Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Watson Farley & Williams

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Watson Farley & Williams

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Excellent international opportunities and its considerable presence in the renewables sector, among other key industries’; ‘feel of a small firm, but with high-quality work’; ‘focus on the maritime and energy sectors’; ‘the firm’s reputation in asset finance’; ‘friendly, international element’; ‘work/life balance’; ‘good size’

Best thing about the firm? ‘International opportunities’; ‘intake size’; ‘quality of interesting and tangible work e.g. often working on matters involving huge energy projects or shipping transactions’; ‘approachability and friendliness of colleagues from all levels’; ‘the people are genuinely friendly and happy to answer any questions you have (that includes those at the top)’; ‘genuinely a nice place to work’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘If you don’t like finance, your options are more limited’; ‘lack of round-the-clock office support’; ‘plethora of training sessions at the start, but not enough training sessions throughout the training contract’; ‘the benefits package is not on par with similar firms and the LPC grant is low’; ‘lack of commercial awareness tools’

Best moment? ‘Working with a friendly and supportive team on a finance transaction which involved a great deal of client contact’; ‘having my input sought and valued by a partner’; ‘receiving a thank you from a client directly’; ‘being appreciated and receiving credit on work done by colleagues’; ‘running signing meetings with clients’; ‘Paris secondment; ‘four-month secondment to Athens over summer’

Worst moment? ‘Spending an inordinate amount of time managing spreadsheets’; ‘not proofreading a document properly’; ‘lack of paralegals mean trainees can get swamped with post-closing bibles at times’; ‘doing an unexpected all-nighter and not having a change of clothes’; ‘working long hours’

The Lex 100 verdict on Watson Farley & Williams

The firm: “WFW is an international law firm advising on complex transactions and disputes through local knowledge and an integrated international network. We have a strong sector focus, combining our technical excellence with deep industry knowledge across energy, transport and real estate. We have offices in Athens, Bangkok, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanoi, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome and Singapore.”

The deals: Advised Danaos on its US$2.2bn debt restructuring and refinancing; advised Pacific Basin Shipping on the US$325m refinancing of 50 vessels; achieved a landmark High Court ruling on enforcement of adjudication decisions in cases of fraud in construction projects; advised Investec on a first of its kind private placement bond-supported French tax leasing for EWA Air; advised on the 300 MW Talasol Spanish PV project.

The clients: American International Group Inc.; BNP Paribas; British Petroleum; Cerberus European Investments; Chaarat Gold Holdings Ltd; Credit Agricole; Investec; Lightsource BP; Ørsted; Teekay.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Asset finance and leasing; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Commercial property: hotels and leisure; Commodities: physicals; Corporate tax; EU and competition; Flotations: small and mid-cap; Immigration: business; International arbitration; M&A: lower mid-market deals, £50m – £250m; Mining and minerals; Oil and gas; Power (including electricity and renewables); Private equity: transactions – mid-market deals; Property finance; Property litigation; Rail; Shipping; Trade finance

The verdict

The ‘excellent vacation scheme’, ‘reputation for energy sector work’ and ‘six-seat training contract’ were among the reasons trainees applied to Watson Farley & Williams, with the biggest plus being the ‘guaranteed international secondment’. The mid-sized firm has an ‘inclusive and welcoming atmosphere’ and a ‘very supportive culture with down-to-earth partners’. Trainees describe Watson Farley & Williams as ‘a smaller firm punching above its weight’ with an impressive ‘international scope of work’. Thanks to the small trainee intake, respondents feel that ‘there is more opportunity to be given greater responsibility and have exposure to clients’. But what ‘stands out most is the fact that all trainees are friends’ so it’s no surprise that newbies rate ‘the people’ as the best thing about the firm. Recruits were thrilled that ‘colleagues are willing to take the time to get to know you’ and that ‘everyone has been so generous with their time and is willing to teach’. On the flip side, there were grumbles about the canteen and ‘the limited perks and resources compared to similar-sized firms’. As a Lex 100 Winner for international secondments, it is little wonder that WFW trainees’ best moments involve ‘going on overseas secondment’, sometimes even more than once. Other work highlights include ‘being left to run meetings and signings with directors’, ‘being appreciated and receiving credit on work done by colleagues and clients’ and ‘seeing from start to finish a $2 billion-dollar deal’. ‘Occasional long hours’, ‘weekend work’ and ‘cancelling plans last minute’ were less appreciated. For ‘fantastic international secondment opportunities’, ‘great-quality work’ and ‘an impressive client roster’, consider Watson Farley & Williams.

A day in the life of… Nick Cullinan, first-year trainee, Watson Farley & Williams

Nick Cullinan, Watson Farley & Williams

Departments to date: Litigation and asset finance (London), asset finance (Munich)

University: Bristol

Degree: Law with study in Continental Europe (LLB) 2(1)

8.30am: I get to the office earlier than usual. I am assisting the Paris office with a signing meeting taking place here. I have been briefed on the transaction and tasked with ensuring the parties sign the documents correctly, which is slightly more complicated than it sounds as French law signing requirements are rather complex. Happily some breakfast has been put on so I get to enjoy some local specialities!

10.30am: The meeting complete and documents on their way back to Paris, I head to my desk and go through my emails. I have received a request from the Dubai office on some security registration points regarding a recent transaction. I am currently in the aviation finance team which usually has a lot of cross-border elements and requires liaising with lots of our other offices. This is exciting and represents the international nature of the firm and my training. For example, on this particular transaction we were working with financing parties in Korea and lawyers in our New York office.

I start collecting the required information and discuss with my supervisor the points where I am unsure and he offers some helpful advice. I always feel able to ask questions when required and that the firm is supportive of my learning.

12.30pm: Lunch time. The office is conveniently located in the city centre where there are a lot of options from traditional German to Thai. Today a colleague and I are heading off for some local food from the market. The weather is sunny so we eat outside and take in some of the architecture. My Munich colleagues have been very welcoming and it has been a great opportunity to develop contacts which will be helpful throughout my career.

1.30pm: After lunch, I come back to a request to assist the Hamburg ship finance team with a deed of release, power of attorney and some Liberian mortgage releases. I am briefed on the matter and provided with the necessary documents to start the first draft. I am able to build on my knowledge from my first seat in asset finance in London which focused mainly on ship finance. I check the system precedents and once complete send my drafts back to Hamburg for their review. I also pre-clear the mortgage releases and power of attorney with the Liberian Registry to check they are acceptable to discharge the mortgages.

3.30pm: After a colleague and I nip out for a quick coffee nearby and soak up a bit more of the winter sun, I continue on the necessary post-closing elements for another recent transaction which involved the sale of an A350. This transaction was a good learning curve and preparing and collating the transaction bible helps with getting a broad understanding of the documents and how they fit together. I continue preparing the documents and then consult my supervisor on any points I am unsure on. This particular transaction featured a lessor in Ireland, an airline in the Far East and a German financing party.

6.45pm: Hamburg come back on my draft documents with some amends which I include and send them back for final sign off.

7.00pm: I have a quick final check of my to-do list and clear my inbox before I prepare to log off and close my time sheet. I write a to-do list and ensure that I prioritise my list so that I am ready to start the next day.

7.30pm: I head off into the Alt Stadt to meet some friends for dinner and drinks. I think later we are heading to an area near the trainee flat to take in Munich’s vibrant music scene (not quite Berlin’s!) and many bars.

About the firm

Managing partners: Chris Lowe, Lothar Wegener

Other offices: Athens, Bangkok, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, Singapore.

Who we are: Founded in 1982, WFW is an international law firm advising on complex transactions and disputes through local knowledge and an integrated international network. We have a strong sector focus, combining our technical excellence with deep industry knowledge across energy, transport and real estate.

What we do: Within our core sectors of energy (conventional and renewable power, oil and gas, mining and commodities), real estate and transport (aviation, maritime and rail) plus associated infrastructure, we provide a full suite of legal services including finance, capital markets, corporate, construction, planning, employment, public law, regulatory and competition, and dispute resolution.

What we’re looking for: You will need a 2(1) or above. We also ask for at least ABB from A-level results, or their equivalent. As well as academic achievement, we particularly value applicants with initiative, drive and commercial awareness.

What you’ll do: At WFW we deal with training and ongoing development in an individual way. During each seat, we discuss with you plans for the next one, encouraging a two-way conversation about areas you are interested in. Each trainee undertakes six four-month seats, sitting with a partner or a senior associate. Trainees spend one of those seats in an overseas office.

Perks: 25 days’ holiday, income protection scheme, life assurance, employee assistance scheme, group personal pension scheme, annual interest-free season ticket loan, £250 contribution towards a sports club membership or exercise classes of your choice, private medical insurance, flexible benefits scheme.

Sponsorship: Fees paid for both the GDL and the LPC, depending on the point of offer, plus a maintenance grant.