The firm that acted for Lehman Brothers on its world-changing 2008 bankruptcy has been one of the most adept riders of the ensuing business cycle, led by a globally renowned private equity team. Weil Gotshal & Manges profit per equity partner now stands at a record $3.8 million (£3.13 million) while revenue is a whopping $1.46 billion (£1.2 billion), another record high, amid a slew of big ticket instructions.
Weil’s London office has been at the heart of the action, turning over $188.1 million last year, a 14% increase in the previous year.
Buoyant financials haven’t always translated into stellar morale, with an intense vibe proving not for everyone – as illustrated by a notably poor trainee retention rate in 2017. But the signs are that the firm has learnt from this, scoring strong results in this year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.
As with many US firms in London, the training is “more hands on than formal”. One insider describes it like this:
“There is no formal training programme, so this generally varies from department to department. Some (e.g. banking and funds) are great at having regular department training, others (e.g. the smaller transactional specialist teams) less so. Corporate used to be in that latter category, but has recently had a big re-haul of its training program, which is now a lot more comprehensive. That being said, Weil (as perhaps is the case with other US outfits) takes more of an ask-and-you-shall-receive approach to training — trainees are generally expected to get stuck into tasks and be proactive in asking for help/feedback.”
Where the firm has improved is on supervision. Partners, while “busy”, have been making an effort to be more approachable. “I can’t say a bad word about the supervisors I’ve had in any of my 4 seats. I obviously cannot speak for any others, but at least in my personal experience most of my supervisors were perfectly lovely/approachable/reasonable people to work with,” one Weil rookie reports.
Fellow trainees, meanwhile, are “in general very supportive”. Another adds: “As we are a small intake so we are all close friends.”
Where the trainee experience stands out is for quality of work. One describes it like this: “Very interesting work of the highest calibre. Inspiring practitioners working for some big ticket clients.” Another reports: “Expect associate level work from day one as teams are very lean. It is common for there to be just a trainee, senior associate and partner on a deal.”
Such staffing inevitably means some grunt work is required, a burden which isn’t helped by Weil’s so-so IT, which partly accounts for the fairly long hours (Weil’s average leave the office time is after 9pm). But that’s US law firm life. The reward is a newly qualified salary of £130,000.
Drilling into the detail of the hours, here are a couple of insider accounts of what it’s like:
“2 of my 4 seats had very reasonable hours (average leave time of 7pm), the other two were pretty full on. As a US firm, we run a lot leaner deal times so if you’re coming up against a deadline, its all hands on deck for at least a week or two. Whilst it can be common to stay past 10pm/11pm during peak times, at others hours are reasonable and I’ve rarely had to work weekends. Perhaps the toughest part is the ‘always available’ culture – you’re expected to answer calls at ungodly hours or on days off – but hey, that’s what they pay you for.”
“This depends on the team you are in and the types of deadlines imposed by the clients. If you are in corporate or leverage finance, you should expect 9am-11pm/Midnight at the height of a deal. However once a deal is complete, you could be leaving around 6/7pm. Meanwhile in teams like structured finance and private funds the deals are much longer (1 year/2 years) and therefore you can expect more consistent hours. During busy periods you could work a regular 9am-9/10pm and during quieter periods you tend to work between 9-7pm.”
Alongside the pay, other perks include free entry for a number of London art galleries and museums. “I skip all the queues at the Royal Academy and V&A,” a Weil rookie reports. There are also regular free tickets to football games, rugby and cricket matches, and gigs at the O2. A recent social saw a group of Weil trainees use the firm’s private box at the 02 to watch a Drake concert.
Another plus is the firm’s “super slick” London office. It’s a “clean, functional and well lit space” and “some trainees even get standing desks!” Facilities “will give you mostly anything you ask for (standing desk, fancy new screens, ergonomic key boards etc)”. The firm canteen is also praised, with “very good” food and “a number of healthy options available on a daily basis”. Breakfast is apparently “amazing and cheap” and you can have avocado toast and poached eggs “every morning if you want to”.
What you won’t get at Weil, despite its large international network, is a guaranteed international secondment. Around 15% of trainees do one, according to our figures, with New York, Hong Kong and Paris the most common destinations.