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? ‘High deal values’; ‘lean teams which means that trainees get more responsibility’; ‘it has a diverse workforce’; ‘it offered seats in departments other firms didn’t (e.g. media)’; ‘the NQ salary’; ‘reputation’; ‘secondment opportunities’; ‘the cohort is not as large as those of the Magic Circle so you feel more valued’; ‘prestige’; ‘I wanted to work for a full-service firm’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The responsibility given to trainees’; ‘many opportunities to undertake different work’; ‘good quality of work and great social life’; ‘the people’; ‘the level of diversity. Being from a minority ethnic background myself, training at a diverse and inclusive firm was very important to me’; ‘the calibre of people it attracts – I respect everyone at the firm and I learn a lot from just being here’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Poor trainee secondment opportunities’; ‘the hours’; ‘as Latham operates at the top end of the legal market, its clients are industry leaders. Serving these clients whilst continuing to grow practices is very exciting but it can lead to longer hours than you may experience at other law firms’; ‘long nights’; ‘a lot is expected of you’

Best moment? ‘Having the opportunity to attend final sale and purchase agreement (SPA) negotiations on a sell-side deal. I was responsible for inputting changes to the SPA as they were being agreed in the room’; ‘closing huge deals’; ‘going to court’; ‘celebration dinners following deal closings’; ‘drafting a complex document which was sent off with few amendments’

Worst moment? ‘All-nighters’; ‘having to perform a verification process on a presentation which was approximately 200 slides long in a very short space of time. The content of the presentation was being constantly changed/rearranged so finalising our verification notes was a bit of a nightmare!’, ‘a prolonged period of late nights’

The Lex 100 verdict on Latham & Watkins

 

The verdict

‘You never feel like a small cog in a large machine’ at US firm Latham & Watkins. The modest trainee intake, which ‘is not dauntingly low either’, gives way to ‘lean deal teams’, something which attracted many of the current cohort to the prestigious firm. ‘High-value deals’ and an ‘upward trajectory in the market’ were also enticing prospects. The best things about Latham & Watkins is its ‘people’, ‘the opportunities to learn’ and the high level of diversity and inclusiveness; the firm has amassed an impressive eight Lex 100 Winner awards this year. Recruits feel that they receive ‘much more responsibility than trainees at Magic and Silver Circle firms’, albeit training is a little less structured. The benefit is that ‘although this can be daunting at first, it is beneficial to our development and eases the transition to qualifying as an associate’. Somewhat inevitably, the workload at Latham can be heavy: ‘serving industry-leading clients whilst continuing to grow practices is very exciting but it can lead to longer hours than you might experience at other firms’, warns one trainee. An ‘all-nighter’ and a ‘string of very long days in the run up to a closing’ are such examples. Generally though, we hear that ‘work is shared out pretty effectively so that you’re not always operating at 1% capacity’. Work highlights include ‘attending hearings’, ‘working on deals with only one other associate or partner’ and ‘closing a deal which had been ongoing for over two and a half years’. To work at a firm with a ‘democratic leadership style’ which offers plenty of trainee responsibility and a ‘multicultural working environment’, take a look at 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: Stephen Kensell

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, San Diego, San Francisco, Seoul, Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington DC

Who we are: Latham & Watkins has more than 2,700 lawyers globally. Its non-hierarchical, collegiate management style and ‘one firm’ culture make 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: We are 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. We look for candidates who have a minimum of AAB at A-Level (or equivalent) and a 2(1) at undergraduate degree.

What you’ll do: We offer a training contract with real responsibility combined with comprehensive training and mentoring in an open and collaborative environment. 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, 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. Future trainees who achieve a distinction in their LPC will receive a £500 bonus.