Arnold & Porter - True Picture

Hailing from Washington DC’s regulatory sphere, A&P offers its select group of London trainees a highly regarded hub for life sciences and much more.

Arnold & Porter training contract review 2021

The Firm

Size, international prestige and a strong reputation for life sciences expertise were the three big draws for Arnold & Porter trainees in this year’s crop of interviews. Our inside sources sought smaller dimensions in London and agreed that “being one of a hundred trainees in a year group wasn’t an attractive option.” One explained: “I wanted somewhere where I could form personal connections with people in the firm – people who would be personally interested in my training and career progression.” With just two or three trainees recruited each year, sources felt this was more of a possibility. Trainees also singled out A&P’s “stellar reputation in the US and on the international stage.” In London, sources highlighted that “we are one of the smaller outfits in the City,” but made it clear that a more petite size did not translate into tiddly matters: “We are tackling the same quality of work as our larger competitors and we’re often sitting opposite magic circle firms.”

“The chance to work in a specialist sector, rather than being a generalist, was an exciting prospect to me.”

An inspection of the firm’s Chambers UK rankings supports these assertions. Top rankings in the life sciences sector confirm A&P’s premier standing in the regulatory, product liability and defendant fields of law. “The chance to work in a specialist sector, rather than being a generalist, was an exciting prospect to me,” one source enthused, adding that “working with leaders in the industry gives you great exposure as a trainee.” Another told us: “I was interested in knowing about the laws and mechanisms behind things like clinical trials and how drugs reach the market – the laws are all very interesting and complex!”

Sources also highlighted that the academic makeup of the firm is “very diverse,” and includes associates with technical backgrounds and “specialist pharma partners for whom law is a second career.” However, our interviewees were keen to stress that a background in life sciences “is absolutely not a prerequisite for trainees.” Indeed, none of the firm’s trainees at the time of writing had such a background. Moreover, Chambers UK also bestows A&P with rankings in areas such as IP; financial crime; competition law; and commercial and corporate litigation which, between them, also attract cases in sectors beyond the firm’s life sciences specialism.

With such a small trainee cohort, the assignment process for seats is very informal, though it requires some effort from trainees. Depending on business needs, trainees have a choice of seats they can express an interest in. They're encouraged to be proactive and approach the departments they'd like to join and secure the seat that they want for upcoming rotations. “It’s not a difficult conversation to have,” one source remarked. “It’s usually just a case of sending an email requesting to move there and then popping down to the department for an informal chat. There’s no real competition for seats, so nobody is ever turned down.” The training principal is also on hand to assist with seat selection and overall, sources were pleased “to have the autonomy to pursue what you’re interested in.”

The Seats   

A&P’s life sciences know-how covers all regulatory and litigious elements tied to medicinal products and medical devices. The firm’s lawyers have handled many of the major product liability actions that have been brought in the UK. Recently, the firm advised one of the world’s largest cannabis companies on the regulatory, commercial and advertising elements surrounding the proposed launch of a new CBD product in the UK; advised Bayer during an appeal at the judicial review stage, which challenged a decision by several Clinical Commissioning Groups in Northern England to preferentially offer an ‘off label’ eye condition medicine as opposed to a costlier licensed product; and also advised the same client on a product liability matter concerning a public inquiry into the supply of blood products between the 1970s and 1990s.

Qualified associates are more likely to go on client secondments, but these opportunities do occasionally come up for trainees. Recently, two trainees spent about four months with a pharmaceutical company client. “It’s great to see how the in-house team takes advice from private practice,” one trainee explained, adding that they’d done “a lot of reviewing internal agreements, conducting research into drug funding and conducting website reviews to ensure they comply with life sciences and data protection regulations.”

"Working on both the transactional and litigation side can be challenging but fun."

As a trainee put it, competition is one of the firm’s more prominent practice areas and it covers contentious and non-contentious matters. I was worried that I would be exclusively churning out merger review cases but that hasn’t been my experience at all.” The team recently obtained clearance from the European Commission on behalf of Monsanto (a global agrochemical company) to allow its merger with life sciences giant Bayer. Other clients include Novartis, Philip Morris International and Bloomberg.“Working on both the transactional and litigation side can be challenging but fun,” one source told us, who was kept busy on everything from “gathering merger control analysis” and research to conducting doc review and drafting client reports.

Mid-market M&A, private equity and corporate governance work is all on offer in A&P’s corporate seat. The department also houses a single employment partner who offers work to trainees too. “We work with a mix of industries and clients, including tech companies and private equity houses. We’ve also increased our activity in the cannabis sector too,” one source pointed out. Of late, the team has advised US client Omega Healthcare Investors on its acquisition of a significant interest in a real estate joint venture consisting of 67 care homes in the UK; they also acted for VPN business Buffered during its sale to Mudhook Marketing. “Updating company filings often falls on trainees’ shoulders,” sources explained. However, we also heard of more substantive responsibilities that included drafting letters and articles of association, as well as “conducting research into areas such as directors’ obligations and the liabilities they may face.”

Like corporate, the IP and commercial team’s scope extends beyond life sciences. “I was doing some copyright and trade mark infringement cases that weren’t in the life sciences sector,” one source reported. On the commercial side of things, trainees cut their teeth by conducting research, plus reviewing and drafting agreements. The work can be highly technical, “but once you’ve read around the topic and got to grips with the terminology, it tends to be fine,” this seasoned trainee assured us.

Trainee Life

Trainees were keen to highlight “a real sense of community” at the firm. One elaborated: “Most people (if not everyone) have been very approachable. And when I say approachable, I don’t just mean they will speak with you; they are willing to go the extra mile to hear you out and consider your opinion.” The interviewee concluded that this atmosphere made “life easier, as you don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells or worry about your junior status.” Some of our sources did feel that the office’s layout (A&P is spread over four floors) may have inhibited some cross-department socialising. However, they also pointed to the office-wide Christmas and summer parties, networking events and pro bono work as good opportunities to interact with lawyers across departments. “All fee earners are encouraged to get involved in pro bono,” one trainee told us. “It has allowed me to develop my skill set as a lawyer. For example, representing children on immigration cases has required me to be much more personable, giving my training contract a different dynamic.”

"You might have to work a weekend here and there, but it doesn’t feel like anyone’s forcing you to work long hours.”

Pro bono tends to be more of a fixture of US law firms, so we wondered what other US qualities came to the fore with A&P's training contract. Long hours are a US firm stereotype, but our interviewees agreed that there wasn’t an “aggressive approach” to clocking all hours under the sun (and moon). “In a busy season I would be expected to work longer, and you might have to work a weekend here and there, but it doesn’t feel like anyone’s forcing you to work long hours.” Indeed, most felt the average day ran from 9.30am to 7pm, with busier periods cropping up in any given month. On the more severe side, one source explained that “there was a busy week before Christmas where I was finishing between midnight and 2am before getting in again for 9am. But that only lasted for four days over a six-month period.”

Come qualification time, departments make an announcement if they're looking to take on NQ associates and interested trainees make their applications. From here, the process is led by departments. Candidates might be asked to sit down for an interview or assessment, but they might be able to go without this final formality if they've done a seat in the department they're applying to. In 2020, the firm kept on all four of its qualifying trainees.

The office may have "amazing views" but trainees were pained to point out that "we don't have a Nespresso machine and the biscuits aren't great either." But if that’s the worst that can be said about a firm, you know you’re going to get a pretty good deal overall.


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How to get an Arnold and Porter training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2021): TBC

Training contract deadline (2023): TBC


The firm generally receives around 400 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 25 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, 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 24
  • Assistant solicitors 26
  • Total trainees 3
  • UK offices London
  • Overseas offices 15
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruitment team, 020 7786 6100,
  • Training partner: Tom Fox,
  • 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: October 2020
  • Training contract deadline, 2023 start: August 2021
  • Vacation scheme applications open: October 2020
  • Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: March 2021
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £46,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • 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

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 pharmaceuticals and medical device regulation and litigation, intellectual property and technology transactions 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.

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.

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 8th March 2021.

Other benefits

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

University law careers fairs 2020

Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, City, University of London, Manchester.

Social media

LinkedIn: apks-llp

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
    • 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)