Survey Results - Trainee feedback on White & Case LLP
The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on White & Case LLP
Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Breadth of international work’; ‘guaranteed secondment’; ‘great vacation scheme’; ‘complex work; ‘friendly HR teams and approachable partners’; ‘remuneration and reputation’; the global culture and associated diversity among colleagues’; ‘the opportunity to work in a truly global law firm with exposure to some of the most interesting matters’
Best thing about the firm? ‘I love the work and the office’; ‘free dinners after 6pm’; ‘the work is interesting and departments are generally top-tier’; ‘culture of openness’; ‘sociable atmosphere and events such as the W&C World Cup and Christmas party’; ‘the people that are willing to invest time and effort to help you succeed’
Worst thing about the firm? ‘The hours’; ‘can be a face-time culture in certain teams’; ‘the building – lack of natural light’; ‘during signings/filings hours can be long, which sometimes takes a toll on the personal life’; ‘the lack of structure to a working day’; ‘NQ salary is lagging behind US competitors’
Best moment? ‘Attending a two-week arbitration hearing in Oman’; ‘project managing an entire transaction in the absence of the associate’; ‘completing a closing which I had been managing almost independently’; ‘successfully closing my own mini-transaction’; ‘assisting with the signing of a £250m refinancing deal’; ‘having a really great supervisor in my first seat who was a fantastic mentor both professionally and pastorally’
Worst moment? ‘First week of my second seat where I had not been given the complete handover information’; ‘late nights in the office and weekend work’; ‘IT training’; ’14-hour negotiations in the office of a Magic Circle law firm, culminating in the 5am signing of a deal’; ‘three solid weeks of dealing with signature pages on two back-to-back transactions’
The Lex 100 verdict on White & Case LLP
The firm: Global firm White & Case’s London office is one of the largest in the City. The firm has a longstanding presence in the finance and energy sectors and advises a broad and impressive list of clients, including banks, financial institutions, global companies and sovereigns.
The deals: Represented the directors of The Co-operative Bank on the bank’s formal sales process under the Takeover Code and subsequent rescue restructuring and £700m capital raising; acted for Pallinghurst in its £211m hostile takeover offer for Gemfields; acted for the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Ghana as sponsor on a GHS10bn bond issuance programme backed by receipts from energy taxes; assisted The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company with negotiating the commercial agreements related to the sale of its international consumer business to Exponent Private Equity; represented Vale S.A. and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. on the development and $2.73bn financing of the landmark Nacala Corridor Railway and Port Project, an infrastructure project supporting growth along a regional corridor between Mozambique and Malawi.
The clients: Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Cerberus Capital Management; Crédit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank; Harbour Energy Limited; Morgan Stanley; One-Pro Cycling Limited; PetroSaudi; Republic of Nigeria; Samsung; Trafigura.
The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Acquisition finance; Asset finance and leasing; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Bank lending: investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Commercial litigation; Construction; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Debt capital markets; Derivatives and structured products; Emerging markets; Equity capital markets; High yield; Infrastructure (including PFI and PPP); International arbitration; Islamic finance; Mining and minerals; Oil and gas; Power (including electricity, nuclear and renewables); Private equity: transactions; Trade finance
US firm White & Case entices applicants with the promise of a guaranteed international secondment. The ‘firm’s top-tier rated practice areas’ were also a big draw. This attracts ‘high-quality clients’ and ‘top-quality work’ which trainees find gives them ‘great exposure to clients and partners’. In terms of training, White & Case fosters ‘a culture of learning as you go, as you’re expected to figure things out for yourself’. This ‘hands-on training experience’ is welcomed by new recruits who enjoy a ‘great deal of responsibility from early on’. Encouragingly, there are plenty of opportunities to ‘receive work above trainee level if you demonstrate expertise in some area, such as an LLM or previous work experience’. Respondents enjoyed being able to ‘throw yourself into tasks’ but noted ‘there is always a support network to fall back on if you have questions’. The remuneration also greatly pleased recruits and has earned the firm a Lex 100 Winner medal for its salary. A further Lex 100 Winner medal is awarded for the ‘fantastic’ international secondments. On the flip side, there were complaints of ‘long hours’ as some trainees have had to ‘come in all day on multiple weekends to complete a filing’ and others moaned that they ‘had to take a finance seat’. But, the firm’s ‘social events’ and ‘disputes team retreat’ were among best moments. Other highlights include ‘running the closing process for a multi-billion dollar securities insurance alone and knowing my team had confidence in me’ and ‘the New Associates Conference in Hamburg where we got to meet new joiners from other offices across EMEA’. If an ‘inclusive and open international firm’ interests you, consider White & Case.
A day in the life of… Manit Tuli, trainee, White & Case LLP
Departments to date: Project finance, bank finance and litigation
University: London School of Economics and Political Science
8.45am: I arrive in the office and settle down at my desk. I have a look at the emails that came through overnight, and jot down any new tasks onto my to-do list. I then make my way upstairs to the canteen to pick up my morning coffee and usual breakfast.
9.15am: I share an office with two associates (including my supervisor). All three of us mainly work on the same matter, where we act for the claimants in a large commercial dispute. Our office has a very collegiate atmosphere, and we are often discussing different strategies and scribbling ideas on a whiteboard. My supervisor has asked me to prepare a first draft of a letter to the defendants’ solicitors, in relation to our upcoming hearing.
9.30am: I take my time to understand the task at hand by referring to previous correspondence between the parties and by identifying whether there is any relevant guidance in the Civil Procedure Rules. Once I know how I want to structure the letter and what points I want to include, I use the formatting template from a previous letter as a base and begin to draft.
11.15am: I sit down with my supervisor, and we run through the draft I prepared together. We discuss the issues at hand, the approach we want to adopt, and how the opposing party may defend their position. We agree on the changes that need to be made to the letter and I circulate a revised draft to the team.
1.00pm: Today is the litigation-arbitration/white collar department meeting, where associates and partners discuss interesting developments in the matters they are working on. This is a good way to get to know people in the department, and to learn more about the matters White & Case is working on. As an added bonus, lunch is offered!
2.15pm: I arrange to meet with a newly-qualified associate at a café near the office. I haven’t seen him in over six months as he has just finished his overseas seat and qualification leave, so we have a lot to catch up on!
3.00pm: Capacity requests are often sent around the department to see if a trainee can help out with a task. Last week, I opted to help prepare an article, alongside an associate and a partner, on the implications of a recent Supreme Court decision. Having read through the judgment and other relevant academic texts, I prepare an email to the associate with the main takeaways from the case. I also schedule an hour in her diary tomorrow, so we can discuss the points further.
4.30pm: The White & Case team have scheduled a video conference with our client to discuss the development of the dispute, and to answer any questions the client may have. I prepare an internal agenda for the team, and we all head to one of our client suites for the video conference. I bring my laptop with me, as I have been asked to take an attendance note of the video conference.
6.15pm: After the call, I proofread my attendance note for any substantive and grammatical errors, and I save it on to our internal system.
7.15pm: Before I leave for the evening, I have a final look at my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything, and to organise my inbox. I update my to-do list by crossing off the tasks I have completed today, and I identify the tasks that I need to look at tomorrow.
7.45pm: An associate comes around to our office to see if we’d like to join him, and a few other colleagues, for dinner and drinks downstairs. So, we all pack up and enjoy the rest of the evening!
About the firm
Managing partner: Melissa Butler
Other offices: 44 offices worldwide, spanning 30 countries.
Who we are: White & Case is a global law firm of more than 2,000 lawyers worldwide. We’ve built an unrivalled network of 44 offices in 30 countries. That investment is the foundation for our client work in 180 countries today. Complex client projects, nuanced local market knowledge and global capabilities define who we are.
What we do: As a White & Case lawyer, you’ll work on fast-paced cutting-edge cross-border projects from the outset of your career. Many White & Case clients are multinational organisations with complex needs that require the involvement of multiple offices.
What we’re looking for: White & Case is looking to recruit ambitious trainees who have a desire to gain hands-on practical experience from day one and a willingness to take charge of their own career. We value globally-minded citizens of the world who are eager to work across borders and cultures, and who are intrigued by solving problems within multiple legal systems. They should have an understanding of international commercial issues and an interest in working on big-ticket, cross-border work. We recruit both law and non-law students and owing to the nature of our work, language skills are of interest.
What you’ll do: The training contract consists of four six-month seats, one of which is guaranteed to be spent in one of our overseas offices. The remaining three seats can be spent in any one of the Firm’s practice groups in London. Receiving a high level of partner and senior associate contact from day one, our trainees can be confident that they will receive high-quality, stimulating and rewarding work.
Perks: In addition to our core benefits (including a pension, private medical insurance and life insurance) and flexible benefits (including cycle to work scheme, season ticket loan and dental insurance) every employee receives a wellness spending account where you can be reimbursed up to £500 per year towards the cost of fitness activities, gym memberships and relaxation services.
Sponsorship: Course fees paid for GDL and LPC and maintenance grant of £7,500 for GDL and £10,500 for LPC.
Vacation scheme insider
University: University College London
After completing my undergraduate degree at UCL, I opted to study a Master’s in International Commercial Law at City University of London because I wanted to gain academic insight into specific areas of commercial law. During this year of study, I applied for a spring vacation scheme at White & Case.
Why White & Case?
Due to my international upbringing in China, I was drawn to White & Case for the firm’s truly global identity and offer of multi-jurisdictional work. The firm’s unique guarantee of an overseas seat was also an important factor for me. In addition to this, I had met trainees from the firm at various university events and they were all extremely approachable, suggesting a supportive and friendly firm culture.
Vacation scheme structure and work
A busy first day of the vacation scheme began with us being warmly welcomed to the firm by both the graduate resourcing and development team, and graduate resourcing partners. We then had a talk on ‘Life as a Trainee’, followed by lunch with multiple trainees. We also had IT and research training, after which we were introduced to our trainee buddies and department supervisors. The day ended with welcome drinks on the London Eye, which was a great way for us all to get to know each other.
From the second day onwards, we all sat in our allocated departments. I was sat in the intellectual property department, where I assisted both my supervisor and other members of the team with their work. My tasks included proofreading, legal research, checking trial bundles, and attending meetings. I was very fortunate to see a key part of the litigation process in an ongoing case because witness statements happened to be exchanged during my time in the department. I even got to attend a meeting with outside counsel and the co-defendants in the case! As everyone in the department was very friendly and willing to involve me in their work, I also gained insight into the non-contentious IP work done by the firm.
Vacation scheme students were also given the opportunity to become involved in some pro bono work during the scheme if they wished to do so. This made clear the firm’s commitment to pro bono and the extensive involvement of trainees in such work.
Vacation scheme highlights
Aside from the insight gained through real departmental work, a very valuable aspect of the vacation scheme was the presentations that were organised for us on the firm’s different practice areas. This was a great way for everyone to learn about all the practice areas other than the one they were sat in! We were always given the opportunity to ask lots of questions of those presenting. Additionally, we also had the chance to attend Q&A sessions with both trainees and partners, which proved to be a valuable way to gain true insight into life at the firm.
Throughout the vacation scheme, multiple social events allowed us to get to know one another and network with people from across the firm. There was a networking event with various members of the firm, as well as a farewell dinner with partners. We even had our very own ‘White & Case Bake Off’ at a cooking school!
It became clear to me throughout the vacation scheme that White & Case truly does operate an open-door policy – individual offices consist of glass walls and doors are always open! I felt comfortable approaching anyone in my department and it was clear that all the trainees felt the same. Everyone I met seemed to take a keen interest in ensuring that vacation scheme students had the best possible experience and gained insight into life at the firm. This made for a very welcoming and friendly environment.
The culture at White & Case is very international. This was clear from the fact that many partners and associates described their work as predominantly multi-jurisdictional and also shared their experiences of having worked abroad. Both trainees and vacation scheme students were drawn to the firm’s international work and the guaranteed overseas seat.
Training contract interview
During the last few days of the scheme everyone had their training contract interview with two partners. Interviews were well-positioned at the end of the scheme to ensure everyone had plenty of experiences at the firm to draw upon. Throughout the vacation scheme we also completed an individual research task and took part in a fun (and competitive!) group activity.
Diversity and inclusion
We say that diversity is in our DNA. Diversity and inclusion are inherent core values for us, embedded in all we do in our offices around the world.
As a truly global law firm, we’re driven to recruit, retain and advance people of diverse backgrounds who will strengthen our business and our work across practices and regions. As well as our global women’s network, we support nine different affinity groups worldwide. Our diversity work includes a focus on:
Our focus on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) lawyers aims to address the historic underrepresentation of people of colour in the legal profession, and to empower and support BAME lawyers and professionals within our firm.
The London Spectrum LGBTQ+ Affinity Network reflects our commitment to our London office lawyers and business services employees who identify as LGBTQ+, as well as those who do not identify as LGBTQ+ and wish to support this network as allies.
Our Global Women’s Initiative
Led by a committee of female and male partners, including a member of our executive committee, and focuses on ensuring that women here have the opportunities and experience they need to excel and advance to leadership roles.
We have a number of events taking place throughout the year that offer the opportunity to prospective candidates from diverse backgrounds to network with our members from these affinity groups.
Please visit the our website for details of these opportunities.
DiversCity is a unique recruitment event and mentoring programme aimed at raising awareness of pursuing a legal career in London among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students at the degree and postgraduate level. White & Case has been involved in the DiversCity initiative since 2016.
DiversCity is taking place on Thursday 5 December 2019 in London, and travel expenses will be reimbursed. If you are interested in attending the event or would like to know more about the initiative, please visit diverscityinlaw.net or find us on social media at facebook.com/DiversCityInLaw or twitter.com/DiversCityinLaw.