Welcome to Milbank, one of the chief architects of MoneyLaw 2.0. Newly qualified London lawyers at this US-headquartered firm earn a staggering £132,000 ($190,000 calculated at a fixed exchange rate of $1.44 to £1).
If it’s cash you’re after, snapping up one of Milbank’s five annual training contracts should be your goal. First year trainees earn £50,000, and the New York-based outfit ladles perks on top. “I could mention the medical or dental-care packages, but the free Costco membership clearly wins the day,” one insider jokes. Others just reel off their loot: “iPhone, laptop, Deliveroo credit, taxi home…” You might not even need to spend that salary day-to-day.
You might not have a chance anyway. “Say goodbye to everything else in your life,” an insider bluntly revealed. Milbank trainees and junior lawyers tell us they’re pulling 12-hour days on average. “They bought my soul with a summer bonus,” one laments. Unsurprisingly, the trainees gave poor reports of their work/life balance. “We don’t really make weeknight plans,” admitted one. Even worse, there are no sleeping pods!
The insane working hours reflect the demands of a strong business: there has been a 10% increase in London revenue alone from $156 million to $171 million (£121 million to £133 million). The firm’s overall gross revenue stands at $1.07 billion (£831 billion) which marks ten years of continued growth.
And the work on offer to trainees here — corporate law and finance buffs, eat your heart out — is top quality. “Thanks to the small pool of trainees and generally limited sizes of teams, trainees often necessarily have to get involved with higher level work, which serves as more realistic exposure to the kind of work you might do as a junior associate in a practice area,” one Legal Cheek mole explains.
Newly minted members of the Wall Street Elite also rate the firm highly for training and peer support. Though “training” may be the wrong word, mind you — at Milbank, they say, “you learn everything on the job and often training is getting schooled on a point by the other side”. That can be tough going, but there’s always a shoulder to cry on: trainees praise the “great team vibe” and “very close bond” forged between them. Just mind those expensive watches when you high-five.
Right now though trainees are split across two different buildings (10 Gresham Street and 125 Wood Street), “which can make catching up difficult at times”. But they’ll soon all be under one roof once the London office moves to a flashy new workspace at 100 Liverpool Street next year.
Juniors report that their chances of some attention from the 30 or so bigwigs in the London office are decent — but partners are constantly on the go: “Generally pretty approachable, but almost always travelling — sometimes you don’t see some of them for a month at a time”. But all that glamorous travel will have no doubt slowed down in recent months due to the pandemic.
Lower down the food chain, and pre-corona, of course, trainees have been able to take sporadic trips abroad in “Frankfurt, for a few days” and “New York for a week”. 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, and last year, lawyers went to Cannes. If you make it into the partnership ranks, the returns might just make up for all that travel: profit per equity partner is now sitting at $3.9 million (£3.03 million) a year.
The tech offering is “very good”; and when the firm transitioned to remote-working in the wake of COVID-19, trainees say it was “seamless”. “The firm immediately bought and shipped equipment to us,” says one insider, adding that IT support is on-hand to offer help with any “tech meltdowns”. Milbank juniors stay connected with weekly Zoom catch-ups and bi-weekly socials such as online quizzes, we’re told, but the downside of ‘WFH’ is “not having access to the well-stocked biscuit jars”, one trainee laments.
Milbank defended Visa in a competition action by Sainsbury’s over transaction fees and handling the fallout from rigged LIBOR interest rates on lending between banks. Milbank also attracts high-end clients for deal-making, too: “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!” another 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.