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, NBC Universal and Walmart. This impressive pedigree has served Gibson Dunn well: it has an unbroken streak of 23 years of growth. The recent financial results are no different. The firm’s latest revenue stands at $1.8 billion (£1.5 billion).
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, such as Sainsbury’s proposed £3 billion merger with Asda, which was blocked in 2019. It is currently advising 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 the small intake.
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 are expected to learn on the job and 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 cutthroat image, trainees at Gibson Dunn support each other and maintain close relationships. It helps that they get to know one another during Gibson Dunn’s New Joiners retreat to the luscious Palm Springs — 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 hefty £120,000. For this generous salary trainees are expected to earn their keep. The average leaving time for trainees and junior lawyers is quite late, but as with most City firms this can fluctuate greatly.
Fortunately, the firm’s location next to some of London’s finer pubs makes for great catchups 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 nice and new. Next door is Temple Gardens, a nice spot for an office break or meetups with any barrister friends (many chambers are located around the gardens). For the itchy-feeted the firm offers secondments to Hong Kong and Dubai. While not everyone goes, these secondments are readily available for trainees.
Expect more from Gibson Dunn in London over the years ahead. The firm has recently announced its largest ever round of London partner promotions. It doesn’t provide a breakdown of financial results for the UK office, but the word on the street is that business is booming.