Arnold & Porter - True Picture

Arnold & Porter's select few trainees experience life on the US firm's European front, and sample a stellar life sciences practice.

Prêt à Porter

Let's recap. Before January 2017, there was Washington DC litigation and regulatory expert Arnold & Porter; and there was Kaye Scholer, a life sciences and financial services-orientated New Yorker. Then there was a merger. Now there is a single firm of approximately one thousand lawyers spread across nine US offices, London, Brussels, Frankfurt and Shanghai. It operated under the long-winded 'Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer' for a while, but a recent rebrand saw it revert to 'Arnold & Porter'.

The merger was big news in the States, and a huge undertaking, but in London, where both legacy firms had small offices, the impact was less disruptive. The current London headcount stands at a modest 60 lawyers, and one trainee recalled: “When the merger first happened, it took people a while to figure out who was a part of the firm and who was a randomer in the lift, but we got over that pretty quickly.” The office is targeting more growth, but ultimately, where the training contract is concerned, the merger hasn't altered its defining features: a small intake, small teams and an informal approach. Sources confirmed: “The nature of the teams means you can get involved with top-quality work, and the partners are pretty accessible.”

“A science background is common.”

What the merger has done however, is provide the London arm with a relatively straightforward but significant expansion, both in headcount, and in the diversity of work on offer. Kaye Scholer brought some finance nous to the equation, and Arnold Porter brought what is now the office's best known specialism by far – life sciences and pharmaceuticals. Clients include behemoths like AstraZeneca and Bayer, and Chambers UK awards the London lawyers top rankings for their work on the regulatory and product liability aspects of the life sciences industry, while the firm also taps the sector for IP and competition work. As a result, trainees noticed that “a science background is common, though it's by no means a requirement.”

Seek and you will find

With only two trainees joining each year, the process which decides where they'll work is pretty informal. Trainees don't get any say on their first seat, instead it's “based on which teams need an extra pair of hands.” For the following seats trainees have more say, given they take the reins. “You're encouraged to sort it out yourself by approaching partners. As long as there's space and no clashes, they try to accommodate for what you're interested in.” Client secondments come up occasionally.

The firm's life sciences expertise means trainees can work on any stage within the industry's life-cycle – “from the initial inception of a drug, through to testing, licensing, disputes surrounding drug trials, and marketing.” The work often stems from how heavily the industry is regulated, and trainees frequently found themselves helping with advisory work. Trainees also worked on judicial reviews – “where I did research tasks, took minutes in meetings and kept tabs on the timeline” – as well as companies' internal investigations.

On the contentious side, the firm handles some extremely sensitive product liability cases. The team successfully defended the German thalidomide producer Grünenthal against a group action concerning injuries said to be caused by claimants' exposure to the drug during pregnancy. It also represented pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer in a multiparty litigation alleging that cardiovascular disorders arose following use of the Pfizer analgesic Celebrex.

A seat in IP will usually involve a “mix of contentious and non-contentious work.” Again, it revolves heavily around life sciences, but there are also some fashion and media clients, like ITV and Karen Millen. Patent litigation is a core part of the work: the team recently helped AstraZeneca strategise in the face of litigation in the Europe and the US centred on AstraZeneca's breast cancer treatment Faslodex, and the potential infringement of the patents it holds on the product. Sources did admit that large contentious matters “could mean you're asked to help with bundling if there's not enough paralegals.” Otherwise they primarily helped with research. On the non-contentious front, lawyers “advise on brand and copyright protection” as well as helping clients navigate changes in data protection regimes. Responsibility was greater here: one interviewee had “helped with contract negotiations for a licensing agreement.”

"...down to earth and normal.”

A corporate stint was extremely common, and for the current cohort, came early on. There's a mix of private equity, mid-market M&A, and regulatory work on offer, as well as a bit of employment work. Trainees also benefit from the fact that “the team works closely with financial services.” Clients come from a range of industries: the team recently advised private equity firm Bregal Capital on its sale of Danwood, a document solutions company, for approximately £63 million; it also advised McArthurGlen, an owner of designer shopping outlets, on a new purchase in the Netherlands, and American food supplier OSI Group on its purchase of the UK food solutions provider Flagship Europe. On top of being “responsible for company filings,” trainees had “drafted a lot of the M&A-related documents,” and “attended loads of meetings with clients.”

Similarly to corporate, the competition team has clients from a broad number of industries. On the client list you'll find telecoms giant AT&T, General Electric and Mondelez International, formerly known as Kraft Foods International. The work typically stems from mergers and the issues that arise from them. The team advised the international agrochemical company Monsanto on the EU aspects of its monumental $66 billion merger with Bayer AG. For trainees in this seat, this involves “a lot of responding to requests for information from the European Commission” as well as various research tasks.

A horticultural hoedown

“It's a fairly chilled-out firm,” agreed trainees, rebuffing our suggestions that by joining an American firm they'd done the lawyering equivalent of hopping aboard a speeding rollercoaster. “And it's not that typical, stuck-up law firm either – it's a lot more down to earth and normal.” The office's compact size probably helps: “Because it's a smaller office, people all know each other.” Its size also means that teams are often more top-heavy, full of partners and senior associates rather than fresh-faced newbies. That's a plus for trainee responsibility, and partner-trainee contact, but it does skew the demographic towards a more 'experienced' group. As such trainees found that “it's not the most sociable place in the world.” Nevertheless, every Thursday lawyers gather in the 'Garden Room' – “it's a legacy thing from when Mr Arnold and Mr Porter set up the firm. One conference room gets turned into a buffet and drinks area.” There's also a social committee that organises occasional events like “gin tasting and darts.”

Most sources reported an average working day which started around 9.30am and finished by 7pm. “If I was really busy, some days I was in until 1am, although that was pretty rare.” As a point of comparison, one source told us: “I have a friend who is a magic circle trainee, and I haven't seen them in three months. I haven't had that experience at all here.” On the whole, trainees felt they were getting a good deal. “We're getting the same training salary as magic circle firms, with fewer hours from what I can see.”

“Gin tasting and darts.”

A&P's digs are located in the iconic Tower 42, the third tallest building in the City of London. “The offices are around the edge, so there's always one wall that is just window. The panoramic views of London are incredible.” Trainees share an office with their supervisor, who is usually a senior associate. That supervisor is there to provide mid-seat and end-of-seat reviews, but trainees felt they had to seek out mentors themselves. When it comes to training, most is “ad hoc. Sometimes departments do their own training, but a lot of it is on the job, which is part of the hands-off approach they have.” Trainees judged that “it's great to learn by doing, but more formal structured training would help.”

Qualifying, again, is an informal process; trainees simply “express interest over the course of the seat. You have to be proactive about speaking to partners in the team you want to qualify into.” In 2018 neither of the two qualifiers was retained.

“Pro bono is a big deal – everyone's expected to do at least 20 hours; then you have 200 credited as billable hours when you qualify.” Trainees' matters focused on immigration and transgender rights.


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How to get an Arnold and Porter training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 3 March 2019 (opens 11 October 2018)

Training contract deadline (2021): 28 July 2019 (opens 11 October 2018)


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.

Vacation scheme

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 23
  • Assistant solicitors 33
  • Total trainees 4
  • UK offices London
  • Overseas offices 13
  • Contacts 
  • 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: 11 October 2018
  • Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 28 July 2019
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 11 October 2018
  • Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 3 March 2019
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £46,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £8,000
  • International and regional 
  • Client secondments: On an as need basis

Firm profile

Arnold & Porter is a US headquartered firm with a deserved reputation for its quality of service and expertise in handling the most complex legal and business problems, which require innovative and practical solutions.

Main areas of work

Arnold & Porter’s London lawyers advise on a full range of regulatory, transactional and litigation matters, with a particular focus on intellectual property and technology transactions and litigation, pharmaceuticals and medical device regulation and litigation, telecommunications, internet and media and technology, employment, competition and trade regulation, international arbitration, white collar crime UK enforcement and dispute resolution, corporate and securities, bankruptcy, finance, investment management and product liability advice and commercial litigation. Providing clients with an excellent service is Arnold & Porter’s number one priority, and the firm’s lawyers need to be commercially minded, approachable and able to work with clients as part of a team on complex and often high-profile legal issues.

Training opportunities

The firm looks for talented law and non-law graduates from all backgrounds who share the firm’s commitment to excellence, and want to be part of the continued growth of its London office. Candidates need to demonstrate a consistently high academic background; the firm looks for well-rounded individuals who can demonstrate their participation in a range of extra-curricular activities and achievements. Four six-month seats: life sciences and healthcare regulatory, IP, corporate and securities, finance, competition, international arbitration or white collar crime.

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 in our pro bono programme and devote 15% of their time to it, helping young lawyers develop client management skills from an early stage.

Vacation schemes

The firm takes around ten summer vacation students each recruiting year. Whether you are a law or non-law student, the firm will introduce you to life in a busy City law firm. You will spend two weeks working on a variety of projects and workshops with partners and associates throughout the London office. Apply via the firm’s website by 3 March 2019.

Other benefits

Healthy incentive bonus, Christmas bonus, private health insurance, private dental insurance, life assurance, season ticket loan.

University law careers fairs 2018

Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Durham and City, University of London.

Social media

Recruitment website

Linkedin apks-llp

Twitter @arnoldporter

Facebook ArnoldPorterKayeScholerLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018

Ranked Departments

    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation Recognised Practitioner
    • Competition Law (Band 6)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates Recognised Practitioner
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Administrative & Public Law Recognised Practitioner
    • Life Sciences (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Product Liability (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)