Jones Day has been thrust into the limelight lately thanks to its famous client, Donald Trump. A host of the firm’s lawyers are serving in the controversial US president’s administration. With a reputation for valuing secrecy — Jones Day doesn’t even disclose its financial results — the publicity is a new experience for the Ohio-based global outfit.
In the UK Jones Day is probably best known among students for a culture that sees its young lawyers given plenty of responsibility. A quirky 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: “They make no secret that it’s sink or swim and you have to shout loudly if you can only doggy paddle. If you can find the right partners and the best way to engage them in walking you through something, though, the training is top-notch. There just isn’t that much of it.”
Some of the Jones Day rookies who responded to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019-20 weren’t too sure about the set up. One told us: “Formal training is delivered in weekly ‘continuum’ sessions but is rarely on point. Other than this there is no training. You learn on the job and rarely receive feedback.”
As a rule, the work is “pretty good”. Indeed, some rookies rave about it: “I don’t think I’ve ever worked opposite anybody my level or junior, and peers across the City are constantly amazed at the level of advice we’re invited to give clients.” Another adds: “Absolutely brilliant level of responsibility. Can’t see us getting it anywhere else!”
The firm also scores reasonably 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.” Supervisors adhere to an open door policy and flat hierarchy that “is respected by 90% of the partners here”.
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. Supervisors apparently “leave it up to you which hours you use to get the work done, but it can be quite punishing at times”. But the newly qualified pay is £105,000, so swings and roundabouts…
Some complain about “a lack of appreciation as to workloads when working across multiple departments, which can result in a lot of 1/2am finishes”. Still, there’s a wider acceptance that this “comes with the territory”. Watch out, hot shots, because “if you have a good reputation you will always be working past at least 8pm and can get snowed under for long periods”.
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. But the good news is that Lotus Notes is now history having been replaced by Outlook.
Jones also does respectably for international opportunities — despite offering relatively few trainee secondments. This is largely down to the week-long ‘New Lawyers’ training academy in Washington DC that Jones Day puts all its rookies through. Client secondments are rare. An insider tells us that “this is because people often get poached, but in my view this is short-sighted.”
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 around the corner from Freshfields, retains a certain English charm. 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.
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”. The canteen is also well-regarded, with “breakfast and lunches always of a high standard and the cafe staff are always friendly”. Lately it has apparently been doing steaks cooked to order for dinner, while 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”. Apparently the firm is “moving away from the boozy past and it’s great”.