Life sciences is the trump card for this big US firm with a little London office.
It's a wonderful life sciences
First, there was Arnold & Porter. Then, in 2017, the Washington DC-based firm merged with New York’s Kaye Scholer to form legal megazord Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer – that's the firm's official name, but it operates under the more humble appellation of Arnold & Porter. You could forgive trainees for struggling to keep up, but management sat everybody down and “explained how things are doing. In London the finance work of Kaye Scholer has combined with the life sciences practice at A&P, leaving us with a strong team.”
It’s that life sciences focus that sets A&P apart from the crowd of US firms in the City: its four top Chambers UK rankings all relate to life sciences and product liability. “That’s the firm’s specialism but there’s been an increased push to boost our general litigation capacity and private equity practice,” according to trainees. The firm is also ranked for IP.
A&P is a pretty big deal across the pond and internationally, recently opening its latest office in Seoul, but with a London headcount of just over 50 lawyers it’s a very different beast in the City. “I wanted to be at a firm where I was more than a faceless drone and would be recognised for my work,” a trainee suggested, adding that “this is an environment where you’re not competing with lots of other people at your level.” Previously recruiting just two trainees every other year, A&P upped that to a regular intake of two every year a few years back. Sources strongly recommended that applicants go through the firm’s vacation scheme, as most new recruits do.
“The small office size means you quickly get to know other teams.”
With such a small cohort, the process which decides where trainees sit is very informal, though it requires some effort from trainees. A&P asks trainees-to-be for their preference for the first seat and sorts them depending on business needs. For each subsequent rotation, HR liaises with departments before allocating seats, but prior to each move trainees are encouraged to “approach partners to see if they have space in their department” and let them know they're interested in sitting with them. “The small office size means you quickly get to know other teams, so it’s not intimidating to approach partners,” a source assured us. “There aren’t lots of options and realistically you’ll get what you want, especially in the second year.” Client secondments may pop up on an ad-hoc basis, although its usually the NQ and junior associates who get to go on these.
The firm's life sciences expertise means trainees in the department can work on matters related to any stage in the lifecycle of a life sciences firm – “different partners have different focuses and trainees get to do a mix of transactional, regulatory and contentious work.” Many pharma industry giants – Pfizer, GSK, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Novartis – are on A&P’s books, and the firm recently represented Germany's Bayer in challenges against NHS clinical commissioning groups’ reimbursement policies and recommendation of a rival product. Trainees found that supervisors are “very aware that we need to get a broad experience – we checked in throughout the seat to check if any gaps needed filling.” Regulatory matters require extensive research from trainees; when proceedings get contentious, trainees “assist the partner with hearings and take minutes in meetings.” The firm also handles some sensitive product liability litigation cases, such as various inquests linked to the use of Roche Diabetes Care blood glucose meters.
Trainees can also complete a seat in commercial litigation. The London team takes on both UK-based cases – like a recent shareholder dispute over ownership of the Radisson Blu Edwardian luxury hotel chain – and has a hand in big cross-border matters like advising the government of Venezuela in billion-dollar award enforcement proceedings. A seat here typically involves “liaising with counsel and the client, researching relevant agreements and proofreading expert reports. There's a bit of document review, but not loads." Sources also felt that "partners don’t distinguish much between trainees and junior associates" in terms of the day-to-day tasks, "so if you haven’t screwed anything up yet you’ll get good responsibility.”
“Partners don’t distinguish much between trainees and junior associates.”
Life sciences work forms a decent chunk of A&P’s IP practice, but the firm also represents technology businesses like Adobe and media clients including ITV. The team recently advised Novartis on a licensing agreement with Spark Therapeutics over the rights to voretigene neparvovec, a gene therapy drug. GDPR may have hit your email inbox hard, but spare a thought for A&P trainees who “came into the seat as the regulations did, so a lot of the work was based around that – I was reviewing privacy policies and going through compliance for clients.” Now that GDPR fever has died down, the department’s settled back into business as usual, which for trainees means “mainly commercial work, like reviewing supply distribution agreements,” but also some trade mark cases.
Mid-market M&A, private equity and corporate governance are all on offer in the corporate seat. It’s a common option for first-seaters, and trainees agreed: “It’s really useful for the rest of the training contract, as you get an overview of how businesses run.” Outsourcing firm Williams Lea Tag recently called on A&P for its acquisition of the Taylor James production studio; other clients include Omega Healthcare Investors and GSK. “The deals require quite a lot of drafting,” one trainee told us. “I was in charge of the ancillary documents along with a junior associate.” Trainees who’d stuck with matters from beginning to end noted: “Tensions run high with all the excitement and adrenaline before completion.” On one deal a trainee found themselves “in charge of whole document lists, which was really cool.” Most also take on “the standard trainee tasks” of drafting board minutes and filing confirmation statements.
Sources who swim into competition “are thrown in the deep end a bit, as the team's very busy!” In co-ordination with colleagues in Brussels, the London squad recently helped agrochemical giant Monsanto get clearance from the European Commission for its $66 billion merger with Bayer. In quieter periods, trainees draft articles and advisory notices and do research for client pitches, which they considered “good for getting to grips with actual competition law.”
Pro bono? Go, go, go!
Arnold & Porter has a reputation for being very pro-pro bono, and trainees found “that definitely rang true. Most partners encourage it and are impressed when you take it on.” All solicitors (including trainees) are encouraged to dedicate 15% of their total annual hours to pro bono work. Pro bono projects range from “little things coming in every week” to long-term cases like the 2016 dispute over whether a trans woman was entitled to claim her state pension at age 60. Even with pro bono on their plates, trainees found “the hours aren’t as bad as you might think – American firms get a lot of stick because of the assumption you’re working all hours for US clients, but that’s not the case here.” One source reckoned "it's not as bad as the magic circle," and that sounds about right. A day at A&P typically runs 9.30am to 7pm, with rougher periods demanding that trainees stay until 8pm for a few weeks, plus the odd later night.
Every other Thursday A&P lawyers stick around a bit longer for drinks and food in the ‘Garden Room’. The firm also hosts Christmas and summer parties – current and future trainees are invited – but that aside “A&P isn’t hugely sociable, partly because we have so few trainees.”
“It doesn’t feel like there was any awkward divide.”
The dust has very much settled on the A&P–Kaye Scholer merger now: “It doesn’t feel like there was any awkward divide, and people from the two firms seem to be gelling well.” The firm has office space on five floors of the City's Tower 42, each department “taking their own little area, so there are times I can go months without talking to people on other floors!” Trainees told us the office’s big perks are “the views – all the floors have offices in a circle round the outside with amazing floor-to-ceiling windows.” Less popular was the lack of a cafeteria, though one source pointed out: “It’s nice to leave the building for lunch and get some fresh air, so we don’t end up with Stockholm syndrome.”
Trainees suggested that “it varies from seat to seat how hands-on your supervisor is and how much feedback you get.” Regular reviews are “helpful for giving you confidence but not hugely so for constructive criticism,” without much paperwork for the trainees aside from a self-evaluation form. Supervisors also compile feedback from everyone a trainee has worked with during a seat ahead of reviews.
Qualification has previously been a laissez-faire affair at A&P (i.e. “chatting to partners over coffee about your plans”) but the firm recently formalised the process: departments now make an announcement if they're looking to take on NQ associates, and interested trainees make their applications. Sources we spoke to predicted “it’s definitely possible to stick around long-term,” especially as some current partners were A&P trainees back in the day. Both of the firm's qualifiers stayed on in 2019.
Each department runs regular ‘lunch and learn’ sessions for lawyers at every level – trainees are invited to all of them regardless of where they’re sat.
How to get an Arnold and Porter training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2020): 8 March 2020 (opens 1 October 2019)
Training contract deadline (2022): 2nd August 2020 (opens 11 October 2019)
The firm generally receives around 350 applications for the ten vac scheme places available, plus another 700 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 Arnold & Porter?' 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 training principal Tom Fox, “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 A&P. 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.
A&P'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 A&P's tools for assessing vac schemers. Fox 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
Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street,
- Partners 24
- Assistant solicitors 26
- Total trainees 3
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 15
- 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: 1st October 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 2nd August 2020
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2019
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 8th March 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £46,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- Arnold & Porter will typically fund postgraduate legal education course fees and provide an additional maintenance grant.
- 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
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.
For more information please go to the Careers section on the website and select London Trainees.
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 in our pro bono programme and devote 15% of their time to it, helping young lawyers develop client management skills from an early stage.
University law careers fairs 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation Recognised Practitioner
- Competition Law (Band 6)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Life Sciences (Band 1)
- Life Sciences: Product Liability (Band 1)
- Life Sciences: Regulatory (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)