Following back-to-back years of consecutive double-digit growth, Los Angeles-bred giant Latham & Watkins saw profits slip in 2022 amid a worldwide slowdown in capital markets and transactional work. Revenues dipped 3% to $5.3 billion (£4.1 billion) — after smashing the $5 billion barrier for first time in 2021 — while profit per equity partner (PEP) also took a 10% hit from $5.7 million (£4.4 million) to $5.1 million (£4.1million).
But don’t be fooled by this dip — Latham remains a financial beast. 2022 aside, Latham has over a decade of consecutive growth under its belt, in which time the firm has not only managed to become huge but, unlike some of its rivals, also spectacularly profitable; PEP remains double that of most Magic Circle firms while its revenues are five times that of some Silver Circle players. Net profit has increased by over 80% since 2009, the firm’s total lawyer headcount has risen by not much more than 20% (although the firm still counts around 3,000 lawyers globally). So, if you are considering joining Latham, be prepared to work hard.
Unsurprisingly, life at Latham is not for the faint-hearted: “There are quite a few late nights and [it] sometimes feels like it doesn’t stop.” That said, finishing times are said to “vary wildly”. One insider explains, “sometimes you finish at 5pm; other times 5am”, but notes that “there is no real ‘face time’ culture — if you are not needed you are told to go home”. Another rookie tells us “people tend to respect that you have a life outside of work especially as a trainee, and “whenever I take time off, associates rarely disturb me or expect me to work unless it is a workstream that I specifically managed / they need my input”.
Training is a question of sink or swim — a popular theme across the London offices of many elite US firms. “There is no formal training” at Latham & Watkins, one insider claims, “just doing”. Another adds: “You are very much left out on your own at times, this is a good learning curve for the most part and forces you to think on your feet and use your initiative. Other times it can be the most scary experience of your life.” That said, comprehensive formal training sessions at the beginning of a seat are said to be “super helpful” and “even some busy Latham associates have time to take some rookies under their wing”. Generally, Latham’s newbies seem happy with this approach: “The firm strikes the right balance between giving you the substantive training you need to hit the ground running without spoon-feeding and still giving you the opportunity to learn by doing,” one spy explains. “There is such a thing as too much training and that is definitely not the case here.”
In addition, fellow trainees are on hand to help. “I could not fault my cohort for being supportive, friendly and an inevitable shoulder to cry on at 2am after a long and gruelling day. It is more like a friendship circle than anything else,” one reports. This apparently extends beyond the office, with another insider explaining that they “celebrate each other’s birthdays together and on special occasions like Chinese New Year, people host parties or dinners at their places”.
Partners, meanwhile, are generally of the matey and direct variety. “My current supervisor is an absolute legend and most people I have worked with are cool too,” one Latham rookie reports. This does, however, vary between departments. One trainee told us: “You get the odd associates who aren’t as friendly or approachable but there are so many who are super lovely and happy to answer questions. One of my corporate supervisors is just amazing. He is incredibly busy but never fails to answer my questions with careful thought. He doesn’t make me feel like a bother. That’s incredible for my learning.”
In keeping with Latham’s ultra-lean model, the work — much of which is high-end corporate finance-related — spans everything from the mindless to the mind-bending. At Latham, there is an expectation that trainees will be proactive, with what you do “dependent on how forward you are in asking to try new types of work”. High quality work is always up for grabs, but it is up to trainees to take on the challenge. “Stimulating both in the diversity of the work, and status of the clients, the work at Latham is unique for a US firm based in London. Deals and cases range from working on the potential sale of Manchester United to L’Oréal’s $2.5 billion acquisition of luxury beauty brand Aēsop — “it simply cannot be beaten”, summarises one rookie. As well as “very complex legal work” that is known to leave you “at the edge of your seat most of the time”, others enjoy the fact that trainees have more control over their workstreams.
This is not quite the Wild West environment of some of the small US firm London offices, where UK trainees can be something of an afterthought. With around 24 training contracts a year up for grabs, Latham offers more London graduate opportunities than many sizeable British firms and as such has a fairly well-developed (if minimalist) training infrastructure.
On the perks front, juniors praise “generous mentoring budgets” that “offer a lot of flexibility with connecting across the firms and meeting new people. It’s also nice to be able to connect with peers and seniors outside of a large networking event or for deal related matters”. Other sweeteners include an iPhone 14, retreat to Barcelona in the first three months and ski trip in Austria — oh, and as the sizeable salary of $215,000 (roughly £167,000 based on current conversion rates) isn’t to be sniffed at either. A few trainees we spoke to also recommended the firm acquire gym facilities or offer better gym discounts.
As for the office, change is on the horizon; Latham has secured around 200,000 square feet at 1 Leadenhall and is due to move in early 2026. Not that rookies are complaining about the current digs on Bishopsgate. “We have open plan floors where everyone gets free organic snacks and drinks, standing desks, noise-cancelling headphones and access to fancy showers with hotel-style shower products and amenities,” one tells us. Meanwhile, the in-house canteen, ‘Red and White’, offers “a waffle machine, frozen yoghurt machine and a daily rotisserie chicken” as well as an extensive menu. As for working from home, “you get all the equipment you need and specialist equipment if required” and the IT team “is always available”.
But far from home, Latham offers secondments to popular destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. Around a quarter of trainees usually do an international secondment, though the fact that many admitted choosing not to go on secondment is a true vote of confidence in the London office. An alternative explanation might be found in fears surrounding qualification: “It had always been the only thing I wanted to do during my training contract until I realised having another qualification option is probably a better idea than going abroad.” At the end of the day, however, Latham regularly puts in high retention rates and it appears that juniors feel a strong attachment to the firm: “I really admire my law firm and can’t think of a law firm that’s comparable to it”.