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 other? ‘Interesting work and clients, not M&A focused, good salary, reputation for being an intellectual firm’; ‘Covington’s exemplary reputation in the life sciences industry’; ‘enjoyed the vacation scheme; I felt comfortable and like I could really be myself;’ ‘I liked the other people I met as they were interesting, clever and somewhat quirky’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Friendly and collegiate ethos’; ‘the level of responsibility and trust put in you by the associates and your supervisor’; ‘the nature of the work, which tends to be complex and challenging, but is therefore intellectually interesting and rewarding’; ‘good cakes at firm social events!’; ‘lovely people, good atmosphere’; ‘working on interesting matters with friendly, clever people’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Unpredictable work/life balance’; ‘impossible to give a serious answer, so the fact there are too few coffee machines!’; ‘despite a great location, the office facilities are not the best but the firm is scheduled to move in the near future’; ‘the offices (due an upgrade which we’re hopefully getting soon)’; ‘can be long hours sometimes; different teams have quite different cultures’

Best moment? ‘The first time a letter that I drafted was sent out with no amendments’; ‘working on a high-value High Court litigation as part of a great team’; ‘hosting a fantastic LGBT+ networking event earlier this year with an LGBT+ immigration rights barrister as our guest speaker’

Worst moment? ‘At certain times, projects may impede on your home life and you have no control over this’; ‘working late on a document only to find out that it was not needed the next day. Sometimes communication could be better between associates who end up tasking trainees separately and don’t necessarily co-ordinate’; ‘late nights and weekend work’; ‘being made to come into the office at weekends’

The Lex 100 verdict on Covington & Burling LLP

The firm: Covington was founded in Washington DC a century ago. Today, Covington has over 1,000 lawyers across its offices globally. Its work has an international element, and practice groups operate across borders. The collaborative culture allows it to be one team globally, drawing on the diverse experience of lawyers across the firm.

The deals: Represented Facebook, Inc. in its $22bn acquisition of WhatsApp and its $1bn acquisition of Instagram; advised Illumina on a four-year project that will map genomes for breakthroughs into cancer and rare diseases; advised on a deal in which Pfizer & BioNTech have agreed to work together to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. 

The verdict

An American stalwart in London, Covington & Burling LLP has proved its strength and popularity with trainees with its haul of six Lex 100 Winner awards for overall job satisfaction, living up to expectations, quality of work, confidence of retention after the training contract, financial remuneration and international secondment opportunities. Trainees praise the firm’s ‘interesting work and clients, good salary, and reputation for being an intellectual firm’ plus its sector focus. It has an ‘exemplary reputation in the life sciences industry’ which sets it apart. Considered to be ‘just as good as the larger firms, but with a more personal touch’, it has the usual long and unpredictable hours associated with US firms, with the reward of high remuneration as well as ‘more responsibilities, better teams, less politics’ whilst ‘working on interesting matters with friendly, clever people’. Trainees highlight that ‘the nature of the work, which tends to be complex and challenging, is therefore intellectually interesting and rewarding’. The firm offers highly rated international secondment opportunities, with ‘interesting and high-profile work, and slightly different office culture’ along with valuable client secondments. ‘I was seconded to one of Covington’s pharmaceutical clients and I gained a valuable insight into in-house legal work and the demands our clients face’. Additionally, the firm has ‘lots of pro bono work available and pro bono hours count towards billable’. If you are considering an intellectually-challenging firm, attracted by a small intake size and don’t mind the hours, Covington & Burling is a must.

A day in the life of… Summreen Mahween, trainee, Covington & Burling LLP

Summreen Mahween, Covington & Burling LLP

Departments to date: Dispute resolution, project development and finance (current seat)

University: Queen Mary, University of London

Degree: Law

8.15am: Working remotely during the global pandemic has highlighted the importance of keeping in touch with colleagues. Fortunately, the London associate advisory committee (AAC) has a range of social activities: art, yoga and stretching classes feature commonly, and everyone is welcome. This week’s catch up takes place over a stretching class, so I take advantage of the ‘glow up’ health benefits and join the class.

9.15am: I check my inbox to attend to any urgent emails that may have come in overnight from clients abroad. Working at an international firm means there are ample opportunities for trainees to take on client responsibilities early on and interact with a diverse clientele across the globe. At present, I am working on several deals in the Middle East. The firm is also running its virtual vacation scheme this week. I have a check-in call with a student who is undertaking the scheme to discuss how she is getting on.

9.45am: I undertake a quick horizon scan and turn to legal developments in the banking and capital markets areas. These practice areas are most likely to be affected by market volatilities ensuing from the global health pandemic. Given the cessation of LIBOR by the end of 2021, I check for any developments in this area which may affect banks’ lending activities, including global regulators’ guidelines and progress to date. I take a note of any key milestones for the purposes of drafting a step plan and client alert on this with my supervisor.

11.00am: I dial into a scheduled client call for an energy and infrastructure deal I am working on in Oman, discussing the various conditions precedent governing the development of a solar power plant in Oman. I take a note of the key issues discussed and immediate follow-up tasks.

12.00pm: I turn to a request from an associate to help compile a conditions precedent checklist and to set up a virtual data room for a new transaction. I review the legal documentation to better understand the conditions to be satisfied ahead of financial close, start drafting the checklist and set up the virtual data room.

1.00pm: The corporate department hosts bi-weekly training sessions for all lawyers on key issues faced during recent transactions. Today’s session encompasses the essentials of company law.

2.30pm: I dial into a Skype call with my associate mentor. We both check in with how things are progressing for us and our virtual offices. I also use the call as an opportunity to discuss international secondments, given that my mentor was lucky enough to pursue a competition seat in Brussels!

3.00pm: When I return to my virtual office, I see an email from an associate requesting some research into DIFC companies law and directors’ liabilities towards shareholders. I conduct research and then draft a memo, together with a cover email to send to the associate ahead of her call with the client.

4.30pm: I attend to an email from a partner asking me to review various engineering, procurement and construction contracts for a deal in Saudi Arabia. I extract and pull together relevant excerpts from each contract to share with the third parties.

5.00pm: An associate emails for some urgent assistance on drafting board resolutions and shareholder resolutions for a global transaction, spanning Ireland and New York.

6.00pm: It’s the end of the virtual vacation scheme, so I dial into a virtual drinks session to catch up with the students.

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. Each trainee is allocated an associate mentor to assist with their development.

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

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is a fundamental component of our firm’s strategy and is embedded in our goals, plans and priorities. We also recognise and value the impact of diverse leadership and inclusive client teams to our business. To underscore our commitment, we have hired a chief diversity and inclusion officer and approved our D&I strategic action plan including goals to develop, promote and retain a more diverse lawyer population; to ensure leader accountability to D&I objectives; and to strengthen our client relationships grounded in our shared D&I values.

We are proud of our successes to date but recognise we can always and must do more. Our ongoing D&I initiatives include efforts to increase the diversity of our client teams and leadership through recruiting and development opportunities, addressing racial justice and implicit bias training for all Covington personnel, and empowering our diverse colleagues through affinity group and other programming.

We actively invest in leadership and career development roles for our diverse team of lawyers. The firm’s mentorship programme is designed to give our associates opportunities to take on projects that will allow them to develop skills necessary to become a senior lawyer in the practice.

Covington is a Mansfield-certified firm and we are innovative and intentional with regard to the manner in which we assign lawyers to pitches and staff the matters on which our lawyers work. This intentionality carries over to the manner in which we make case assignments. Our assignment partners and practice group chairs work together to staff our matters to best meet the needs of our clients and ensure the professional development and promotion of our diverse team of lawyers.

In response to recent events in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and efforts to address systemic racism, we have redoubled our efforts inside the firm. Specifically we are broadening and enhancing our training programmes focused on supporting the contributions of our diverse colleagues as allies and advocates, and working to build a more racially just workplace. Our programmes on implicit bias and leading inclusively are mandatory for all Covington personnel.

Covington supports six affinity groups: African American/Black, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, LGBT+, Women’s and Veterans. Affinity groups contribute to our firm culture of inclusion and provide additional opportunities for mentoring, community building, and professional development. The affinity groups are open to all and actively promote intersectional programming, recognising the many identities of our people.