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 other? ‘I found the female partners inspiring; they really went above and beyond’; ‘reputation, quality of work, type of work, size of trainee intake and salary’; ‘the tax and insolvency work that the firm is renowned for’; ‘small intake, high-quality and challenging work at a trainee level, friendly environment, well-paid’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Pro bono opportunities, location of the office and remuneration’; ‘it does seem to genuinely care about the trainees, and regularly checks up on us to ask how we are doing. There are a lot of programmes, schemes and opportunities in place to ensure we are happy at work and maintain high job satisfaction’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The unpredictability of the hours, although that is what you sign up to at any world-class firm’; ‘the want for training materials and huge precedent banks that are available to larger firms i.e. those in the Magic Circle’; ‘perhaps not having many firm-wide events’; ‘as with many firms, hours and work can be unpredictable’

Best moment? ‘Working on very interesting deals with partners and associates’, ‘going on secondment’; ‘working on complex tax problems and drafting solutions that are carried through into the final work-product’; ‘secondment to the Dubai office’; ‘attending a CMC hearing’; ‘working for and communicating with clients independently’

Worst moment? ‘Having to work on the weekend, although this is not particularly common, and would be the same at any top firm’; ‘short periods where the workload slows down’

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 1,000 lawyers in 20 offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East advising across a wide range of practices and industries. 

The deals: advising Coller Capital on a GP-led secondary transaction for the remaining assets of Permira IV, to be ultimately acquired by a new investment vehicle with $829m of aggregate commitments; advised LUKOIL in relation to its issuance of $1.5bn Eurobonds listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange; advised Helios Investment Partners, the largest Africa-focused private investment firm, as one of the major selling shareholders in Helios Towers’ $1.45bn initial public offering (IPO) on the premium listing segment of the London Stock Exchange; represented an informal committee of unaffiliated holders (the Ad Hoc Noteholder Committee) in relation to the restructuring of Weatherford’s $7.4bn senior unsecured notes and approximately $1bn of funded bank debt, the first known major restructuring to involve a Chapter 11 with parallel schemes of arrangement in two other jurisdictions, with each court procedure being used to implement the same restructuring; acting as sole English counsel to the Government of Egypt on the New Urban Communities Authority’s (NUCA) financing for the construction of Egypt’s new administrative capital city, exceeding $2bn of English law syndicated bank debt. 


 

The verdict

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading American firm with a strong international focus, has thrilled trainees with its excellent pay, care and consideration of its trainees’ development and friendly attitude. Trainees highlight that ‘the training is less formal, the opportunities to learn have been endless. There is also a lot more flexibility due to the smaller intake and decisions are made much more fluidly, dependent on interest and business need’. While its strength lies in its ‘tax and insolvency work that the firm is renowned for’, Akin Gump provides trainees excellent opportunity to work ‘on more matters and so receive a broader range of experience’ alongside colleagues ‘both domestic and international’, and to ‘have more responsibilities earlier on during the training contract’. This American firm bucks the trend with its friendly approach, albeit with long and ‘unpredictable hours’ although trainees admit ‘that is what you sign up to at any world-class firm’. Akin Gump wins the top Lex 100 Winner award for its pay, for the second year in a row, and does well in terms of training meeting expectations with trainees highlighting that ‘there are a lot of programmes, schemes and opportunities in place to ensure we are happy at work and maintain high job satisfaction’. A particularly strong feature mentioned was the firm’s pro-bono offering, a highlight being one trainee’s experience ‘defending prisoners on death row in Malawi’. Highly praised for ‘the fact that the lawyers genuinely seem to enjoy what they do and their enthusiasm is contagious; the firm is filled with really academic lawyers who love the law and this makes them great lawyers and incredible people to learn from’.

A day in the life of… Kelly Joseph, trainee solicitor, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Kelly Joseph, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Departments to date: Financial restructuring (first seat), Corporate (current seat)

University: University of Oxford BPP University

Degree: History, GDL, LPC

9.30am: As I arrive at the office (having stopped off at my favourite coffee shop in Spitalfields market) I check through my emails to make sure I am on top of my tasks for the day and to update my to-do list. I am working on a large international restructuring, which is close to closing. The deal involves multiple jurisdictions and one of my roles in this stage of the deal is communicating with our nine local counsel teams based around the world (from New Zealand to New York) providing relevant updates as well as tracking their comments on transaction documents and procedure. I use this time to check through those emails that have come in through the night.

10.00am: I head towards the conference rooms to a trainee training session. Today’s session, ‘an introduction to drafting’, is being run by one of the firm’s finance partners. He talks us through some general principles of drafting as well as rules for drafting legal documents. He produces a useful example booklet showing how these rules improve badly drafted clauses as well as providing top tips on commonly misused phrases. After the session, I spend ten minutes catching up with some of the other trainees.

11.30am: The Akin Gump team working on the restructuring is meeting to discuss progress on the transaction and to establish next steps. I find these meetings interesting, as it is a chance to get a wider view of the transaction as well as to understand what the more senior associates are working on. I take notes during the meeting and ask questions to make sure I understand both the wider concepts being discussed as well as the work I have been allocated.

12.00pm: I start to review the corporate authorisation documents that have been sent across by the opposing law firm on the restructuring. As there are so many, one of the associates and I divide the documents between us. This is helpful as I can easily pop into her office to ask questions. I make a list of my mark ups and any potential problems.

1.30pm: I grab some lunch and meet a couple of the other trainees on the firm’s eighth floor terrace. It is a space that we are lucky to have and I try to use it as much as possible when the weather is nice. After lunch, I head back to my desk and carry on reviewing the corporate authorisation documents.

4.00pm: I meet with one of the senior associates to discuss some research into a company I had completed earlier in the week as part of a debt review he is carrying out. The two of us are due to meet with one of the partners tomorrow to discuss our progress. The associate discusses with me some of the debt concepts that were new to me as well as providing feedback on a structure chart I had created which maps the company’s debts across its subsidiaries.

6.30pm: The firm’s pro bono partner is visiting from Washington DC this week and we are scheduled to meet to discuss the firm’s Pro Pono Scholars programme. Launched in the US, it has now been running in the London office for the past three years. As the ‘Pro Bono Scholar’ of my intake I was invited to attend a pro bono ‘bootcamp’ in the US during the summer before my first seat where I, along with Pro Bono Scholars from Akin Gump’s US offices, volunteered for public interest organisations in Alabama and in Mississippi. We are meeting to discuss how the programme is working in London as well as having a general catch up. As it is an informal meeting, the partner suggests moving it to the pub across from the office!

7.30pm: After checking my emails and updating my to-do list, I leave the office for the day.

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, 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 and equity capital markets, private equity, debt finance, project finance, energy, litigation and international arbitration, financial services regulatory, investment funds, international trade, EU competition and tax.

What we’re looking for: 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, employee assistance programme, onsite wellbeing adviser, discounted ClassPass and gym rates, fitness reimbursement programme, cycle scheme.

Sponsorship: GDL and LPC fees are paid in addition to a maintenance grant of £10,000 per year of study.

Diversity and inclusion

 ‘At Akin Gump, we believe that the various perspectives and experiences of our lawyers and staff help us achieve exceptional results for our clients and bring important insights into all aspects of the firm. Our diversity and inclusion strategy includes the following goal areas: leadership commitment, recruiting and diversity pipeline, professional development and inclusive workplaces, and strategic partnerships.

Our London office is committed to a diverse and inclusive work environment where all members of the Akin Gump community can thrive. We have local chapters of our firmwide resource groups and a London diversity and inclusion council to support culture that sees differences as strength.’ Nimesh Patel, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer

 ‘Akin Gump truly recruits on the basis of merit and not gender, race, sexual orientation or ethnicity. As a state school-educated woman from an Afghan background, at no point did I feel out of place or different. On the vacation scheme, I looked around me and saw a range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds: there was no set “Akin Gump type” but rather everyone was unique and shared a similar enthusiasm for their work. The firm’s genuinely inclusive nature is built within the culture, with female partners inspiring those junior to them and leading by example. Akin Gump appreciates that diversity among its workforce encourages diversity of thought and this contributes to the success of the firm.’ Sahar Abas, Associate

To read more, please visit https://www.akingump.com/en/diversity-inclusion/index.html.

Podcast

This episode is all about solicitor training during the pandemic and beyond. Hosted by Peter Tweedley, Editor of The Lex 100, it features an interview with Victoria Widdows, Director of International Legal Recruiting and Development at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld. Listen at https://www.lex100.com/podcast/