Due to move office in early 2023, the 250-strong London team of US firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom will soon be ensconced in London’s tallest office building, 22 Bishopsgate. It will leave its current Canary Wharf base to occupy three floors (floors 38, 39 and 40 of the 62-storey skyscraper) of the gleaming tower, a majestic setting for one of the world’s heaviest financial hitters. Not only will the views from its new City of London position be unbeatable, its skyward-bound lawyers will be able to enjoy a food hub, a central innovation centre, wellbeing retreat and a ‘sky-wall’ climbing window.
And if the high-rollers fancy swapping tales of lawyerly derring-do with peers at rival firms, they can take the lift down a few floors to visit neighbouring US firm Cooley on floors 22-24 or up a few flights to US firm Covington & Burling at floors 51-54.
For a snapshot of the firm, insiders tell Legal Cheek of “lean teams”, “multi-billion dollar work”, “hands-on training” and a non-hierarchical structure. Its latest financials show a turnover of $2.66 billion (£1.93 billion) with profit per equity partner an eye-watering $4.31 million (£3.12 million). Its bank balance as well as its reputation is likely to receive a major boost from its work on the headline-grabbing tussle between billionaire Elon Musk and Twitter, in which Skadden is advising Musk. Speaking of billionaires, the firm reportedly no longer acts for Russian oligarch and former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, having parted company with its long-time client this year prior to Abramovich being hit by sanctions as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. It was a long and lucrative relationship. The firm advised on Abramovich’s initial purchase of Chelsea in 2003 and its former London chief Bruce Buck was chair of the club until June 2022, when he stepped down.
The firm is no stranger to high-profile work, regularly advising on mega-deals such as acting for Activision Blizzard on its $75 billion acquisition by Microsoft, the largest-ever technology deal and largest-ever gaming industry deal.
In recent years, Skadden has lured some of the best City talent to its ranks and promoted more partners in the London office last year than in the past five years. Currently the firm’s London office houses approximately 144 lawyers and 28 partners, with Pranav Trivedi currently at the helm.
Prospective trainees can look forward to a typical US firm experience. Expect challenging and engaging work across classic commercial sectors like M&A, private equity, financings, restructuring, and tax. Previous London mandates include advising Netflix on its largest acquisition to date, that of The Roald Dahl Story Company Limited, which manages the literary estate of author Roald Dahl. Skadden also advised the chemicals conglomerate DuPont on its $2.3 billion all-cash acquisition of Laird’s Performance Materials business from Advent International, and the video games giant Electronic Arts Inc. on its $1.4 billion acquisition of Playdemic Limited from AT&T Inc.
However, like with any firm, the quality of work will always depend on where you are placed. A former rookie told us: “Of course it does vary but especially in my litigation seat the work has been very interesting.” Another insider sums up the work like this: “Skadden’s USP is that we do the most challenging work better than our rivals. The teams are so lean that I’ve always found excellent exposure to very stimulating work. In corporate or private equity, you’ll frequently be working on multi-billion dollar deals in teams of no more than three or four max so you’ll always have that exposure.”
And although the training, like most US firms, is very hands-on, rookies report that you are not left unsupported. “The reality is that my training experience of Skadden has been exceptionally hands-on, but I’ve always felt that there’s an incredible amount of resources should you need it to substantiate the training”, commented one.
Despite its tough Wall Street image, trainees note that within the firm there is “good mentoring” and “a sense of camaraderie”. One insider reports: “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. “There’s a real effort by everyone senior to attend events and it really never feels like there is any hierarchical relationship,” one junior told Legal Cheek. 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!” This, however, depends on the department: “Work can be very all consuming, equally I have experienced many quiet periods too, so quite cyclical in general.”
Another former rookie reports: “There’s never any feeling of a ‘face-time culture’ but my hours have been pretty challenging at times. It’s fairly common to have deals where the team works until 2am on consecutive days. Having said that, after the deal’s finished, people are very good at making sure you get a good recovery period. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to stay later than other members of the team to impress.”
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 to flashy partner events such as black-tie fundraisers for charities like Pride in London.
When it comes to perks, Skadden has historically performed well. Heavily discounted gym membership, dental coverage and season ticket allowances are all considered “excellent perks”. However, the general consensus is that the perks are “fairly basic” but “the pay is very good”. Skadden’s salary is clearly a big draw, with London NQs earning a mind-boggling £157,000.
Another major attraction are the firm’s international secondments, which around a third of trainees experienced according to Legal Cheek data. Possible destinations are 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.