Private equity and funds are the focus of Goodwin’s London office, while a new Cambridge base adds to its tech and life sciences expertise.
It’s been go go go in London and Europe for US firm Goodwin. In the last five years, the firm’s European lawyer headcount has grown from 20 to nearly 200. In London, total revenue came in at just under $74 million in 2019, a healthy 12% increase on last year. The firm also continues to lure in lateral talent, with recent private equity hires coming from CMS and fellow US outfit Kirkland & Ellis. Keeping its foot on the pedal, last year Goodwin opened a Luxembourg office and became one of the first US players to open a second UK base in Cambridge’s so-called Silicon Fen, a hub for high-tech businesses and startups. Tech and life sciences are major areas for Goodwin in its native US, so setting up shop in Cambridge (with a team hired from tech whiz Taylor Wessing) clearly indicates the firm wants to keep building out its practice here in the UK.
“While I’ve been at the firm they’ve brought in new departments.”
For now, all trainees are recruited into the firm’s London base. Our sources were attracted to Goodwin’s focused approach on private equity, funds and real estate, which sit at the heart of the London operations. “And while I’ve been at the firm they’ve brought in new departments that fit into the pie,” one trainee pointed out, like a tech M&A group which focuses on venture capital.Chambers UK considers the firm’s mid-market real estate team to be top-notch in London, and awards further national commendations for investment funds and venture capital investment. Outside the UK,the firm has 11 offices spanning the US, Asia and Europe, with bases in Hong Kong, Paris, Silicon Valley and their initial office in Boston.
Goodwin’s training contract was only launched recently in 2018, a decade after the London office, so many of the processes are still relatively new and the firm is only just starting to welcome homegrown NQs into the fold. The trainee intake of about six a year was a big pull factor for trainees we spoke to. “When I do a deal I’m the only trainee,” said one. “There’s scope to have a lot of client contact.” Goodwin will be expanding its intake to eight-to-ten trainees a year from now on.
Trainees indicate their seat preferences before each rotation (HR emails them before they start their first seat too) and the firm “tries to accommodate your preferences as much as possible.” Each trainee does four six-month seats; newly introduced is a litigation seat (previously trainees completed a course to get their contentious experience).
Goodwin’s private equity team covers the life cycle of investments, with work ranging from “fund formations and buyouts to M&A and restructurings.” The team also handles venture financing and joint ventures. Deals are typically worth tens or hundreds of millions, and sometimes edge over a billion. The technology and life sciences sectors are a focus, as are healthcare, finance and manufacturing. Clients include mid-market private equity houses such as Inflexion and Graphite Capital, plus real estate investment firms like Medical Properties Trust, which the firm recently advised on an acquisition of 30 hospital facilities, worth around £1.5 billion in total. Trainees were kept busy managingdisclosure processes, attending meetings and conducting due diligence, and one told us: “By the end of the seat I was always on calls with clients.”
“I recently completed a deal at 6am over a glass of champagne.”
The focus of the private investment funds seat is on fund formation. “You do all kind of funds,” one trainee reported. “I worked on real estate funds as well as private equity funds.” The team recently advised asset manager MIRA on a €6 billion fund-raising. Client contact was good here too: “I sent stuff to our client under the supervision of the associates.” Any other highlights? “Probably being allowed to help update a limited partnership agreement,” said one. “It governs the fund vehicle. Being allowed to draft complex amendments to that was interesting.” On that note, “it’s quite a technical seat. There’s a lot of training involved and a lot of concepts.”
Goodwin’s real estate department encompasses both finance and more conventional real estate work. “A lot of the work focuses on M&A where the organisations involved hold a lot of property,” one source explained. We spoke to trainees who’d worked on everything from the sale of hospital portfolios and warehouses to large acquisitions of student accommodation. Recently the team advised London Square on an £80 million acquisition of Holloway Prison, set to be redeveloped to create 1,000 new homes. Bigger deals such as these see trainees mainly handling due diligence, but interviewees told us: “There are also smaller deals that you’re able to run with.” On those smaller deals, trainees were able to rack up drafting experience in the form of disclosure letters, leases, registry applications and press releases. Our interviewees indicated it was one of the more demanding seats. As one told us: “I recently completed a deal at 6am over a glass of champagne.” Chin-chin!
“I’ve worked with companies at the forefront of new drug creation, including the development of a coronavirus vaccine.”
Sources told us that “there’s been an explosion of work” in Goodwin’s tech and life sciences department, underpinned by the new Cambridge office. The team represents emerging companies, venture capital firms and investors on transactions including licence agreements, M&A deals and securities offerings. The London team also has expertise in early-stage financings and capital markets, as well as regulatory, IP and data privacy issues. One source told us: “I’ve worked with companies at the forefront of new drug creation, including the development of a coronavirus vaccine.” Recently, the firm advised Avacta Life Sciences on a joint venture in South Korea to develop cell and gene therapies for immune-mediated diseases. Trainees also worked on data privacy, IP and software agreements. It’s a team where “you’re treated like an NQ,” one source told us, adding: “I was often having a first crack at all the main transaction documents.”
Our interviewees summed up Goodwin’s culture as “dynamic, vibrant andprogressive.” One felt “there’s a real cosmopolitan feel to the firm – the trainee group is diverse in every sense of the word.” Another insider elaborated: “Everyone here has their own stylistic presence and we’re all very outgoing.” Some felt confident enough to “casually have a chat in the toilet with partners,” but not everyone was so comfortable. “I would be lying if I said I had a casual relationship with partners,” said one. “I would always ask another trainee a question before walking into a partner’s office.” However, after a drink (or two) all nerves went out the window. “We had a rooftop party last year with a big barbecue and it was very much the partners leading us to the next bar!”
“We had a rooftop party last year with a big barbecue.”
Sources described a variety of diversity initiatives, such as the recent celebration of Black History Month and women’s movie nights. There’s also a pro bono programme. The firm does a lot of work with the California Innocence Project, which trainees can get involved with too. “The project helps inmates who have been wrongly convicted,” a trainee explained. “They tell us their story, we listen, and then give them guidance.” Goodwin also chooses a ‘charity of the year’ to support – this year it was children's charity Impetus.
According to our interviewees, a standard working day at Goodwin ran from around 9.30am to 7pm, which sounds pretty jammy for a US firm. They clarified that “the hours in private investment funds and tech and life sciences are consistently later.” They’re compensated with the big bucks synonymous with US firm – incoming trainees start on £46,000. The NQ salary is a very tasty £125,000. At the time of writing, our interviewees couldn’t give us much information on how the firm managed the qualification process, but “because we’re such a small cohort, everyone knows who wants to qualify where.” According to the firm, growing trainee numbers has led to a more formalised process, with fourth-seaters submitting applications to any practice area which is hiring; each department then runs its own process. In 2020, the firm retained five of six qualifiers.
Qualifly with Goodwin
Once qualified, associates can celebrate their hard work by applying to Goodwin’s global rotation programme, which allows associates to spend two weeks apiece in two different international offices.
How to get a Goodwin training contract
Training contract deadline (2023): 31 July 2021
The application and assessment
Candidates can apply to the firm via the online application form. Kerry Dawson explains: “The first thing for us is that people meet the academic requirements”: you'll need a 2:1 or above at undergrad and at least AAB at A-level. Within the application, Goodwin is looking for the classics: “We would like to understand additional achievements outside of academics, why they have chosen a career in law and why Goodwin.” Dawson adds: “We expect candidates to have explored what it would be like to work in a City commercial law firm.”
Those that pass the initial review are invited to a first-stage interview with the lead graduate recruitment partner and another panel partner.
Successful interviewees are then invited to an assessment day. This involves an interview with HR, an interview with the other partners on the panel, and an interview with the firm's two office chairs. Dawson warns that candidates should “be prepared to be asked some relatively tough questions.” Personality fit is key, and this is drawn out through questions “surrounding candidates' achievements and extracurricular activities.”
Following on from the interview, there is usually a coffee or lunch, as well as a tour of the office with a group of trainees and associates. Assessments come in the form of a written exercise and group exercise, both based on the same case study. With the written exercise, the “emphasis is on assessing the candidate's technical skills” whereas the group exercise “looks at how they present and how they work in a group.”
There are up to 25 spaces on offer for Goodwin's two summer vacation schemes. The application is the same as the direct training contract application, and it is assumed that vac schemers are applying for the training contract as well.
Students split their time between two different practice areas: “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. With this year’s vacation scheme being entirely virtual, the emphasis was on ensuring students “experienced the Goodwin culture.” Highlights included a session with the firm’s global chair and managing partner. On top of that, there are a number of social perks. “Our headline social for the vac schemers was the virtual escape room,” Dawson tells us. “It was good to see them mix with the current trainees.”
“For our 2020 intake, we recruited six from the vacation scheme. We always leave a few spots open for direct training contract applications,” Dawson confirms.
There are eight to ten spots up for grabs, but with around 400 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,” Dawson reflects.
Dawson emphasises “the most important thing for us when we hire is the fit. We think it's unique and every person plays their part. We always think about whether we can see ourselves working with these people.”
- Partners 37
- Associates 85
- Total trainees 14
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 11
- Graduate recruiter: Kerry Dawson, [email protected], 020 7447 4285
- Training partner: Ed Hall
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 8-10
- Applications pa: 500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 January 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 31 July 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 December 2020
- Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 15 January 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £46,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Holiday entitlement: 27 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa:
- GDL: £8,000
- LPC: £10,000
Main areas of work
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.
Students will leave our programme with valuable mentors and a large professional and social network.
Goodwin will run two summer vacation schemes, from which we will recruit a proportion of our 2023 intake of trainees. We will be accepting applications for summer 2021 vacation schemes from 1st December 2020 through to 15th January 2021.
To apply please visit www.goodwinlaw.com/careers/people-and-culture
University law careers fairs 2020
• Oxford University: 21st October 2020
• Cambridge University: 22nd October 2020
• Durham University: 17th November 2020
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
- Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 2)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)