Jones Day is no stranger to big-name clients. The firm has banking giants such as Citi, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs on its roster, advising them on multi-million-pound deals.
Not everyone realises that the firm’s substantial presence in London dates back to UK legacy firm Gouldens, which was gobbled up by Jones Day in 2003 during a rapid period of growth for the American giant, whose own roots are in Cleveland, Ohio. As a result, the Tudor Street office, located off the Strand and just a short walk from the barristers’ chambers of Temple, retains a certain English charm. Trainees rave about how “it is nice that the firm has the whole building”. In this age of open plan, Jones Day’s rookies enjoy the fact that trainees share a room with each other and NQs get their own office, “and they’re good offices” apparently with plenty of natural light for the most part. Given trainees are not encouraged to work from home, so that they can make the most of the non-rotational structure, this is probably a good thing. While the firm does not provide a budget for work from home equipment, “there is some flexibility in that nobody will tell you off if you WFH Monday or Friday” and the “technology to allow remote work works well”.
Jones Day is probably best known among students for a culture that sees its young lawyers given plenty of responsibility. A quirky ‘non rotational’ training contract system has trainees float between departments, with the onus on them to approach partners to ask for work. Some love it, others find it too much. Here is a report from the frontline: Like with most US outfits in London, “training is primarily ‘on the job’, with some formal training. The former requires a lot of initiative from the trainee to ensure they get the help required to complete tasks.” Trainees also flag classroom-style training through weekly ‘continuum’ sessions, where a specific topic is discussed in depth, but some find these to not have much practical relevance as they often do not “conform to the type of work you are doing at the time”. The consensus appears to be that the “quality of training is very much dependent on who you end up working with and how much time they give explaining things to you”. With the right combination of luck and proactiveness, “the non-rotational training contract is hugely advantageous” and trainees can experience “working in more than four departments across their training contract”.
As a rule, the work is “pretty good”. The consensus among trainees seems to be that levels of responsibility are both “significant” and “well above [their] stage”. The culture of proactiveness shines through, with one rookie reporting that “if you show sufficient attention to detail and initiative in early, less interesting tasks, you will be expected to complete more stimulating tasks”. With lean teams and a minimal amount of support staff, “some very administrative tasks” do fall on trainees to complete, but for the most part they “get involved in big, complex deals from the very start”. Indeed, some rookies rave about it: “We have some of the biggest Supreme Court cases to offer!” Another adds: “Absolutely brilliant level of responsibility. Can’t see us getting it anywhere else!”
The firm also scores well for peer support and partner approachability. Of the former, we’re told: “Can be slight tension among trainees when some are busy on their big corporate deals with the cool big deal partner, and others are quieter — but usually solid.” While competition is more strongly felt at the beginning, where the non-rotational training contract means that “popular departments get a lot of demand for work”, people eventually “fall naturally into the departments they gel best with”. Camaraderie is also helped by the small intake and shared offices between trainees, with one rookie reporting that fellow trainees are “always [my] first port of call”. Peer approachability is matched by superiors as well. One spy observes that “everyone has adopted a ‘no stupid question’ rule, and whether or not that is a genuine belief, that is definitely the approach that is followed”. The lack of a hierarchical structure – or at least the feel of one — means “associates and partners do not seem intimidating”.
As you have probably gathered by now, Jones Day is a fairly intense place, which means hours at the longer end of the City law spectrum. One trainee reports: “the non-rotational system means that you manage your own time, and therefore wanting to ensure a consistent stream of billable work as a trainee means that you often bite off more than you can comfortably chew. However, it also means you get to try a variety of things in a short period of time, and I would say this issue is likely more of a first-year issue, before you start settling into your preferred departments. The overall atmosphere at the firm is not one that demands poor work/life balance, and people will check in when you are online late a lot”. Another concurs, saying that while “hours in the week are long, there is a lot of respect for weekends and holidays”. While busy days with late nights are to be expected, the lack of a face-time culture at the firm also means that occasional 4pm finishes in a quiet period are not frowned upon. To put it bluntly, the work-life balance at Jones Day “comes with the territory”, as one trainee says. And with NQ rates of £145,000, juniors are well remunerated for their time.
Anyone hoping for help from the latest artificial intelligence software shouldn’t hold their breath. “It takes about ten years to get tech approved by Washington,” groans one trainee. Another describes legal tech at the firm as “generally poor” with laptops and monitors reported to “frequently incur problems and [needing] to be replaced or fixed”. One rookie finds potential for improvement, given that the “tools and funds are available”, but the issue is a lack of utilisation — partners are apparently “less inclined to adopt new technologies”.
Client secondments are an option but international ones aren’t. But they can get a flavour of the international network through the firm’s Washington DC ‘New Lawyer Academy’, which sees new lawyers from all over Jones Day’s global offices meet for a week-long orientation and training programme. Client secondments seem to be more popular at junior lawyer level with the big banking giants being a common destination.
The perks are quite good. The stand out freebie is the on-site gym, which “makes it easier to get some exercise during the week”, although one trainee grumbles that there is a “shortage of equipment” and it is “not a place if you are serious about fitness”. Free in-house barista coffee and a selection of snacks everyday are also appreciated by Jones Day rookies. A £15 Deliveroo allowance and taxi home keeps trainees working beyond 9pm buzzing. The social life is decent, but trainees “have had to miss events due to deadlines”; firm socials are “always well-attended”, although infrequent. Apparently, the firm is “moving away from the boozy past and it’s great”.