This Boston-born big shot is boosting its London presence and that includes hiring its own shiny new group of trainees.
Oops!... I Did It Again
Cast your mind back a decade to 2008: Obama won the presidential election, the Beijing Olympics took place, a reporter hurled a shoe at then-President Bush, and there was the small matter of a global recession. For Boston native Goodwin it was also the year the firm made its first foray abroad, setting up offices in London and Hong Kong. Ten years on, the London office has launched its own training contract after previously taking on trainees with ill-fated firm KWM.
So what did trainees think of joining Goodwin in this way? “Originally, I'd made the conscious decision not to apply to American firms because I was concerned about the culture,” sources reflected, “but this office is mostly a mixture of lawyers from other City firms – not people who were at hardcore American firms. They make sure they recruit people who will work together.” Another shared: “I thought it would be good to join a firm that is growing in the London market. Goodwin is a big firm in the US with a great reputation, and it's exciting to be a part of their development in London.” So it sounds like trainees here landed on their feet. The London office may be small for now, but not for much longer, it seems: “There's a lot going on," one interviewee noted. "We're always expanding and it seems like there are announcements every week about new joiners.”
"It seems like there are announcements every week about new joiners.”
On top of its growing headcount (in 2017 London lawyer numbers grew by 132%), the firm wants to “focus on its core areas as well as opportunities in the market,” according to trainees. So what are those core areas? Currently, the London office does mostly private equity, investment fund and real estate work – Chambers UK tips its hat to these areas – but the firm has also “identified life sciences and technology as areas to expand.” The firm recently hired a four-lawyer tech and life sciences team from Dechert. In the US Goodwin has a well-established life sciences practice and sources speculated that the firm could “draw on this and bring it to bear in London.”
Seat allocation is “still relatively informal," trainees reported. "We're asked in our mid-seat appraisals what our preferences for our next seat are. The firm then tries to allocate people where they want to go.” As all of Goodwin's seats are transactional, trainees can gain contentious experience via a two-week litigation course.
Goodwin's private equity practice was started in 2015 and has been boosted by the arrivals of lawyers from KWM and Shearman & Sterling since then. The private equity transactions team “mainly focuses on mid-market transactions” and “the buying and selling of companies in the context of larger acquisitions and disposals.” Recently the team advised Mergermarket's management team on the sale of a 30% stake in the business to Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC for £1 billion. Lawyers also acted for private equity investor Bridgepoint on the $220 million sale of Leeds Bradford Airport to a big Australian investment fund. Trainees are “involved in all stages of the process, from the terms sheet and due diligence to working on the completion.” Rookies undertake tasks like Companies House filings or – when there's international work – “managing local counsel and putting together their comments tables.”
“It's not something that's really covered at law school."
The private investment funds team handles fund-raising, the setting up of funds and negotiations with new investors, plus "secondary work like when an investor in an existing fund wants to transfer out.” A trainee observed: “It's not something that's really covered at law school. As a result, the training is designed to give someone with no knowledge of the funds industry an insight into the kind of work we do.” Recently London lawyers worked with the Paris team to advise private equity firm Chequers Capital on the restructuring, establishment and fund-raising of its 17th private equity fund. It also advised the Green Investment Group on the final closing of an offshore wind fund. Sources told us: “Most of the work is in the real estate and infrastructure space, but we also do hedge fund work.” The trainee role involves “preparing ancillary documents, co-ordinating the status of documents, chasing counter-parties, and running weekly – sometimes daily – update calls with clients.” Business development is part of the workload too. Interviewees mentioned “assisting with putting together marketing documents for clients” and “liaising with specialists to get more of an understanding of the commercial drivers behind what the client is trying to do.” One source had also helped “draft a limited partnership agreement which is the main fund agreement we use.”
Real estate is split between corporate real estate and standard real estate. Corporate real estate is “effectively private equity work, but solely focusing on real estate transactions.” For example, the team recently advised real estate fund manager Henderson Park on the establishment of a joint venture with Greystar, as well as on the related acquisition of a 172-unit central London property portfolio for £140.5 million. It also advised Boyne Resorts on the completion of its acquisition of six mountain resorts and a chairlift from Ski Resort Holdings. Trainees had been involved in matters like “the acquisition of a portfolio of hospitals” as well as “the acquisition of holiday parks in the South of England.” Trainees tend to do “the first draft of the due diligence report and other ancillary documents.” One source also told us: “There were a couple of moments when I was the point of contact for the client or the partner on the other side.” When it comes to standard real estate work, trainees “deal with smaller matters ourselves, like drafting rent review memoranda and doing the due diligence on leases.” The team has advised real estate investment trust Workspace on multiple deals, one of which was the acquisition of Salisbury House at 28-31 Finsbury Circus in London for £158.7 million.
...Baby One More Time
So how does Goodwin compare with its high-octane US firm counterparts in London? “We're quite a blend with lots of lateral hires from different firms across the City. It's interesting because there's lots of diversity of ideas and different perspectives.” On top of that, “the office is still small enough that you know everyone.” In addition, sources reckoned that “our hours are probably longer than at most UK firms,” but they emphasised that “we've worked opposite some American firms that have quite a different ethos to Goodwin. A large part of that is due to Goodwin being Boston-headquartered as opposed to New York. Boston is more relaxed and less manic, and that translates over to London too.”
“We're quite a blend with lots of lateral hires."
Things may be less manic, but the hours are still long. Everyone gets in by 9.30am at the latest and “on average finishes around 8pm.” Unsurprisingly, this varies depending on the stage a deal is at. “Sometimes you could finish at 6pm, other times it could be 2am,” one source reported. Another mentioned staying until 4.30am in a finance seat, “but that was driven by the deal timeline rather than the volume of work.” When these inevitable late nights do roll around, trainees were pleasantly surprised that “it's a whole-team effort. It's not a case of the partners walking out at 5.30pm and leaving trainees to finish things off. And if people do have to go home, they're always available on the phone if they know you're still there.”
Goodwin trainees also enjoy “a good balance” of social activities. A favourite is something called 'ATP Drinks' – drinks for associates, trainees and paralegals. “There's money put behind the bar at one of our locals, and partners aren't invited," we heard. "It's a good way to bond without feeling you have to be on form all the time!” Trainees also get their own social budget to do with as they please. Recently the trainee group – clearly nostalgic for the 90s and 00s – decided to “spend the entire budget on backstage tickets to see Britney Spears at the O2!”
Goodwin's trainee programme is quite new, so the NQ process is still pretty informal. “There hasn't been any clash of demand, so there's no formal interview – it's just based on the work you do throughout your training contract.” In 2018 two of three qualifiers were retained.
How to get a Goodwin training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 July 2019
The application and assessment
Candidates can apply to the firm via a CV and covering letter. When looking at a candidate's CV, Kerry Dawson explains “we're primarily looking at academics”: you'll need a 2:1 or above at undergrad and at least AAB at A level. Within the covering letter, 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 “given the nature of our business, some exposure to the real estate or private equity environment is always helpful.” Those that pass the initial CV sift are invited to a first-stage interview with the lead graduate recruitment partner and another 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.” A popular test is seeing if candidates can explain the difference between a transactional and non-transactional lawyer: “That's an important one as we're a largely transactional office,” Dawson highlights.
Following on from the interview, there is usually acoffee or lunch, as well asa 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 14 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 make sure everyone sees one of the real estate teams, and one private equity team.” Students can expect to shadow associates, attend client meetings, and attend information sessions on the work of practice areas in the London office. On top of that, there are a number of social perks. The most recent bunch were treated to breakfast at the Skygarden, but there's a number of other more informal get togethers to meet partners and associates. “Our headline social for the vac schemers was the escape room,” Dawson tells us, “it was good to see them mix with the current trainees.”
“For our 2018 intake, we recruited one out of six from the vac scheme, then in 2019 it was the reverse – five out of six were from the vac scheme. We'll probably get to a point where we're recruiting 50/50 from the vac scheme and from direct training contract applications,” Dawson estimates.
There are six spots up for grabs, but with around 400 applicants in the first year of the training contract's existence, 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. These traits included “having an entrepreneurial flare – some vac schemers this year had previously been involved in their own businesses or with tech start-ups. It brings a different dimension to them, having that business mind-set.”
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 23
- Associates 58
- Total trainees 5
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 9
- Graduate recruiter: Kerry Dawson, [email protected], 020 7447 4285
- Training partner: Ed Hall
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Applications pa: 400
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 14
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 January 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 31 July 2019
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 December 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 11 January 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £44,000
- Second-year salary: £48,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000
Main areas of work
Our size and continued growth allow us to offer our trainees and associates increased responsibility and meaningful client contact from the outset. We work in small teams, which gives our lawyers the opportunity to work directly with, and be mentored by, senior colleagues, and to develop a network that will be an invaluable part of their future career development.
Goodwin trainees will complete four six-month seats.
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 2021 intake of trainees. We will be accepting applications for summer 2019 vacation schemes from 1 December 2018 through to 11 January 2019.
To apply please visit www.goodwinlaw.com/careers/working-in-london.
University law careers fairs 2018
• Nottingham University – 15 October 2018
• Cambridge University – 18 October 2018
• King’s College London – 24 October 2018
• Oxford University – 3 November 2018
• Durham University – 20 November 2018
• London School of Economics – 30 November 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 5)
- Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 4)