US heavyweight Milbank’s London office boasts impressive revenues of over £190 million, according to the latest financials available. Financials that were boosted when in early 2023 the firm scooped up the London office of Anglo-Scottish outfit Dickson Minto. This saw the New York headquartered player bolster its lucrative private equity offering with the addition of six partners, one special counsel and 14 associates.
And the new London additions can take full advantage of Milbank’s swanky City digs. The “spectacular” 100 Liverpool Street offices continue to woo trainees and juniors alike thanks to an “open atrium and 20-foot chandelier”. Such real estate grandeur cannot fail to impress and, as one lawyer responding to the 2023-24 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 $215,000 (roughly £169,000).
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.” Another share a similar experience, describing the work/life balance as “not great, but not terrible either,” adding that there is sometimes a lack of “transparency as to how as to how work is allocated or how busy other people are, so it often happens that half the team is incredibly busy, while the other half is under-utilised”.
As for perks, they are “amazing” — fantastic offices and facilities, free breakfast, barista-style coffee (“a crowd favourite,” says one spy), regular food and drinks events — if you have time to use them. A number of juniors we spoke to also pointed to the “top of the market” salary as the best perk of the bunch.
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”. The vast majority of training seems to delivered on-the-job, according to our sources, with rookies encouraged to be “pro-active” when seeking guidance and support from those further up the ladder. “You effectively train yourself using the work you are given, and the feedback you receive after doing it,” one trainee tells us. “This appears to be common practice in US firms.”
But you’re cutting your teeth on top-quality work, with capital markets, leveraged finance, restructuring and litigation being 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. With the pandemic firmly in the rear-view mirror, lawyers are expected to come in at least three days a week. Secondments seem few and far between with one spy reporting spending time in the US. 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 sits at around the $5 million (£3.93 million) mark – that’s double some Magic Circle firms! 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.