We’ll be frank. If it’s a private equity powerhouse you’re after, you've got to read up on Fried, Frank.
Fried, Frank training contract review 2024
In the wheelchair-chase scene in Johnny English Reborn, Johnny’s suped-up wheelchair goes from ‘fast,’ to ‘v fast,’ to ‘f fast.’ For trainees at Fried Frank, the speed settings are much the same. With a small (read tiny) trainee intake of just three per year, the firm offers early responsibility in an international commercial environment from the off. Calling New York home, this American firm’s London outpost (opened in 1971) is renowned for its private equity practice. As training principal David Christmas put it: “We’re making real headway in being recognised as one of the premium private equity in Europe, acting on high-value, complex matters.” It’s a sentiment our sister guides, Chambers Europe, Global, USA and UK agree with, all awarding the firm accolades for its work in this space.
Putting the work aside, our interviewees were drawn to the firm’s tiny trainee intake: “In my mind, fewer trainees equated to more responsibility. I was right, but it’s never overwhelming. I always have support and guidance,” recalled one trainee. Added to that is a first-year trainee salary of £55,000 and an NQ salary of £158,000, something that’s not to be sniffed at. If there is a note of caution, Fried Frank is a strongly commercial firm and trainees said “you have to come in and know, or at least have a rough idea, that this is something you’d like to do.”
Incoming trainees explained that three of the four seats in the training contract are guaranteed: “You’re always going to do finance, funds, and corporate,” one trainee explained. “So, your other option is either real estate, litigation, or antitrust.” Trainees said that fourth choice was firstly based on business need, but that trainees do have some say.Regarding the SRA’s requirement to do a contentious seat, sources said “if the litigation department doesn’t have capacity, you’ll do the litigation course instead.”
Asset management (funds) is the biggest area of the firm. “It’s the most prominent and it’s the most profitable.” The team works with private equity, venture capital funds, infrastructure and energy, and credit funds. Credit funds…? “They raise a pool of money to lend out at better rates than the current interest rates,” a helpful source explained. Names like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and HSBC dot Fried Frank’s client list, and the group recently represented the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, on the formation and fundraising for a European Long-Term Investment Fund. “Matters vary from raising the funds, investing the proceeds, and closing the funds.You can also work with the regulatory team… I enjoyed that.” Trainee experience depended slightly on when they got to the seat. If they were first seaters “it was mostly process management, making sure everything was moving forward.” However, trainees could “express an interest in doing more drafting and negotiation,” and, “if you’re capable, you’ll do work far beyond trainee level.” Other interviewees had negotiated with institutional investors: “Traditionally as a trainee you’re the first port of call for investors. You do know-your-customer checks and trainees are responsible for answering any questions.”
“In finance, I definitely felt most like a lawyer."
Fried Frank’s rapidly growing finance team mostly works on the borrower side, but does dabble in lender and sponsor-side work. The team is split into “real estate, funds, and leveraged-buyout finance, and trainees work across all three.” Sources described “the experience as very different to funds.” How so? “In funds, I was only liaising directly with small clients, and it felt a bit more secretarial. In finance, I was expected to communicate with clients from the off.” On the borrower side, those clients include diagnostic platform LumiraDx, Jacobs Engineering and health and wellness company, Perrigo, which Fried Frank advised on a credit agreement worth $2.6 billion in total. Lender clients, meanwhile, include banks like Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. “In finance, I definitely felt most like a lawyer,” one source enthused: “In the emails I sent out I was giving a lot more legal advice to clients.” As with funds, “there’s the conditions precedent checklist, which trainees monitor, and we’re responsible for signatories and other admin work,” sources admitted. “But you get to do some drafting and research.”
The firm’s corporate department works for a host of clients. As you might expect, private equity houses like Permira make up part of that list, as do clients like Domino’s and the Guardian Media Group. Fried Frank also advised the Mayo Clinic on its minority investment in oncology-focussed healthcare company Karkinos. Sources said the team was “an exciting and fun team to be in,” and reckoned the group is in “a big growth phase.” Trainees said they had “varied tasks, including drafting,” but noted that “each seat has its own laborious chunk of work that just needs doing. In corporate the poster-child trainee task is due diligence.”
Corporate isn’t the only team that does M&A -related work. Fried Frank’s real estate team is split between corporate real estate and pure real estate, with trainees working across both. On the corporate side newbies prepare transaction docs and closing checklists. “It’s what you’d expect from an M&A seat,” one noted. Pure real estate, meanwhile, is focussed on development, often on the buy-side. Rookies found themselves “working with the various leases and searches, liaising with the land registry and doing property checks,” one trainee recalled. “You’re making sure things are moving along, reviewing the searches and flagging anything that needs to be flagged.” The team works with clients like pension funds and investment companies. This group recently represented Madison International Realty, PSP Investments and Alecta on the acquisition and development of the forer House of Fraser building near Victoria station. The construction is intended to be net zero.
All this sophisticated work and early responsibility do translate into longer hours, but sources were pleased to find “it’s not as horrendous as people make it out.” According to our trainee survey, the average was just over 50-hours a week, compared to the 44-hour market average. “Going into the training contract, you have to be aware that you might be working long hours,” sources acknowledged. We also heard “when there’s a big deal you’ll work late nights and the odd weekend.” But, when things are quieter, “you start at 9.30am and could finish by 6.30-7pm; it’s not ridiculously long hours on a day-to-day basis.”
What made the longer hours palatable, sources said, was the firm’s culture, which is actively curated. Training principal Richard Christmas notes “we can work long hours here and so we’re looking for people who get on with others and will be able to fit into a team.” Trainees agreed. “I’ve never knocked on a door, even during a stressful time,” said one trainee. This open communication was part of the training at Fried Frank, where “people will spend an hour talking through a document with you to help you understand.”
"It’s one of the perks of working here. You learn a lot from them.”
On top of thorough briefings, the firm has “a lot of procedures in place to help trainees get to grips with the basics.” In funds, for example, sources said there’s “a lot of training for the junior members of the team once a week and every two weeks there’s training for all the associates. All of it was helpful.” Sources also noted that given the small size of the firm they often “worked directly with the partners. I would be having calls and meetings with them and sitting on client calls with them. I didn’t realise it was rare, but it’s one of the perks of working here. You learn a lot from them.”
On the social side, “it depends on the team,” we heard. “Funds is notoriously sociable!” Trainees told us the firm puts on drinks once a month, and sent a drinks trolley round the office during Christmas time. For those with children, the firm put on “a winter wonderland event in the office.” Trainees also mentioned “a really good summer party last year at the Aviary, a rooftop bar in the City.”
D&I was another area that got a thumbs up. “All of my teams have been very diverse,” thought one. “It’s not perfect, because it’s a law firm and there are barriers that exist earlier in the cycle.” To address this, the firm “is trying to be better in the social mobility space.” The London office is signed up to PRIME, an alliance of law firms aiming to increase young adults' access to the legal profession. As part of this, Fried Frank welcomes young people from underprivileged backgrounds into the firm for a week's work experience. The firm also does a lot of pride alliance events, like a drag bingo night to support our LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, sources thought “you wouldn’t last long here if you were prejudicial.”
For those looking to stay, qualification is an informal process. “HR come to you early in your fourth seat and ask you which areas you’re interested in.” Once they have your early indications, they “speak to the respective partners, and if there’s space, it’s a done deal.” In 2023, Fried Frank retained both qualifiers.
“It’s pronounced Freed not Fried…"
“You'll get points in the interview for knowing that."
How to get into Fried Frank
Open for 2026 training contract applications on 1 January 2024 and applications close on 30 June 2024.
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.”
With around 250 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 contains 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.”
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
- Partners 21
- Associates 57
- Total trainees 6
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 4 (London, Frankfurt, New York, Washington DC)
- Graduate recruiter: Nikita Patel
- Email: TrainingContractApplications@friedfrank.com
- Training partner: Jons Lehmann, email@example.com
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 3 for 2024 and 1 Trainee for 2023
- 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: 18 October 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 30 June 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £45,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Post-qualification salary: £145,500
- 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 TrainingContractApplications@friedfrank.com
• 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, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Fund Finance (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Highly Regarded Spotlight
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Credit Funds Spotlight
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Secondaries (Band 2)