Cooley

The Legal Cheek View

Cooley came from California, opening its London office in 2015, and brought with it Bay Area salaries and a generous heap of Silicon Valley stardust. Clients range from ambitious start-ups to the likes of eBay and Sony. It’s not all tech, media and fintech, however, the firm has leading life sciences, healthcare, financial services, hedge funds, insurance, government departments and non-profit companies on its client list. It has four main practice areas – corporate, litigation, regulatory and intellectual property – encompassing a broad range of work within each.

It is expanding, not just in London, but globally. Since 2005, it has opened 12 offices including one a year for the past six years. The itinerary runs, in order, Washington, DC, New York, Boston, Seattle, Shanghai, Los Angeles, London, Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chicago. In total, it has 17 offices in the US, Europe and Asia, and 1,300 lawyers.

As far as its London office is concerned, Cooley scores a unanimous “very impressive” in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-2022. Could the reason be the move from Broad Street to its glossy new premises in 22 Bishopsgate, an iconic 62-storey skyscraper? Occupying 750,000 square feet across three floors, the 200 London employees will not run short of space even with London managing partner Justin Stock’s push for more associate recruits and lateral hires. The move, scheduled for 2020 but delayed by the pandemic, has been worth the wait. The new place boasts an art gallery, fresh food market, innovation hub, business club, gym, meditation retreat and spa, as well as London’s highest free public viewing gallery and its largest bicycle park. While 22 Bishopsgate must concede the title of tallest building in London to The Shard (310m to 22 Bishopsgate’s 278m) it remains the tallest building in the City of London. From this eagle’s eye view, the firm’s lawyers will want to be commander of all they survey.

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The firm is certainly not short of money, and its London office is fast earning its stripes, pulling in just under $73 million (£53 million) revenue within four years of opening, although this figure dropped back to $70 million (£51 million) in 2020 after an IP team jumped ship. The annual profit per equity partner is a staggering $3.2 million (£2.3 million).

What else might attract a person to this high-rolling firm where the starting salary for a newly qualified lawyer is a megabucks £120,000? Well, the training’s not bad, either.

One bonus of working within the smaller office of a US firm is greater depth of involvement – Cooley often has only one trainee working on a transaction or case whereas other firms might have four or five. Consequently, the partner and senior lawyers may rely on the trainee to an extent not common elsewhere.

It takes on five trainees each year. To be considered, applicants must have taken part in the firm’s two-week London summer programme, which accepts up to 10 people each year. The firm has demonstrated its commitment to diversity, reviewing application forms on a name-blind basis as well as offering financial help and work experience in the form of a UK diversity fellowship programme to outstanding students. It has a range of affinity groups, which support career development and identify opportunities for client and community partnering.

Once on board, trainees usually do two litigious and two transactional seats. The firm is accommodating to trainee interests and preferences. It is possible to do split seats, for example, combining employment with compensation and benefits. The firm allows trainees to repeat a seat if they feel drawn to that particular practice area. Trainees are encouraged to get involved in the firm’s pro bono work, which is treated the same as billable work, gaining casework experience in matters such as social security, asylum or immigration.

The quality of work scored highly among survey respondents, one third of whom rated it “highly stimulating”. And while entry to the firm is fiercely competitive, it’s an encouraging place once you’re in – more than half the respondents gave their peers top marks for being “highly supportive”. Similarly, partners and supervisors receive high ratings for their approachability (approachable or highly approachable).

The firm has made itself useful during the pandemic. Its work includes advising Silence Therapeutics pro bono on an agreement with a Berlin company on a project to repurpose equipment to produce Covid-19 PCR diagnostic test kits. It was also one of four law firms advising the government on the Future Fund scheme, aimed at helping UK start-ups in response to the impact of the pandemic.

In keeping with its San Francisco roots (it opened its first office there in 1920 and was an early starter in the Silicon Valley goldrush, opening its Palo Alto office in 1980), the firm offers free yoga and bi-weekly mindfulness sessions. On the other hand, 11-hour days are the norm. Despite these long hours, the firm still scored average or just above average for its work-life balance, suggesting its lawyers either expect to work hard for their large pay cheques or just love their jobs.

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A
Quality of work
A
Peer support
B
Partner approach-ability
C
Work/life balance
A
Legal tech
A
Perks
A*
Office
B
WFH
A
Eco-friendliness

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £50,000
Second year trainee salary £55,000
Newly qualified salary £142,000
Profit per equity partner £2,300,000
GDL grant £8,000
LPC grant £8,000

The above figures are for London. The GDL and LPC grants are £7,500 for students outside London.

Hours

Average start work time 08:56
Average finish time 19:36
Annual target hours Undisclosed
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 11%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. Please note that due to COVID-19 secondment probabilities are lower than in usual years.

General Info

Training contracts 5
Latest trainee retention rate 75%
Offices 17
Countries 5
Minimum A-level requirement ABB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Diversity

UK female associates 48%
UK female partners 26%
UK BME associates Undisclosed
UK BME partners Undisclosed