The UK branch of this New York funds specialist is establishing itself in its own right.
Fried. Frank. Funds. Few firms could be introduced so pithily. Funds work is a specialism of this Wall Street firm and in 2018 it helped private equity funds raise roughly $130 billion, a whopping 30% of the global total. Fittingly the London training contract, merely a few years old, is dominated by work in this area.
While Fried Frank may call New York home, its UK office is not simply window dressing. “Our London office is an integral part of the firm’s strategy to align our offerings and build our core practices with our clients as the main focus," training principal and corporate partner Jons Lehmann says. "If they think of Fried Frank in New York, they should think of Fried Frank in London. We have grown significantly in London in recent years and we continue to focus on recruiting, retaining, developing and promoting top talent to ensure that we continue to serve as the go-to firm for our clients’ most complex matters.” To achieve its goal, Fried Frank has poached some prime British legal talent in recent years, broadening its range of practices: restructuring was added in 2016, two Ashurst partners started a real estate team in 2017, while the corporate team just added a partner from magic circle firm Freshfields. A fund finance partner also joined from Linklaters, and a leveraged finance partner from Milbank.
In fact, everything seems to be working out for the firm at the moment: globally, Fried Frank’s profit per equity partner for 2019 (a standard industry measure of profitability), is now over $3 million – that’s up 11% on the year before, and double what it was five years ago. But for UK trainees, working at a US firm with its sights set upwards is both lucrative and challenging. The trainee and NQ pay packages at Fried Frank are at the upper end of the respective pay ranges, but with that comes a demand on your time, with 12-hour days, according to the trainees, the norm rather than the exception.
Game, asset, match
Fried Frank offers two training contracts every year. For the lucky couple, there are four compulsory seats: corporate M&A and private equity, funds, litigation and finance.
Funds is where Fried Frank has made its name, representing some huge players in the financial industry. Bain Capital, BlackRock Investment Management, BlueBay Asset Management, Brookfield Asset Management and Goldman Sachs are all on Fried Frank’s lucky list. Lawyers in this team aid international private equity firms, financial institutions and hedge fund managers with the process of fund formation. True to its intentions, the UK office is holding its own. London lawyers recently represented UK asset management firm BlueBay on the formation of its €6 billion European private debt fund. According to trainees, the work you’ll do in funds depends on the size of the matter. “Where the matter has been smaller I’ve been the lead, supervised by the senior associate. I’d mark up LPAs [Limited Partnership Agreements – the pivotal document in many funds] myself and write up any ancillary documents.” It involved a fair bit of project management too: “You need to ensure that the documents are prepped in good time, and sent out to the client and other advisers. Then you follow up for comments. You have to keep things on track.”
“Where the matter has been smaller I’ve been the lead."
The finance team is small: Fried Frank only has three partners specialising in this area, two of whom were lateral hires in 2019. That was no bad thing for trainees, who described it as “a good seat for getting a lot of hands-on responsibility.” We’d expect the team’s work to expand as those partners bring their experience into the fold, especially in fund finance. But the firm’s existing leveraged finance nous already delivers some impressive matters: the team recently collaborated with US lawyers to advise Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse International and Goldman Sachs on a €1.9 billion refinancing for Swiss-based packaging company SIG Combibloc. Trainees described their work as “process driven” and “client-facing,” especially when managing the conditions precedent checklist. They handled release of security and negotiated reliance letters, and told us: “You’d be able to respond to the client without needing to check everything. It feels very good to be trusted with that level of responsibility and have that faith put in you.”
As with the finance seat, corporate M&A and private equity provided trainees with the chance to interact with clients and “deal with lawyers on the other side” of the matter. But despite the high level of responsibility, they felt “supported. If you’re not sure about something, someone’s always happy to look.” Interviewees found most deals had a private equity flavour, with “lots of stuff coming from the US, in addition to London-run deals.” UK lawyers recently advised private equity firm CVC on its sale of ‘internet of things’ tech specialist Wireless Logic to another private equity firm, Montagu. The team also advised investor 3i Infrastructure on its €201 million investment in Dutch environmental company Attero. “I drafted ancillary documents, ran checklists and was quite involved in the closing process,” said one interviewee. “I worked on post-closing filing and prepped for closing meetings. You have to prep all the documents and check that they have all been signed correctly – it’s a practical process.”
Litigation, meanwhile, involved “taking witness statements and doing background research, looking for evidence, and taking notes during discussions of strategy.” The team has two partners: one deals with large commercial banking and financial services disputes, the other with cases involving corruption in Russia and other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. In one high-profile case, Fried Frank represented Sergey and Irina Belyaev in an ongoing matter worth in excess of $1 billion. Mr Belyaev was accused of failing in his duties as director of the Russian Trust Bank, and causing the bank losses which contributed to the second largest state-funded bailout of a bank in Russian history.
Putting the fun in funds
As we mentioned, joining a US firm’s small office means long hours are the norm. “We’re quite often working with the team in New York, which means you can be working until 8pm, 9pm,” explained one source. “You’re still expected to be in for 9.30am though. Even if you’re working on US deals that’s not all that’s going on. Other partners will want you around to help.”
"You can just as easily pop in to chat with a partner as you can with the secretary."
Our interviewees seemed unfazed by the long hours. In fact, it seemed to have built up a level of collegiality among not only the trainees, but across the whole firm. “The hours can be long, but you’re not the only one in the office. Everyone’s in it together. They are people you like spending time with.” And because the long hours involved close work with “talented lawyers who are happy to teach you,” they found it “quite satisfying. You’re getting recognition for your work not only internally, but also from other people.” This feeling of collegiality, said trainees, creates a sociable office. “There’s an open-door policy and no hierarchy. You can just as easily pop in to chat with a partner as you can with the secretary. You’re not scared to ask the partner something. You can form good relationships with the partners.” To cement these bonds outside of work, there are “drinks on the last Thursday of the month run by the firm, and people will hang out together on Fridays.”
The firm kept on both of its two qualifiers in 2019, and sources told us: “The qualification process is fairly informal at the moment. You give your preferences to HR and they say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” This informality is a product of the training contract being only a couple of years old. Training too, remains unstructured: “There isn’t a lot of formal training compared to bigger firms. But there is lots of exposure to people.” Increased responsibility is the counterbalance. Lehmann puts it this way: “We are looking for individuals that expect to be challenged and who are resourceful. You need to take the initiative on assignments and be analytical, but also know that we will be there to guide you. This is the right place for you if you are looking to be involved at that level on complex matters.”
A Fried Frank team including lawyers from the London office recently assisted immigrants who'd been held in a detention centre on the Texan border with pro bono representation.
How to get a Fried Frank training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 30 June 2020 (opens 1 October 2019)
Application and trainee profile
Ambitious growth has motivated Fried Frank to open its doors to trainees and “while a lot of that growth has been achieved through lateral hiring, we are also very much committed to organic growth,” corporate partner and training principal Jons Lehmann tells us. "Our training programme, launched two years ago, ensures that we will have home-grown talent in our pipeline to promote over the years, helping to cement the firm's culture.” While the London office currently takes on two trainees at every intake, “that may well change depending on how the firm and our practice areas develop,” Lehmann affirms.
With around 150 applicants for two spots, places are naturally very competitive. Those willing to defy the odds can find the firm's application form on its website. It currently requires candidates to submit a cover letter and contains a few questions on subjects such as commercial awareness, personal achievements and the potential challenges facing the firm in the next 18 months. In addition to this, applicants are also required to complete a Watson Glaser critical reasoning test online. The firm currently doesn't offer a vacation scheme, so applicants should take care to make sure their applications are top-notch!
“The first round of interviews are really there to gauge the applicants’ interest in pursuing a career in law with the firm,” Lehmann explains. This is followed by a commercial group exercise – “typically a discussion surrounding an aspect of a corporate transaction.” The whole process takes “a few hours,” Lehmann estimates. Around 8-10 candidates are invited back for a second interview which is conducted by two partners. “Specifically, candidates need to be aware that a smaller office environment entails less spoon-feeding and a lot more responsibility than one might have at a larger firm.”
Chairman David Greenwald tells us: “We are looking for lawyers who work hard, are dedicated, proactive and have the ability to solve problems. In addition, the law is constantly changing and we look for individuals who are excited to continue to learn, and be resilient in the face of inevitable career challenges.”
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
- Partners 19
- Associates 57
- Total trainees 4
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 4
- Graduate recruiter:
- Email: [email protected]
- Tel: 020 7972 9600
- Training partner: Jons Lehmann, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Applications pa: 150
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 30 June 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £45,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Post-qualification salary: £131,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP advises the world’s leading corporations, investment funds and financial institutions on their most critical legal needs and business opportunities. The firm’s approximately 500 lawyers are based in North America and Europe.
Main areas of work
Antitrust and competition; corporate (asset management, capital markets, corporate governance, finance, mergers and acquisitions, private acquisitions and private equity); international arbitration; international trade and investment; litigation; pro bono; real estate; restructuring and insolvency; tax; and white collar defence, regulatory enforcement and investigations.
Fried Frank offers a dynamic and engaging training programme which provides meaningful work assignments across UK, US and international mandates. Trainees spend six months working with close-knit teams of partners and associates across four departments in a hands-on learning environment. Working closely and socialising with partners, counsel, associates and staff, our trainees leave the programme with a clear understanding of what Fried Frank can offer them as a place to begin their legal careers.
If you are interested in joining an international firm with quality work and training, please apply by completing our application form, located on our firm’s careers website. Once complete, please return your form to [email protected]
Work placement/Internship programme
Fried Frank offers internships with placements lasting between one and three months in our litigation department. Interns gain experience within the legal industry, while being exposed to top quality work and clients. Our internship programme details and application form can be found on our careers website. Please note that applications for our internship programme are separate to those for our training contract.
• Private Medical and Travel Insurance
• Employee Assistance Programme
• Subsidised gym membership
• Life Assurance
• Group Income Protection
• Cycle to Work Scheme
• Mortgage Advice
• Group Personal Pension
• Pension Advice
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)