Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The vacation scheme was by far the most challenging and enjoyable – I was provided with real work and given responsibility’, ‘excellent reputation and quality of work combined with a smaller intake’, ‘high retention rate’, ‘well placed in the energy sector’, ‘the type of clients the firm works with adds a new dimension to taxation and insolvency, two areas in which I am interested’
Best thing about the firm? ‘Quite casual despite being very prestigious’, ‘the inclusive culture which makes everyone feel welcome’, ‘the people are nice’, ‘the pay is excellent and the pro bono is great’, ‘trainees are valued members of the team’, ‘the people are always approachable and willing to help’, ‘the focus on trainee development’
Worst thing about the firm? ‘There aren’t many opportunities to get to know others outside of your department’, ‘the seat rotation process is not as transparent as it could be’, ‘there is a lack of structure to the training contract’, ‘unpredictable hours and workflow’, ‘can be very hierarchical’, ‘procedures are not always tight’
Best moment? ‘Co-ordinating a cross-office pro bono project which allowed me to interact with attorneys across the firm and take a very active role’, ‘doing interesting research for partners’, ‘managing a client independently’, ‘managing multiple court filings at once and liaising with foreign counsel on these and similar matters’, ‘opportunities to travel internationally’
Worst moment? ‘Being belittled by associates’, ‘filing at 4am’, ‘simple mistakes’, ‘the realisation that contacts within the firm might get you further than ability’, ‘being in the office until 5am, though this is the exception rather than the rule’, ‘being given a mountain of documents to summarise on a Friday afternoon and having to work through the weekend to finish the task’
The Lex 100 verdict on Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
The firm: Recognised for its sophisticated clients and capabilities as well as for its outstanding team of legal professionals, Akin Gump is a global law firm with more than 900 lawyers in 21 offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East advising across a wide range of practices and industries.
The deals: Acted for an ad hoc group of senior unsecured creditors in relation to the financial restructuring of in excess of US$3.5 billion of US and English law governed bond and bank debt, and other unsecured debts of Noble Group Limited; advised PJSC LUKOIL as guarantor and LUKOIL Overseas Uzbekistan Limited as borrower on a US$660 million financing to fund the construction of a gas processing complex in Uzbekistan; advised the Ad Hoc Bondholder Group in relation to the restructuring of the Seadrill Group, a NYSE and Oslo Børs listed offshore drilling contractor; acting for Tatneft, Russia’s fifth biggest oil company, in US$380 million English litigation proceedings against four Ukrainian oligarchs.
The star performers: (Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Bank lending: investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Corporate tax; Debt capital markets; Emerging markets; EU and competition; Financial services (non-contentious/regulatory); Fraud: civil; International arbitration; Investment fund formation and management; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Oil and gas; Private equity: transactions – high-value deals
Akin Gump’s ‘international transactional focus’, as well as its work in taxation, insolvency and the energy sector excited trainees. A smaller intake ensures that recruits get ‘a great deal more responsibility’ and are ‘required to use more initiative’ than some of their peers at comparable firms. Training is described as ‘more tailored and flexible’ and ‘monitoring by HR is definitely one of the best aspects of training at Akin Gump – your development is discussed in depth at monthly meetings, based on feedback from your supervisors’. It therefore comes as no surprise that the firm is a Lex 100 Winner in the job satisfaction and living up to expectations categories. ‘The excellent pay’ has also earned the firm a Lex 100 Winner gong. Occasionally, the firm’s ‘laissez-faire approach’ can mean that ‘procedures seem a bit too relaxed’. There is also a perceived ‘lack of structure to the training contract’ and trainees would like a bit more clarity regarding the seat rotation process. ‘Managing the closing packs for a massive international transaction and seeing it close’ and ‘assisting exceptional lawyers on multi-billion dollar restructurings’ stood out as best moments. The flip side of working on such high-profile work is long hours. ‘Being given a mountain of documents to summarise on a Friday afternoon and having to work through the weekend to finish the task’ was etched on one trainee’s mind as their worst moment. However, pro bono is ‘heavily encouraged’ and there is a ‘wide variety of opportunities with which to get involved’. If a sector-focused, internationally-oriented firm with an ‘excellent reputation and quality of work’ appeals to you, take a closer look at Akin Gump.
A day in the life of… Sophie Pridgeon, first-year trainee solicitor, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Departments to date: Litigation (first seat), Financial restructuring (current seat)
University: University of Oxford
Degree: Modern Languages, GDL, LPC
9.30am: On arrival at the office, I check my emails, say hello to my supervisor and we discuss my capacity for the day ahead. At present, I am working on three restructuring deals, which requires a high level of organisation. Every morning, I also make sure to check in with the team by firing off some emails and seeing if anyone needs assistance.
11.00am: I have a meeting with a senior associate to discuss two pieces of work. We take a look at a group structure chart which I created on a particular company using data collected from Companies House, the company’s website, Reorg and Debtwire. She gives me detailed feedback on how to make the structure chart clearer. We then analyse some research I conducted on a distressed company. The research runs through the debt and capital structure of the company and the financials from last quarter. Among the things discussed are the decreasing market cap of the company, the concerning debt to equity ratio and the poorly performing subsidiaries, which are soon going to be disposed of. She gives me clear and detailed feedback on this research, patiently pointing out any errors and recommending what to do next.
12.30pm: After popping down to the Spitalfields food market which is just on our doorstep, I bring some lunch upstairs and eat with two other trainees. In the summer, it’s a lovely break to eat on the roof terrace. The food market has everything from vegan Ethiopian food to Japanese ramen and everything in between!
1.30pm: After lunch, I am on a call with my supervisor and he is talking to the creditors of a company which is undergoing a large restructuring. Colleagues from Akin Gump’s US offices are also on the line. In this team, we often work with people from across the pond and while they may be working on filings under the US Bankruptcy Code, we are working on sorting out a scheme of arrangement which is a type of English restructuring option. In this seat I have also become familiar with Maltese, Slovenian, US, Greek and Irish restructuring and insolvency procedures. During the call, I take notes and jot down any financial jargon that I may not be familiar with (Investopedia is my favourite jargon-busting go-to).
3.30pm: A fellow trainee invites me out for coffee so that we can discuss a pro bono matter. The project relates to a campaign protecting women’s rights and doing some investigative research into the funding behind powerful anti-feminist groups. Our client is a large human rights organisation and I feel passionate about this project. We will soon have to present our work to counsel, so we go through the research we have undertaken and I mention that I have a few paragraphs to add into the original memo. Afterwards, I go back to my desk to draft up the comments we discussed.
5.30pm: Towards the end of the day, I am asked to proofread a few ‘scheme’ documents my supervisor has been drafting earlier today and to input any changes I may have. He is grateful for any assistance which lightens his workload and it is also an opportunity for me to observe his particular style of drafting. Different teams often have a different way of drafting, so it’s important to read as much as you can in order to hone your own drafting style.
7.30pm: Yesterday, I had an important family dinner so was able to leave work earlier. This means today I am catching up on some work to meet a deadline.
8.00pm: Home time means coming home to whip up some food with my other half or catching up with the latest Netflix season. Sometimes, if work finishes early, I go running or swimming, as I am training for a couple of triathlons coming up this summer.
About the firm
Senior partner: James Roome
Managing partner: Sebastian Rice
Other offices: Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Fort Worth, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hartford, 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. The firm’s clients range from corporations and financial institutions to foreign governments and individuals.
What we do: Market-leading practices include: financial restructuring, corporate/M&A and equity capital markets, debt finance (including debt capital markets and securitisation), energy, project finance, financial services regulatory, disputes (including international arbitration and civil fraud), investment funds (hedge, private equity, real estate and infrastructure), EU competition, international trade and tax.
What we’re 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, pension, season ticket loan, annual eye exam, moneygym, employee assistance programme, onsite wellbeing adviser, fitness reimbursement programme.
Sponsorship: GDL and LPC fees are paid in addition to a maintenance grant of £10,000 per year of study.