The full-service US outfit Fried (pronounced like “freed”), Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP has built a reputation as a lean and profitable legal funds machine. With a profit equity per partner (PEP) of $3,622,000 (£2.6 million) that remains impressive despite the fact that this figure is down 4.4% compared last year, Fried Frank has made its name through its top-notch corporate work for big financial institutions and hedge funds. The firm hit the headlines in the aftermath of the GameStop short squeeze when it came to the aid of its clients Point72 Asset Management and Citadel regarding their $2.75 billion financing of Melvin Capital’s hedge funds. The London office also frequently advises titans in this space including BlackRock, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs.
The firm is long-established in the City, setting up shop back in 1970 making it one of the first US law firms to open an office in Europe. The training is “very hands-on, but with a surprising amount of formal training for a US firm with a smaller footprint in London”, one insider tells us. Rookies acknowledge that “this type of practical training wouldn’t work for everyone”, but is particularly well-suited to those who proactively seek out work and are “confident enough to question why things are being done/drafted a particular way”. That said, competition around TCs is stiff, with the firm currently offering just three in London each year.
The small intake certainly has its advantages. Trainees told us they get “lots of responsibility” and find the work “very stimulating”. One newbie sums it up: “obviously there is a certain amount of typical trainee-style work that is not at all engaging, but I think the firm probably stacks up well against competitors in that respect”. Some, however, explain that more interesting work is earned not gifted. “It has been my experience that a lot of responsibility and more complex work comes your way as a trainee, once you have proven yourself capable”, we are told.
But trainees are not left completely to their own devices, with reports of a “supportive culture” throughout the firm that especially shone through during the pandemic. Partners are said to be “mostly approachable” and there is apparently a clear absence of hierarchy within the firm. This helps trainees to really make the most of the training available to them, as one explains: “my supervising partner actively goes out of his way to make sure I appreciate the rationale behind every task and how it relates to the overall transaction”.
Drilling down further into the financials, Fried Frank has had a slightly muted year. As well as pandemic-induced PEP drop, revenue was stunted, growing 0.6%, from $776 million to $780 million (£556 million). Manging partner David Greenwald still considers the results “solid”, given the pandemic’s impact on key practice areas including real estate, private equity and M&A, adding that both the firm’s offices in London and Frankfurt had “really strong years”.
Financials aside, we received some grumbles from insiders on the subject of work/life balance, with one telling us that “it could be better”. However, a hefty newly qualified salary of £145,500 and “no pressure to be ‘online’ unnecessarily when we are in a quiet period” will likely make up for the occasional cancelled dinner with friends. Fried Frank’s legal tech is considered to be “standard”, with Litera software (a spell-check Word add-in) proving to be particularly handy for juniors.
At present, there are no secondments, but the perks include fancy dinners, gym subsidies, private medical care and firm-funded travel opportunities. Working from home was said to be “quite good”, with Fried Frank providing everything trainees needed. But the US firm is especially keen to see rookies back in their new digs at 100 Bishopsgate — a brand new skyscraper which is also home to magic circle outfit Freshfields. The major talking point of the move to a new office is that everyone — juniors included — gets the luxury of their own office. As one happy rookie put it: “everyone receiving a personal office is a massive perk”.