Hone your skills at US giant Jones Day, where “you can build your own practice from day one” thanks to its distinctive non-rotational training contract.
Jones Day training contract review 2022
Calling all “self-starters”! Make no mistake – carving out a career path at this US outfit will require steely grit and determination, but, as this trainee explained, “if you’re willing to take on the challenge, this is worth the reward.” International heavyweight Jones Day has 42 offices around the world, over 2,500 attorneys, and more giant clients than you could count. This Ohio-born powerhouse touched down in London in 2003, and, like its US counterparts in the Big Smoke, it’s been carving out a place for itself in a competitive market ever since. Today, Chambers UK rates the firm’s corporate/M&A capabilities (a strength for Jones Day worldwide), but also notes its expertise in other areas like litigation, real estate finance, competition and restructuring/insolvency too. On a UK-wide basis, the firm stands out for its handling of civil fraud matters, as well as its private equity buyouts know-how. Jones Day is one of those firms that needs to be looked at in its broader context too, so we recommend checking out the firm’s many rankings in Chambers Global: here you’ll see worldwide strengths in IP, competition/antitrust and corporate investigations in particular.
“It’s on you to go and choose the work you want to do."
Trainees told us that the firm is “very proud of its American heritage and roots,” and uses the US model to “focus on responsibility very early on.”This feeds into Jones Day’s USP: its non-rotational seat system, which it inherited from a merger firm. It’s a completely open, free-market training system that does away with tradition: “It’s on you to go and choose the work you want to do,” one source summarised. Interviewees loved the opportunity to “do a bit of work, see if you like the flavour and then get involved as much as you can.” Trainees approach partners directly for work, which (reassuringly) means that “even if you’re the most confident person ever, you’ll end up getting anxious about approaching people in the beginning.” Luckily, trainees told us there are “no negative experiences with partners. The non-rotational system means that partners need to be nice because you can just take your work elsewhere!”
The result, sources felt, was that “you can build your own practice from day one” and forge “great relationships with partners and clients.” As well as working for those who want to sample a bit of everything, the non-rotational system also helps individuals who are dead set on a particular area too: “I’m miles ahead of qualifying trainees in my department at other firms because I’ve done two years of it, not six months.” Trainees told us that “you get treated like an adult even when starting out with basic tasks, and you end up progressing to the point where you’re basically working as an associate.”
Admittedly, “the way we do our training wasn’t designed for remote working,” a source said. The lockdowns and working from home have meant that “you can’t go around offices or bump into people to get work.” However, adaptations to that ‘new normal’ have been made: at the time of our calls, second-years were “cold-calling to look for work – it’s not awkward, it’s the same principle as before.”First-years, however, were given an ‘affiliation system’ where they were assigned to groups. “They're afraid of saying seats, but in reality that's exactly what they are!”said one interviewee. Within their assigned groups, trainees still “virtually door-knock – it's been better than being left high and dry and without a way to source work,” but, as one interviewee bemoaned, “it’s not what I signed up for.” Trainees assured us, however, that “it’s just for our first year – the firm will return to non-rotational as soon as this situation is over.”
Jones Day’s banking and finance team works on both the lender and borrower side of financings, refinancings and restructurings. Work falls under two main banners here: leveraged financeand real estate finance. The latter is “a big focus for us at the moment. It’s dominant as it’s a practice area they’re trying to build,”a trainee explained. Leveraged financed reportedly works with “leaner teams – they’re less in need of trainees.”The restructuring work centres on a lot of refinancings, pre-administration sales and distressed M&A matters; there can also be collaboration with the contentious teams in cases involving allegations of fraud. The team recently advised HNA Ecological Technology Group on the restructuring of aviation company Swissport in a matter worth over $2 billion. Trainees working here start out with “very same-y admin work like emails management, organising conditions precedent checklists and running searches.” After they’ve done the grind, they can start to draft security agreements and notices of appointment, but also communicate with the opposing and local counsel: “Most of our deals are multinational, so there’s almost always international counsel. It’s great to take the lead on that a bit more.”
“Everything I’ve worked on has had a substantial international element.”
The firm's global disputespractice is well-versed in white-collar crime, investigations, investor-state arbitrations and civil fraud matters. There’s also a growing construction and project infrastructure practice due to a key lateral hire joining the team in 2019. Lawyers here recently acted for lens manufacturer Essilor during its recovery of over $200 million lost to fraud. We heard that a significant number of NQs had recently qualified into this department, meaning current trainees had “less exposure to it.” However, once you get your foot in the door here, “you’re hooked,” as this trainee put it. Given the practice’s name, we weren’t surprised to hear that “everything I’ve worked on has had a substantial international element. We work with courts and lawyers around the world.” Trainees here do a lot of “admin and keeping on top of everything,” as well as bundling and research. After they’ve gained a bit of experience, they can expect to draft witness statements, court applications and expert questions. There’s also the opportunity to prepare evidence. “I’m given quite a lot of leeway and I’m not spoon-fed,” one source concluded.
Jones Day’s corporate team is split into M&A and private equity work – associates and partners are affiliated to one or the other, while trainees “do the whole range. It means you can understand how the pieces fit together.”M&Awork is mostly private, with a lot of corporate real estate deals on the books. Private equity involves a lot of management buyouts and global reorganisations. There’s also a growing funds team that works on “primary and secondary offerings and co-investing.” The team recently advised private equity firm Inflexion on its acquisition of Aspen Pumps. Trainees here manage the due diligence process and reports, take board minutes and generally “know everything that’s going on from a bird’s-eye view to detect what could be an issue down the line.” They also update documents based on partners’ changes, but, more importantly, “they[the partners] give you a chance to express your way of drafting first.”
Real estate is another one of the London office’s core departments, which incorporates construction, environment and planning work. Trainees found themselves “assisting on corporate or banking matters that have real estate assets involved.” There’s also a construction subgroup that does a lot of developer-side contract work and is “almost growing into its own department!” The team recently worked on the largest ever private real estate transaction in the UK, which saw them advise Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust on the sale of iQ Student Accommodation to Blackstone for £4.66 billion. Trainees run searches, write reviews and draft appointment contracts, which can be “formulaic – you do one for the 50 or so consultants being appointed.”
“... very keen for us to do pro bono for our development."
Having the opportunity to do pro bono work is a “huge plus to working at a US firm.”Senior partners are “very keen for us to do pro bono for our development and their attitude flows down.”Attending legal aid clinics, working with charities, and giving advice on employment law matters were all on the table for trainees. “It can be quite emotional,”reflected one source. “The people are going through such hard times, but it’s great to be in a position to help them in some way.”Client secondments to banks, financial institutions, real estate firms and regulators are also available to trainees. Overseasstints aren’t available for trainees, which was a source of frustration for a few, “but some do get to go to the US on big litigation matters.” However, associates at the firm do have the opportunity to go to overseas offices in Singapore, Dubai and the US.
Trainees do get to go to Washington,DCfor their orientation, “which was very appealing” (unsurprisingly this orientation didn't go ahead in 2021). US firms have a rep for being more hands-off when it comes to formal training, and while trainees highlighted that “it’s very much a learn-by-doing environment,” they also felt that “there’s no shortage of training.” The non-rotational set-up means that trainees often have multiple supervisors at any one time. They are also formally assigned a partner mentor when they join, “who you have regular meetings with to see how it’s going.” Trainees are also encouraged to “find your own people that fit your style and work preferences. Informal mentoring works very organically; people are very comfortable asking for and offering that.”This process is helped by the “flat hierarchy and a mentality that we should have work relationships and regular contact with very senior partners at the firm. There’s no shyness there.”
"... a mentality that we should have work relationships and regular contact with very senior partners at the firm."
This leads to a “really friendly, open and non-competitive culture.” Trainees had mostly done the same GDL and LPC together, making them “tight-knit. We have a WhatsApp group to support each other.”When in the office, two trainees typically share an office: “It’s a wonderful system, as people go from being acquaintances to best friends. Working from home shows just how fantastic the office was,”one source lamented.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, “it’s okay, but there could be more done,”said one trainee, who went on to talk about the firm’s affinity networks for women, LGBT+, and BAME lawyers. “There are a lot of women in the partnership,”said another source, adding that recruitment overall is an area where the “firm has made a real effort to improve on that.”We also heard that “they don't directly address mental health much. However, we do have a two-hour practical mindfulness course coming up.”
The focus on mindfulness could be helpful for navigating the longer hours that trainees sometimes work. The non-rotational system means that “it’s very up and down. You can have weeks where there’s not much on and then do a 60-hour billable week.”This source added: “It really depends; you’re in charge of your time and have to manage it.” At the same time, as this interviewee pointed out, “they[the firm] know how much we’re doing and whether we’re reaching a certain percentage capacity and what is expected.”When the going gets tough, “you just get in the zone and it’s all-consuming. It’s not until you’re out the other side that you take stock.” Jones Day compensates its trainees well – £52,000 in their first year rising to £110,000 on qualification. It’s a worldwide policy that Jones Day doesn’t give bonuses – “you know it when you’re coming here and you get other perks like healthcare, so it doesn’t bother me, to be honest.”
Qualification is a “chilled” process at Jones Day, with no interviews required. “It’s a very simple process. You basically send an email stating where you want to qualify and that’s literally the process,”an interviewee described. They were glad there’s no interview – “I’ve been interviewing and proving myself for the last two years!” The retention rate is historically high at JD, and not just for NQs – “a lot of people want to stay here as long as they can.” In 2021, 11 of 15 qualifiers were kept on.
Jones Day is the only organisation in its distinctive glass and orange-panelled building on Tudor Street, central London: “It’s the ‘Jones Day’ building – it’s key to our culture.”
How to get a Jones Day training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 8 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)
Training contract deadline (2024): 8 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)
Jones Day recruits almost exclusively from its work placements (a.k.a. vacation schemes) in the winter, spring and summer holidays, so anyone gunning for a training contract with the firm is advised to apply for a placement in the first instance. The firm offers approximately 15-20 training contracts each year.
According to recruitment partner Emily Stew, the application process is “as simple as possible to give as many candidates as possible a fair chance. There are no video interviews, psychometric tests or assessment centres – not even additional questions specific to the firm to answer on the application form; we just ask students to provide an online CV and a covering letter.”
She continues: “We are looking for somebody who has done a lot with their life so far, beyond just good academics. We're never blinded by the fact someone's gone to Oxbridge or another top university, and we do give some latitude to people whose results aren't perfect if they show other potential.”
Applicants are required to have a 2:1 on their degree (or be on track to achieve one). Beyond that Jones Day has integrated Rare's contextual recruitment system into its recruitment process in order to better understand an applicant's potential in the context of their school's average student attainment. When such potential is spotted, the firm has, for example, recruited graduates without A levels and with Open University degrees.
When it comes to the covering letter, the trainees we spoke with advised “using it as an opportunity to explain why you want the job and a future at Jones Day. Look at how Jones Day operates, the way it trains and the work it does, and link its practices to your interests. You can learn a lot from chatting to Jones Day trainees and other lawyers at their 'Question Time' events and London open evenings, which anyone can attend – just sign up via the website.”
Applicants who pique the firm's interest are invited to an interview with two senior lawyers, followed by coffee with a current trainee. “Mine was a chat rather than a grilling,” recalled a trainee. “They use your CV to lead you into a conversation you're comfortable with as they feel that will get the best out of you.” Another relayed how “they asked for my opinions on the Six Nations because I'd mentioned I was a rugby player. There aren't any of those out-of-the-box questions like, 'What fish would you like to be?'”
The firm runs a series of placement schemes throughout the year during the winter, spring and summer vacations. Each placement is two weeks long, and there are around 70 places up for grabs across the schemes. Jones Day received some 1800 applications in total for its four placement schemes in 2019/20.
Placement candidates shouldn't expect a carefree fortnight of drinks receptions and lunches. “It's set up very similarly to the training contract,” a trainee told us. “There are a few talks from different practice areas and an introduction to the online systems, and then they put you in a 'hub' with four or five other candidates and tell you to knock on some doors. It's terrifying in those first moments, but everyone knows the position you're in, so they're incredibly friendly and give you some work.”
“We're always honest in our recruiting in that we allow candidates to see what it's like working in our firm and training in our system,” Stew explains of the decision to eschew a more standardised placement scheme. “Participants don't just do workshops throughout their two weeks; they're given tasks they can have a stab at so that they know what the training contract will be like and whether it's the right fit for them.”
As a trainee source pointed out: “You have to be confident enough to source your work, manage your time and supervise yourself to succeed – they look to see this in action since these aren't things the firm can test just through an interview.” Indeed, Stew confirms the programme “attracts students who want some flexibility, responsibility and control when they come into the training contract. It suits people who are confident and ambitious, though it's important they have a bit of humility as well.”
Toward the end of their placement with the firm, candidates complete another interview, again with two partners, in a final bid for a training contract.
- Partners: approx 60
- Associates: approx 100
- Total trainees: approx 30
- UK offices: London
- Overseas offices: 42
- Rose Taylor - Graduate Recruitment Manager
- Emily Stew - Recruitment Partner
- Adam Brown - Training Partner
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: Approx. 15
- Applications pa: Approx. 2000
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Vacation scheme places pa: 70
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st October 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 7th January 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2021
- Vacation scheme, 2022 deadline: 7th January 2022
- Salary and benefits (2021)
- First-year salary: £52,000
- Second-year salary: £59,000
- Post-qualification salary: £110,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- Law School fees paid, plus £10,000 maintenance grant per year of study.
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £10,000
- International and regional
- Overseas offices: Continental Europe, Asia, USA, Latin America, Middle East, Asia Pacific
Jones Day is a global law firm with more than 2,500 lawyers in 42 offices across five continents. The firm is distinguished by: a singular tradition of client service; the mutual commitment to, and the seamless collaboration of, a true partnership; formidable legal talent across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions; and shared professional values that focus on client needs.
Main areas of work
Jones Day’s strengths in London reflect the firm’s rich heritage in M&A and global disputes. Our 200 London-based lawyers collaborate within the UK and across our worldwide offices, to guide clients through the most demanding and complex global matters: including cross-border M&A; real estate and finance transactions (including banking, capital markets, investment funds, private equity and structured finance); global disputes; and regulatory matters involving the UK, US and other authorities. Additional specialist areas include business restructuring; competition/antitrust; corporate criminal investigations; corporate tax planning; employment and pensions; intellectual property; and projects and infrastructure.
As leaders in cross-border M&A and global disputes, we look to recruit extraordinary people who are committed to a legal career; want to work on international matters; and can become part of our future — not just qualify with us. Successful candidates have a minimum 2:1 (law or non-law) degree; strong intellectual and analytical ability; good communication skills; and demonstrate resourcefulness, drive, dedication and the ability to be a team player. Our distinctive training contract structure is integral to our culture and success and the benefits are felt at every level. In the absence of a rigid seat-system, trainees have the flexibility to mould their career from the earliest opportunity and enjoy a high level of responsibility. Our trainees are quickly integrated into various teams across the firm and gain unparalleled exposure to different areas of law. Trainees are never held back by set ‘trainee’ tasks or have to drop an interesting case or deal to move on to another department. This aids strong client bonds and opportunities to assist on all aspects of a transaction. The firm runs a structured seminar programme to support the practical teaching you receive from associates and partners with whom you work.
Our work placement schemes over the Winter, Spring and Summer vacations are the route to our way of training. Operating like mini-training contracts, you gain a real insight into trainee life at our global law firm. You will see how the firm’s non-rotational training system works in practice by taking on real work from a variety of practice areas and meet a range of lawyers at various social events. All our placement schemes are open to final year law and non-law students, graduates and postgraduates, as well as career changers. Our schemes are also open to penultimate year students undertaking a qualifying law degree. We recruit on a rolling basis and we expect to recruit our trainees from our placement schemes. We pay an allowance of £500 per week.
Free gym, subsidised cafe, private healthcare, season ticket loan, group life cover, salary sacrifice schemes and personal pension. Meet us at one of our events. Monitor our website and register with your University Careers Service and student law society to find out more.
Diversity & inclusion
At Jones Day, diversity is not only enthusiastically endorsed, but diligently pursued. Diversity makes us better and helps us deliver the service our clients expect. By mentoring and promoting individuals irrespective of background, we leverage the distinct strength and experiences of an exceptionally talented group of lawyers, while enhancing the atmosphere of our Firm. Jones Day's demonstrated commitment to diversity does not stop with recruitment. We are committed to making meaningful progress on diversity in the legal profession; to increasing diversity within the Firm; and to recruiting, retaining, and promoting the best talent, from all backgrounds. We are proud of our accomplishments and we remain unwaveringly optimistic about the Firm because of our people, who allow us to tap the true potential of our global organisation.
In London: Affinity groups supporting Women, LGBTQ+ and BAME bring together employees with shared experiences or backgrounds to provide support, training, and networking opportunities.
Rare’s contextual recruitment system (CRS), integrated into our recruitment of graduate trainees, helps us better identify candidates with true potential regardless of circumstance.
Our Aspiring Professionals Programme works directly with state schools in under privileged neighbourhoods and with charities such as the Social Mobility Foundation to help students from under- represented and low-income backgrounds who want professional careers gain access to leading universities and enter careers in global professional businesses like Jones Day.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
- Competition Law (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 4)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)