Gibson Dunn & Crutcher is one of the go-to law firms for giant American companies. The firm’s client base features some of the most notable US players including Apple, Facebook, Intel, Kraft, NBCUniversal and Walmart. This impressive pedigree has served Gibson Dunn well: it has an unbroken streak of 25 years of growth. The most recent financial results are no different: the firm’s revenue grew 7.6% to $2.16 billion (£1.6 billion), while partner profits jumped 9.7% to $4.12 million (£3 million).
The firm has come a long way since its early days. Founded in Los Angeles in 1872 by a 34-year-old lawyer called John Bricknell, Gibson Dunn grew across the US before expanding overseas in the 1970s, opening in London in 1979. These days the firm’s London office handles headline-generating cases. It advised Facebook in the probe into its data protection breaches following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. On the pro bono side, Gibson Dunn’s London solicitors worked for Gina Martin to make upskirting a criminal offence.
The firm has only been taking London trainees since 2015. The programme has been a success, one of the main selling points being the small size. Unlike trainees at other City firms which work on similarly big cases, trainees at Gibson Dunn have a greater opportunity to get involved with those matters due to its small intake of just seven.
But the training is not particularly structured. Trainees rotate around four six-month seats with opportunity to spend time in corporate, finance, dispute resolution, employment, tax, competition and funds. Those who get a chance to be involved in litigation may meet a rather notable partner: Charlie Falconer QC, ex-Lord Chancellor under the Blair government.
Trainees can expect minimal formalised training and to mostly learn on the job. They are encouraged to get involved with as many matters that interest them. This fluidity has its advantages, as one rookie points out: “What is great is the amount of flexibility you are given and control over your own work.” Additionally, trainees share a room with a partner or senior associate and can discuss queries they may have about work.
Counter to its harsh US cut-throat image, trainees at Gibson Dunn support each other and maintain close relationships. “The small intakes help foster incredibly supportive friendships among the trainees and NQs,” one rookie tells us. It helps that they get to know one another during Gibson Dunn’s ‘New Joiners’ retreat. The firm has flown lawyers from all 20 offices to the luscious Palm Springs during non-Covid times — quite an experience! Aside from the retreat, there aren’t a huge number of perks at the firm except for the substantial pay: NQs earn a very hefty £161,700. For this generous salary trainees are expected to earn their keep. The average leave time for trainees and junior lawyers is quite late, but as with most City firms this can fluctuate greatly: “I have had very busy seats, and I find myself working on weekends and late at night more often than not. There are however nice periods that are quieter”.
Fortunately, the firm’s location next to some of London’s finer pubs makes for great catch-ups on days that trainees finish early. The office — an impressive Grade II listed building overlooking the Thames — is between Blackfriars and Temple, near the Royal Courts of Justice. It was renovated in 2015 so everything is still relatively nice and new. Next door is Temple Gardens, a nice spot for an office break or meet-ups with any barrister chums (many chambers are located around the gardens). For the itchy-feeted the firm offers a secondment to Hong Kong.
We’re told the tech is “on par” with rivals and when the firm transitioned to remote-working in the wake of the pandemic, it was “seamless”, with “no expense spared”, and support was described as “superb”.
Expect more from Gibson Dunn in London over the years ahead. It doesn’t provide a breakdown of financial results for the UK office, but the word on the street is that business is booming.