Cooley LLP - True Picture

This Cali export is a dab hand at tech and life science work, and it was doing it long before it was Cool(ey). 

Cooley training contract review 2024

The Firm 

“I was looking for a firm which was more innovative and forward-looking,” one interviewee kicked off with. Well, it’s a good job they found West Coast-born Cooley then. It may not have brought California’s superb greenery, hip skateboarders and belting weather to its London office, but it did bring its expertise in tech and life science. A newbie told us: “I liked the idea the firm was new to the London scene, which made it feel like an exciting time to join.” Indeed, the US giant is a relatively new player to the London legal market, opening just eight years ago. Its UK stomping ground, 22 Bishopsgate, forms part of a global network of offices that includes the likes of New York, Los Angeles, Brussels, and Beijing.  

“I liked the idea the firm was new to the London scene, which made it feel like an exciting time to join.” 

The small intake of four to five trainees per year has helped keep an upbeat vibe since, with sources pointing to the “hungry and ambitious environment” felt across the office. But many newbies mentioned that the big draw was, of course, the tech and life sciences work the firm is pretty synonymous with. In fact, Cooley was the firm at the forefront of some key industry player breakthroughs, taking computer and phone chip makers Qualcomm, and biotech companies Amgen and Genentech public. However, Cooley’s reach extends far beyond this. Its London office is also highly regarded for data protection & cyber security in Chambers FinTech. In Chambers UK, the firm picks up points for its work in product liability, corporate/M&A and public international law. 

The Seats 

Newbies traditionally sit in both corporate and litigation, but for every trainee, we heard “they really try hard to guarantee we are given the seats we want.” The firm encourages open communication with trainees regarding which seats they'd like to sit in next. Preferences are taken into account along with business needs and client matters. Insiders also mentioned that “there’s generally a lot of fluidity between seats” in any case.During any given seat, it's likely that work may overlap with other teams if the matters are interlinked. In fact, the technology transactions group (TTG) and the cyber data privacy (CDP) team is a popular pairing, as well as TTG and competition.  

The technology transactions group (TTG) is one of Cooley’s biggest and most sought-after seats, so, be warned; due to the amount of interest shown in the seat each year, a place on the team is a hot commodity. Overall, the team was described as having a pretty “friendly, open, and nerdy vibe.” The group covers work such as licensing, commercial contracts, privacy and IP work. For example, the firm is currently advising eBay on a range of data protection matters related to their payments business globally. For trainees, the work can switch up quite a bit: “One minute you can be working on a contract, the next you’re researching regulation and thinking about how this will impact clients.” In fact,one source told us that “you can get quite deep into new regulations.” For instance, “little bits of crypto and gambling regulations” cropped up for one trainee.As you might have guessed, typical clients include a lot of tech companies, specifically start-ups “involved in gambling, NFTs and commercial litigation.” But if that wasn’t enough to sink your teeth into, the group does a considerable amount of work with the CDP team (which is why it’s often a split seat.)  

A newbie in the corporate department was quick to emphasise that “Cooley specialises in start-ups, which is also the main focus in this team.” The type of work mainly comprises straightforward M&A and financing. A case in point, the team recently advised US-headquartered start-up DigitalOcean in its $350 million acquisition of Malta-based Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting software. Though the department also covers a range of different matters too. For example, one trainee worked on “share purchase agreements, private equity investment houses, and large public deals.” If you’re wondering what tasks to expect in this seat, it was loosely explained that “corporate is largely based on case management.” So, trainees spent time liaising with other practice groups in the firm as well as “formalising documents, finalising deals and sitting in on deals.” While one source acknowledged that corporate seat work “can be daunting,” they also pointed out that “knowing you have full support from everyone at the firm is really comforting.”  

The business litigation department covers product compliance and liability work, as well as general commercial litigation. We were told that “product litigation is perhaps more niche, but Cooley likes to focus on this.” All in all, “you’re looking at the full life cycle of products” in this department. To break it down, in terms of compliance, “you’re advising on hardware and software, the design phases for engineers, all the way up to market access and market launch.” With litigation and liability, “you’re looking at product recalls when things go wrong.” As such, “it’s very different to corporate work. You’re doing a lot of liaising with local counsels.” Trainees talked about their day to day including “analysing anything that might impact online app products, undertaking key crisis management work, developing product recalls when products are faulty, drafting government letters and working with a range of PR agencies.” The group has worked with some big-name clients such as Nike and Zoom. 

“You’re able to work with some top tech clients in the very first week.” 

The general commerciallitigationdepartment is another traditional place to spot trainees at some stage during their training contract. This group handles all sorts of commercial issues, such as tort negligence disputes and commercial arbitration. The work is quite varied, though the team is a lot more focused on the contentious side of things, as opposed to regulatory. We heard that trainee work included “looking at processes leading into court proceedings, as well as being involved in large arbitration work,” with the source adding that “comparing those two processes was interesting, but for both there were lots of opportunities to be client-facing.” Though, the beauty of this department was that “you’re able to work with some top tech clients in the very first week.” For example, the firm represented OKX, a cryptocurrency exchange and trading platform, in a case before the Chancery Division of the High Court. Reflecting on their experience, one trainee suggested that the seat is “more steady than corporate,” so it “gives you a real contrast of experience.”   

All of our interviewees were pleased with the responsibility they’ve been given so far at Cooley. One source explained that the firm allows you to “take on as much responsibility as you feel comfortable doing.” So much so, that “even if you do take on too much work, people will definitely be on hand to help!” But a word of caution: one trainee did concede that “if you’re coming straight out of university and looking for more structure, with less responsibility, then this firm might not be for you.”  

Trainee Life 

On that note, our interviewees noted plenty oflearning opportunities at the firm (which isn’t always the case at US firms favouring a learn-as-you-go approach). The core training in the London office is provided through Cooley Uni, which runs sessions on different practice groups and seats, supplementing the on-the-job exposure. One rookie observed that “they’re smart about how they train and supervise you. They’re not overbearing!” The same can be said for the supervisors our interviewees worked with, all of whom received rave reviews. One in particular said that “supervisors will fight your corner. If you’ve taken on too much or if you’re struggling, they will reallocate that work.”  

“Supervisors will fight your corner. If you’ve taken on too much or if you’re struggling, they will reallocate that work.” 

Insiders told us a typical working week “tends to be quite busy at Cooley” and “it’s rare to finish before 7.30pm in the evenings.” But thankfully, trainees seem to avoid burning the midnight oil. “I’ve never had to work terrible hours; I’ve never had to finish beyond midnight,” one trainee reported.They also stressed that “weekends are very well respected”at Cooley and working through them is something of a “rarity” too, unless it’s “all hands on deck” during a busy period. 

Another valued aspect of life at Cooley is the firm’s pro bono work. “It’s a super big deal at Cooley.” So much so, we discovered “there’s an expectation that everyone will do pro bono at some point.” In fact, the firm encourages everyone to dedicate at least 60 hours towards pro bono efforts annually. Sources spoke passionately about the pro bono cases they had worked on, expressing that “it’s meaningful work and it makes a genuine difference to people’s lives.” Not only that, “it also puts you in great stead for becoming an associate.” We heard of work with the National Deaf Children’s Society, all the way to undertaking research into torture legislation in El Salvador. Whilst the latter was described as “not exactly relaxing,” the work was “super interesting” nonetheless.  

“People are usually quite wowed when they walk in for the first time.” 

Inside the firm’s city space, sources admitted that “people are usually quite wowed when they walk in for the first time,” with the words “futuristic” and “swanky” thrown around by some. We also heard murmurs of “coffee as good as anywhere in London” from the in-house café (free coffee, may we add!). The tech also seems to live up to the firm’s reputation, as we were reassured that “the computer screens provided are actually insane!” Moreover, trainees are given free iPads for work use, with plenty of training available for those wanting to up their tech game. The social calendar is strong too, with a monthly ‘Cooley cool-down’ over in Arthur’s Cafe. Nobody is left behind in the socialising opportunities either. An insider told us that “we celebrate people’s birthdays and colleagues getting married. Even if a barista has left the café, we will have a party!” To put it neatly, “everyone matters whether you’re a lawyer or not at the firm.”  

But if you’re more of an ardent homebody, there’s no reason to fret, as Cooley still operates a hybrid working policy. It was acknowledged that “overall three days in the office is strongly encouraged,” though this does really depend on the department. There’s flexibility for those with children too, as “Cooley is great with childcare arrangements like school pick-up times. They allow people to leave and log back on later.” The inclusive culture at Cooley was coined “a big plus,” with one rookie stating that the firm “is not just full of marketing bravado. Theyreally do care about you as an individual and are not just looking for your typical cookie-cut lawyer!”  

This is evident in the firm’s efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We heard of a D&I book club, talks with external speakers, and workshops within the firm, as well as initiatives including one for women. One trainee observed that “you can sense quality D&I in every aspect of trainee life,” which starts all the way at recruitment. The firm offers a diversity fellowship to students who can work to support DE&I in their local communities. 

Few were disappointed with their salary either, and with first-year trainees on £55,000, it’s not hard to see why. Better still, second-year trainees get a boost up to £60,000, before the pay package skyrockets for NQs to an eyewatering £150,000. But to get there, we did hear the qualification process can be “a little fuzzy,” as some mentioned it’s not always clear what positions will be on offer. There’s typically always a spot in corporate or litigation available but even so, we learned that “this is not set in stone.” One source advised having two choices in mind, in case you don’t get your first seat, and expect to do some interview preparation for spots that multiple people want. Though overall, the firm does “advocate for you to get what you want. If not, you’re likely to get something close to it!”  

Cool kids on the block: In 2023, Cooley retained all its qualifiers.

How to get a Cooley training contract   

  • Vacation scheme (summer programme 2024) / training contract (Autumn 2026) deadline: 7 January 2024  

Applications and assessments   

Cooley recruits through its summer programme and usually receives around 500 applications for this. Trainee recruitment and legal talent manager Sarah Warnes tell us: “We focus our efforts on recruiting through the summer programme, so we tend not to have any further training places come the end of summer.” So if you want in: get on the vac scheme.    

Applications begin with an online form. “It's very obvious who has and hasn't done any research at this point,” says Sarah Warnes, telling us that “authentic and specific tends to impress – avoid anything generic.” You should research things like the trainee role, how the firm organises itself, who our key clients are, what our key strengths are and where our future plans might be.” Warnes goes on to reveal that “we get a lot of applicants who have interesting experiences to draw upon but don't write about them in the best way possible. Ultimately this doesn't put them in a strong position. We can see in someone's writing whether they have genuine energy and motivation and are engaged.”    

The firm shortlists the most impressive applicants for an online critical thinking appraisal, designed to assess candidates’ critical thinking skills. Those who perform strongly are then invited to attend a half-day assessment which typically takes place in February or March. Assessment is focussed on a business case study. The case study is designed to assess a candidate's teamwork, communication and critical reasoning/analytical skills, as well as commercial awareness. Candidates work in groups of around six.    

Around 15 candidates are then picked for a series of 30-minute one-to-one interviews with a mixture of partners and senior associates, involving competency and scenario-based questions, in addition to looking more closely at individuals’ applications, expect to be asked about your academic and life experiences to date and how these have prepared you for a career in a law firm. From here the firm awards places on the summer programme.    

The summer programme    

Cooley's summer programme lasts two weeks, and candidates split their time between two departments, working alongside trainees and attending partner and associate-led skills sessions and talks. “There are structured activities like group-based tasks, and vac schemers will also get exposure and contribute on live matters,” says Warnes. “In the past, they've sat in on conference calls, attended hearings and client meetings, and helped trainees produce witness statements and research memos.” There are also various socials: previous activities include games nights, comedy evenings, bowling and dinners. 

A word of warning: the American term for 'vacation scheme' is 'summer programme' with vac schemers referred to as 'summers'. We've come across the firm using this phrase, so if you do too then know it means the same as vac schemers.    

Trainee profile    

Those hoping to join the ranks of Cooley need at least a 2:1 degree and 128 UCAS points at A level (ABB) (not including points from general studies).    

Warnes tells us that during the initial screening process, recruiters are on the lookout for people with relevant work experience as “it can show commitment, common sense and being grounded, plus a willingness to get involved.” Note, this doesn't have to be law-related. “Candidates should definitely include things like shop or bar work in their applications. It's rare to see an application from someone with no work experience at all, and it would certainly raise some questions from us. We like to see a strong work ethic and diverse backgrounds.”    

She goes on to tell us that future trainees must have a positive attitude, “even when some of the tasks may not be the most glamorous, there still needs to be commitment to doing the best job you can.” Being adaptable is also important. “Our firm tends to use fairly lean teams, so trainees can expect to be the only one at their level on most matters, and to work closely with senior partners. As a result, the kind of person who does well is someone who tends to gravitate towards responsibility and who is always eager to get stuck in.”    

Our trainee sources added: “The firm doesn't tend to recruit the stern, silent type! Instead, it favours people who are confident in their own abilities, but not arrogant, and with a capacity to express themselves. Putting your opinion forward is always encouraged here.”  

Cooley LLP

22 Bishopsgate,

Firm profile

Cooley's lawyers solve legal issues for entrepreneurs, investors, financial institutions and established companies. Clients partner with Cooley on transformative deals, complex IP and regulatory matters, and high-stakes litigation, often where innovation meets the law.

In January 2015, Cooley established its first European office in London. Cooley's UK practice has strengths across many of the firm’s core practice areas, among them corporate/M&A, venture capital, capital markets, technology and life sciences transactions, IP, complex high-stakes litigation, product compliance & liability, tax, competition, employment, compensation & benefits, fraud, data protection and privacy. It now has 100+ lawyers.

Cooley has 1,300+ lawyers globally, across 18 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe.

Main areas of work

Cooley’s London office has been named London Office of the Year at the British Legal Awards twice since opening in 2015. It has built out robust practices, including corporate/M&A, venture capital, capital markets, technology and life sciences transactions, IP, complex high-stakes litigation, product compliance & liability, tax, competition, employment, compensation & benefits, fraud, data protection and privacy. Cooley also serves its communities by representing hundreds of pro bono clients annually.

Trainee opportunities

Cooley’s training experience will revolve around small groups of trainees and really hands-on involvement. We truly believe in learning by doing. Trainees spend four six-month periods in some of the firm’s corporate/transactional and litigation areas. Trainees give preferences for seats and there may also be opportunities for client secondments from time to time. The focus is on your development as a truly commercial business lawyer. Supplementing your hands-on learning will be a programme designed to increase your knowledge and skill for the work Cooley does. Practice group programmes and firm-wide opportunities will enhance this. Working alongside and learning from some of the best lawyers in their fields will give you a fantastic start to your professional life. A multilevel support network of partners, mentors and a buddy system ensures you have a targeted level of guidance.

Vacation scheme

The Summer Programme is the only route into being considered for a training place. Apply online by 7th January 2024. Two-week programmes for up to 12 students.

Other benefits

Life assurance, pension (firm contribution), STL, private medical insurance, 25 days annual leave, employee assistance and mental health and wellbeing support services, critical illness cover, fertility treatment, wellness program, virtual GP services, cycle to work scheme, gym membership/fitness reimbursement, on-site café, mortgage surgeries, back-up child/adult care, discount, cashback and concierge services, other sports and social activities.

Open days and first-year opportunities

Cooley are running three ’Meet Cooley’ insight events in Autumn 2023, so there are plenty of opportunities to get to know the firm. The dates are 15 and 29 November (this event is virtual) and 12 December 2023. We have a further opportunity for first years, in May 2024. Application deadlines are specific to each event and can be found on the website.

University law careers fairs 2023

National events including Aspiring Solicitors Virtual Diversity Law Fairs, Vantage, LawCareers Live (London event), Legal Cheek Commercial Awareness Academy. In addition to Birmingham, Bristol, King’s College (London), Lancaster, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton, Sussex, UCL and Warwick.

Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing at Cooley
Diversity is embedded in Cooley’s culture. We are dedicated to maintaining a truly diverse workplace that values and celebrates differences. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan sets forth specific objectives, metrics and actions to articulate and deliver on our commitments. That commitment also includes active and creative partnerships with clients and in local and national diversity organisations, diversity pipeline projects, high school undergraduate and law school diversity programs like our UK Diversity Fellowship programme and community outreach. True workplace diversity means offering all employees the tools, training and mentoring they need to succeed, and it means leading by example in our profession.

Our leadership and partnership are both transparent and accountable to our diversity, equity and inclusion progress. We apply metrics by developing diversity data dashboards that track trends and identify gaps across several key areas of hiring, retention and promotion firmwide. Developed by our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and circulated among all partners on a quarterly basis, our analytics highlight statistics specific to each office and practice group and visualise trends around dimensions of hiring, promotion, retention, flexible work schedule trends, diverse talent pipeline and other insights. We commit to publicly sharing and maintaining accountability for Cooley’s progress and to work toward systemic change within the firm, the broader industry and our communities.

Cooley is deeply committed to advancing mental well-being in our industry, as well as continuing to raise awareness and implement new programmes to meet the needs of our people. With wide-ranging benefits that include comprehensive mental health programmes (therapy and coaching provision), family and childcare support, as well as physical health, Cooley takes a “whole person” approach to well-being. As participants in the Mindful Business Charter, we are working with other industry leaders to address some of the avoidable stresses in our working practices to promote healthier and more effective ways of working. Cooley’s partner-led mental health and wellness committee is dedicated to destigmatising all issues related to mental health, including anxiety, depression, stress, and substance use. They are vocal champions for self-care and well-being, and through their leadership, we have cultivated a culture of wellness at every level of the firm.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)
    • Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
    • Public International Law (Band 4)