The Legal Cheek View
A chance encounter on the streets of Boston in 1912 between Harvard classmates Robert Eliot Goodwin and Joseph Osborne Procter Jr. led to the creation of the Boston ‘start-up’ law firm Goodwin Procter. The young American duo decided to take the plunge and agreed to put $500 each into the firm. Over a century later, Goodwin Procter’s global revenue sits just shy of the $2-billion mark (£1.63 billion) after a meteoric rise of 33% on the previous year, while profit equity per partner (PEP) comes in at a cool $3.69 million (£3.01 million) up 28%.
London NQs can also earn an eye-watering £160,000, a seismic jump from a second year trainee salary of £57,000. And the financial results make clear why: the London office’s revenue shot up by 63%, now making up 8.2% of global turnover.
Goodwin Procter’s recent surge is the fruition of its ambitious strategy to be early on the tech start-up scene. Goodwin’s top clients include the likes of Moderna, Slack and MyoKardia, with the firm hunting more success from its over 4,000 emerging client companies in its specialist areas of tech and life sciences. This means big billion-dollar deals in cutting-edge industries are commonplace with the London PE department wrapping up a GTT Communications’s $2.1 billion sale of its infrastructure business and the Life Sciences team collaborating with their New York counterparts on Biocon Biologics’ $3.3 billion acquisition.
The UK office focuses on five industries: real estate, private equity, technology, life sciences and financial institutions. Although the firm has been around for over 100 years, there is certainly a ‘start-up’ energy around the London office which has been drastically increasing its headcount in recent times with no signs of taking its foot off the gas. Goodwin’s London outpost is now home to over 200 lawyers, up 47% from last year, living up to its reputation for pulling off impressive lateral hire sprees that has seen in excess of 100 partners lured to the firm over the past five years. The latest London recruits come from the likes of Kirkland & Ellis, White & Case and Baker McKenzie. The big-buck dealmaking firm, however, only started accepting UK trainees in 2018.
The firm counts 14 offices internationally with tech hotspots including Silicon Valley, Cambridge, San Francisco and Santa Monica. More recently, Goodwin has made a headway into Europe, opening its Frankfurt office in 2016 and its Luxembourg gaff in 2019 with the aim of growing its finance and private equity offerings. The firm has also submitted an application to the Ministry of Law in Singapore for a Foreign Law Practice License with a view to opening a new office in Singapore.
All this means lots of cutting-edge work in a very busy firm. One rookie told Legal Cheek that they had enjoyed “a lot of responsibility and intellectually challenging work”, but with “very little formal structure”. The impact of this, one spy explains, is that “it generally all comes down to the associates and whether they have the time to explain things properly to you (which can be rare at times). You can make it work for you if you are proactive keen to drive things forward, but it is not for everyone”. Another cautions: “You will be expected to learn new legal concepts late at night or over the weekend when you would rather have learnt this at the start of the seat”.
However, even helpful associates, whilst being “generally supportive (with some exceptions) are “not particularly empathetic”. One rookie remarks that “some associates can monopolise you without understanding that you are also working for many other people”.
That said, partner approachability doesn’t seem to be a problem at Goodwin, with senior members of the firm “always offering to chat or discuss anything” according to another trainee who has had the fortune to come across some less busy partners.
Newbies are also supported by a tight-knit trainee cohort who were highly rated by insiders in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, although the absence of an office canteen is said to damage the firm’s community spirit. The tech is “pretty decent”, though one rookie couldn’t ignore the irony that, despite the emphasis on working with tech start-ups, “we still spend hours rolling out documents from templates or compiling bibles”.
Only one of the trainees we spoke to had undertaken a client secondment, but perks include a gym allowance, access to wellbeing services and “good bonuses” on top of an already very impressive salary.
Decent support, fantastic work, an exciting ‘start-up’ atmosphere and exceptional pay make for great reading, but the price for all of this comes in your work/life balance. One hardworking trainee told us: “I get up on Monday and am either working or sleeping until Friday mostly, aside from 20 mins at the end of the day so I’m not dreaming about work”. Nor are weekends off-limits, especially if you want to go far. “It really depends on the team but generally you are expected to be on call 24/7 if you want people to like you” says one trainee, whilst another confessed “at least every three weeks I will be working over a weekend (I respond to emails over most weekends)”.
According to our Survey results, trainees usually start work at around 9am and clock off somewhere between 8pm and 11pm. No wonder the firm advised on 946 IPOs worth $125 billion since 2015 and had more M&A deal volume of any other firm in 2021.