Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Covington & Burling LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Covington & Burling LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘It is unique in its links to government and policymakers (especially on the US side)’, ‘welcoming and friendly culture’, ‘strong tech practice’, ‘quality of work in the life sciences sector – this stood out to me among a sea of financial services firms’, ‘I enjoyed the vac scheme; I felt comfortable and that I could be myself’, ‘strong reputation’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The quality of work’, ‘the collegiality’, ‘the type of work it does and the sectors in which it specialises’, ‘the atmosphere’, ‘friendliness’, ‘it delegates more substantive work to trainees’, ‘more access to senior lawyers’, ‘fantastic clients and client work’, ‘the responsibility given to trainees’, ‘reputation in life sciences’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Limited international secondments’, ‘unpredictable work/life balance’, ‘support systems not as good as at domestic firms’, ‘work/life balance and the firm’s approach to flexible working and working from home’, ‘the facilities’, ‘the great disparity in working hours and culture between departments’, ‘interdepartmental communication does not seem to be very good’

Best moment? ‘Working in a team consisting of a senior partner and myself to help a former employee of a major international bank – I knew that what I was producing was directly client facing’, ‘taking the lead on advising a client during a conference call’, ‘attending various witness interviews’, ‘my supervisor sending a piece of advice I’d written straight to the client, without any edits’

Worst moment? ‘Dealing with difficult colleagues – this is rare but when it happens it’s not great’, ‘working two weekends in a row’, ‘working late on Fridays’, ‘the very rare occasion I have had too many different plates to spin’, ‘working until midnight because the supervising associate realised I’d made a mistake several months previously’

The Lex 100 verdict on Covington & Burling LLP

The firm: US firm Covington & Burling is a global heavy-weight. The firm’s broad industry experience includes life sciences, technology, financial services, media and communications, energy, branded goods and sport. Covington & Burling’s London office is highly regarded for its regulatory law (across multiple industries), corporate and commercial transactions, anti-corruption and compliance, dispute resolution, international employment and mobility, insurance, trade controls, intellectual property, real estate and tax capabilities.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Data protection; Employment: employers and senior executives; EU and competition; Financial services (non-contentious/regulatory); Flotations: small and mid-cap; International arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Insurance litigation: for policyholders; IT and telecoms; Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; Product liability: defendant; Sport; Trade, WTO, anti-dumping and customs; Venture capital.

The verdict

A ‘leading practice in life sciences’ and ‘expertise in regulatory work’ make Covington & Burling stand out. ‘The high calibre of the clients’ and a ‘strong tech focus’ were also big enticements. Training is ‘more on the job’ at the US firm and recruits are ‘frequently given substantive and interesting work’ which makes them feel very much ‘valued as a team member’. Colleagues are described as ‘exceptionally clever and nice to work with’, as well as having a ‘passion for solving problems, which is infectious’. Because ‘staffing is generally very lean’, in many departments ‘you will find yourself working directly with partners and given a fair bit of responsibility’. However, this can also lead to ‘capacity being stretched at times’ so that trainees ‘can end up working long hours (including weekends) during busy periods’. Recruits are also sometimes ‘pulled in to help a totally different team on demanding and time-sensitive matters’. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the London office is perceived to be ‘less equipped than those of some other UK firms’. Being in demand has its upsides too, though: ‘being the only junior on the team and doing associate-level work’ and ‘involvement in two very large projects for household-name clients’ are confirmation. Encouragingly, ‘there is a great deal of pro bono to get involved with across a huge range of sectors’, including ‘a lot of immigration work’, which stimulated trainees. To be part of a ‘fantastic, supportive trainee intake’ and work with ‘bright colleagues who are friendly and helpful’ in a firm with ‘unparalleled access to senior lawyers’, apply to Covington & Burling.

A day in the life of… Grace Kim, first-year trainee, Covington & Burling LLP

Grace Kim, Covington & Burling LLP

Departments to date: Technology and media, dispute resolution – white-collar crime (current seat)

University: McGill University

Degree: English literature

8.45am: I check my calendar and inbox on the way into the office, to remind myself of any meetings I have today and to see if any emails have come in overnight from international offices. Lawyers at Covington work in cross-office teams spanning Asia, EMEA and the US on a variety of client matters, and trainees are no exception. As an example, by the end of my first seat, I’d already worked with colleagues from our Beijing, Seoul, Brussels, Frankfurt, Washington DC, and San Francisco offices.

9.00am: I arrive at my desk and quickly scan the news online for anything that may be relevant to our practice area or any of our client matters. I see an article reporting on a case on which we are advising a major multinational client, so I share the link with the team. I then tidy up meeting attendance notes I took during a recent business trip to Tel Aviv, after which I collate the expense receipts from the trip. It isn’t unheard of for trainees to accompany associates or partners on business.

10.15am: A partner sends out a capacity request to the trainee mailing group, asking whether anyone can help with a discrete 1-2 hour research task this afternoon. This time, another trainee is given the task, so I go back to finalising a memo on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) reporting obligations which I had started drafting the day before.

12.30pm: The thermometer is meant to hit 25 degrees today, so I head out with a couple of other trainees to enjoy lunch in the sun in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

1.15pm: When I get back to my desk, I see an email from the senior associate whom I’ve been supporting on a major internal investigation for a client. She asks me to conduct a document search in Relativity (our document review platform) relating to a particular aspect of the investigation. I choose what I believe are the most effective search terms, spend a couple of hours pinpointing relevant documents and provide her with a high-level summary of my findings.

3.40pm: An associate in the team asks me to take an envelope down to the chambers of a barrister that we and our client have instructed. I pop back out into the sunshine for the five-minute walk to the chambers, deliver the envelope, and pick up an iced latte on the way back to the office.

4.00pm: A partner explains that a client is reviewing its compliance with AML laws, and tasks me with finding the specific provisions in the Money Laundering Regulations requiring a firm to designate an individual responsible for compliance with AML laws. I conduct research into the topic and draft a short email in response.

5.00pm: I attend a European strategy meeting held by the dispute resolution team, in which the two partners who head up the team look back on recent progress and share their vision for the future. The partners discuss our growth strategy and place particular emphasis on the collaborative nature of how the firm operates, and that this ensures the best outcome for our clients.

6.00pm: After the meeting, the dispute resolution team host drinks and nibbles, where we discuss the strategies presented and welcome a number of recent joiners to the practice. Dispute resolution at Covington is an exciting and expanding practice, which has meant that trainees in our intake have been given exposure to a wide range of interesting and complex work (as well as social events that are frequent and well-attended).

About the firm

Managing partner: Chris Walter

Other offices: Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Palo Alto and Washington DC.

Who we are: Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm founded in 1919. The firm has more than 1,000 lawyers with 13 offices worldwide.

What we do: What sets us apart is our ability to combine the tremendous strength in our litigation, investigations, and corporate practices with deep knowledge of policy and policymakers, and one of the world’s leading regulatory practices.

What we’re looking for: The candidates we choose are sharp, articulate and quick-thinking in interview. They have confidence and composure, but also honesty and humour.

Perks: Benefits include life assurance, pension, private healthcare and season ticket loan.

Sponsorship: Successful applicants will receive payment of tuition fees for both the GDL and the LPC, and a maintenance grant of up to £8,000.