Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker LLP was founded in 1951 in Los Angeles. It opened the doors to its London office in 1997 and has been growing ever since. The rebrand to Paul Hastings came in 2011.
The US is the firm’s main jurisdiction, with more than 80% of its partners based there. The London office is growing quickly, having more than doubled in both revenue and headcount over five years. It’s the largest Paul Hastings office outside the US with 30 partners and over 100 lawyers.
In 2020, London revenue reached $110 million (£80.4 million) and global revenue increased from $1.27 billion to $1.31 billion (£928 million to £957 million). Global profit per equity partner jumped 14% to $3.9 million (£2.85 million). And the firm is making London one of its top priorities for growth, with chairman Seth Zachary setting the ambitious goal of doubling its size over the next five years.
Paul Hastings has no qualms about hiring partners from its competitors in the City, recently bringing in two partners from White & Case and one from Proskauer Rose to bolster its ranks. The firm has a strong focus on M&A and private equity in London, with clients including Oakley Capital and Intel Corp.
In late 2019 the firm relocated to fancy new premises on the top two floors of 100 Bishopsgate, which is also home to magic circle outfit Freshfields. The digs are an improvement on the old ones which were split across two buildings and boast “incredible views” of the City skyline.
The perks receive similar praise. “They provide £75 a month to go towards a work phone”. One trainee pointed out that “most contracts cost less than that” and the firm is “happy for you to pocket the difference”. Alongside this, a subsidised gym membership, private healthcare and insurance were “pretty standard” perks that most big firms tend to offer. The firm’s £133,000 newly qualified salary is “good” and in line with market players.
The firm does pay for your taxi home if you work until after 9pm and your dinner after 8pm. But trainees are unlikely to spend their time browsing Deliveroo, as they are worked hard. One trainee reported that their training contract mostly consisted of “long hours, little sleep” and that they found themselves “burning the 2am oil”. This means you have to “assume you cannot make plans Monday to Thursday (and some unlucky Fridays)”. Perhaps this is what you would expect from a US firm which only offers eight training contracts a year and pays a top-end salary.
“Some teams have more relaxed hours and deadlines where you have more control over your time” which are usually the “advisory teams” but ultimately it “depends on which partner you get”.
As for the training, there is a hands-off approach. As a trainee, “you learn on the job and through your supervisor”. There is “very little targeted training” but “leveraged finance and corporate” do provide training. There are “very rare training sessions taken by senior associates from other practice groups”. All in all it’s perhaps “more suited for someone who likes to learn by doing and being dropped in at the deep end”.
The quality of work is high. Trainees are given “lots of responsibility and are encouraged and taught early on how to manage deals”. One trainee described this as “incredibly stimulating” and another was proud of working on “deals with top tier clients, especially fund managers and financial institutions where clients want to try complex new transactions or create new structures”.
Culture at US firms often gets a bad name, but trainees were happy that at Paul Hastings “it’s not overly competitive” as “the firm hires friendly people so no-one will screw you over to get ahead”. However, a rookie did admit that “at the end of the day, it is a US firm and there are limited places on qualification so there can be fierce competition”.
The trainee cohort can be “a mixed bag” with some people getting “stuck in” to “help you out when you are drowning in work” but “others couldn’t care less”.
As for the partners, “the firm tries not to be hierarchical” but it “depends on the supervisor and which team you are in”. Most partners are “extremely approachable” and “senior associates will take the time to help you”. The approachability will “change from group to group”.
Despite the heavy workload, “HR try and organise events” but because “everyone is always so busy” and there “is only a small cohort of trainees, even a few missing makes it feels sparse”. There is “not much of a go out for drinks culture” but “monthly drinks are organised” which can be “very hit and miss”.
There were no reports of international secondments apart from “an-all expenses paid trip to Birmingham to a luxurious 5 star Travelodge” but client secondments were possible, with trainees spending time “at a private equity fund manager”.
The reports on tech were that it was “not bad but there could be many improvements”. One trainee boasted of the firm’s flashy technology, reporting that “we have computers”, while another mentioned the “1995-style 5GB mailbox limit” and that “Excel is the PH version of AI”.
One Legal Cheek mole said: “The IT team and me are best buds. On a daily basis, everyone in my team experiences IT issues. For the first year of my TC, I was having to use a Lenovo from 2011. A 7 year old brick laptop. We have no laptops spare either. The software we have for everything is super budget. We use a very old version of Outlook. The senior associate in my team reckons he loses 2-3 hours a day waiting for his system to respond.”