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? ‘Project finance and Africa practices’, ‘remuneration, great culture, global footprint’, ‘I targeted firms with strong white-collar crime practices’, ‘life sciences/pharmaceutical sector focus’, ‘close-knit teams’, ‘small intake, which means you get interesting work’, ‘the regulatory focus’, ‘I was attracted by the academic nature of the work’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Numerous avenues to explore interests and passions’, ‘it’s common for matters to involve working with lawyers across different offices globally and in different practice areas’, ‘the complexity of the work that trainees get involved in’, ‘the culture’, ‘its commitment to pro bono and its strength in regulatory and policy work’, ‘the friendliness of the people’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Lack of visible diversity’, ‘the lack of option to go on secondment to one of the US offices. I know that other US firms offer this’, ‘it’s hard to think of any major negative points; it would probably have been the office facilities compared to competitor firms in London, but for obvious reasons this has not been an issue for the past year, and the firm is moving to a new office in the City’

Best moment? ‘Pro bono work on an immigration application case in conjunction with an immigration law centre. Having the opportunity to help change the lives of a family for the better has been a hugely valuable and rewarding experience’, ‘too many highlights, from trials to tech clients’, ‘being given the responsibility of closing a deal’, ‘starting my litigation seat – I am loving the work’, ‘winning an arbitration hearing’, ‘virtual socials with colleagues’

Worst moment? ‘Being given multiple large projects at the same time due to lack of coordination’, ‘submitting a court document with incomplete referencing as we ran out of time’, ‘making mistakes with collating signed shareholder resolutions that almost cost a fundraising’, ‘having to start virtually (although it really hasn’t been as bad as expected)’

The Lex 100 verdict on Covington & Burling LLP

Covington & Burling’s ‘life sciences sector focus’ and ‘expertise in interesting regulatory areas’ drew trainees to the US firm. Respondents wanted to be part of the small trainee intake which leads to ‘lots of exposure’ and ‘more responsibility early on’. Training is ‘very hands on’ and recruits ‘learn by doing’, all the while receiving ‘a good deal of support from senior lawyers’. ‘You get back what you put in’, trainees explain: ‘the more responsibility you want, the more you get’. Job satisfaction, client contact and vacation scheme have earned Covington & Burling Lex 100 Winner awards this year. This can surely be explained by the fact that trainees ‘get involved in exciting work’ and are ‘treated like any other member of the team’ by their ‘supportive and respectful colleagues’. Work highlights include ‘working on a high-stakes investigation with limited time and finding the information the client needed’ and ‘successfully defending a pro bono client’. Moreover, there is a ‘collaborative relationship between different departments and teams, both across practice areas and global offices’. The downsides are the ‘unpredictability of the work’, especially because ‘clients don’t always set realistic deadlines’ and that ‘some partners can be demanding’. The office facilities could also be improved, although the firm is moving to a new office in the City in 2021. Trainees picked ‘getting no advance warning about a massive, urgent piece of work that needed doing’, ‘very long hours preparing for an arbitration’ and ‘doing menial and tedious document updates’ as their worst moments. On the plus side, ‘at no point have we felt unintegrated or out of the loop or without support’ during the pandemic. To train at a firm with a ‘global footprint’ but ‘close-knit teams’, research Covington & Burling.

The firm: Covington & Burling LLP was founded in Washington, DC a century ago. Today, Covington has more than 1,300 lawyers and advisers across its offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

The deals: At Covington, you will have an opportunity to work on cutting-edge deals for international and UK corporates such as Microsoft, Astra Zeneca and Facebook, Fortune 100 businesses, and leading technology, life sciences companies. The firm represented Facebook, Inc in its $22bn acquisition of WhatsApp and its $1bn acquisition of Instagram. It also advised Illumina on a four-year project that will map genomes for breakthroughs into cancer and rare diseases.

A day in the life of… Stacy Young, trainee, Covington & Burling LLP

Stacy Young, Covington & Burling LLP

Departments to date: Technology regulatory, Dubai secondment (current seat)

University: University of Cambridge

Degree: Human, Social and Political Sciences

9.00am: I open my laptop and check if I have any new tasks that have come in. As I am currently working in the corporate team of the Dubai office remotely, there is a three-hour time difference which means that my colleagues are usually well into their work days by the time I start mine.

9.15am: For the past few months, the corporate team in Dubai has been working on the legal entity separation of a large international pharmaceutical company, handling the client’s Middle East and North Africa jurisdictions. As part of this legal entity separation, this morning I am helping to draft resolutions and powers of attorney to allow the client’s parent company to handle banking matters in those jurisdictions. I also draft execution requests so that the client knows who and how to execute those documents.

11.00am: I have a brief call with the associate supervising me on the matter to discuss legalisation and attestation requirements for certain documents under Swiss and Dutch governing laws.

12.00pm: I take a lunch break and go on a walk around my neighbourhood.

1.00pm: The firm regularly holds virtual workshops for us to brush up on a range of skills, including communication, research and professional development. Today’s workshop is on working with Word documents. While none of us need an introduction to Microsoft Word, I pick up a number of highly useful tips regarding layouts and templates that I didn’t know I needed.

2.00pm: I have recently been assigned to help on an urgent competition law matter with the Brussels office, concerning a client’s request for information by a national competition authority. After reading an overview of the matter and having a call with the client to discuss my responsibilities, I begin reviewing the responses that the client’s business teams have submitted and raise follow-up questions where they are incomplete or unclear.

4.00pm: I have a virtual catch-up coffee with my associate mentor. All trainees are paired with an associate mentor when we join the firm. My mentor and I catch up every few weeks for a casual chat about the things on our plate, any concerns or questions I might have about work, and the new hobbies we are getting up to.

4.30pm: I have a call with a colleague to discuss how we can analyse the impact of the UAE’s new foreign direct investment law on our clients, and the opportunities it might bring for them. Based on our discussion, I begin researching into the changes introduced by the law and the sectors it will impact, and analyse which of our major clients in the UAE operate in those sectors. I summarise my findings in an email and ask my colleagues if they have any further input.

About the firm

Managing partner: James Halstead (London)

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

Who we are: In an increasingly regulated world, we have an exceptional ability to help clients navigate their most complex business problems, deals and disputes.

Our distinctively collaborative culture allows us to be truly one team globally, drawing on the diverse experience of lawyers and advisors across the firm by seamlessly sharing insight and expertise.

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.

This enables us to create novel solutions to our clients’ toughest problems, successfully try their toughest cases and deliver commercially practical advice of the highest quality.

What we do: Corporate advisory (capital markets, M&A, finance, venture capital and funds), commercial litigation, data privacy, competition, employment, financial services, insurance coverage disputes, internal investigations and compliance, international arbitration, life sciences, project development and finance, tax, and technology regulatory. In addition, all our lawyers are encouraged to undertake pro bono work.

What we’re looking for: The candidates we choose are sharp, articulate and quick-thinking. They have confidence and composure, but also honesty and a sense of humour. We look for strong communicators who are capable team players and can demonstrate commercial awareness.

What you’ll do: As a trainee at Covington you will have early responsibility and exposure. Working within small teams and playing a significant role in complex substantive work, our trainees work closely with senior lawyers and partners, and have a chance to make a real impact on work that matters.

Trainees are encouraged to participate in pro bono work and to have a voice in wider firm initiatives too. A number of our trainees play an active part in our internal networks such as the Diversity Committee and the Women’s Forum. Trainees are allocated a dedicated budget for social events, to ensure that work is balanced with play, and the firm has a five-a-side football, netball and softball team.

Perks: The firm provides a suite of benefits designed to provide support across different aspects of your life, from health and wellbeing, finance and protection, to leisure and lifestyle. These benefits range from health and life assurance and a group personal pension scheme, to public holidays and 25 days’ annual leave.

Sponsorship: Payment of tuition fees and a maintenance grant for each year of study.

Diversity and inclusion

Covington is committed to further quickening the pace of progress, and in December 2019 adopted our first written diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategic action plan. The action plan has three primary goals: to (1) incorporate D&I into firm leadership and practice group priorities; (2) strengthen and expand client relationships through D&I initiatives; and (3) develop, promote and retain diverse attorneys at all levels.

Covington’s intentional approach to D&I has contributed to a diverse population of lawyers at all levels. This diversity is also reflected among the leaders of our firm. Women, people of colour and LGBT+ lawyers play senior leadership roles in our practice and industry groups within the firm, and senior roles on firm committees, including our associate advisory, business, diversity, evaluation, hiring and legal personnel committees.

Over the last year, we have broadened and enhanced our existing training programmes to focus on identifying and addressing implicit bias, leading inclusively and supporting the contributions of our diverse colleagues.

Our D&I affinity groups (such as women’s, LGBTQ+, ethnic minority and veteran-focused groups) reflect and support the diverse population of our lawyers and professional staff. Our affinity group programming includes speaker series, focus groups and one-on-one conversations which create safe spaces to address difficult topics and promote our inclusive culture.

Covington is a member of Out Leadership, a global LGBT+ business network. Lawyers from several of our offices have benefited from the organisation’s leadership development programmes. Lawyers from our London office participate in ‘Out of America’ events that bring together several London-based LGBT+ affinity groups from firms headquartered in the US.

Our London office has also partnered on graduate recruitment and mentoring activities with Bright Network, an organisation started in 2013 to create a network of the brightest students and connect them with the best career opportunities. The organisation supports a diverse membership: 75% of their membership is state-educated, 58% female, 40% BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) and 43% are the first generation to go to university. In conjunction with Warwick University, we hold regular skills sessions for diverse graduate applicants which include talks about the firm and our practice areas, as well as practical sessions such as mock interviews, networking skills and CV workshops. We are also members of the Black Solicitors Network.

In Brussels, Covington became one of the founding members of the Legal Diversity & Inclusion Alliance (LDIA), a collective effort by several law firms in Belgium that supports creating a diverse and inclusive work environment by exchanging good practices on diversity and inclusion and raising awareness of non-discrimination and diversity issues. This is the first effort of this kind in Brussels and we are pleased to be among the initial signatories.

Looking forward, we remain wholly committed to diversity and inclusion as core elements of the firm. The job is never complete – it is always a continuum – but we aim to make progress against the overarching objectives of building a diverse population within the firm and a culture that is inclusive of the many backgrounds that are represented among our lawyers and staff. For more information on D&I at Covington, please go to