With a turnover of $2.632 billion (£2.01 billion) this year, fractionally down by 1% on last year, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom remains one of the world’s heaviest financial hitters. Profit per equity partner sits at an eye-watering $3.9 million (£2.9 million).
Despite its financial muscle, Skadden has tended towards a conservative approach in the City. However, the last 12 months suggest change could be afoot at the firm, with Skadden luring some of the best City talent to its ranks. Last year, the firm secured well-respected London corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton from Magic Circle outfit Allen & Overy. Later, in February of this year, Skadden hired Peter Newman out of the top City restructuring practice of Milbank. Currently the firm’s London office houses approximately 144 lawyers and 28 partners, with Pranav Trivedi currently at the helm.
Skadden’s new-found impetus in the London lateral market makes it more alike some of its US competitors in the City, and prospective trainees can look forward to a typical US firm experience too. Expect challenging and engaging work across classic commercial sectors like M&A, private equity, financings, restructuring, and tax. Recent London mandates include acting for FTSE 100 life insurer Phoenix Group on its acquisition of ReAssure from Swiss Re for £3.2 billion.
However, like with any firm, the quality of work will always depend on where you are placed. One rookie says: “Of course it does vary but especially in my litigation seat the work has been very interesting.”
Despite its tough Wall Street image trainees note that within the firm there is “good mentoring” and “a sense of camaraderie.” One insider adds: “It is expected for trainees to talk to everyone in their team.” These teams consist of associates and partners, and are said to be less hierarchical than many global law firms, though their approachability is still variable. Trainees must complete one transaction and one litigation seat in their first year. Although this appears restrictive such requirements allow them to gain an understanding of the firm in two essential contexts.
Working hours at Skadden are what you would expect — intense. Trainees and junior lawyers regularly put in 12-hour days, although improved working from home policies are understood to have taken the edge off things, while one trainee reports that the work/life balance is “better than I expected!”
In the time left over from work there is a decent social scene, often organised through a Whatsapp group and lunch club dedicated to catching up on the latest Netflix shows. Occasionally, trainees get invited along to flashy partner events such as dinners at the directors’ lounge at Chelsea FC and black-tie fundraisers for charities like Pride in London.
When it comes to perks, Skadden performs well. One trainee complains that there are “measly pension contributions” but adds that “what they skip on perks, they make up for in cash (salary).” Skadden’s salary is clearly a big draw, with London NQs earning a mind-boggling £133,000. A nice touch are the MacBook Pros and iPhones trainees receive, alongside a £40 gym allowance and “great” health care benefits.
Another major attraction are the firm’s international secondments, which nearly a third of trainees experienced this year according to the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Possible destinations include Brussels, Hong Kong and New York. Client secondments are much rarer. As well as secondment opportunities a number of trainees have travelled abroad for deals, including a two week trip to New York for a closing.
Skadden’s Canary Wharf office doesn’t receive many complaints bar one insider noting that the “carpet could be a bit nicer.” Once qualified, associates are treated to an impressive upgrade, getting their own office that, as per firm policy, is decked out in wood furniture. The firm’s canteen is also recommended and includes “nice vegetarian options.”
But don’t be too confident about grinding your way to the top at this US powerhouse. Becoming a partner at the firm is notoriously difficult, particularly for those in the UK. But even here things seem to be changing slightly, with Skadden promoting four in the last five rounds in London, most recently M&A partner Denis Klimentchenko.