From new office space in the heart of the City, Fried Frank opens its doors to “ambitious” trainees looking for fun with funds.
Explosive growth is exciting, sure, but there’s a reason why most law firms would rather build out slowly. Fried Frank is a great example – with a small trainee cohort and well-chosen lateral partner hires, slow and steady is serving the firm well. Training principal Jons Lehmann confirms that they’re sticking to the plan: “We are now looking for three trainees for our 2020 and 2021 intakes. We have increased the number to remain consistent with our growth in London and what we are planning to achieve." Describing the Fried Frank type as “intellectually capable and ambitious,” candidates were attracted to the firm by “the prospect of being among the first homegrown talents who could rise through the ranks.”
Making room for future arrivals, Fried Frank prepared for a 2020 office move to 100 Bishopsgate, a popular City space that’s also home to magic circler Freshfields and fellow US firm Paul Hastings. “The new office will be very interactive and a great working environment for everyone,” Lehmann explains. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown put a spanner in the works, but it seems there’s no stopping Fried Frank: the headcount in London grew 17% in one fiscal year, “the highest growth of any of the firm’s four offices,” according to chairman David Greenwald. Recent lateral additions include partner hires into the litigation and capital markets departments.
“We are now going to be looking for three trainees for our 2021 and 2022 intakes as opposed to two.”
Interviewees also highlighted the firm’s targeted strength in asset management and funds advice, noting that “a lot of the work in London flows from the funds practice.” This translates to a single Chambers UK ranking for private equity investment funds practice. Lehmann confirms Fried Frank will offer “a mix of corporate, finance, asset management and litigation, and we are also going to add a corporate real estate seat to that rotation.” According to current trainees, first years tend to start in finance or M&A, with second years completing seats in funds and/or litigation. “The firm just decides for you,” one said.
Fried Frank’s funds folks (try saying that fast as you can) advise private equity firms, financial institutions and hedge fund managers on massive fund formations. The UK team advises BlackRock – an investment management firm with $6.84 trillion in assets – on numerous funds totalling more than $10 billion in value, as well as other giant investors like Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs. Trainee responsibilities vary by deal size but in large and small matters they’ll have project management to contend with. “You basically manage the whole process and make sure the deals stick to the timeline,” a source explained. “We review subscriptions and documents from the investors, and work on the management of agreements via checklists, incorporating structures and preparing bibles.”
Hand in hand with funds is the finance department, looking after the money that backs investment funds as well as leveraged and real estate finance issues. The client base is similar here, with Bank of America, HSBC and Wells Fargo all on the books. Trainees here gave a special shout out to training principal Jons Lehmann: “He’s excellent at ensuring you have sufficient workload and trusting you with lots of responsibility,” they declared. “It’s an honour to work with individuals like him who really care about your development as a lawyer.” Day-to-day tasks here include managing conditions precedent checklists, amending security documents, and reviewing and drafting board minutes and shareholder resolutions. This team is smaller than its funds counterpart but deals with big money: US-based software development firm Informatica called on Fried Frank to advise on a $125 million credit facility extension. Sources suggested: “Finance has more of a focus on the training element than the corporate/M&A department. There’s a healthy balance between teaching us bespoke points and learning the basics as you go along.”
“You become a transaction magnet with totally new stuff coming in every day.”
Trainees in corporate/M&A and private equity suggested “around 60-70% of the work is private equity-related, the remainder is funds-driven M&A deals.” There’s no escaping funds at Fried Frank! “It makes sense given the firm’s client relationships with private equity funds and the overall focus on asset management,” sources agreed. In a typical cross-border transaction, the firm represented US-based non-profit Mayo Clinic in its proposed joint venture with Abu Dhabi Health Services Company. With the transaction oven hot, the team also helped deliver a £55 million acquisition of interests in Domino’s Pizza’s main franchisee in Iceland on behalf of the pizza chain itself. Trainees told us that “if you can take on high-responsibility work and not make a hash of it, they’ll pretty much step back and let you run with the deal.” In practice their workload included typical trainee tasks like due diligence, transaction management, liaising with the other side and reviewing fund documents. “You become a transaction magnet with totally new stuff coming in every day,” we heard. “We do a lot of cross-office dealings with the New York and DC offices.”
“There are two different sides to the department” in litigation, one of the firm’s smaller practices. “One partner deals with Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States corruption deals; the other handles commercial banking and financial disputes.” An example of the latter was Perrigo’s $2.44 billion fraud-driven claim following the €3.9 billion acquisition of shares in Omega Pharma Invest NV. As for the other side, Fried Frank defended Alexander Katunin in $200 million+ proceedings brought by Russia’s VTB Bank. “We prepare bundles for case management conferences, make sure hyperlinks work and check typos,” trainees here said. “It may not sound like much, but the documents are usually around 200 pages long and we’re left to get on with it.”
Hours vary by department: litigation trainees enjoyed “more predictable hours with less reactive work, whereas transactional practices are driven by the clients.” Said clients can be demanding: with a 9.30am start, trainees estimated an 8 or 9pm finish on average. “When it gets busy it’s seriously busy,” they added. “There have been times when I’ve regularly worked past midnight for consecutive months, including a few weekends.” Trainees may have to work these US firm-typical hours, but they weren’t “bitter about it. It’s a collaborative effort and when things aren’t as hectic, partners are more than happy for you to leave at a normal time.” One felt the high expectations were proof of being “treated as adults. The firm expects you to take a level of ownership to get stuff done on time.”
Long shifts are in fact by design as “the lean staffing on teams is part of Fried Frank’s model. They don’t want to work people to an early grave, but the staffing model allows the firm to make a decent amount of profit.” There’s enough cash left over for Halloween and Christmas socials, regular informal lunch events and other soirees. One trainee described the Fried Frank culture as “a collective partnership where we all get our heads down and muck in to get a matter through the door, then grab drinks to reflect and pat ourselves on the back before we start again.” Another pointed to a (by law firm standards) “flat structure,” thanks to the smaller headcount. “I was accepted as a real member of the team and treated like a proper colleague almost immediately.”
“The firm expects you to take a level of ownership to get stuff done on time.”
Interviewees emphasised that London “isn’t a satellite office for New York. We have our own culture and work stream.” They cited “the surprising amount of formal education and training provided” as further evidence. Supervisors make efficient use of time by “holding targeted sessions before a certain transaction kicks off, rather than blocking out an hour to have an academic discussion.” Though Fried Frank doesn’t run a formal mentor scheme, there were no complaints from our sources. “We have an executive coach who visits once in a while to talk through our personal and professional development at the firm,” they explained.
An informal NQ process was similarly popular: “You inform HR of your preferred department, they talk to the lawyers there and if they’re interested in taking you on, they’ll get back to you and sign you up,” interviewees summarised. “Since it’s such a small cohort, everyone knows each other very well – plus there haven’t been any Covid-related delays.” Fried Frank retained both of its two qualifiers in 2020.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, trainees were pleased by “the direction coming from the chairman David Greenwald. The firm hosted videoconference talks on systemic racism and how to counter it in a professional capacity.”
How to get into Fried Frank
Training contract deadline (2022): 30 June 2021 (opens 1 October 2020)
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 ensures that we will have homegrown talent in our pipeline to promote over the years, helping to cement the firm's culture.” The London office have increased their trainee intake this year to three, which is a great development for the office.
With around 180 applicants for three 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 is 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 couple of hours,” Lehmann estimates. Around eight to ten 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, are 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.”
Interview with training principal Jons Lehmann
Chambers Student: What should people think when they hear the name Fried Frank?
JL: Fried Frank is a US law firm with its HQ in New York, which focuses on corporate practices and has a very dynamic environment. We, as a firm, are very entrepreneurial. We advise clients on their most sophisticated, complex and bespoke transactions. When you come here as a trainee, it’s an opportunity to work in a close-knit, well-connected team.
There is organic growth as well as lateral hiring, which all plays a role in the Fried Frank London story at the moment: growing a platform that is synergistic with our offerings in New York. The intention is to be able to advise clients on both sides of the Atlantic and when they think of Fried Frank in New York, they will think of Fried Frank in London.
CS: Are there any highlights from the last year you think are important to mention to our student readers?
JL: The strategy for the London office is an integral part of the firm’s strategy and we continue to build that out. Last year, we hired James Barratt into the litigation practice and John Satory in capital markets and corporate governance, and we continue to strategically hire and expand the office. We continue to focus on recruiting, retaining, developing and promoting top talent to make sure we serve as the go-to firm for our clients. We’ve also had many big-ticket transactions and deals over the past year, including the likes of advising BlueBay Asset Management’s Private Debt Group on the raising of its €6 billion direct lending fund. We also served as counsel to Permira on the formation of its latest and seventh buyout fund closing on €11 billion, and advised Jack Wills on its restructuring and sale to Sports Direct.
CS: Based on our trainee calls, we heard there might be a chance that you will be growing the trainee cohort?
JL: Yes, that is a piece of exciting news.In the past, we have taken two trainees in our September intake and we are now looking for three for our 2021 and 2022 intakes. We have increased the number to remain consistent with our growth in London and what we are planning to achieve. In terms of seats, they will be a mix of corporate, finance, asset management and litigation, and we are also going to add a corporate real estate seat to that rotation.
CS: On the topic of growth, we noticed Fried Frank will be moving into new offices in 100 Bishopsgate quite soon?
JL: Yes, the existing offices served us very well but we are excited to move into the new offices, which will offer us additional room for expansion. I’ve seen the designs and I think it will be very interactive and a great working environment for everyone who has joined Fried Frank.
CS: How have Fried Frank’s practices been affected by Covid-19?
JL: I think we’ve all been affected by Covid and the remote working, and that has to some extent changed how we interact with each other since face-to-face meetings are no longer possible, and we now do video and telephone calls with our colleagues and associates. In terms of activity level, the firm has, overall, maintained momentum and stayed fairly busy throughout this period. Many of our transactional practices have been extremely busy, such as our capital markets practice, which has worked on some market-leading deals in the last few weeks. Our restructuring and insolvency practice has also been very busy. We’ve been closing ongoing transactions and started working on new ones.
We have also continued to do our training for trainees and associates and we continue to move forward with the various programmes virtually to ensure that everybody gets the necessary training to develop further.
CS: How has the firm been managing the increased workload? Has there been a redistribution of resources?
JL: Our associates and trainees aretrained to be fairly agile when it comes to working in the groups and we try to encourage them to think outside the box. For example, on the capital markets side we have used resources in the finance practice for the capital markets teams, and both associates and trainees have worked hand in hand with the teams on those transactions. There is a significant element of crossover in any event between the capital markets and finance teams, and so it’s a natural extension of our work. I really see this as part of what we do and our need to understand all groups in order to be a lawyer that can advise on all fields, since our clients will expect you to have an understanding of various transactions in different fields.
CS: Has there been a drastic impact on the training contract or the qualification process with the shift to remote working?
JL: As you would expect, everything is anticipated to happen virtually and we already have elements in place which cater to this. Our initial application is via our website and the initial applicants are screened by the HR team. The next round is our online verbal reasoning test so there is no need for a physical interview. This includes the first-round interview which is followed by a commercial exercise, and the expectation is that those will be taking place virtually this year and similarly the second interview will take place via video conference. We, as a society, are all so used to this by now, and although I personally like the social interaction, unfortunately, given the current environment, we are not going to be able to do so. There has been no delay in the qualification process as it’s a fairly well-executed and streamlined process in any event.
CS: Do you feel as though Fried Frank has benefitted from being part of a larger international network in the wake of Covid-19?
JL: I think we as a firm are very well set up, and always have been. We managed to transition to remote working in a matter of days due to the infrastructure and technology in place at the time. So, we were always in a great position in that respect and always able to work from home and continue to serve our clients. The fact that we are an international network serves us well as a firm.
CS: In light of the Black Lives Matter Movement, how has Fried Frank’s response been structured internally and externally?
JL: Fried Frank as an organisation has and always will be extremely committed to diversity and inclusion. We have multiple Employee Resource Groups including the BAME network, Women’s Forum, Working Parents group and Pride Alliance. The groups provide presentations and guest speakers, and we have forums and discussions which are addressed to everybody and are very well attended. It is part of the Fried Frank ethos – it’s what we want to promote and it’s an important part of who we are. Even when it comes to the recruitment level, we select people on the basis of their background, education and capability and there are numerous backgrounds taken into account; we do not select on the basis of one criterion. We’re trying to be consistent in our standard and we encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
- Partners 21
- Associates 55
- Total trainees 5
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 4 (London, Frankfurt, New York, Washington DC)
- Graduate recruiter:
- Email: [email protected]
- Training partner: Jons Lehmann, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 3
- Applications pa: 180
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 30 June 2021
- 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: £8,000
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 583 lawyers are based across 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]
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
• Employee Assistance Programme
• Subsidised gym membership and corporate rates
• Life Assurance
• Group Income Protection
• Cycle to Work Scheme
• Mortgage Advice
• Group Personal pension
• Back-up Family Care
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Diversity is about leveraging the knowledge, insights and capabilities of talented individuals from a wide range of backgrounds to the benefit of our clients, communities and the Firm. It’s about bringing a multicultural perspective to global business challenges.
Fried Frank’s Diversity & Inclusion team works closely with the Diversity & Inclusion Committee to ensure Fried Frank is a place of Inclusion and belonging, where attorneys and business services professionals have equal access to opportunities and can thrive and reach their full potential.
The comprehensive, multi-year diversity and inclusion strategy focuses on 1) partner engagement and accountability 2) inclusion skills 3) embedding diversity and inclusion into policies, processes and everyday behaviours and 4) elevating Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as contributors to Firm goals.
To this end, Fried Frank has robust policies in place for inclusive hiring, alternative work arrangements, adoption, parental leave and gender transition. Most recently, the Firm has implemented implicit bias training, mentoring and associate success and advancement programs.
The Firm’s four Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for women, BAME, members of the LGBTQ community, and working parents foster community, mentorship, business impact and professional development for their members and engage with leadership and allies throughout the organization.
In order to strengthen the pipeline of diverse attorneys and positively impact society, Fried Frank supports minority internship programs, brings in law graduates as fellows under the Fried Frank Civil Rights Fellowship and partners with numerous bar associations and social justice organizations. In London, we are sponsors of InterLaw Diversity Forum and are one of the founding members of the Aspiring Solicitors Foundation.
Fried Frank is also committed to the Wellness of its attorneys and business services professionals. The Firm's wellness program, Living Well at Fried Frank, offers numerous resources, events, and Firm wide initiatives aimed at boosting employee wellbeing. The Living Well program is organized around three key aspects of wellness—mind (mental health), body (fitness and nutrition), and self (work-life integration)—and the Firm is committed to providing support to every member of the Fried Frank community.
The Firm offers 24/7 access to professional counselling, discounted gym memberships, back-up childcare, and alternative work arrangement policies. Fried Frank also regularly hosts on-site confidential counsellors and wellness seminars.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)