With winning ambitions, Goodwin is a firm favoured by start-ups and private equity powerhouses alike.
Goodwin training contract review 2024
It’s not always the case, but sometimes, to get a sense of a law firm’s capabilities, you need only look at where it’s decided to put its offices. Take Goodwin, for example. Founded by two classmates on a Boston sidewalk just over a century ago, the firm today has 16 bases around the world. Notably, many of these can be found the world’s major tech and life sciences hubs. Along with Boston, there are bases in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and New York in the States, and beyond the US, the firm has also set up shop in South-East Asia in Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2019, Goodwin established a life sciences and technology hub in Cambridge – a well-known hotspot for tech in the UK. It’s these sorts of moves that prompted one Goodwin trainee to describe it as “a firm that’s agile and nimble.”
“It’s a huge firm trying to get huger.”
The London office is only 15 years old (that’s fairly young by law firm standards!), and in that time it’s grown to a headcount of more than 200 lawyers. To put it simply, “it’s a huge firm trying to gethuger.” It’s actually grown so much that the digs are starting to feel a little crowded. “We’re spread across three offices in London because we’ve grown too big!” Fortunately, the firm is gearing up for a move to Sancroft at Paternoster Square in early 2024. “We’re all excited to be under one roof,” trainees told us.
There are more signs of growth at the junior end in particular. Goodwin launched its training contract six years ago with an intake of just four trainees a year – today it’s more than tripled to 14. But even though the class sizes are growing, the numbers were just right for our interviewees. “After getting experience with UK firms, I wasn’t too keen on large intakes,” one shared. “With US firms, trainees get a say in their workstreams, and it’s not top down.” Trainees felt able “to gain responsibility, contribute to much larger deal documents, and get real breadth” in their experience.
Science and engineering degrees can be a plus (though it’s definitely not a prerequisite!) as this boffin attested: “I was looking to leverage my degree in applications with firms that were in that field, and Goodwin was the best fit.” Living up to its start-up smarts, Goodwin is rated as one of the best firms in the UK for venture capital according to Chambers UK, along with real estate funds. Its real estate team is also among the best in London for mid-market deals. On an international scale, Goodwin’s strong private equity expertise is recognised in Chambers Global, and that forms a major chunk of the London practice too.
Once trainees have succeeded in the application process and are ready to begin, they email the early careers team with their top three seat choices. “They try to accommodate you, but it depends on the number of applications and business need,” a trainee explained. With trainees expected to take four seats for six months each, “most people will do a private equity and a funds seat.” There are also options in real estate, technology and life sciences, tax, litigation, antitrust, general commercial IP, and finance.
Without a doubt, a stint in private equityprovides a front-row seat to the core of Goodwin’s work. As a trainee explained, the scope of the work here covers “corporate governance, M&A matters, and the acquisition of businesses by private equity funds.” Goodwin mostly acts on the buy-side of transactions, often in tech and life sciences, like acting for CSafe Global, a shipping company, on its acquisition of Softbox, a packaging provider for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. In the tech sphere, it advised Mayfair Equity Partners on its $120 million investment in LoopMe, a mobile ad platform. Other strengths include the capability to advise across the investment lifecycle, from fund formations to restructurings and exits. Trainees can expect to “review documents from the data room, coordinate deadlines, and act as a conduit between teams and opposing counsel.” Under the corporate governance umbrella, “it’s a good mix of due diligence and drafting. If clients want to change their board of directors, you do the consents involved,” for example. “You can work on disclosure letters if you ask.” Other additional tasks include “pulling together reports and proofreading them.”
“You must make sure everything is perfect, in the right order, and at the right time.”
The funds seat focuses on private fund formation, structuring and fundraising, often acting for fund sponsors. “You are dealing with a lot of different investors coming in, so it’s pretty admin-heavy,” one said. “The core skill is process management. Funds are structured in intricate ways. You must make sure everything is perfect, in the right order, and at the right time.” Sounds like a good place for perfectionists! Between them, interviewees had also got drafting experience with board minutes and side letters. It recently advised on the launch of investment platform Plural, including a €250 million early-stage venture fund. The firm also acted for Intermediate Capital Group on the structuring and fundraising of an €8 billion fund.
For trainees with a keen interest in start-ups, the technology and life sciences department takes on “early-stage companies that have big prospects,” as one insider put it. “We work with them from the seed round all the way to IPO!” The bulk of the matters involve venture capital investment, M&A work, and some restructuring. The team here recently advised MiroBio (based in the Oxford Science Park) on a share purchase agreement for its $405 million sale to biopharmaceutical giant Gilead. It also advised biotech company ReViral on its $525 million acquisition by Pfizer. “You get a bit more responsibility in venture capital because the clients have a smaller budget, and it’s exciting because you’re acting at an early stage,” an interviewee noted. They found more responsibility, but still, “the core of trainee work is support. The partner brings in the deal, the associates run it and we help move it along.” Our sources mentioned monitoring deadlines, drafting resolutions and ancillary docs. They also attended board meetings, conducted research, and dealt with all the signatures and shareholder communications.
Under the bigger finance umbrella, there is real estate finance, debt finance, and restructuring. “In restructuring, we work with companies that are in distress financially,” one explained, “while in real estate and leveraged finance, we help companies find a way to fund real estate transactions and the acquisition of companies.” Our sources who’d sat here had managed conditions precedent checklists, and drafted board minutes, debentures and share charge agreements. Trainees are also involved in preparing shareholder resolutions and completing background checks.
The commercial litigation team offered a different experience as “a small team with two partners and five or six associates.” The practice handles complex disputes with individuals, businesses, and government bodies. A trainee mentioned doing a lot of “investigations work and sanctions research right after the Ukraine invasion.” The trainee work varies and it includes drafting legal correspondence, taking part in strategy discussions, prepping for hearings, court filings and monitoring court deadlines. In a recent case, Goodwin defended Cycle Pharmaceuticals against a $2.2 million claim relating to a drug that Cycle developed and commercialised. Goodwin also acts for claimants, and at the time of writing was representing online food delivery company Delivery Hero in a multimillion-dollar claim against Mastercard, concerning a business agreement between the two that had indicated Delivery Hero would get a $40 million ‘sign on’ bonus.
Given that “Goodwin has grown in leaps and bounds with lots of laterals” in the last few years, it was no surprise to hear several interviewees describe the feel of the firm as “growth-oriented” and “a melange of cultures.” For example, “teams with people from legacy firmsare different from other teams, because they inherited their culture.” But trainees clarified that “we all aim for the same thing and that brings us together – the firm wants to grow and everyone wants that.”
Moreover, we heard the firm “wants you to use ‘anchor’ days to socialise” in the office – trainees are expected to be in at least three days a week. One highlight that “brings everyone together” is a weekly food truck pop-up at lunchtime. “It’s nice because you can see people from other teams.” While there are “occasional” team get-togethers, “trainee socials stand out the most.” They get a budget to spend together on “nice dinners at good restaurants.”
Given that most teams are transactional, the environment is fast-paced and the hours can be full on: “Sometimes we finish at 7pm and other times at midnight.” This is a familiar story among trainees at US firms in London, and isn’t particular to Goodwin. One trainee noted that “everyone is appreciative of your work, especially if you work on the weekends.” Another one recalled that after a particularly busy stint “the people I worked with gave my supervisor great feedback, which was nice.”
Speaking of supervisors, trainees normally sit in the same room as their supervisors, which they liked. “With lots of contact, you stop worrying about being disruptive,” a source commented. For more formal feedback, trainees have a mid-seat and end-of-seat appraisal. Outside of that, training varies by department. “The funds teams have two dedicated knowledge management lawyers and put on weekly training, while other teams have sporadic training,” an interviewee pointed out, and it is a format other teams are increasingly trying to replicate. Most training is in-house but external providers can be brought in to talk about topics ranging from diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, to reading financial documents. “They train us on core issues in transactions. It’s minimal, but you get enough to bridge the gap between law school and work.” In addition, they reasoned, “you can only learn so much from a PowerPoint presentation. You learn more by doing and trying your hand.”
“A hugely insightful play built on the experience of people at the firm…”
This mentality is also reflected in pro bono: “Goodwin cares about pro bono.” As an encouragement for everyone to get involved, an unlimited number of pro bono hours can count towards the annual billing target. Everyone receives weekly emails highlighting the pro bono opportunities that are available. For example, the firm has a partnership with TrustLaw, an organisation that sources and aggregates transactional pro bono opportunities. “You get experience you might not get from billables,” a trainee appreciated. Our interviewees also occasionally worked at the South Westminster legal advice centre, “usually with a partner and an associated.” One shared their experience with us: “I worked with someone who needed emergency housing and was being stonewalled by the council.”
And what do efforts in diversity look like at Goodwin? The firm has a committee for racial and economic diversity (CRED) which organises retreats in the US every year. Last year, it was split between Boston and New York. Earlier in 2023, Goodwin put on a series of face-to-face Inclusive Leadership training sessions, specifically tailored to the firm’s UK, Germany, and Luxembourg offices. The sessions were co-designed with, and delivered by, an external organisation called Steps who use interactive drama to inspire behavioural change.
In typical US fashion, Goodwin compensates its trainees and NQs with salaries in line with competitors at £52,000 for first-years, rising to £160,000 upon qualification. Each department handles the qualification recruitment themselves. “In funds you have to go for a technical interview with a partner, while in commercial, you take part in a negotiation exercise.” In 2023, the firm retained 9 of 12 qualifiers.
A winning bet? While there’ve been a lot of lateral hires in recent times, trainees observed that “people aren’t leaving. It’s a long-time bet.”
How to get into Goodwin
- Vacation scheme deadline (2024): 15 December 2023
- Training contract deadline (2026): 15 December 2023
The application and assessment
Candidates can apply to the firm via the online application form. Within the application, Goodwin is looking for the classics: “We would like to understand why they have chosen a career in law and why they are interested in Goodwin specifically.” Goodwin's early careers recruitment manager adds: “We expect candidates to have explored what it would be like to work in a City commercial law firm, and be able to demonstrate their commercial awareness.”
Those that pass the initial review are invited to a first-stage interview with two members of the early careers recruitment panel.
Goodwin's early careers recruitment manager warns that candidates should “be prepared to answer questions around their motivation for law and Goodwin, and to be asked some relatively tough questions to test their commercial awareness.”
Assessments come in the form of a written exercise and group exercise, both based on a case study. With the written exercise, the “emphasis is on assessing the candidate's written communication, time management and attention to detail,” whereas the group exercise “looks at interpersonal skills, how they present and how they work in a group.”
There are up to 20 spaces on offer for each of Goodwin's spring and summer vacation schemes. The application is the same as the direct trainee solicitor programme application, and vac schemers are automatically considered for the trainee solicitor role as well.
Students gain exposure in at least one practice area: “We try to meet everyone’s preferences on practice area, although this is not always possible.” Students can expect to shadow associates, attend client meetings, and attend information sessions on the work of practice areas in the London office. The emphasis is very much ensuring that candidates “experience the Goodwin culture.” Highlights include a session with the firm’s global chair. On top of that, there are a number of social perks. “Our headline socials for the vac schemers were the painting social and an evening at Puttshack,” Goodwin's early careers recruitment manager tells us. “It was good to see them mix with the current trainees.”
“We recruited 14 trainees across several intakes from our 2023 vacation schemes,” Goodwin's early careers recruitment manager confirms.
There are up to 14 spots up for grabs, but with around 600 applicants each year, how can a candidate really stand out? “Those that stood out had really researched the firm and tailored their application to us. They had highlighted traits in themselves that matched our values,” Goodwin's early careers recruitment manager reflects.
Main areas of work
Life Sciences: Our Life Sciences practice serves clients who work collaboratively to improve patients’ lives with market-leading innovations and technology. We advise companies throughout the corporate lifecycle, from pure startups to commercial-stage biopharmaceuticals, as well as the investors, banks and other entities that support those companies.
Private Equity: Our Private Equity practice focuses on middle-market private equity. We advise founders, buyers, sellers, investors, boards and special committees in matters across the corporate lifecycle. Our private equity work includes buyouts, growth equity deals and growth company representations in the technology, healthcare, financial and business services, and consumer and manufacturing sectors.
Real Estate: Our Real Estate practice places a distinct emphasis on the capital markets, working on transactions that involve equity and debt financings, joint ventures, portfolio and REIT M&A, cross-border transactions, hospitality and leisure, and large-scale development work.
Technology: Our Technology practice supports companies seeking to secure funding, protect their intellectual property and navigate a challenging regulatory environment. We also help our technology clients differentiate their products in the marketplace and scale their businesses accordingly.
We run both a Spring and a Summer Vacation Scheme, which provide real insight into what it is like to train and work at Goodwin while giving you the opportunity to get to know us and your colleagues better. You will witness first-hand the work we do for our clients by shadowing partners and associates, attending client meetings, and participating in negotiations and departmental meetings.
Students will witness first-hand the work we do for our clients by shadowing associates, attending client and business unit meetings, and attending information sessions focussed on the work of each practice area in the London office.
You will leave our programme with valuable mentors and a large professional and social network. All vacation scheme participants are automatically considered for a place on our trainee solicitor programme.
Spring Scheme: 15 - 19 April 2024
Summer Scheme: 17 - 21 June 2024
To apply please visit https://www.goodwinlaw.com/en/careers-pages/early-careers-in-the-united-kingdom
First year salary: £52,000
Second year salary: £57,000
• Law school sponsorship for PGDL and LLM SQE 1 & 2 course, with a maintenance grant of £15,000 per year of full time study
• Private medical insurance for you and your eligible dependents
• Personal travel insurance
• Dental insurance for you and your eligible dependents
• Group term life insurance – income protection up to 75% of base salary
• Season ticket loan
• Pension contribution of 6% of your basic salary
• Tuition/certificate/license reimbursement
• Employee Assistance Programme
• Digital health and wellbeing service
• Mental health counselor
• Family planning services and reimbursement policies
• Family care support programme
• Eye test and glasses reimbursement
• Cycle to Work (with onsite lockers and shower facilities)
• Virtual GP
• Gym and wellness subsidies, including free Headspace membership
• Discounts and special offers with select retailers
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 4)
- Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 5)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 1)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Up to £500 million (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)