often do, return with a pistachio macaroon from my favourite pâtisserie!
2.30pm: I continue working on the shipping deal and after having reviewed the documents again and having checked with the senior associate and matter partner I am working with, I prepare to circulate them to our client, the financing bank. Given the international nature of this transaction, I also liaise with local counsel in different jurisdictions, including our New York office, in respect of the corporate authorities for the relevant entities.
3.30pm: I return to the aviation transaction and carry out final preparations for the closing meeting. This involves ensuring all the documents are in order and that that there are no outstanding items which could cause a delay.
4.30pm: The closing call, led by my supervisor, begins with all parties joining from across Europe and Asia. There is a tight timeframe for the closing to take place so we track the plane taking off on Flightradar24 (a live flight tracking website). Throughout the call I take notes of the key issues, including the exact times that need to be recorded on certain documents.
5.30pm: After a successful closing, I collate, date and circulate the executed documents to all relevant parties. I also liaise with local counsel, providing them with all necessary documents in order for their legal opinions to be issued.
7.30pm: I reply to the emails that have come through while I’ve been away from my desk and then speak to my supervisor and finance team colleagues regarding upcoming tasks and matters. I then double-check I have completed all the necessary tasks for the day and plan for tomorrow, preparing an updated list.
About the firm
Address:15 Appold Street, London, EC2A 2HB
Telephone: 020 7814 8000
Fax:020 7814 8017
Managing partner : Chris Lowe
Managing partner : Lothar Wegener
Other offices: Athens, Bangkok, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, Singapore.
Who we are: WFW was founded in 1982 in London. It has since grown to over 150 partners and a staff of over 800.
What we do: WFW is a distinctive law firm with a leading market position in international finance and investment, maritime and energy. We also specialise in natural resources, transport, real estate and technology.
What we are looking for: You will need a 2(1) or above. We also ask for at least ABB from A-level results, or their equivalent. As well as academic achievement, we particularly value applicants with initiative, drive and commercial awareness.
What you'll do:At WFW we deal with training and ongoing development in an individual way. During each seat, we discuss with you plans for the next one, encouraging a two-way conversation about areas you are interested in. Each trainee undertakes six four-month seats, sitting with a partner or a senior associate. Trainees spend one of those seats in an overseas office.
Perks: 25 days’ holiday plus public and bank holidays, income protection scheme, life assurance, employee assistance scheme, group personal pension scheme, annual interest-free season ticket loan, £250 contribution towards a sports club membership or exercise classes of your choice, private medical insurance, flexible benefits scheme.
Sponsorship:Fees paid for both the GDL and the LPC, depending on the point of offer, plus a maintenance grant.
Facts and figures
Trainee places available for 2019: 18
Applications received pa: c600
Percentage interviewed: 30%
First year: £42,000
Second year: £46,000
Newly qualified: £68,000
Total partners: 151
Apply to:Lucie Rees, graduate recruitment and development manager.
When to Apply:By 28 July 2017 for 2019 training contracts.
27 March-7 April 2017 (apply by 27 January 2017).
12-23 June 2017 and 10-21 July 2017 (apply by 27 January 2017).