Linklaters isn’t for the faint-hearted. But there are few more prestigious places to begin a legal career. The firm scores an A* for the second year running in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, but it can be a demanding environment. While the training materials and seminars are said to be “top quality”, what really sets the Links training experience apart is the instruction from people who are “technically brilliant with absolute dedication to excellence”. Not that they’re without a human side. “I call my supervisor dad,” quips one of the firm’s trainees.
There’s a prevailing atmosphere of kinship among trainees, with many developing friendships while studying together on the LPC. “For all that people say about the MC, not a bad group of people here. They do have my back, don’t think I would be let drown here,” one insider tells us. In the past the battle to secure the plum international secondments has been described as “Hunger Games-esque”, but has taken place more peacefully in recent years with most getting their first choices (Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore are among the most popular locations).
The work is a mixture of the intellectually challenging and the mindless that prevails at most magic circle firms. One rookie pithily sums it up: “Sometimes trainees are given fantastic opportunities to take on meaningful work. At other times, the work can be mundane and it makes you ask yourself, ‘Why did I go to law school just to do this?’” Trainees who prove themselves find that better quality work keeps coming their way.
Work/life balance is what it is, with an average arrive time of 9:17am and leave team of 8:55pm. But the eleven hour days tend to be in line with expectations. The unpredictability is the hard part, suggests one trainee:
“Done a decent shift of late nights when deals reach the ‘crunch’ point in transactional seats, but this is always noted and made easier by the fact that the end (closing) is in sight. Admittedly difficult to make weekday plans as often unclear whether you’ll be out at 6, 7 or 10 (a frustrating situation sees you doing no work from 9-12), only for a deluge to appear at 4pm, but you get used to this. Some weekend work done, but this is generally pretty rare.”
Socially, there’s a ‘work hard play hard’ vibe, with “the Australian and US lawyers leading the charge” on nights out. But Linklaters is apparently getting much better at having a range of socials — i.e. not all involve booze. “If you can stomach hanging out with lawyers for another few hours a week, people tend to be pretty fun. Loads of events and away days,” another insider tells us.
The firm makes up for its demanding nature with some of the best perks around. There’s an in-house gym and fitness centre that is completely free – and has boutique hotel standards of towels and toiletries, and even hair straighteners. A firm doctor, meanwhile, is on hand to see to employees’ needs. The canteen – called ‘Silks’ – is the sort of upmarket foodhall more usually associated with lunching in Chelsea or Beverly Hills. A recent price increase his riled some, but one loyal customer leaps to its defence: “People who complain about Silks are the same people who leave comments on PornHub videos”. This year has seen some “great vegan experimentation”. Oh, and there is great gear to keep you billing: standing/adjustable desks, lumbar support, ergonomic/wireless keyboards with mouse wrist rests, dual screens and deluxe stationery.
It’s also worth noting the steps forward that Linklaters has made on boosting its tech savvy. Lawyers were delighted to receive Surface Pro tablets, Yoga laptops and iPhone 6s last year. One reports: “Massive strides in the last 12 months…finally got their sh*t together”. However, “glossy hardware hides some creaking software”. Legal Cheek understands that the firm is currently in the process of updating various systems. Meanwhile, the firm’s investment in artificial intelligence and other related technology has, in the main, yet to be felt on the frontline. “Lots of things being talked about … I haven’t seen any of them implemented yet,” one insider tells us.
Those who thrive at Linklaters and go on to make it to the top stand to make big money: the firm’s latest profit per equity partner figure stands at £1.538 million. This is down slightly (2%) on last year, but revenue is up by 6% to £1.523 billion – a signal of a business that may not have had a vintage year but remains in rude health.