Insurance has always been a big deal at Clydes, but with an ever-increasing revenue and overseas reach, its broader commercial profile is also on the rise.
You can run, but you can't Clyde
Take a moment to feast your eyes on the scale of Clydes' growth: the firm's just celebrated its 19th consecutive year of revenue growth, which shot up 14% to £508.1 million – that's a whopping 77% increase since 2011/12. Clydes' geographic reach has also been expanding of late: since our last research cycle, a mix of local mergers, lawyer raids and standalone opportunism has seen Clydes sprout up in Düsseldorf, Kuwait, Miami, Chicago, Washington DC and (pending regulatory approval) Mexico. “Will it ever end? It seems we open a new office every month!” said trainees who lauded their firm for “wanting us to feel like one worldwide operation.” Graduate resourcing executive Rebecca Babb tells us “there will be more international opportunities for trainees” as the big bang continues, “including a greater variety of secondments.”
Insurance and shipping have traditionally sat at the centre of the Clyde & Co universe. The firm is recognised as the brightest star in contentious insurance law by Chambers Global, while its shipping work in both the finance and litigation realms also picks up global-wide nods. These areas also perform well in Chambers UK, which meteor-showers Clydes with a clutch of high rankings for its aviation, commodities, professional negligence, retail, product liability, and health and safety expertise. Well aware of this “fantastic” reputation, our interviewees were drawn in by the gravitational pull of “a massive firm with great opportunities to experience international work.” Other factors they considered when choosing Clydes included its litigation-tilt (around 78% of Clydes' work is contentious) and “the size of the intake: not too many to get completely lost but enough for people to be interesting and varied.”
“a massive firm with great opportunities to experience international work.”
London and Manchester are currently the only offices to take on trainees, with 69 in the former and 11 in the latter at the time of our calls. A further 11 were on an overseas secondment (stints in Dar es Salaam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and San Francisco were available), while six were sat with a client. At each rotation, a small group of Londoners – nine at the time of our research – journey to the Guildford office to complete a seat. "We make it clear there's a potential for them to do so, and it's more than likely that they will,” says Rebecca Babb. Those who are feeling particularly adventurous can opt for Clydes' MENA traineeship, which offers the chance to spend up to the entire training contract in one of the firm's Middle East or North African offices, with a view to qualifying there (as an English law-qualified solicitor).
Clydes has recently brought in a new graduate recruitment team, whom insiders praised for being “very efficient; the seat allocation process used to feel quite opaque but things are getting better.” Some in Manchester felt that “this office suffers from a lack of non-contentious options, but there's a good range of litigious choices.” All trainees submit three preferences before rotating, and are encouraged to speak to the departments they apply to beforehand to gauge what they'd be doing.
The firm's two main insurance departments – contentious and corporate – account for roughly 28% of Clydes' overall turnover, and another 22% is brought in by further insurance-related work. On the contentious side, Clydes' cases cover a variety of areas, from energy to marine to political risk to cyber liability. AIG, Allianz, Aviva and other massive insurance names not beginning with 'A' – like QBE and Swiss Re – are on the books. Trainees “got more responsibility than expected early on,” and found themselves liaising with courts, preparing applications and filing disclosure obligations, alongside the expected bundling. “One of the best things about Clydes is getting to have a go at things rather than just being exposed to them” – as such, court appearances are common for trainees. “The best experience was running my own pro bono file,” revealed one: “I drafted all of the correspondence with the other side, managed the witnesses and attended the hearing. It was incredible.” Recent cases include acting for US property services firm CBRE during a £260 million professional indemnity claim concerning the overvaluation of a portfolio of properties, upon which Barclays advanced a £1 billion senior loan; representing AIG during multiple US actions (valued at over $1 billion) concerning liability for contaminated water sources; and advising Berkshire-based Feltham Construction (and its insurers, AXA and AIG) after a fire broke out on one of its construction sites.
“The best experience was running my own pro bono file.”
Acquisitions, disposals, capital raisings, regulatory issues and overseas development priorities are all handled by Clydes' corporate insurance department. The clientele here includes another who's who of the insurance world, with MetLife, Chubb, Zurich and Direct Line making an appearance. Clydes recently advised Mexican reinsurer Pena Verde on establishing an underwriting presence on Lloyd's, the specialist insurance market (a common territory for the firm); other matters of late have seen the team advise QBE on the sale of its employers' and public liability portfolios, and assist Old Mutual as it looked to source risks in the sub-Saharan region and introduce them to the Lloyd's market. “On M&A deals we'd manage the due diligence process,” interviewees recalled, “but we'd also get to draft sections of the share purchase agreement; despite the small remit it still provided good drafting experience.” Those who'd dabbled in the commercial sub-team described “a very good mix of commercial contract and data protection work,” which involved “analysing and drafting sections of agreements, as well as producing a lot of advice notes, which would eventually be sent out by the partner.”
Clydes' professional and commercial disputes department covers a heady brew of shareholder disputes, fraud cases, professional liability spats, banking and finance litigation, IP wrangles, anti-money laundering investigations and more. Security outfit G4S, Deutsche Bank and Swedish telecoms biz Ericsson are on the books. Cases can be dramatic: the group recently acted for AmTrust during a €2.9 billion dispute with an Italian insurance broker, TRG; it involved bribery allegations, private investigators and a threatening delivery of bullets to an executive's home. Trainees' lives may not be quite that exciting/terrifying, but they did enjoy this popular seat.One source had worked on a few “pre-action negligence claims, where I'd review documents and put together responses. As the claims advanced I'd be involved in the discussions around settlement.” Another had been “heavily involved in a case that was being run by myself, an associate and a senior partner; I went to meetings with counsel, took attendance notes and gave my opinion on the documents. We took it to trial, which was amazing.” On larger cases newbies can expect “more discrete tasks like collating documents and bundling – you can't escape it as a trainee!”
PI in the sky
The “small but flourishing” IP team gained a new practice head from Bristows in 2015 and takes one trainee at a time. The majority of the group's work is contentious, and covers the likes of trade mark, design and copyright spats, as well as reputation management issues. Life sciences matters are a strength here, with clients like Omnipharm Developments and The Doctors Laboratory on the roster. On the reputation management side the department's been acting for American broadcaster Dr Pat Robertson, who made a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation regarding comments about the Orlando shootings that were inaccurately attributed to him by the Mirror Online. “It gives you a great opportunity to experience lots of smaller matters,” said those who'd sat here. “You get to work for everyone, attend trials and case management conferences, put together schedules and draft various applications to the court.”
Acting for both airlines and their insurers, Clydes' aviation department has a market-leading reputation for insured liability claims. “It sounds really glamorous but it's mostly personal injury incidents that have occurred on-board aircraft,” interviewees told us, hence its nickname: 'PI in the sky.' Nonetheless, trainees still see “everything from coffee spills to major losses.” Clients here include Emirates, EasyJet and Air France. Newbies can be airborne far quicker than expected, as one source found: “In week one when I was asked to call up the other side and negotiate a settlement. It was a small matter but it felt good to be doing proper legal work.” Trainees can also complete a dedicated personal injury seat that focuses on industrial disease, where “you get brilliant responsibility, managing files and speaking to clients.”
If six months spent working on aviation-related calamities hasn't discouraged them, trainees can apply to jet off for an international seat. However, there are only a handful available at each rotation for 100 trainees overall, so“they're less straightforward to get than you think.” If enough people apply for a particular overseas seat, Clydes holds interviews to decide who gets to go; the firm also likes secondees to have an idea of which department they'd like to qualify into before signing off on their plane tickets. “A lot of the opportunities are linked to particular departments, so if you've already sat in one you're in pole position.”
Blue Monday, Brown(ie) Tuesday
Hours tend to be less intense at Clydes compared to its City counterparts. “The manpower we have means work can be spread evenly between everyone,” a trainee explained, “so if I've needed to rush off at 5pm it's never been an issue.” It's not all early dashes home, of course, with later finishes clocking in at “10pm, when a disclosure is nearing, for instance.” We also heard of “one post-midnight finish, but it was the only time in the two-year training contract that I had to get an Uber home, which is pretty good going.” A £36,000 first-year salary may sit at the City's lower end (“there's always been grumbles that we could better match competitors”),but trainees were happy to sacrifice the cash for a 6pm average home time.
Clydes' London HQ is split between the “really modern” 'blue' St Botolph Building, and the "more outdated” 'brown' Beaufort House, which sits right next door. Trainees felt the latter could do with an upgrade, but “flitting between the two is like changing between floors in a normal building,” so they found it easy to hop over to Botolph's canteen for a bite to eat. The Manchester team also spans two buildings after the firm expanded to make room for new arrivals – “the culture feels the same in each and there's only a five minute walk between them.” Intrepid trainees who'd ventured beyond the M25 told us that “nobody seems to want to go to Guildford, but once they do they really enjoy it – the hours are better and the work is the same quality.” The biggest downside? “Missing out on London's brownies... they're exceptionally good.” All of Clydes' new starters get a taste of London via a three-week induction programme where they complete their PSCs (Professional Skills Courses).
"I expected a hierarchy, but instead everyone socialises with everyone.”
So what's the culture like? “Surprising,” sources replied. “It's got a reputation for being old school, but that's not been my experience,” one relayed, whileothers summed it up thus: “It's a big firm but everyone knows everyone and there's a good trainee network. I expected a hierarchy, but instead everyone socialises with everyone.” In London a social committee organises events including an “amazing” Christmas party, summer balls and curry nights, while Manchester hosts payday drinks every month on top of charity bake sales and quizzes. Several trainees also got invited to client events – something they're “really encouraged to get involved in.”
The firm recently brought its qualification process forward to give trainees more time to weigh up their options. Once NQ vacancies are circulated, qualifiers list three preferences for where they'd like to go, submit their CV and are interviewed if required. Expecting stiff competition for certain departments, some sources were happier with the system than others, but all were convinced that “Clydes wants to make sure everyone has the chance to qualify even if it's not in their preferred area.” As a result, 35 of 43 qualifiers stayed on in 2017.
The 'Clyde Connected' social media platform is “like a Facebook for the firm; it's a great way to see what colleagues overseas are up to.”
How to get a Clyde & Co training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2018): 7 January 2018 (opens 1 October 2017)
Training contract deadline (2020): 31 July 2018 (opens 1 October 2017)
If you're looking to register your interest in Clydes early, apply for one of the firm's open days or its Bright Futures Programme, which runs between December 4th and 8th 2017.
Those who make it onto the programme shadow a lawyer in their department of choice and also receive guidance from a trainee mentor. A variety of social events are also scheduled, and those who impress most might get fast tracked onto the vacation scheme.
Clydes' open days, meanwhile, are for both law and non-law students at any stage of their degree and run from January 2018. The day includes an overview of the firm, presentations, workshops, mingling opportunities with the current trainees and plenty of application tips.
The vac scheme and training contract application form
Clydes attracts around 1,000 applications for its vacation scheme each year, and roughly 2,000 for the training contract (of which there are between 40 and 50 on offer). The firm recruits most of its trainees through the scheme, and highlights it as a useful means of getting to know the Clyde culture – applicants are therefore encouraged to take this route.
The online application form, which is accompanied by a cover letter, asks “three set questions, which test candidates on their career motivation, their commercial awareness and what interests they have outside of academia,” our graduate recruitment sources explained. “It's important for applicants to highlight any transferable skills gained through work experience and extracurricular activities.”
Vac scheme route
Clyde & Co offers vacation schemes during spring (London only) and summer (in London, Manchester, Scotland and Dubai). There are no online tests, so once applications are screened by the graduate team successful candidates are invited to an assessment centre day. These take place in early February and a maximum of eight candidates are invited to each one. The lucky few undertake a group exercise, as well as an interview with a member of the graduate team/HR and either an associate, a senior associate or a legal director.
Attendees spend two weeks sitting in one of the firm's departments. At the point of offer, vac schemers rank three preferences detailing where they would like to sit over the two weeks. Trainees mentioned that the first week “is spent getting to know the ins and outs of the department.” Vacation scheme students are allocated a supervisor, a trainee buddy and an associate mentor. They also have the opportunity to network across the firm as a variety of social events take place; in the past they've included curry nights, rounders matches and a Jack the Ripper tour.
2020 direct training contract applications
Those who wish to submit a direct application for a training contract have until 31 July 2018 to apply. Once screened by the graduate team, successful applicants are invited to an assessment centre day. These require candidates to complete a group exercise based on a commercial case study; two in-tray exercises based on scenarios that trainees typically face; and an hour-long interview with two partners. The in-tray exercises include a written assessment and a prioritisation/organisational task.
Clydes sets pretty high academic criteria, including a minimum AAB at A level, a “strong” 2:1 degree (taking into account mitigating circumstances), and a commendation for the GDL (if applicable) and LPC. Law students should be aware that Clydes pays “close attention to the black letter law subjects such as contract and tort law.” We were also told that “the firm looks for well-rounded individuals, so it's important that candidates demonstrate their interests/hobbies outside of academia.”
Becoming a lawyer in professional financial disputes
Interview with senior graduate executive Rebecca Babb
Student Guide: Why do you think candidates apply to train at Clyde & Co in particular?
Rebecca Babb: We are a full-service firm, but what differentiates us is our key sector focus. Clyde & Co holds 150 rankings in the Chambers & Partners guides and is number one for insurance; a lot of our work has insurance as its heart, with much of it stemming from our contentious and disputes expertise. There are options for those who want to do transactional work, but the majority is focused on the disputes side. One of the things that is distinctive about Clyde & Co is the opportunity to do three different contentious seats across the course of a training contract.
The fact that we are regularly opening new offices demonstrates that we are in a strong market position. Our formalised training programmes are evolving – we front-load the PSC (professional skills course) so when all trainees join in August they undertake it as a group and can then hit the ground running. It's also worth noting that we have a smaller intake than comparable firms, so trainees get high levels of responsibility early on and learn a lot from this.
SG: What should our readers know about how the trainee experience at Clydes will evolve going forward?
RB: There will be more international opportunities for trainees, including a greater variety of secondments. I don't, however, see our trainee numbers increasing – we're very consistent in offering 40 to 50 training contracts a year worldwide, and that will remain the same to ensure everyone gets a comprehensive trainee experience.
SG: London trainees can do a seat in Guildford: how common is that, and what do those who go to Guildford get out of the experience?
RB: We make it clear there's a potential for them to do so, and it's more than likely they will undertake one seat there during the training contract. Guildford is a very successful office in its own right, and has grown a lot after being established by one partner. Shipping is a particularly strong area there, and the work in various departments overlaps a lot with that conducted in London.
SG: How can a trainee candidate really impress at interview?
RB: There are a number of things we look for – strong academics are an absolute given, and for those studying law we like to see strong performances in technical modules and black letter law subjects. We're also looking for people who are resilient, can work as part of a team, and maintain commercial awareness of the business and demonstrate its relevance to the firm and our clients. It's also important to be committed, both to working in law and at Clyde & Co in particular. I'm surprised how many people fall down on the latter point. It's important to tailor answers to the particular firm you're interviewing at. Transferable skills, like languages, are also highly useful.
SG: What can students get out of the firm's vacation scheme?
RB: Our vacation scheme programme will give a good insight into what it's like to be a trainee at Clyde & Co. Over the two weeks, you'll get to experience the same work that trainees do. We try very hard to fit vacation schemers into their preferred areas, asking them for three top choices before they start. Vacation schemes are a fantastic opportunity to build networks within the profession early on – something you can never start too quickly.
Due to numbers, we predominantly recruit through our vacation scheme and it's definitely the recommended route to a training contract. We're very much open to direct applications, but encourage everyone to have a look at the firm first – a vacation scheme is, after all, a two-way process, and you need to make sure you invest in the right firm that will in turn invest in you.
SG: Do you have any advice for our readers who are about to enter the legal profession?
RB: Make sure you make a conscious effort to meet as many people at as many different firms as possible. When it comes to applications, make a smaller number of tailored ones for both vacation schemes and training contracts, as we can really tell who is applying to lots of different firms without distinguishing between them. Do as much research as you can on the industry and keep up with what's going on in current affairs as you will be asked at interviews about topical issues and will need to be prepared.
Clyde & Co LLP
The St. Botolph Building,
- Partners 375*
- Associates 1,400*
- Totaltrainees 100*
- UK offices London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Guilford, Leeds, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow plus various international offices
- Overseas offices 48 including associated offices across 6 continents
- *denotes worldwide figures
- Graduate team, [email protected], 0207 876 5555
- Training partner: Edward Mills-Webb
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 45-50
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 340
- Vacation scheme places pa: 60
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2017
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 31 July 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 7 January 2018
- Open day deadline: Rolling
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £36,000 (London) £25,000 (Manchester)
- Second-year salary: £38,000 (London) £27,000 (Manchester)
- Post-qualification salary: £63,000 (London)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days pa
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000 those studying in London & £6,000 those studying outside of London
- International regional
- Offices with training contracts: Manchester, MENA and Hong Kong
- Overseas seats: San Francisco, Dar es Salaam, Hong Kong, MENA
- Client secondments: Various, including Deloitte & Willis
Main areas of work
MENA training contracts. 4x6 month seats between Dubai and Abu Dhabi across corporate, employment, construction, IP/commercial, dispute resolution. International secondments to UK offices available.
Hong Kong training contracts. International secondments to UK offices available.
We are open for direct training contract applications, however a large proportion of trainees are recruited via vacation schemes.
• Clyde & Co Bright Futures Programm: 4-8 December 2017, aimed at first-year law and penultimate year non-law students
• Spring vacation scheme 2018 (two weeks): March/April 2018, aimed at finalists and above
• Summer vacation schemes (two weeks): June and July 2018, Aimed at penultimate law students
• Various Open Days throughout 2018
• Summer vacation scheme (two weeks): July-August 2018, aimed at penultimate years and above
• Summer scheme (two weeks): July 2018, aimed at penultimate years and above (pay: AED1,200 per week)
Open days and first-year opportunities
The Clyde & Co Bright Futures Programme (one week) is aimed at those in the first year of a law degree or penultimate year of a non-law degree. Applications should be made online and open on 1 October and close mid-November 2017.