Texas magnate Haynes and Boone is making waves from across the pond with rapidly growing practices and headcount.
Haynes and Boone training contract review 2024
Founded in Dallas just over 50 years ago, training principal Will Cecil tells us that Haynes and Boone is very much one in its first generation – “one of the founding partners is still coming into the office!” – and that with its relatively new-kid-on-the-block-type status in London it has a significant (“but not excessive”) appetite for expansion. The expansion into London is a reflection of that. Following a merger with Curtis Davis Garrard, Cecil outlines that “previously, we were a niche maritime and energy firm before we became Haynes and Boone’s London office. We were already established.” With this, H&B took on and developed the office’s reputation for shipping and offshore oil and gas, also adding finance, corporate, projects, venture capital, hedge funds, investment management and international arbitration practices to the roster.
"There’s an appetite to make up juniors from the trainee cohort.”
Of course, H&B’s practices were, understandably, a big draw for those we spoke with at the firm. It’s a name that has yet to garner voracious attention here in the UK, but it still enjoys hefty Chambers UK rankings in banking and finance including fund finance and lenders, and a nod for shipping. H&B’s London office is actively growing in shipping and general litigation, and recently acquired a venture capital team from the asset management company, MJ Hudson. But its expanding practices weren’t the only draw for trainees. “It’s a Texan firm,” one newbie grinned, “so there’s definitely a friendly vibe. We often go out for lunch together.” We also heard the firm is also looking to expand via the trainee programme, rather than bringing in laterals: “Being a smaller firm, the London office is very top-heavy, so there’s an appetite to make up juniors from the trainee cohort.”
Over the past year, H&B’s trainee intake has doubled from two to four per-cohort. “We’ve tweaked the trainee scheme,” Cecil explains, “because we’ve grown and because there are now more practice areas on the transactional side.” Previously, trainees spent half their training contract in transactional practices, and half in contentious practices. These days, the firm has moved to a more traditional four seat rotation. “The principle is still the same, so it’s still pretty flexible,” Cecil stresses, as trainees can still pick up work moving across the open plan office. For the most part, however, trainees will work directly in finance and corporate; investment management; energy and shipping; and contentious.
“We sometimes assist the US office, helping with English securities for the US operation.”
A stint in the firm’s finance group has trainees working mainly on the lender side. “Fund finance is what we’re known for” in the lower mid-market, and the firm works for big banks like the Bank of America, ING and BNP Paribas. Trainees told us they typically start out by helping with proof reading, research, and drafting board minutes and resolutions. “Obviously you’re looking after checklists and keeping track of where we are on deals, so you need to be able to give a status update at any point.” Even from the outset there are opportunities to get involved with first drafts of amendments on facility agreements. Although fund finance is the primary focus of the seat, “one of the partners does leveraged finance and debt capital markets,” so there is scope to jump on these kinds of matters as well. On these deals, “we sometimes assist the US office, helping with English securities for the US operation.”
Investment management also ties into H&B’s funds work, “in particular with venture capital (primarily with fund formation) but also on the deal flow side.” The group mainly helps companies set up funds of a variety of sizes, and the money invested in them comes from different institutional investors; in one recent deal the firm assisted Japanese venture capital company, NordicNinja, in the closing of its €200 million Luxembourg fund. It should come as no surprise given the subject matter, but we were told that “it can be very technical; it’s one of those practices where there are a lot of terms and acronyms… if you don’t know what they’re talking about it can be difficult to keep up!” Luckily though, “they won’t just throw you into the deep end – the team is very good at getting you involved. For example, in the first week I got introductory tasks just to get me up to speed.” Again, newbies are often given research tasks to start out, like “doing the foundational research which will go into client advice,” but they quickly move onto drafting board minutes, consent letters for closing, sitting in on client calls and filling out paperwork that goes along with closings.
Energy and shipping is treated as one seat, and transactions tend to go on a little longer. On the energy side, the firm focuses on matters in the oil & gas sector, often helping clients to secure drilling contracts. Speaking of which, the firm has represented Stena Drilling in obtaining a number of drilling contracts with the likes of Shell and BP Canada. Across the seat trainees help with CP checklists, keeping track of email correspondence with clients, attending calls and assisting with closings. On the shipping side, the firm is known for its expertise in shipbuilding, offshore and contentious matters. This department is fairly evenly split between partners and non-partners; the group recently advised and assisted the Greek government agency, DESFA in relation to the negotiation of a charter party for an LNG carrier to be used as floating storage in Greek waters.
“I was doing things I never imagined I would.”
The one seat outside of the transactional pool, contentious, can have trainees working on litigation or international arbitrations. “I was doing things I never imagined I would,” one insider told us, which included drafting pleadings from scratch and managing arbitrations “worth millions of dollars! They have you assisting counsel and drafting skeletons; my favourite part was the drafting of pleadings – you really bring in legal analysis, the things you’ve studied, so it feels like being a real lawyer.” Unlike transactional, while attorneys on this side of the firm do come over from the US, “you won’t really work with them because litigation is much more jurisdiction-specific.” Fair enough.
A stone’s throw from Covent Garden (and the Chambers Student office), the London office is semi-open plan: partners have glass walled offices in the centre, with associates and trainees seated on the outside. “Everyone feels approachable because of the setup. The open space makes it easier than having to knock on someone’s door.” Of course, this can change slightly with regards to partner interaction, but trainees told us “some partners float between their offices and the open plan area.” Even when in their offices “they always have their door open, unless they’re on a call.”
When it comes to remote working trainees “have been asked to come in as much as possible, to get as much exposure as possible.” It’s not a strict rule though, and while first years are expected to go in every day, “second years come in three times a week, subject to communication with their practice area or team.” Those we spoke with were pretty satisfied with this setup, a sentiment mirrored with their views on work-life balance. “It would be silly to come in thinking it’s a nine to five day!” one newbie chuckled, but “there’s no expectation to stay late just for the hell of it.” We heard that trainees typically start around nine-thirty and finish anywhere between six-thirty and, latest, ten.
"New trainees had a call with the managing partner in Dallas."
Culture-wise, H&B takes an approach where, “we’re very much seen as a part of the firm and the offices in the US; new trainees had a call with the managing partner in Dallas, and there is strong integration with the attorney development team in the US.” The attorney development team is also a key point of contact for trainees who would like to discuss things with a confidential source, that they don't want discussed within the London office. Trainees were unanimously positive about their interactions with attorneys and staff across the board as, “there are very few difficult personalities; it’s remarkable just how nice everyone is – you’re not looked down on, you’re treated as part of the team.”
Of course, part of this is down to the office’s relatively slim outfit, but “one of the downsides of being a smaller office is that there aren’t that many social events that aren’t just drinking and chatting…” You might not find much beyond this on the social side in the city in general, but one insider did “suspect that will change as we get more junior lawyers.” The firm does put on the typical summer party, with splashes of business development events on the transactional side. “Sometimes they’ll host a client event or a guest speaker event at the firm or somewhere in the city,” such as an event scheduled at the National Portrait Gallery and a recent cocktail reception held for clients of the fund finance group.
H&B also hosts speakers to contribute to formal training, which generally isn’t trainee-specific but helps to provide insight into technical aspects of a topic. “We have Points of Law training a couple of times a month at lunch,” where the firm brings in an expert from outside the firm; “last week we invited a barrister to speak about developments in the energy sector, and a lawyer in the US did a seminar with us on what to look out for in fund finance.”
On the topic of salary, trainees felt “it matches the amount of work,” but they did note there could be a little more transparency; “I don’t think it’s the highest in the market… it would be nice to know NQ salaries because that hasn’t been communicated.” This didn’t seem to put anyone off staying at the firm upon qualification though, which is typically an informal affair; “there are no intense interviews, it’s all done at your appraisal. As you near to final appraisal you are asked what your preference is –supervisors then go away and ask if there’s scope for you to join a team,” after which you’re informed more formally. In 2023, the firm retained all of its qualifying cohort.
Trainees are invited to a weekend retreat in Texas on qualification.
How to get into Haynes and Boone
Training contract deadline: 9 June 2024
The application process
Haynes and Boone receives around 200 applicants each year. Applicants must apply with their CV via an anonymised online form, and HR told us the firm does place a significant weighting on extra-curricular and achievements outside of the academic arena. Applicants are also expected to have some legal experience, but this is not essential and on the application form there is the opportunity to demonstrate commercial awareness about the firm and the firm’s general practice areas.
To get through to the first interview applicants must complete the application form thoroughly and detail their academic experience.
Assessment and interviews
The first interview is conducted with two partners and the office administrator/HR. At this stage candidates also complete a written test comprising of questions on case law relating to both contentious and non-contentious practices. Here, knowledge, speed and accuracy is taken into account for the written test.
Approximately six to eight people then make it through to the assessment day where candidates interview with partners from contentious and non-contentious practices and have a joint interview with another candidate with counsel and associates. Candidates are also given the opportunity to do a short presentation to partners.
Candidates are assessed throughout the day across not only their interviews and presentation, but also on their interactions with each other and in a social environment – this includes a lunch with partners, counsel, associates and trainees during the day.
Training principal, Will Cecil, tells us that although academics are important, “we don’t just add up the As and say, these are the people we want – we’re looking for people who are good raw material.” We heard that applicants’ ability to interact with their peers, the people they work with and their clients plays a large part in being offered a training contract. “Initiative” is also heavily weighted, “because we’re fairly flexible in the way we operate they will get a lot of responsibility – if they’re up to it…”
Interview with Will Cecil - Training Principal
Chambers Student: How would you describe the firm? How would you describe its position in the market?
William Cecil: Well, Haynes Boone as an overall firm is headquartered in Dallas. It’s 53 years old and one of the founding partners is still coming into the office! Although it has nearly 700 lawyers and 19 offices now, it’s still a first-generation firm. Haynes Boone has formed a strong practice in Dallas and other Texan cities, then it moved into other U.S. cities, and now it has opened offices in Mexico City and Shanghai. London was the third Haynes Boone office to open outside of the U.S.
Previously, we were a niche maritime and energy firm before we became Haynes Boone’s London office. We were already established, and that was seven years ago. There are still quite a few of us who were from Curtis Davis Garrard (CDG). They weren’t just recruiting from a zero base. Since we merged, we’ve been adding on practice areas that fit with the U.S. practices. They have a strong finance, private equity and energy practice, in addition to intellectual property. We’ve added on quite a few new practice areas: fund finance, corporate, project finance, venture capital, hedge funds and debt capital markets – so we’ve grown pretty significantly, but not excessively.
CS: Are there any highlights from the last year you think it would be helpful for our readers to know about?
WC: We are now a team of 22 partners, seven counsel, 13 associates and seven trainees, and in the last twelve months, we have added five partners and promoted two counsel to partners, so we have increased our partner count by seven. We are a young firm. Our partners are generally pretty young. We are building the brand of Haynes Boone in London – it has a strong brand in the U.S., particularly in Texas – so we are quite an entrepreneurial team, but we have the support of a very enthusiastic support team in the U.S. Having come to Haynes Boone from a niche firm, that makes a big difference in terms of what you can do and the steps you can take to grow. So we are growing strongly.
CS: I know you have increased trainee numbers and the format of the training contract? Why is this?
WC: When we merged, the corporate fit was important. Haynes Boone, being a first-generation and highly collaborative firm, fit very well with our culture. I think it’s a great place to work, and I hope you’ve heard that from the trainees! As we expand, we are looking to recruit from the trainee level. The trainees are joining an organization that is growing and that is looking at the trainees as a long-term recruitment prospect. Because we are still relatively small, I think the trainees get a lot of hands-on experience. The trainee on my team sits behind me in a pod of a senior lawyer and a junior lawyer, and I think that’s a great environment for them to learn a lot. It’s less rigid than a larger firm, so you will learn more.
We have back-up to our trainee scheme with HR people in the U.S., so it is more professionally run than if we were doing it ourselves as a small firm! We have a number of people in the U.S. – I think five or six people – who have spent quite a bit of time on our trainee scheme, in addition to the people in London! It’s well-resourced and well-thought-out.
The reason why we tweaked the scheme is because we’ve grown, and there are now more practice areas on the transactional side. Previously, we had one year in disputes and one year in transactional, but now that’s a bit skewed because there are more transactional practice areas. We are moving to a four-seat system: finance in corporate; investment management; energy and shipping; and contentious. Transactional is varied from transactional shipping to corporate to venture capital to hedge funds, and you couldn’t really do that in one seat. It’s probably not a good idea for a trainee to do a crazy variation of work in one seat. The principle is still the same, so it’s still pretty flexible. The trainee will be moving around the open-plan floor, and if you’ve got a piece of work that’s still going on, you will get to finish it. It’s not as if you head off to a different department and nobody is going to be able to call you up.
CS: How much do you look to connect trainees with practices overseas, the U.S. offices and HQ?
WC: Each of our practice areas in London are part of a firmwide section. For example, in my section, we are part of energy disputes lawyers, and the section head is in Houston. We have section meetings which the trainees attend, and heads of the sections come over and get to meet the trainees. The extent to which you work with the U.S. varies seat to seat. In disputes, not so much. On the deal side, there’s much more of an integration in the actual doing of the work, particularly for finance on the day-to-day transactional side. When they qualify, one of the first things they do is go over to the U.S. and join the U.S. graduate training event, which gets them to meet other lawyers over there. To understand the firm, you need to have dealings with the other offices – in particular the Dallas office, because then it all makes sense! You understand the corporate culture and put faces to names.
CS: What sort of person thrives at the firm? How can a candidate really impress at interview?
WC: We don’t just add up the A’s and say, “These are the people we want.” We’re looking for people who are good, raw material. We’re looking for people who will interact with their peers, the people they work with, and their clients. Because we’re fairly flexible in the way we operate, they will get a lot of responsibility if they’re up to it. We’re looking for trainees with initiative.
CS: And finally, do you have any advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in law?
WC: Do it in a practice area that interests you! I have always done marine work, and I wanted to do that from the beginning. If you’re interested in the industry that you’re servicing, it makes a huge difference to how quickly you pick it up, how you can relate to your clients, how you can give legal advice that is commercial rather than just a legal answer that won’t help them. You need to understand their business.
Haynes and Boone, LLP
Assistant Solicitors: 18
Total Trainees: 7
Contact: Amanda Wright – 020 8734 2856
Method of application: Online application form
Selection procedure: Interview with two Partners and HR and a written task followed by an in-office assessment day
Closing date for 2024 and 2025: 18 June 2023
Training contracts p.a. - 2
Applications p.a. – 150+
% interviewed p.a. – 10%
Required degree grade 2:1
1st year - £46,000
2nd year - £50,000
Holiday entitlement - 25 days
Retention rate – 100%
Salary – undisclosed
Overseas offices: USA (16), Mexico, Shanghai
The London office of Haynes and Boone, LLP offers transactional and dispute resolution lawyers with deep industry knowledge and strong commercial sense. We have a client-first philosophy, defining success as providing exceptional value to our clients and making real, tangible, and often remarkable contributions to their businesses.
Main areas of work
Our core strengths are in energy, corporate, debt capital markets, investment management, finance, project finance, international dispute resolution and shipping.
Applicants should have a strong and consistent academic record and be on track for, or have obtained, a 2:1 degree as minimum.
We have a diverse group of attorneys but what stands out is their ability to work together as a team, be considerate and care for their colleagues.
Some of the most important attributes are to take on responsibility, have commercial awareness and have commitment, energy and spark. A sense of community and enthusiasm to participate is also beneficial.
Each contract will comprise one 12-month seat in the contentious (litigation/arbitration) group and a second 12-month seat in the non-contentious group. Trainees in those seats will work with different teams across the range of the firm's practice areas within the relevant group during each seat. Practical training will be given with plenty of support and feedback. You will be closely supervised and mentored by the training principal, and a partner mentor.
Private medical insurance, group income protection, group life assurance, group personal pension plan, gym subsidy, EAP, season ticket loan. Sponsorship & awards Full sponsorship of study (GDL/LPC and PGDL/SQE), annual maintenance grant of £10,000 per year of study.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Fund Finance (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Shipping (Band 3)