Weil Gotshal & Manges’ poor scores in this year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 need to be understood in context of a turbulent autumn 2017 retention round that saw half of the firm’s London trainees quit. Certainly, the low morale is likely to have had an effect on the survey responses. We’d recommend that anyone considering applying to Weil bear in mind that this illustrious firm has a longstanding reputation for being one of the best in the business for private equity. Clearly, though, the London office hasn’t been a happy ship lately.
Some of the comments we have received from insiders seem to us to be absolutely brutal. Here is one about the training:
“Training is entirely dependent on a) supervisor and b) quality of work within the department at any given time. There is no uniform classroom or formal training. Very little effort is put into the training programme generally and its more of an attitude of ‘get on with it’. This is perfectly fine for those who can manage to get the right combination of ‘A’ and ‘B’ above, but very difficult to recover from if you’re stuck doing secretarial work for 6 months. The firm has been made aware on numerous occasions of ‘problematic’ supervisors or instances where work quality is at constantly appalling levels, but does little to address those problems.”
Here’s another on the quality of work:
“The firm has suffered from a dip in work over the last few months and this has definitely reflected in the availability of quality work (particularly competition from other trainees/junior associates to get access to the better work). Some departments have fairly stimulating work, but the bulk of the core departments (such as corporate) will be 6 months of being a deal secretary. Its quite frustrating comparing corporate experiences between trainees at other firms given the focus of corporate at Weil. Frankly, I would have had a better corporate seat at DLA Piper Manchester. For example, the corporate team does not ‘cc trainees into emails, excludes them from any big deal discussions and doesn’t really involve trainees in the driving seat of a deal. I’m under no illusions that part of being a trainee is doing the bottom level work, but in return there is an expectation that someone will really sit down and take the time to explain the bigger picture. This is not the case in the corporate department at Weil.”
It gets worse. Here is a comment that we felt it best to edit – after all, clearly there is some raw emotion at play and we want to be as fair and balanced as possible:
“Overall, the associates at Weil are friendly and nice with only the odd outlier scattered throughout (each department has no more than 2 or 3). A third of the London partnership is very down to earth. The remaining London partners are… I’ve been surprised humans can treat other humans the way they do”.
However, not everyone is of this opinion. Another trainee tells us that while their first supervisor was “awful” their second is “great”.
And these are the categories in which Weil did relatively OK in! Somehow, for work/life balance, tech-savvy, canteen and social life, the firm scored Ds (which we don’t give out easily). Once again, the grades have to be read with this year’s trainee retention problems in mind. Grumbles include a “facetime” culture leading to some of the longest working hours in City law (see figures below), poor IT systems that make flexible working difficult and “consistently terrible” food. On the latter, another rookie elaborates: “If you like deconstructed scrambled eggs / poached eggs on top of jacket potatoes with fish pie a la jack fruit chucked in, this is the place for you.”
Meanwhile, the social life is apparently “largely non-existent” with “two trainee intakes where there haven’t even been welcome drinks”.
As we noted above, strong emotions are obvious in the comments we received – and it would be wise to factor this in when assessing them. But what makes the London trainee situation all the more bizarre is that Weil’s global business had a great year, with revenue up by almost 9% to $1.27bn (£1.03bn) and profit per equity partner rising by 22% to $3.1m (£2.5m). The firm also pays some of the highest in the UK, with newly qualified solicitors earning a whopping £115,000.
In view of the impassioned nature of the results and comments, we gave Weil the opportunity to respond, but it declined to comment. No doubt the firm, which has a sizeable presence in the UK, taking on 12-15 trainees each year, will bounce back.