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 and has enjoyed years of robust financial performance. Spearheaded by a busy private equity practice, Weil Gotshal & Manges saw global revenue soar 12% to $1.86 billion (£1.5 billion) for the 21-22 financial year.
There has been lots going on in the London office, which boasts “lovely roof terraces and sweeping City views” as well as spacious offices, a subsidised cafe with cheap food, and a gym in the basement. Those lawyers lucky enough to be working inside these snazzy digs have been busy with both M&A work, such as advising the SPAC Gores Guggenheim on its $20 billion business combination with premium electric vehicle manufacturer Polestar Performance AB, and capital markets work that includes advising bondholders on restructuring Ukraine’s sovereign debt.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the firm’s London financials were particularly striking this year: Weil’s London office put in a meteoric revenue rise of 43% to total $288 million (£235 million). Trainees and NQs have also enjoyed the fruits of the London office’s success with first-year and second-year rates reaching £60,000 and £65,000 respectively and NQs bagging £160,000. Currently the firm’s City arm is headed by its veteran London managing partner Michael Francies, who has seen Weil lure partners from the likes of Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Clifford Chance and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. No wonder some extra space had to be found across the road from its gaff in Fetter Lane!
The vibe in the London office can be intense, with smart and ambitious graduates thriving here but more laidback types sometimes struggling to keep the pace.
Where the trainee experience really stands out is the “headline hitting work at the top of the market”, one source explains. “Expect associate-level work from day one as teams are very lean”, another remarks.
In short, if you’re up for a challenge, the work is really something to write home about: “All the deals are generally top-tier and at the forefront of the market in terms of innovative legal solutions we provide and from a commercial perspective in what our clients are aiming to achieve. If you’re up for it, there is super interesting work to get involved in given the generally lean nature of deal teams and small intake size.”
However, the leanness of the team cuts both ways with the lack of paralegal support meaning that some of the tasks assigned to rookies can feel a bit admin-y.
Go-getters typically enjoy the “great practical experience” that Weil offers with plenty of trainees we spoke to heaping praise on the banking and private equity teams’ training efforts.
This spy details: “There’s lot of training received from the firm pre-training contract and throughout seats. In the core practice areas, there are set training sessions which take place frequently, for example in Banking we had one training session each week throughout the seat and in PE we had training Monday to Thursday for the first 2 weeks of the seat, followed by more formal training throughout the seat. Training is tailored to ensure we get the prerequisite background to understand the context of deals and background and it is very useful for trainees who have had limited exposure to the practice area before starting the training contract.”
Another tells us that “the banking team training is excellent — working through a uni-tranche comp grid is really useful background to all the deal work, and the partners make an effort to make sure it isn’t pitched too highly.”
It is worth noting though that “teams are incredibly leanly staffed across the board so you learn the majority of your learning through the responsibility you are given” which has led some to feel like they were missing the big picture. This insider provides a candid overview: “Some departments (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 programme, which is now a lot more comprehensive”.
It would also help the training experience if some busy partners could make more of an effort to be more approachable with some being described as more friendly than others.
On the whole, however, despite some more “laissez-faire” aspects of life at Weil, many feel well supported. This rookie tells us: “Both of my supervisors thus far have been excellent. Lots of mentorship is on offer at the firm, from associate buddies to Partner mentors.”
Admin burdens causing some newbies gripes are somewhat eased by Weil’s “reasonable” IT. There’s apparently “the basic transactional and document services” but “nothing too sophisticated” and, although the laptops short battery lives can cause frustration, the consensus is that the tech is “pretty good” (rumour has it that the firm is piloting further improvements). In addition, the firm provides a good work from home setup, sending trainees a monitor and, with partner approval, a printer as well as a standing desk amongst other WFH luxuries.
The high pay/little work-life balance trade-off that is common at US firms is exemplified by Weil. One junior offers this assessment: “Evenings, weekends and holiday are absolutely not protected (though some teams are better at this than others). As a general rule, I avoid planning any social engagements Monday-Thursday to avoid disappointment!”.That said, people are “generally really understanding if you have any social commitments as long as there is advance warning” and tend to let trainees head home in the evenings to continue work.
Another insider gives this experience: “Two of my four 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 teams so if you’re coming up against a deadline, it’s all hands-on deck for at least a week or two. While it can be common to stay past 10pm/11pm during peak times, at other times 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.”
Though the hours may seem onerous, expect to be rewarded with some great perks, including free entry to 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. One social is even said to have seen a group of Weil trainees use the firm’s private box at the O2 to watch a Drake concert.
As for secondments, we’re told these are now back up and running following a temporary hiatus due to Covid, with destinations including New York, Hong Kong and Paris.