This meeting of two American legal shops has forged a new training contract combing A&P's pharma flair with KS's finance panache.
The past two years have been marked by growth in Arnold & Porter's training programme: in 2015 it went from recruiting two trainees once every two years to recruiting that number every year. Then, on 1 January 2017, the trainee cohort once again received a boost, when A&P merged with fellow US firm Kaye Scholer, forming the catchily-named Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer (A&PKS). The union means 60 London lawyers will form part of a 1,000-strong contingent spread across nine American and four international offices: London, Frankfurt, Brussels and Shanghai.
“This really diversifies our practice.”
The coming together of two firms can be unsettling, but trainees on both sides welcomed the merger: “We were both quite small firms in London, so this really diversifies our practice and means we'll have more seats to choose from.” Others were excited about the potential for more structure: “Because there are so few trainees at the moment there's no need to have a rigid system, which is good, but sometimes it'd be nice to have more formal pastoral care.”
Legacy A&P UK was built around life sciences and pharmaceutical work, whileits new compadres from KS bring a more “finance-oriented practice.” One thing both had in common was their status as “de facto European headquarters” of US firms. Sources speculated that the merger will strengthen the combined firm's London foundations – an important outcome given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Even with the Kaye Scholer mob welcomed into the fold, sources told us that A&PKS London will still be a pretty boutique operation: “There'll still be a small trainee intake going forward.” The firm has an intellectual tradition reinforced by the presence of so many lawyers with backgrounds in other fields: “A large proportion of the pharma team have a scientific or medical background, while the white-collar crime group has a lot of people from the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Most A&PKS's trainees will pass through the combined firm's corporate, life sciences and IP departments; stints in white-collar, international arbitration, competition, finance and commercial litigation are also available to round out the training contract. When it comes to seat allocation, trainees felt that “there isn't really a choice – you go where they need you when they need you.” This also means that trainees assist teams outside of their current seat's remit if required. The firm confirmed that business need does drive seat allocation decisions, but it also tries to be as flexible as possible to accommodate trainees' preferences.
Life sciences is still A&PKS' largest department and jewel in the crown. It picks up tip-top Chambers UK rankings for its regulatory, product liability and general life sciences work, and therefore attracts all the biggies of the pharma world: GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca are all on the books.
A seat here is “very much research-based,” and compiling regulatory advice takes centre stage: “I was looking into the European and UK marketing requirements for medicines, as well as the history of the authorisation of certain drugs.” On the product liability side, interviewees were refining their drafting skills on instructions to counsel. Recent cases have seen the team successfully defend a claim that Bristol-Myers Squibb's schizophrenia treatment Abilify caused the claimant to become a compulsive gambler, and defend Pfizer against claims that its drug Celebrex produced cardiovascular disorders in its users.
“Looking into the European and UK marketing requirements for medicines.”
The firm's “aptitude for cross-selling” means that you'll find many life sciences clients in A&PKS's mid-market corporate department. But you'll also find names hailing from other sectors too, like retail software specialists OneView Group and educational tour provider WorldStrides. Consequently sources reported a diverse experience that included “a reverse takeover of a large IT business” and “the restructuring of a pharmaceutical company.” Responsibility levels were deemed especially high: “You really get to be part of the whole deal – I was going to pitches, leading on calls and coordinating FCA applications.” There's also “plenty of due diligence and drafting of ancillary documents.”
The competition team is small – “just two partners and four associates” – and “more hierarchical than others: there are so few lawyers that not even associates are allowed to email clients directly without clearance.” The life sciences focus is more diluted here; instead, telecoms giants like AT&T, energy behemoths like General Electric and large food and drink multinationals like Mondelēz fill the books. The group recently advised the latter as it acquired a licence from Burton's Biscuit Company allowing it make and sell Cadbury-branded biscuit products. Trainees are given “relatively more stuff to do” but tasks are “a little bit lower down the line,” meaning: “There's a lot of drafting merger notifications, emailing local counsel, doc review and market share analysis.”
A&PKS's IP lawyers deal with both transactional work – like reviewing contracts and writing memos on data protection matters – as well as litigious stuff like patent infringement disputes. With regards to the former, sources reported “drafting and more drafting,” whether it be on assignment agreements or to update transaction precedents. Contentious matters are more common though, and since “court time is almost non-existent,” this mostly involves researching, bundling and filing – tasks that can be repetitive but “essential for building your professional knowledge.” Alongside the pharma names, the team also has many fashion clients. These include Karen Millen, who called on A&PKS's services recently after she was prevented from using her name for a new clothing line.
Sources were keen to stress that the old stereotype of American firms and long hours was, well, exactly that. One trainee explained: “I've got friends at magic circle and other City firms that do pure transactional work, and they do 3ams frequently. It's not like that here – people have a life as well as their job.” On top of that, “if the day's finished, you're not expected to hang around. There's definitely not that face time requirement.” This informality extends to training: “If you ask for stuff you get it, like I've just asked for an Excel training, and have scheduled in another session too.”
Trainees admitted that “people don't socialise a lot within the firm,” reiterating the point that “lawyers here maintain lives outside of work.” However, when the few organised events do come around, they are worth the wait. There are annual Christmas and summer parties, the former of which is “always a luxurious sit-down dinner”; the most recent took place among the 13th century splendour of London's Painters' Hall. Aside from these two hallmark events, every Thursday evening sees lawyers gather for drinks in what has been romantically dubbed the 'Garden Room.'
The rest of A&PKS's London home isn't as vegetatious, but it's still quite something. Occupying floors 27 to 30 of London's iconic Tower 42, the firm might be about to take over a fifth floor to make room for KS's contingent of fine legal minds. Every fee earner has their own office, with complimentary floor-to-ceiling windows and breathtaking views over the city – “which is especially good if you're scared of heights.”
Trainees were brought back to their feet by a bounty of pro bono opportunities: “It's a bigger deal here than it is at other London firms. I've done loads and you really do get client contact. If there's an area that you're really interested in they definitely encourage it.” One interviewee had acted for an individual who had fallen foul of the FCA: “She just got caught up in something and they were trying to ban her from the entire industry.”
Informality continues into qualification, as “there's no application process: you just make it known to a team leader that you want to join their department. Then, the impression I get is that they just take you out to lunch.” Legacy A&P's decade-long track record for retaining all of its trainees put our sources at ease, but the firm didn't maintain its perfect score in 2017: out of its two qualifiers, one decided to stay and the other decided to pursue an area of law that A&PKS doesn't currently offer.
Secondments do exist at A&PKS, but they're “very ad hoc.” In the past, second years have been known to spend the occasional six months in Brussels doing a competition seat.
How to get an A&PKS training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 4 March 2018
Training contract deadline: 29 July 2018
The firm generally receives around 300 applications for the eight vac scheme places available, plus another 700 to 800 from people gunning directly for a training contract.
Both types of application begin with the same form. It covers standard fare like 'Why law?' and 'Why APKS?' and candidates are also asked to provide examples of situations in which they occupied positions of responsibility. There are no specifically commercial-based questions.
Following an application screening, the firm invites around 20 vac scheme applicants to interview. They carry out a timed exercise and are then interviewed by two senior fee earners. “We give them a legal problem to review,” says graduate recruitment coordinator Lisa Cadzow, “and part of the interview process is for the candidate to talk us through their response. Although there is a legal theme, what we are really interested in is seeing how the candidate approaches the problem and how they communicate their response to the interviewers.” Interviewers then go on to discuss the candidate's CV, application and expectations for a training contract at APKS. Typically, between eight and ten candidates are chosen to attend the two-week vacation scheme (see below).
All vacation scheme applicants are also deemed to have applied for a training contract. Following the vacation scheme, other candidates who have applied for a training contract but not the vacation scheme are evaluated on paper and some may be invited for interview. The interview follows a similar format to the vacation scheme interviews, but may be slightly longer. Applicants are asked to allow up to three hours for this interview. From here, the firm tends to make its offers.
The firm now takes two trainees a year. Sometimes, both successful applicants have been chosen from those on the vacation scheme, but often one is chosen from the interview-only applicants.
APKS's vac scheme is two weeks long and takes place in the summer. Training and inductions take up the first day. Then follows a series of daily workshops, one of APKS's tools for assessing vac schemers. Cadzow talks us through one: “We'll give them a scenario – for example, a biotech company being set up – and have them run through the life-cycle of the business. At each stage we tie in the work the relevant department here conducts. The corporate department sets the company up, IP deals with issues around protecting and using IP rights, and so on.”
Alongside these workshops, each vac schemer has their own project to work on that tests their drafting skills, capacity for meeting deadlines and ability to follow instructions. They also get involved in pieces of live work lawyers around the firm have on; they aren't tied to a specific team or department. Finally, towards the end of the two weeks, vac schemers are given a topic and tasked with formulating a presentation.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street,
- Partners 28
- Assistant solicitors 34
- Total trainees 4
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 13
- Graduate recruitment team, 020 7786 6100, [email protected]
- Training partner: Tom Fox, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Applications pa: 700
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 10
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 16 October 2017
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 29 July 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 16 October 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 4 March 2018
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £45,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £8,000
- International and regional
- Client secondments: On an as need basis
Main areas of work
Chambers UK recently ranked the London office as a leading firm in the following practice areas: life sciences (regulatory and product liability), competition, corporate M&A, financial crime, product liability, intellectual property and patent litigation.
The firm encourages individuals to work across specialisms and emphasises teamwork, so trainees may find that whilst they are working in one group, they undertake work in a variety of different areas throughout the firm. Trainees will be expected to work on several matters at once, and assume responsibility at an early stage. Trainees may also have an opportunity to work in the firm’s Brussels office and where the occasion permits, to work on projects in one of the firm’s US offices.
An important aspect of the firm’s culture is its commitment to pro bono. Trainees and all lawyers at the firm are encouraged to take part and devote 15% of their time to it, which helps young lawyers develop client management skills from an early stage.
University law careers fairs 2017