Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Latham & Watkins

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Latham & Watkins

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Culture, quality of work and people’; ‘global reach’; ‘great experience on the vacation scheme; ‘high calibre of lawyers’; ‘incredible growth in London over the last decade’; ‘market-leader in a number of practice areas’; ‘reputation for high-end, international work’; ‘strength in practice areas that interest me’; ‘size of trainee intake and salary on qualification’; ‘inclusive culture and emphasis on diversity’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people are great to work with, excellent at what they do, and almost invariably interesting and approachable’; ‘the firm’s ethos’; ‘everyone is approachable and helpful, including partners’; ‘it is a true market leader’; ‘trainees are given a huge amount of responsibility’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Feeling like you need to be contactable even on weekends and holidays’; ‘trainees are treated like associates from day one’; ‘we often work long hours’; ‘having an unpredictable workload at times’; ‘the size of the firm can feel too large’

Best moment? ‘Being treated to dinner by my supervisor after emerging from an especially gruelling period’; ‘meeting deadlines and being rewarded’; ‘feeling incredibly valued by my team members’; ‘getting positive feedback from the GC of a client company’; ‘going on two secondments’; ‘producing something for a client that was entirely my work’; ‘practice group retreat to Washington’

Worst moment? ‘An almost sleepless night’; ‘generally feeling quite incompetent for the first two months of a seat’; ‘stress of taking on a lot of a departing associate’s workload’; ‘three weeks without getting home before midnight’; ‘being ill and unable to work’

The Lex 100 verdict on Latham & Watkins

The firm: Latham & Watkins is a leading global law firm serving multinationals, start-ups, investment banks, private equity funds, venture capital firms, sovereign wealth funds, governments, and other organisations from its offices across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the US. The firm is internationally recognised for its practices across a wide spectrum of transactional, litigation, corporate, and regulatory areas, and has received considerable market recognition for the handling of landmark matters.

The deals: Advised: CPPIB in the £4.77 billion take-private acquisition of Merlin; Samba Financial Group, one of the largest Saudi Arabian banks, in a long-running case arising from the multi-billion dollar dispute between the Al-Gosaibi family, Maan Al Sanea, and the Saad Group; Amnesty International and Save the Children UK on a high-profile pro bono project that is shaping refugee law and policy in the UK; EQT on the financing for the negotiations to acquire Nestlé Skin Health for US$10.2 billion; Nivaura on the legal and regulatory aspects of developing a platform for creating, clearing, and settling tokenised equity using blockchain technology – the first of its kind.

The clients: Aon; Barclays; Carlyle; CVC; GlaxoSmithKline; Legal & General; Nissan; Nivaura; Thomas Cook; Virgin Galactic.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Acquisition finance; Bank lending: investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial contracts; Corporate tax; Data protection, privacy and cybersecurity; Debt capital markets; Emerging markets; Employee share schemes; Employment: employers and senior executives; EU and competition; Fintech; High yield; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Media and entertainment (including media finance); Private equity transactions – high-value deals; Private funds; Property finance; Restructuring and insolvency

The verdict

‘Enormously successful, prestigious, rapidly-growing’ Latham & Watkins secured its ‘market-leading reputation’ for its ‘strength in top-tier corporate and banking transactions’. Trainees believe Latham & Watkins is ‘unrivalled amongst other US firms in London’ and has a ‘unique culture unlike any other’. Applicants were attracted to the firm’s NQ salary as well as the ‘high level of responsibility given to trainees’. This early responsibility means that ‘less training is given’, setting Latham & Watkins apart from some other firms. Instead, ‘the ethos is that you learn by doing’ which in turn means trainees are ‘treated more like associates’. This is perceived positively by recruits as they have ‘developed legal and commercial skills more quickly’. Respondents also enjoyed the ‘high-profile work’ and ‘responsibility and ownership over their work streams’. The culture, salary, and people are unanimously rated the best things about the firm but the ‘unpredictability of hours’ and ‘needing to be constantly available’ was a common grumble among recruits. Latham & Watkins is a Lex 100 Winner for job satisfaction, living up to expectations, confidence of being kept on and inclusiveness. This is reflected in trainees feeling ‘incredibly valued’ and complimenting the firm’s commitment to diversity. One best moment was ‘closing the first transaction I ran on my own’, while another was ‘the departmental ski trip’. It comes as little surprise perhaps, that ‘continuous early morning finishes in the run up to the close of a deal’ and ‘being staffed on urgent work at 6pm on a Friday’ were less appreciated by trainees. But, if early responsibility and high-profile work excite you, consider Latham & Watkins.

A day in the life of… Luke Vaz, second-seat trainee, Latham & Watkins

Luke Vaz, Latham & Watkins

Departments to date: Financial regulation, banking

University: University of Cambridge

Degree: Human, social and political sciences

9.00am: I scroll through my emails on my walk in to work, catching up on anything that may have come in overnight and then making a mental note of things to do when I arrive at my desk. Living a 15-minute walk from the office (in Aldgate East) means you can wake up slightly later and avoid the tube. Living with two colleagues that double up as friends means that if one of them leaves at the same time as me, it’s a nice catch-up too.

9.15am: Arriving at my desk, I prioritise and make a note of the tasks that need completing this morning, and I update this to-do list through the day. Not only are these satisfying to tick off (best done theatrically in red pen), but they mean that nothing slips through the cracks; the best trainees are the ‘safe pair of hands’ that won’t let any document go unnoticed. The morning is a good time to order your inbox – in banking, email management is key to properly track deal progress. It’s vital to keep on top of all transactions. Latham teams are lean, but this means trainees get exceptionally good on-the-job training as they are expected to function like junior associates and take as much responsibility as possible.

12.45pm: It’s free lunch at the cafeteria provided by Trashed, a catering company promoting a low-waste attitude to food by using commonly discarded products and turning them into an appetising (and free) lunch. There’s one free lunch a month and it’s a good chance to catch up with some trainees over a delicious mutton curry with dirty rice and four different types of hummus. Latham has always championed diversity and its attitude to hummus is no exception!

1.30pm: Back at my desk, a solicitor calls to let me know that certain agreements have been signed and will be circulated shortly. Trainees are encouraged to be confident and speak to people of all levels, even partners, over the phone and by email. Often, giving someone a call rather than hiding behind an email will give instant results, and Latham encourages trainees to take autonomy over their respective parts of a deal.

4.00pm: I head to the 24th floor to have a meeting with graduate recruitment. In my role as trainee representative, I voice any concerns or queries from the two intakes either by email or monthly meeting. This week has been intense – people are choosing their next seats, so the trainees have many questions. It’s an informal chat but very productive, and coming back with answers can allay some anxiety about the process.

5.30pm: I am asked by an associate to have a first go at drafting some security documentation over the course of the week, but thankfully I am told it is not urgent. These are long-form documents and prove a more cerebral task. There is a precedent document and the firm has its own standard form, so comparing all three means I can easily see the nuances of each. Attention to detail is key, though associates are really understanding of the training contract’s steep learning curve, and feedback is crucial and common.

7.00pm: As I am winding down the day, I update my time entries. The intuitive programme allows you to keep stop-watches during the day depending on which client is worked for, so all that is needed is to describe what I was doing (short-form) for each task.

7.45pm: With my to-do list from this morning complete, I head home and keep an eye on my phone for any emergency emails that may come in during the course of the evening. Otherwise, I am free to relax knowing I can be contacted if needed urgently.

About the firm

Chair and managing partner: Richard Trobman

Office managing partner: Jay Sadanandan

Other offices: Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, Dubai, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Riyadh, Rome, San Diego, San Francisco, Seoul, Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington DC

Who we are: Latham & Watkins has more than 2,600 lawyers in offices across Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia. Its non-hierarchical, consensus-based management style and ‘one firm’ culture makes Latham a unique place to work. Over 70% of the firm’s transactions involve five or more Latham offices and the collaborative atmosphere is strengthened by the firm’s diversity.

What we do: Latham’s award-winning London office is recognised for its work advising some of the world’s leading corporates, financial institutions and private equity firms on their most significant transactions, disputes, and regulatory matters.

What we’re looking for: The firm is looking for outstanding people who have the potential to become exceptional lawyers. Initiative, enthusiasm, ambition, intellectual rigour and teamwork are some of the traits particularly valued at Latham. Trainees who demonstrate their motivation and ability to excel will thrive in a first-class training environment and be rewarded with a brilliant career. In terms of academics, we look for candidates who have achieved a minimum of AAB at A-Level (or equivalent) and a 2(1) at undergraduate degree.

What you’ll do: Latham offers a training contract with real responsibility combined with supervision from market-leading lawyers. Trainees spend six months in four different seats and have the opportunity to apply for a client or international secondment in their third or fourth seat. In addition to training organised by our learning and development team throughout the training contract, trainees also benefit from a core three-week ‘trainee foundation’ designed to bridge the gap between law school and practice.

Perks: Life assurance, private health and dental insurance, pension scheme, season ticket loan for transport, cycle to work scheme, subsidised restaurant on site, discounted gym membership.

Sponsorship: GDL and LPC fees and a maintenance grant of £8,000 per year. For future trainees who have already completed the GDL and/or LPC, the firm will reimburse those fees in full. In addition, future trainees who achieve a distinction in their LPC will receive a £500 bonus.