Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Sidley Austin

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Sidley Austin

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Sidley offers attractive opportunities to conduct a variety of cross-border work’; ‘reputation in the finance sector’; ‘the approachability of lawyers at all levels’; ‘great training opportunities’; ‘opportunity to join a growing private equity practice’; ‘the small trainee intake’; ‘good working environment’; ‘excellent remuneration’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The people make the firm’; ‘it’s a very positive working environment’; ‘the annual Christmas parties’; ‘being the only trainee in a department leads to a lot of responsibility to be able to handle matters fairly independently’; ‘support is always available if you need it’; ‘the pay’; ‘interesting clients’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Work allocation could be better in the bigger teams so that people aren’t swamped with work at all hours’; ‘the lack of paralegals in some departments’; ‘the office can be quiet, but the social side is definitely growing’; ‘the unpredictable hours, depending on what department you are in’

Best moment? ‘My first signing and closing’; ‘celebrating wins’; ‘being staffed on a current public deal’; ‘working on the sale of a stake in a Premier League Football Club’; ‘taking over a deal when the associate went on holiday for three weeks’; ‘getting exposure to interesting clients’; ‘finding my niche early’; ‘leading a closing’

Worst moment? ‘Reviewing 100 documents on a Saturday night’; ‘trying to complete a research task on foreign law’; ‘some departments’ attitudes towards a work/life balance has made the office environment negative’; ‘when clients ask questions I do not know the answer to’; ‘realising I had made an error in a contract which was spotted by a client’

The Lex 100 verdict on Sidley Austin

The firm: Sidley’s London office was established in 1974 and is the firm’s largest office in Europe. Our lawyers advise on domestic and cross-border matters across a full range of practice areas. We have a particularly strong footprint in London in structured finance, capital markets and restructuring.

The verdict

Applicants flocked to Sidley Austin thanks to the small trainee intake and ‘flexible seat choices with no compulsory seats’. For others, vacation scheme experiences ‘made the decision easy’. With ‘extensive training offered near-on weekly’ recruits were happy to ‘cover a wide scope of areas, not limited to our current seats’. Many praise their ‘approachable and sociable colleagues’ and are particularly impressed by their ‘willingness to support social and sports activities such as the new mixed football team’. Some trainees relished the ‘exposure to partners and freedom to take on new business development projects in addition to billable work’. Moreover, respondents were pleased with the ‘excellent CSR and pro-bono opportunities’ which are ‘always readily available, fulfilling and encouraged so much so that whoever does the most pro-bono hours gets plane tickets to New York’. The ‘excellent remuneration’ and ‘very high retention rates’ were obvious motivations for applicants, resulting in Lex 100 Winner medals for confidence of being kept on, quality of work and salary. But ‘unpredictably long hours’ disgruntled trainees, even though this does ‘depend on the department’. Less favourable moments included ‘realising I’d made an error in a contract which was spotted by a client’ and working ‘successive Friday nights/Saturday mornings in the office’. However, the small recruitment pool means that newbies are happy to be exposed to such ‘high levels of responsibility’. This is reflected in best moments such as ‘stepping up to fulfil the junior associate role on a transaction’ and ‘leading a closing’. If a US firm which supports you and inspires job confidence sounds attractive, apply to Sidley Austin.

A day in the life of… Hermina Wong, trainee, Sidley Austin LLP

Hermina Wong, Sidley Austin

Departments to date: Global finance and banking and financial services

University: Cambridge

Degree: Politics, Psychology and Sociology

8.15am: I read through my emails in the morning and take mental note of matters which may require my attention during the day. I get ready for work and read the FT on my commute.

9.30am: I get to my desk and discuss with the partners and associates matters which require our urgent attention. We often work with clients based in the US and Asia Pacific, so often things may come in overnight due to time differences.

10.15am: We are advising a client on its reporting obligations under a piece of EU legislation. An associate asked me to research the regulation and other relevant published guidance on the regulator’s powers to impose sanctions and fines.

11.30am: My supervisor asks me to conduct an urgent piece of research on the rules surrounding regulatory capital for a client. In the regulatory group, clients often have questions which require our immediate attention. As a trainee, I contribute to the advice to our clients by researching the law and drafting a summary, which can then be sent across to the client immediately. I discuss my research with my supervisor, who then invites me to join a phone call in which he explains the implications of the rules to the client.

1.00pm: I grab lunch with other trainees on the firm’s roof terrace which is open all summer.

1.45pm: I research EU and UK legislation and the relevant published guidance on sanctions and fines. I then produce a summary of the research and present my findings to the associate.

3.30pm: It’s a nice day out so an associate invites me for a quick ice-cream break near the office.

4.00pm: I start working on a long-term project which aims to update our clients on the latest developments in the payment services industry. I review a number of relevant articles and publications by EU authorities which may help with the process of drafting the client alert.

7.00pm: I finish up the notes I made on the articles and publications. I log off and head home to watch Wimbledon with my friends.

About the firm

Managing partner: Tom Thesing

Other offices: Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, Dallas, Geneva, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Washington

Who we are: Sidley’s office in London has served clients in the London market since 1974. The firm gained a significant advantage in 1994 when it began offering English law advice in addition to US legal advice. Having lawyers qualified to practise in both jurisdictions for more than 20 years has enhanced our reputation for assisting global businesses and governments across a variety of industries.

What we do: Our practice areas are: banking and financial services; capital markets; competition; employment; global finance; healthcare and FDA; insurance; investment funds; litigation; M&A and private equity; regulatory and enforcement; restructuring; tax.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for talented students who are genuinely intrigued by the commercial world. Individuals who can demonstrate a strong ability to analyse and to learn, can work well with others and get on well with clients and have perseverance and initiative.

What you’ll do: Four six-month seats. Secondment opportunities are available as well as a client secondment. The PSC is now completed before starting your first seat.

Perks: 25 days’ holiday per year; non-contributory pension scheme; private medical insurance; life assurance; income protection insurance; season ticket loan; free use of private clinics for GP appointments; employee assistance programme; cycle to work scheme; free membership to in-house gym or a contribution to a gym of your choice.

Sponsorship: GDL and LPC and an £11,000 maintenance grant.