Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘It has the best contentious and transactional practices’; ‘top US firm’; ‘it had the best recruitment event’; ‘prestige’; ‘the quality of the work and financial remuneration’; ‘the high levels of responsibility you get as a trainee’; ‘the culture seemed significantly more pleasant than that of other comparable firms’

Best thing about the firm? ‘People are friendly’; ‘the level of early responsibility’; ‘the prestige’; ‘the people’; ‘the high quality of work’; ‘the amazing remuneration and the greater capacity for taking on responsibility’; ‘the culture: everyone takes their work seriously but is also fun and up for a laugh’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Dated offices’; ‘sometimes there is a lack of communication to trainees’; ‘the hours can be horrible’; ‘the promotion rates for junior lawyers’; ‘the IT’; ‘the expectation to be available all the time’

Best moment? ‘Completing an entire due diligence report only two months into my training contract’; ‘generally taking on lots of responsibility’; ‘attending court’; ‘attending the trial of a high-value arbitration after working on the case for a few months’; ‘being able to take responsibility for a matter whilst my supervisor was away’

Worst moment? ‘Silly mistakes I have made’; ‘losing 12-0 for the Skadden football team’; ‘attending the trial of a high-value arbitration after working on the case for a few months. The hours were horrendous for the days of the trial. Between other commitments, I barely managed one hour’s sleep per day for three days’; ‘making mistakes’; ‘not having enough work for two months’

The Lex 100 verdict on Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP

The firm: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom advises corporations, financial institutions and government entities around the world on their most complex, high-profile matters. Close collaboration by its 1,700 attorneys in 50-plus practices across 22 offices has been key to helping clients succeed in today’s business environment.

The deals: Advised Phoenix Group Holdings Limited, the listed UK-based closed life assurance fund consolidator, in relation to its proposed £3.25bn acquisition of ReAssure Group Plc, the listed UK-based company that operates as a life and pensions consolidator, from MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings Inc. and Swiss Re Ltd; advised Coty, Inc.  in its strategic partnership with KKR, including the carve-out sale of 60% of its professional beauty and retail hair businesses to KKR, with an enterprise value of US$4.3bn; represented Alfa Telecom Turkey (part of the LetterOne group) in one of the most high-profile, multibillion-dollar, corporate battles concerning a leading mobile telecoms operator; lead counsel to an investment company in a significant shareholder dispute regarding the potential sale of shares in Norilsk Nickel (one of the  world’s largest producers of nickel, copper and platinum, and the world’s largest producer of palladium) with a value of  around US$1.477bn; obtained an order affirming the enforcement of a £290m arbitral award that it obtained for two Dutch subsidiaries of NextEra Energy, the largest ever investment treaty award in the renewable energy sector worldwide.

The clients: NextEra Energy, Phoenix Group Holdings Limited, Coty, Inc, Pret a Manger, L’Occitane, Nightstar Therapeutics, Alfa Telecom Turkey.

The verdict

A ‘global reputation in corporate and a burgeoning private equity practice in London’ were but some of the reasons trainees flocked to ‘prestigious’ Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. A ‘wide range of seats in market-leading practice areas’ are on offer and recruits can expect to be ‘treated more like an associate and considered a crucial part of the team’. Although the training is ‘not very structured’, recruits feel that they receive more exposure to matters because they learn on the job. Skadden’s enviable salary package is hard to ignore and has earned the US firm a Lex 100 Winner award. A further winner medal has been gained for confidence in being kept on after qualification. Perhaps inevitably, we heard that ‘the hours can be horrible’ and that, sometimes, ‘the expectation to work long hours can be unreasonable’. ‘Working pretty much every weekend for a prolonged period of time’ and ‘attending the trial of a high-value arbitration after working on the case for a few months: the hours were horrendous for the days of the trial’ support this sentiment. There were also some concerns about career progression for junior lawyers. The ambitious environment and mindset is balanced out with people who are ‘good fun and a good laugh’ and the culture is ‘tight-knit and sociable’. ‘Attending a client negotiation in the City with one partner, two other associates and the general counsel’ and ‘finding out that I had been successful in my application for a six-month secondment to the New York office’ excited trainees. To train within a ‘top-performing but collegiate culture’ where both the remuneration and responsibility are high, consider Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

A day in the life of… Cam Russell, trainee, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP

Cam Russell, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP

Departments to date: Litigation and international arbitration; corporate (financial institutions)

University: Queen's University Canada

Degree: History (the Canadian equivalent of a 2(1))

8.30am: I’ll wake up and scroll through my emails on my phone – it’s not required, but I’m working on a number of deals, including an exciting merger, so updates always filter through overnight.

9.15am: Having showered and eaten, I’ll log onto the Skadden servers. At the onset of lockdown, Skadden immediately ensured all of its trainees and lawyers had two monitors and a printer, so I have a fantastic set-up on my kitchen table. I’ll then start dealing with any urgent emails or issues that require attention or responses.

10.00am: We’ve had a vast number of training sessions set up throughout lockdown (and, in all honesty, the change from 8.30am seminars in the office to 1000am Webex meetings has been well-received). Like a lot of recent graduates, I live in a small apartment in London, and this can get a little claustrophobic. Training has been a really positive opportunity to spend my mornings interacting with the other trainees and learning from a host of diverse lecturers from the confines of my office/kitchen.

12.00pm: The firm’s departments are intimately collaborative: when one department is stretched, associates across the firm will help out. I’ve therefore been involved in a major private equity deal for the past few months as the sole trainee. This can involve anything from drafting a crucial share purchase agreement (Skadden’s attitude is generally ‘why don’t you have a go first and show us what you can come up with’) to directly corresponding with the client, accountants or opposing counsel on key aspects of the deal structure.

1.00pm: Ideally, I like to set aside an hour every day to have lunch and work out. This is obviously subject to work – I would not turn my laptop off to go for a jog in the middle of a major signing. My experience has been that if you tell the associates or partners you’re working for that you’re keen to work out at a certain time, people are very accommodating.

2.00pm: Aside from my private equity work, I also have responsibilities for several major M&A deals. This generally involves working with my supervisor to understand our client’s business needs and filter this through to local counsel across every jurisdiction imaginable, for them to prepare specific legal actions for the client to take in that jurisdiction. This kind of project management gives invaluable insight into the business world and the structure and processes of multinational corporations, which in turn benefits my legal practice.

6.30pm: With the main body of my work finished, I’ll start on one of the pro bono matters I am involved with. The firm treats charitable work as sacrosanct, counts the hours as billable and has recently hired one of the associates to co-ordinate the firm’s pro bono in London full-time. The particular matter I’ve been involved with recently has been transactional work for an inner-city charity, but I’ve also done advocacy work in the past. This can be emotionally challenging but hugely fulfilling, and it reinforces a sense of perspective that’s particularly important right now.

7.15pm: I’ll input all my billable and non-billable hours for the day and send out a couple of emails checking if there is any further work I can do. This is the lockdown equivalent of walking round the office to check if anyone needs help before I go home.

7.30pm: With my work done, I’ll clock off and (lockdown restrictions permitting), wander down to St James Park and walk around a couple of times to relax.

About the firm

Managing partner: Pranav Trivedi (UK)

Other offices: Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Moscow, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Washington DC, Wilmington.

Who we are: Skadden is one of the leading law firms in the world with approximately 1,700 lawyers across the globe.

What we do: Our clients include corporate, industrial and financial institutions, and government entities. Lawyers across the European network focus primarily on corporate transactions, including domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, private equity, capital markets, leveraged finance and banking, tax, corporate restructuring, and energy and projects.

What we’re looking for: We seek to recruit a small number of high-calibre graduates from any discipline to join our highly successful London office as trainee solicitors. We are looking for driven candidates who combine intellectual ability with enthusiasm, creativity and a demonstrable ability to rise to a challenge and to work with others towards a common goal.

What you’ll do: Drawing upon the experience and teaching abilities of our partners, associates and qualified external consultants, trainee solicitors are also offered regular training seminars, workshops and updates for associates at all levels and across our practice areas.

Perks: Bonus scheme, gym membership subsidy, pension scheme, life assurance, private healthcare, season ticket loan, subsidised restaurant.

Sponsorship: The firm pays for GDL and LPC course fees and provides a £10,000 maintenance grant for each year of these courses.

Diversity and inclusion

Skadden is deeply committed to hiring, developing and empowering high-performing attorneys whose diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences provide an important advantage in our ability to deliver excellent service and innovative solutions to our clients.

Skadden assumes an active stance on the effort outside the firm, working with leading organisations and our clients to advance D&I within the legal profession. The firm and individual leaders serve in senior roles with organisations such as the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession and the Women in Law Empowerment Forum, as well as recognised Bar associations and women, LGBTQ+ and minority organisations that demonstrate impact in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Additionally, our internal D&I programmes and initiatives include:

  • The Women’s Leadership Forum for high-potential women counsel and senior associates at Skadden, which reinforces the participants’ continued progression through leadership programming and individualised executive coaching. Since the programme’s inception in 2013, more than 100 women attorneys have participated, with more than one-third of the participants having been promoted to partner or counsel;
  • The Women’s Midlevel Associates Conference, a biennial training conference in New York for women attorneys across all firm offices as a major component of our retention and advancement objectives;
  • The Career Sponsorship Program formally pairs diverse associate/counsel participants recognised by their practice groups for their consistent first-rate work performance (protégé) one-to-one with a partner (sponsor). The programme aims to ensure that the protégé sustains and builds on their development and upward trajectory through meaningful work projects, ongoing feedback and advocacy within and outside the firm to help raise their profile as a rising star;
  • Management training for team leaders on building inclusive teams and eliminating unconscious bias;
  • Attorney Pipeline & Performance meetings held annually with Skadden office and practice leaders and global heads of firm strategy, talent development and D&I to discuss each practice group’s projected promotion pipeline, including diversity; and
  • Seven attorney affinity networks whose members self-identify as persons of colour (including attorneys whose backgrounds include Asian, Middle Eastern, black or African American, Hispanic or Latino), LGBTQ+, women, parents and US military veterans, and allies of each network. With support from the firm, associates and counsel lead each network, developing annual strategic plans and working with firm leaders and administrative departments to execute programming that meets the interests and needs of network members as well as the broader Skadden community.

Together, these and other firm initiatives and aspects of our profile cultivate diversity of thought, high-performance teamwork and superior problem-solving skills that our clients rely upon us to deliver. Throughout the verticals highlighted in our response, all of the team members contribute to or directly participate in the aforementioned programmes and leadership roles.