White & Case
The Legal Cheek View
US firm White & Case is most definitely in the money, with global revenues surging 20% to $2.9 billion (£2.38 billion) ― the firm’s biggest rise in 25 years. Over at Old Broad Street, its London team boosted its coffers by $445 million (£336 million), up 12% on the previous year (which itself saw 18% growth on the previous year). Equity partners raked home a hefty $3.5 million (£2.87 million).
Such dizzying numbers aside, the London office has made some strategic lateral hires in litigation and M&A and worked on some standout deals. These include acting for Avast on its $9.2 billion (£7.56 billion) merger with NortonLifeLock in August 2021, and on the financial restructuring of Hertz Global Holdings.
For the humble trainee or junior, the work is a mix of “mostly very interesting and stimulating, but occasional more procedural tasks”. Rookies in their first seat may find themselves drafting content that goes straight to the client. The nature of the work is “highly stimulating ― diverse mix of public and private work (and some capital markets), high degree of autonomy and partners are rather hands off. Great for those who like to dive in and take ownership,” one insider tells us.
One training contract veteran reports “a 20:80 split ― 20% interesting and stimulating work; 80% more non-stimulating work. There are times where trainees can draft legal submissions and cross-examination schedules, as well as lead client correspondence and generally run workstreams independently without asking for associates’ permission/sign-off. At other times, trainees are stuck doing administrative support work, or the duller side of cite-checking/proofreading and signature pages”.
The training itself comes highly rated, and is “excellent and generally very thorough”. The approach may vary, for example, “disputes has lots of trainee training sessions” as do M&A, private equity and capital markets, whereas others, for example, employment, didn’t have a single one. Regular informal feedback is provided, as well as formal feedback mid-seat and end-of-seat. One trainee complained about a lack of technology training on tools such as Opus and Exhibit Manager.
White & Case, which competes with the magic circle, offers 50 training contracts annually at a neat salary range starting at £52,000 for trainees and £140,000 once newly qualified. For that, you are expected to put in the hours and then some ― think 10-13-hour days. One weary-sounding junior describes their work-life balance: “Non-existent.” An insider reveals there is a good balance in litigation but no balance in debt finance or arbitration. Others are more positive, with comments such as “pretty good for BigLaw. I have absolute flexibility”, “haven’t had to work very many weekends or had to cancel plans”. One trainee smugly recalls: “Haven’t worked a single weekend. I have done two all-nighters in my first seat, but everyone is very appreciative and will give you minimal work the next day.”
The office, where you will be spending all those hours, is currently being refurbished and expanded, but already has “excellent client suites”. One downside is the shortage of windows, which means “natural lighting gets worse the lower the floor”.
On the plus side you will be spending your days with supportive, “super-friendly” colleagues. There is a “massive M&A junior cohort” which is “very social, lots of drinks and social events. Good people.” The partners are “down to earth and approachable” while the seniors “always give you the time of day”, according to respondents to the 2022-23 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. One enthuses that their superiors at the firm are “approachable, kind, invest time in creating a good supervisor relationship”, although they also report hearing “horror stories of super AWOL supervisors, but think this is less common”. Another newbie strikes a more cautious note: “The approachability of partners is highly dependent on the department you sit in.”
One major pull factor is the firm’s huge international network, with 45 offices in 31 countries. All rookies are given the opportunity of doing a secondment, with some great destinations available. Over the past few years, London trainees have spent time in, among other places, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Madrid, Singapore and (remotely, due to the pandemic) Johannesburg. Client secondments have included 10 weeks at an investment bank, and two months at Blackstone Credit.
The firm provides a generous £200 annual working from home tech allowance, and offers flexible working with employees expected to spend a minimum three days in the office each week.
Perks are an annual £500 wellbeing allowance that can be used for gym membership, beauty treatments and suchlike, free meals at the “incredible” canteen, taxis home and Deliveroo after a certain time, volunteering options, pension, health check and dental treatment. For cricket fans, the firm’s private box at Lords is sure to delight ― it was recently offered to associates.