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? ‘The international secondment guarantee’; ‘the sector focus’; ‘I really enjoyed my vacation scheme – the team was very inclusive’; ‘finance expertise’; ‘by far the friendliest vacation scheme I did’; ‘size of the trainee intake and the approachability of the people I met’; ‘international opportunities’; ‘the vac scheme allowed me to actually experience the firm and its culture’

Best thing about the firm? ‘International secondments’; ‘the international opportunities and quality of the work’; ‘approachability of the people’; ‘guaranteed international secondments’; ‘the people are very friendly and approachable’; ‘the international opportunities and the quality of the work’; ‘the supportive work environment’; ‘the respect for work/life balance’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘It can be a bit slow to adapt to change’; ‘limited trainee events’; ‘lack of structured training for trainees when going into new seats’; ‘the finance seat in the run up to Christmas is always particularly challenging’; ‘the culture can be a little confused. For Magic Circle hours there should be Magic Circle pay’

Best moment? ‘Being given responsibility to run a small financing’; ‘working with the corporate team in Singapore’; ‘closing a deal where I’d been given a great deal of responsibility. The sense of ownership is highly satisfying’; ‘working directly with the chairman on a task and handling face-to-face meetings with clients’; ‘going on secondment to the Far East’

Worst moment? ‘Staying past midnight for two weeks’, ‘attending a closing at 3am’, ‘working 30 hours straight’, ‘waiting in an office in central London for a director to become available to sign a lease – it wasn’t the most interesting few hours’, ‘a string of late-night finishes in the run up to a closing’

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.  It has a strong sector focus, combining technical excellence with deep industry knowledge across energy, transport and real estate. It has offices in Athens, Bangkok, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanoi, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome and Singapore.

The deals: Advised Walney Extension on £447m sale of transmission assets; advised Royal Caribbean on US$3.3bn private offerings; advised AWG on launch of Global Aircraft Trading System (GATS); jointly advised on A3 PPP Project with NRF and Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein, the largest PPP infrastructure project in Germany to date; successfully challenged enforcement of  adjudication decisions in the Court of Appeal, an award-winning matter.

The clients: Aviation Working Group (AWG); BNP Paribas; BP Pension Fund; Cerberus Capital Management; Crédit Agricole; Investec; J.P Morgan Asset Management; Lightsource BP; MSC Cruises SA; National Westminster Bank.

The verdict

‘Great international opportunities’ and ‘top-notch finance work in the shipping and energy sectors’ sum up Watson Farley & Williams. A training contract made up of six four-month seats affords trainees the ‘opportunity to try as many practice areas as possible’. Recruits receive ‘excellent client-facing opportunities’ and consider a large proportion of the work they undertake to be ‘NQ level’. While ‘at most firms, securing an international secondment can be a competitive process’, at Watson Farley & Williams secondments are ‘actively encouraged’ and there is even an ‘option to complete two overseas placements’. One trainee went to the Paris office and ‘loved every second. There was interesting work, a lovely team and the trainee flats were incredibly located in the Marais!’. It therefore comes as no surprise that the firm holds onto its Lex 100 Winner award in this category. A ‘good work/life balance for good pay’ and ‘friendly and approachable people’ are the cherry on the cake. Trainees noted that teams ‘can be leanly staffed’ which can lead to high workloads at times. Respondents would also have liked to have more contact with the firm between accepting their offer and starting their training contract. Among the worst moments were ‘working until 7am (and sitting on a call at 5am)’ and ‘attending a closing which started at 4am’. But ‘running a finance deal, including the drafting of documents and coordinating with the client’ and ‘helping to conclude a bridge financing in real estate in one day’ more than made up for it. For a guaranteed international secondment and multijurisdictional, high-quality work in the company of lawyers who ‘value the opportunity to do interesting work while also having a good work/life balance’, investigate Watson Farley & Williams.

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

Aidan Graham, Watson Farley & Williams

Departments to date: Real estate, assets and structured finance, projects

University: University of Durham Queen Mary, University of London

Degree: Law LLB, 2(1), Law and Finance MSc (Merit)

9.00am: As is the new normal I make the long commute to the office in my living room and log on. I am on quite a big solar power refinancing deal, so I find it useful to log on at 9am just to make sure I have some time before things kick off, to assess what I need to do with my day. This refinancing, involving ten separate solar farms, needs to close by the end of the month as a previous loan matures then, so there are a lot of moving parts and it is quite a fast-paced transaction. This is one of the exciting aspects of working at WFW, getting exposure to cross-border work on deals such as this where you have a lot of external contact and can get involved in a great deal of the drafting due to the size of the deal. Once I assess my to-do list, I get in touch with my supervisor over Skype to propose what I think I should be working on today.

10.00am: We are trialling some new condition precedent software and from 10-11am I have training via an online webinar. As a trainee in finance seats, you will often oversee the CP checklists, so I am glad we are engaging with a platform to streamline and assist with the process.

11.30am: One of the associates on the refinancing deal requires help drafting some fee letters on behalf of the lender in the transaction. I switch from drafting the due diligence report to drafting the fee letters. Luckily, we have worked for this lender before so I can use previous fee letter forms as my base.

12.30pm: As there are no urgent tasks I need to do at this stage and having finished the fee letters and some other general admin, I decide to go out for a run to enjoy the weather and get some fresh air. Once I am back, I have lunch with my housemate who is a trainee solicitor at a different firm. We chat about our mornings, the sport which has luckily returned to our TVs and how busy we’ll be for the rest of the day.

1.30pm: When I come back from lunch there is a request from another associate on the deal asking me to update the facilities agreement with some comments the lawyers on the other side of the deal have. I input the changes and flag a few areas where I am not sure whether we should incorporate those changes. After discussing with the associate, we don’t incorporate all the proposed changes, state our reasons in an email and send the draft back. Something I like at WFW is that trainees are encouraged to have an opinion on these matters. In situations where you are wrong you will get an explanation of the bigger picture and gain a better understanding of why certain things happen, and equally if you have spotted something out of place it’s a nice feeling to be told you were right to flag it. Often there really aren’t any stupid questions.

3.00pm: I have a quick coffee before an internal team call on the deal, in which we discuss where we are and what more needs to be done. I have a few tasks to do so I continue with those before we have a call later in the afternoon with the lender to discuss some commercial points they need to have input on.

5.00pm: We have a call with the lenders during which I realise I can help them locate bank accounts from a previous financing of these same SPVs. I put together a spreadsheet and send it to my supervisor. She thanks me for my proactivity and we send it to the lenders after the call to aid their search.

7.30pm: I have a final check of my to-do list, clear my inbox (I like to ‘zero-inbox’) and check in with my supervisor and other associates on the deal to make sure there are no more points I need to action today. As are the times, I have a virtual wine tasting at 8pm that I am looking forward to as some light relief. We also have the projects virtual team quiz on Friday, something else to brighten the week!

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.

Diversity and inclusion