Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Clifford Chance

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Clifford Chance

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The excellent training opportunity’, ‘big firm with a great reputation’, ‘great location’, ‘CC really values its people’, ‘international work and opportunities’, ‘good track record on diversity’, ‘during the application and interview process I felt that the firm was genuinely invested in me and my future’, ‘Magic Circle’, ‘top of the market’, ‘prestige and quality of work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘My training has been carried out with concern and care rather than an afterthought’, ‘warm and inclusive’, ‘global presence’, ‘free food after 7pm’, ‘people give you responsibility if they think you’re ready’, ‘the people – genuinely approachable, ordinary people who work together as a team’, ‘the large trainee cohort’, ‘opportunities for self-development’, ‘the facilities’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Flexible working is not really encouraged’, ‘not being able to make any plans during the week or maintain a hobby’, ‘hierarchy’, ‘lack of diversity in senior positions’, ‘the commute to Canary Wharf’, ‘hours can be awful’, ‘some associates can be rather brusque’, ‘there could be more perks’, ‘too much focus on banks as clients’, ‘face-time does exist’, ‘the difficulty in switching off’

Best moment? ‘Stepping up and completing a transaction while the managing associate was on leave’, ‘getting both the client and international secondment I requested’, ‘being able to run my own deal’, secondment to the Paris office’, ‘writing a memo that went to the client without amendments’, ‘receiving flowers from a partner in my fourth month – hard work is appreciated!’

Worst moment? ‘Being thrown in at the deep end with little instruction’, ‘sleeping at the office after a very long night’, ‘trying to fix tech-related issues late at night’, ‘when I had three deals closing at once’, ‘it’s very easy to get given work late on a Friday night’, ‘the physical exhaustion of working the full UK day and then the full US day’

The Lex 100 verdict on Clifford Chance

The firm: We’re a leading global corporate law firm. But we’re not a typical one. Far from it. Life here means doing the best work for exceptional clients while being yourself. We look for individuals, not for ‘typical lawyers’. And we collaborate. At every level. Which makes this a brilliant place to learn. To find your feet quickly. To get ahead. So, are you ready?

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Acquisition finance; Asset finance and leasing; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Bank lending; Brexit; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Debt capital markets; Derivatives and structured products; Equity capital markets; Financial services; Infrastructure (including PFI and PPP); Insurance; Oil and gas; Private equity: transactions; VAT and indirect tax; Power; Property finance; Public international law; Rail; Real estate funds; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime; Securitisation

The verdict

Clifford Chance is ‘one firm made up of teams across the globe working together’. Its ‘global presence’, which leads to ‘considerable opportunities for professional development’, and plentiful international secondments impressed trainees. Accordingly, the Magic Circle giant has scooped up a Lex 100 Winner medal in this category. The firm has a ‘finance focus’ but boasts ‘strong practices throughout’, which is ‘useful when you’re not initially sure where to qualify’! Recruits felt proud to work with ‘highly-intelligent, enthusiastic’ people, who are ‘genuinely approachable’ and ‘make the more difficult parts of the job much easier’. Indeed, the ‘international and diverse’ group of people foster a ‘warm and inclusive environment’, where ‘anyone can be successful if they’re willing to work hard’. Training is ‘extensive’ and is perceived to ‘greatly exceed comparators in volume and quality’. Nevertheless, the work can be ‘gruelling’ and Clifford Chance ‘can feel a bit like a machine sometimes’. ‘Challenging hours and their impact on work/life balance’ were mentioned several times, an example of which is ‘three weeks of 3am endings and restarting work at 7.30am’. Some trainees voiced that the salary ‘should really be at American levels, given the amount of work and responsibility’. But undertaking ‘big-ticket work’ such as ‘completing the closing of a deal worth over £1bn on my own’, ‘attending witness interviews and drafting witness statements on a really interesting case’ and a ‘delivery in Hamburg in my asset finance seat’ are compensations. To work for an extremely diverse firm with an ‘international outlook’ and ‘excellent clients’ which routinely undertakes ‘headline work’, apply to Clifford Chance.

A day in the life of… Francis Beechinor-Collins, third-seat trainee, Clifford Chance

Francis Beechinor-Collins, Clifford Chance

Departments to date: the financial institutions group (corporate), construction, project finance (Singapore – current seat)

University: School of Oriental and African Studies London

Degree: BA Chinese (Modern and Classical), first-class honours

7.30am: If I haven’t been working too late and can avoid the snooze button, I’ll head down to the gym or go for a run around Orchard Road.

8.45am: I have breakfast in the apartment complex with the other London trainees where we catch up on the deals we’re working on and what trips we have planned.

9.30am: I get to my desk where I catch up on my emails and start on the urgent tasks of the day. I have been working on deals where various parties are in India and Abu Dhabi so queries and tasks can trickle through overnight.

10.00am: I attend my department’s fortnightly catch up meeting where we discuss the projects we’re working on and who may be particularly stretched in terms of workload. More recently, my time has been taken up with working on a few deals all for one client, but usually I will work on a variety of deals throughout the week.

11.00am: I prepare the documents needed for two more banks to join the loan agreements we have spent the past couple of weeks preparing.

12.30pm: I meet some of the London or Singaporean trainees (if I have the time!) and grab a salad and iced coffee from one of the salad bars downstairs for my lunch break.

1.15pm: A colleague sends me a document in Chinese relating to an offshore wind farm, essentially asking: ‘What does this mean?!’. I review and send a brief summary back. Being in Singapore has meant that I can not only progress my legal skills, but also my Chinese language skills, as we get a lot of China/Taiwan-related work. I’m glad my degree is being put to good use!

3.30pm: A bank calls my direct dial and says that they have some points needing clarification or amending before they sign a document. I talk through their issue and then figure out the next steps to take. Being in a smaller office like Singapore has meant that I’ve been handed more responsibility, and I really feel this on a day-to-day basis.

5.00pm: The signature pages of documents which I sent out for execution earlier in the day trickle through. I review them for any issues.

6.00pm: I head to an office social to catch up with colleagues or one of the events happening on our floor, such as the Arcus art exhibition or presentations on improving female presence in the workplace.

9.00pm: After tidying up some pieces of billable work, I head home and plan my upcoming trips to Borneo or Vietnam. The great thing about living in Singapore is that you can travel to some amazing places even just for a weekend!

About the firm

Senior partner: Jeroen Ouwehand

Managing partner: Matthew Layton

Other offices: Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Casablanca, Dubai, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Newcastle, New York, Paris, Perth, Prague, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington

Who we are: We’re a leading global corporate law firm, but we’re not a typical one. Far from it. Life here means doing the best work for exceptional clients while being yourself.

What we do: We offer legal expertise across a broad spectrum of commercial issues. And we have a diverse mix of clients.

What we’re looking for: Someone resilient, curious, creative and open to new challenges. Someone who loves to learn. A great problem-solver. A smart thinker.

What you’ll do: When you start each seat, you’ll have in-depth training in that sector. This will bring you up to speed with the issues and challenges you’re likely to face. You’ll also have a dedicated supervisor in each seat and have regular meetings with the graduate development team.