White & Case has grown rapidly in London in recent years, with the firm now offering 50 training contracts annually as it goes head-to-head with the magic circle. The financials have shot up too, with the corporate finance-focused US giant boosting profit per equity partner (PEP) by 17% to a record-breaking $3.5 million (£2.3 million). Global turnover is also on the rise, up by 20% to $2.9 billion (£2.1 billion).
A sizable chunk of this figure — around £328 million — came courtesy of the firm’s London office, underlining the UK’s continued strategic importance to White & Case. In fact, White & Case’s London office is the shining star of the firm’s financial results, having grown a meteoric 12% in 2021. Certainly, working here is a very different experience to one of the many global firm London offices that offer just a handful of graduate places.
Another major White & Case pull factor is its huge international network, with 45 offices in 30 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, Paris, Madrid and Singapore. Indeed, despite Covid-19, current trainees report that they have undertaken secondments to Singapore, Tokyo, New York, Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg (albeit virtually in some cases).
In addition to international secondments, Legal Cheek understands that there have also been several client secondments on offer over the past couple of years, mostly to financial services companies.
As it has grown White & Case has built out its London training infrastructure. Nevertheless, the lighter supervisory touch approach associated with American firms still applies to a certain extent. “Very detailed and personalised training”, one W&C trainee explains, “with the measure of autonomy/figure-it-out-yourself which better stimulates development”. Happily, according to the Legal Cheek 2021/22 survey results, the firm has some of the most mutually supportive trainees around, with half of respondents giving their peers the top marks for supportiveness. There is “always someone you can approach for tips, suggestions and help”, remarked one. Another insider praises the “strong camaraderie” among its “tight-knit” rookie ranks bound together by the sense that they are “all in this together”. Partners, meanwhile, are said to be “extremely approachable, open and friendly”.
The work is “generally good and interesting”, and those who prove themselves find it’s a virtuous cycle. Another junior reports: “Very little of what I have had to do feels like standard ‘grunt’ work and feels like work preparing me to work as an associate.” However, slightly envious glances are often made towards UK firms with low-cost centres. “I have mostly been given administrative or secretarial tasks so far, and I’m four months into my current seat,” one trainee tells us.
What most of those UK firms with support teams elsewhere certainly don’t do is pay their London trainees as much as White & Case does. Newly qualified (NQ) salaries stand at £130,000 — a six-figure-sum that stood firm amid the Covid-19 crisis. The trade-off is longer hours that include some work that other firms may outsource, alongside the more complex tasks. In order to fit it all in, don’t expect to get out of the office much before 9pm if you are in a corporate or banking seat. For other departments the hours are less intense and there is some flexibility around scheduling as one rookie explained to Legal Cheek, “you are typically left to structure your day as you please and so can fit in dinners and gym sessions around your work”.
Meanwhile, one insider sums it up like this: “It really varies. Sometimes I have weeks where I won’t stop working before midnight, and other times weeks where I barely have any work at all and so leave the office at 6pm.” Another adds: “[I have] rarely had to work extremely late/weekends, and when I have, it has been to get a deal over the line, and I have felt part of a team of people also working, not just working alone at crazy hours”.
Technological improvements are gradually filling this gap, as the firm adopts new efficiency-boosting tools — and pushes its lawyers to get trained on their use. A trainee reports: “Fairly strong, definitely makes a difference to our jobs, but nothing that revolutionary.” In terms of lockdown support, one insider praises the firm’s “transparent” home-working policy, regular staff updates and “generous” home office equipment allowance.
Perks are up there with the magic circle. There’s a focus on wellness, with a health allowance and rewards programme called ‘Wellness Works for Me’, subsidised yoga, massages and even weekly therapist sessions. The £500 worth of ‘wellness’ vouchers that are given to all trainees, and can be exchanged for exercise classes and massages among other things, are particularly appreciated. And the perks didn’t stop during lockdown either. Our insiders report receiving “lots of treats while working from home”, from “virtual pizza parties” to vouchers for premium cake supplier Cutter & Squidge.
The refurbished canteen continues to impress. Not only is the quality of the food apparently “often great”, but it’s now quite a “funky” environment. “Finally a place to take time out!” says one trainee. Let’s hope that there are a few years to enjoy it as the firm’s continued growth in London means its City office may soon not be big enough for its ambitions.