White & Case ups trainee intake again as it reveals plan to challenge magic circle

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By Katie King on

Only ten firms in UK now offering more TCs than London office of US giant


Commercial giant White & Case has announced plans to boost its trainee intake — again — as it embarks on an ambitious strategy to rival the magic circle in London.

The international firm has grown rapidly in the capital in recent years, with its rise reflected in soaring training contract numbers that have leaped from 30 in 2014 to 40 this year and now to 50 for the 2015-16 recruitment round (which sees trainees commence their TCs in 2018).

This TC growth places the New York-based outfit ahead of big City players like Ashurst and Berwin Leighton Paisner — which offer 45 training contracts each — and on par with global giant Norton Rose Fulbright and consumer behemoth Irwin Mitchell.

The next stop, according to W&C’s chairman Hugh Verrier, is to give the magic circle quintet of Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy a run for their money. These firms offer between 80 and 110 training contracts each.

Speaking to Legal Week (£), Verrier explained:

I think if our London growth trajectory continues to accelerate we can present an even stronger challenge to the magic circle and other elite global law firms. But that means that we need to be substantially larger than we are now.

More trainees is just one part of these wider plans for expansion. Verrier predicts that by 2020 the firm will boast over 500 lawyers in London — more than a 40% increase on the current figure of 350.

While other US firms in London are in growth mode — trainee numbers at Latham & Watkins, Sullivan & Cromwell, Shearman & Sterling and Akin Gump have all risen of late — no one else is expanding at anywhere near the rate of White & Case.

Legal Cheek reached out to White & Case for a comment on their increased availability of training contracts, and they gave us this statement:

We continue to see our trainee programme as our best source for high quality English law associates. We have run a trainee programme in London for the last 18 years and have increased the trainee intake year-on-year since 2010 while maintaining our retention rate at a high level. We’d also point out that five of our new partners — one this year and four in the January 2016 promotions — started as trainees in London.

And why is this? The spokesperson continues:

The increase is as a result of client demands in London and growing demand for English law expertise in cross-border transactions and disputes — especially complex ones — both in London and across the broader firm. The increase in our trainee numbers directly reflects our ambitions to continue to expand in London and to strengthen our English law expertise further across the firm globally in line with increasing levels of work.

W&C pays its newly qualified solicitors a staggering salary of £90,000. But they earn it: the target number of billable hours set by the global titan is 1,800, topped only by fellow US firms Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins.

Who pays most, has the highest target hours and offers more training contracts than the rest? The Legal Cheek 2016 Firms Most List has all the answers.