Meet Skadden at the Legal Cheek UK Virtual Law Fair on 5 October 2021
With a turnover of $2.66 billion (£1.93 billion) this year, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom remains one of the world’s heaviest financial hitters. Profit per equity partner sits at an eye-watering $4.31 million (£3.12 million).
Despite its financial muscle, Skadden has tended towards a conservative approach in the City. However, this appears to be changing somewhat, with Skadden luring some of the best City talent to its ranks and promoting more partners in the London office this year than it has over the past five years. In 2019, the firm secured well-respected London corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton from magic circle outfit Allen & Overy. Later, in February 2020, Skadden hired Peter Newman out of the top City restructuring practice of Milbank and then went on to pinch Freshfields’ star M&A partner Bruce Embley. 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 advising 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. One rookie says: “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, highlighting that their cohort “still have a packed compulsory schedule of training sessions as part of the Junior Training Programme”.
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. “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, is quite dependent on the department: “work can be very all consuming, equally I have experienced many quiet periods too, so quite cyclical in general”.
Another details: “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 dinners at the directors’ lounge at Chelsea F.C. and 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, season ticket allowance 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 £150,000.
Although Covid temporarily halted international secondments usually undertaken by trainees, another major attraction are the firm’s international secondments, which around a third of trainees experienced according to Legal Cheek’s past data. 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 gets mixed reviews. Some feel the office is “outdated” and “not especially impressive”, whilst others told Legal Cheek, “I love our location in Canary Wharf even though it gets some bad press”. 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”. The firm is planning to move to a “very swanky pad” in the City in 2023 which has facilities including a wellbeing retreat and a ‘sky-wall’ climbing window!