The Legal Cheek View
US heavyweight Milbank’s London office is on a roll, with revenue up by almost 25% to $235.6 million (£192.5 million), according to its latest financial results. Its robust finances are on display at its “brand spanking new” and “spectacular” 100 Liverpool Street offices, complete with view of St Paul’s, “open atrium and 20-foot chandelier”. Such real estate grandeur cannot fail to impress and, as one lawyer responding to the 2022-23 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, puts it, “It’s a nice touch to have our names etched onto the glass doors!”
Once ensconced in magnificent surrounds, Milbank juniors also have the satisfaction they are among the highest paid of their peers. Trainees start on £57,500 and, once qualified, will be taking home a lavish £155,000.
For that, expect to put in the hours — 10 or 12-hour days seem to be the low side of the norm, and you may be working 16 hours. Work-life balance “comes and goes in waves. If I were to say it’s good, that would be a lie, but it’s not as god awful as people make out. There are sometimes weeks which go by when I barely bill anything, but then I have had to work over the last two bank holiday weekends. Swings and roundabouts.”
As for perks, they are “amazing” — fantastic offices and facilities, free breakfast, barista-style coffee, regular food and drinks events — if you have time to use them.
Given the amount of time spent at work, potential Milbank recruits may be pleased to hear the training is “excellent” and the quality of work is “top drawer”. Capital markets, leveraged finance, restructuring and litigation are particular Milbank strengths. A newly-qualified lawyer reports: “I am leading on key workstreams of transactions and often projects. This comes with responsibility (which in turn is sometimes stressful), but great learning experience through work. Support is typically on hand if needed. Having trained at a comparable magic circle firm, the work at Milbank for someone at my level is undoubtedly of greater quality.”
Peers-wise, it sounds like a hotbed of ambition, perhaps even a tad Shakespearian – but then, there is a lot of money at stake. “Some people have their eyes on a 3 bar partner cut and I expect they would stab you in the back and take a selfie with your corpse if it got them partnership,” one rookie jokes, but adds, “however, most people are generally very friendly and helpful”. Phew! Responses vary when asked to describe the approachability of their superiors. According to one rookie, “most partners are happy to have a chat/discuss issues if they are not super busy, but that is pretty rare to be honest. Unlike my previous firm, there are no partners or senior associates who I would actively avoid”.
The firm also has a benevolent side, with lawyers expected to complete a minimum 25 hours per year pro bono. During the pandemic lockdown, the firm provided all necessary equipment and support, held weekly Zoom catch-ups and helped keep spirits high with bi-weekly socials such as online quizzes. It now expects its lawyers to come in at least three days a week. Pre-corona, trainees have been able to take sporadic trips abroad in “Frankfurt, for a few days” and “New York for a week”. It has 12 offices in total, including in Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, São Paulo, Munich, Frankfurt and three in the US. Newly qualified lawyers get to go to the Big Apple for orientation and are expected to pack a suitcase at a moment’s notice. There’s a bi-annual firm retreat, too — previous destinations include Cannes.
If such a fast-paced lifestyle is still not enough to attract you, look ahead to the possibility of making serious money at partnership, the returns might just make up for all that travel: profit per equity partner rose 12% in the past year to just over $5 million (£4.07 million). En route, expect high-end clients for deal-making and sometimes innovative work: “A lot of the work that we do is ground-breaking, and first of a kind. Building wind farms in Egypt, or power plants in Brazil, it is cool stuff!” an insider enthuses. Be warned that “sometimes you have to slog it out to get onto the interesting deals” — but that’s the same all over.