The Legal Cheek View

A Pittsburgh-bred firm with a British vibe, K&L Gates remains a bit of an enigma. The firm can best be summed up as defying expectations. Being headquartered in the US, where lawyers work notoriously long hours, you could be excused for thinking that a career at these steel city players would have you leaving the office as late as Harvey Specter but our insiders report a “a great work/life balance” paired with “a friendly culture which is not intense at all”. Although a few late nights are unavoidable during busy periods, trainees are encouraged to leave the office early when they can and, when they can’t, there is always a “network of support” to assist. “There are late nights, but there are also early finishes. Hard work is paid off and if you’ve been in till 3am all week, you can expect to leave by five when you’re quiet,” says an insider. Not so Suits after all…

In London, K&L’s roots stem from legacy City outfit Nicholson Graham & Jones, which was brought into the K&L Gates fold in 2005. Since then, the firm has been slowly expanding shop, merging with the likes of Australia’s Middletons to become the global presence it is today. With the addition of a new Dublin office in early 2023, K&L’s offering now spans an impressive 48 offices across 18 countries.

With an international spread as exciting as this, budding trainees could be forgiven for assuming K&L Gates is some type of international secondment haven. But you’d be wrong. Oddly, the firm offers very few opportunities to its trainees and junior solicitors to spend time abroad. Client secondments are equally rare. Despite one lucky rookie reporting a six-month stint with Amazon several years ago, both client and international secondments are seemingly off the cards — at least for now anyway.

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Luckily, no-one is trying to leave firm’s “incredible” digs at One New Change anytime soon — and we think the private terrace overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral might have something to do with it. As one smitten newbie tells us: “The office is beautiful, modern, and has direct access to a roof top bar. The private terrace is fantastic for summer lunches.” Another claims that it’s the only reason they go in to the office four days a week (imagine!).

Inside the office the high praise continues, with one rookie’s raving review giving new-comers a good summary of what to expect at K&L: “The training is great. We are given a lot of responsibility from the outset of the training contract. I have often taken on NQ level work. We share an office with either a special counsel or partner, so being able to work in that close proximity to someone so experienced is really helpful. The feedback has been great. Every person I have worked with has been happy to provide me with detailed and constructive feedback.” On top of that, the small trainee intake each year “means that you are often given higher-level work” with supervisors involving newbies “in a far greater range of work than at a law firm with many trainees” — especially when you are faced with the commonplace scenario of being the only trainee in the department.

But don’t be surprised to be given less stimulating tasks like bundling, cross-referencing and land registry applications, as these are all still “part and parcel of being a trainee” at K&L Gates. Work can vary across departments, with one spy finding corporate to be a “churn of due diligence reports and drafting basic documents”. Overall, however, the work is “varied, interesting, and at times highly topical and confidential” — maybe we’re being held out on the good stuff!

What we do know is that the firm’s strengths include BigLaw staples of corporate M&A, high-end litigation and real estate, while also having well-regarded niches in IP, insurance and, unusually, expertise in the fashion industry. Trainees can expect to work with brand names such as Microsoft, which K&L have advised on their investment in ChatGPT creator OpenAI, as well as HSBC, which the firm’s financial services litigation team recently defended in a phishing scheme.

One positive that no-one is hiding is the “friendly, supportive culture” at K&L. “As there are only six trainees in each intake, we are all really close. We have a monthly trainee coffee morning where we all have a catch up about how we are getting on. I have lunch with my intake nearly every day. I feel very supported by them,” one rookie tells us. And this “collegiate atmosphere” also extends to partners and higher-ups, who are all said to be “very friendly” and “highly approachable”. As one heart-warming newbie reveals, “I have felt really comfortable asking them silly questions”.

One downside K&L’s trainees report, however, is the money. The firm have increased salaries across the board in an attempt to keep up with rising rates, recently bumping NQ salaries to a respectable £107,500. But trainees are aware that “pay lags behind competitors” — especially its US counterparts. Which is, realistically, the price to be paid for such a well-rated work/life balance.

Tech isn’t a selling-point either, with rookies complaining about the “clunky” document management system. But we’re assured that the situation is improving and the firm’s WFH policy, which includes two screens and a laptop for every newbie’s home set-up, is said to be flexible and “well managed”. Other perks include a subsidised gym-membership, eye tests, and health plans. “Nothing out of the ordinary” says one trainee — but not too shabby either!


Training Contract 2026

To commence in 2026
Applications open 01/11/2023
Applications close 31/07/2024

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Legal tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


First year trainee salary £50,000
Second year trainee salary £55,000
Newly qualified salary £110,000
Profit per equity partner £1,127,000
PGDL grant N/A
SQE grant £13,000


Average start work time 09:18
Average finish time 19:20
Annual target hours No targets
Annual leave 25 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 0%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023-24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 8
Latest trainee retention rate 67%
Offices 48
Countries 18
Minimum A-level requirement 320 UCAS
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

General studies A-level is not accepted as part of the firm’s 320 UCAS point requirement.


UK female associates 46%
UK female partners 20%
UK BME associates 25%
UK BME partners 2%

Universities Current Trainees Attended