Jones Day - True Picture

No seats? No way! Yes way if you’re at Jones Day. The only seat on offer here is the driver’s seat, as trainees are "given free rein to try any practice area."

Jones Day training contract review 2021

The Firm

When you’re fresh out of uni, no one expects you to be completely clued up on the world of law firms. But “even not knowing a whole lot about the market, you could tell Jones Day was a prestigious firm,” said one trainee at this jumbo firm. Indeed, Jones Day is among the world's highest grossing law firms, with a presence spanning 18 countries. Not bad for a firm that started out in Cleveland, Ohio. But as we touch on the firm’s US roots, be warned: “the firm hates being referred to as a US firm.” Interviewees were quick to tell us: “We’re not like many of the US firms in London.” How so? “For one, we entered the London market through a merger with an established English firm” – this was all the way back in 2003 with a mid-sized City firm, but trainees felt over the years the firm has “retained a lot of its older English elements” culture-wise.

They also pointed to the firm’s business model as a distinguisher. “Unlike most firms which are LLPs, the firm’s structure is a general partnership” (the firm refers to it as a true partnership), which basically means individual partners have more control over the business. The main difference trainees felt on the ground was that “it promotes an idea of global collegiality.” Cue the firm’s slogan: ‘One Firm Worldwide.’ Give or take the odd dissenting voice (one felt “you can’t get away from the American connection”) everyone agreed that the atmosphere at Jones Day “isn’t what you’d imagine in terms of the stereotypical US firm – there are no obvious pressing obsessions with billable hours.” 

“When I explain it to my friends who are lawyers, they think it sounds mental.”

We can’t go much further without mentioning the most distinctive element of being a Jones Day trainee: the non-rotational training contract. “When I explain it to my friends who are lawyers, they think it sounds mental,” one source told us. In short, “you are literally given free rein to try any practice area and work with anyone you want in the firm.” Trainees still have to satisfy SRA requirements by doing 350 hours in three different departments, but there are no seats. “It does feel bizarre on the first day,” one remembered. “You have to psych yourself up a bit” to get work. “My strategy was to knock on all the doors of my floor and then on all the doors of the practice areas I was interested in.” They did reassure us “there’s also nothing wrong with sending an email rather than bowling up to a partner’s door shouting ‘HOW ARE YOU DOING?’ It’s not just for extroverted, ‘out there’ geezers.” Out there or not, the firm recruits pretty much exclusively through its winter, spring and summer vac schemes to ensure trainees are suited to the unstructured system.

“Once you introduce yourself to partners, you’ll typically be included on the capacity requests they send out,” trainees explained. It’s a system “where your reputation and how you’re perceived means a lot,” one emphasised. “Partners talk between departments, which can help in securing work.” The biggest challenge interviewees encountered was managing their workload. “It can be hard to find the middle ground sometimes,” they said. “You need to be organised and communicate well. If you can do those two things, it’s an amazing system and you’ll be a better lawyer for it.”

“There is no one standard experience at Jones Day.”

Given the degree of autonomy trainees have, “there is no one standard experience at Jones Day.” For example, one interviewee said: “My time has been more akin to that of a traditional training contract in that I’ve worked in four distinct areas.” Another told us most of their time had been dominated by a single case, “around which I’ve been picking up work from other departments.” This trainee felt “one of the best things about the system is that you can see cases through from start to finish rather than dropping out at a certain stage. There’s no sense that you’re part of the team temporarily.”

Qualification is an informal process at Jones Day with no interviews. “In the ideal situation, you would have spent your first year and a half sussing out the area you want to qualify into before dedicating your final six months in that area,” one outlined. “It’s pretty clear who wants to qualify where towards the end of second year.” It’s down to trainees to keep partners in the loop about their goals, with some of our sources suggesting the process could use “some more transparency.” In 2020, all 20 qualifiers were kept on.

The Seats

The firm’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 finance and real estate finance. Trainees who got experience in the latter said: “You spend a lot of time managing CP checklists and chasing the insurer brokers, real estate lawyers, and the other side to get everything you need. You have to have a lot of reminders set in your calendar!” Clients include big banks and financial services companies like Wells Fargo, which the firm recently advised on a £50.4 million agreement to finance part of the Farringdon Crossrail Station development. On the leveraged finance side, “you’re often working with other departments. For example, I’ve done some distress finance work so I’ve been working a lot with the insolvency team.” Trainees racked up drafting experience with loan agreements, letters and security agreements. Refreshingly, interviewees who spent time in this group pointed out that most of the team is made up of women.

The firm's global disputes practice has a penchant for white-collar crime, investigations, investor-state arbitrations, and civil fraud (which the firm is highly ranked for by Chambers UK). “The work is what a lot of people would consider the sexiest,” one shared. As you can guess from its name, the department has a distinctly international outlook. “I’ve been working a lot with colleagues in Beijing and Washington,” one source told us, who relayed rumours of trainees being sent to locations like Singapore. The firm recently obtained a $40 million award for Canadian client World Wide Minerals in proceedings against the Republic of Kazakhstan involving the expropriation of its mining assets in the late ’90s. “In the months I’ve been here, I’ve had good exposure to most stages of a dispute,” one trainee remarked, who was kept busy “attending trials, drafting witness statements and maintaining correspondence with the other side.”

“I was sitting on live negotiations with the other side alongside the partner for four days straight.”

Jones Day’s corporate team is well known for its mid-market activity – Chambers UK ranks the firm highly for its work in this space in London. That’s not to say there aren’t “chances to work on some monster deals every now and then” too.For example, the firm recently advised online gambling company The Stars Group on its $14 billion merger with Flutter Entertainment. In the mid-market arena, the team recently advised Blackstone on its €175 million investment in Superbet. It was lower-value matters that were most coveted by our interviewees. On these types of deals, trainees said “you’re typically staffed with a partner and associate and the clients have higher expectations of you” – probably because trainees on these types of deals are simply more visible to clients. In one example, “I was sitting on live negotiations with the other side alongside the partner for four days straight.” Of course, this was supplemented by more administrative tasks such as due diligence.

Real estate is another one of the London office’s core departments, which incorporates construction, environment and planning work too. The team’s focus is almost exclusively commercial. Recent examples of work in the capital include representing TV company Pinewood when it let out a couple of studios to Disney and Netflix, and advising private equity investor CIT Group Partners on setting up a joint venture to invest in the development of Colechurch House in Southwark. The firm has also played a role in advising a client on the £3 billion redevelopment of Elephant and Castle. “There are some small leases which trainees can run with,” one source explained. On the construction side, trainees described “making appointments with architects and consultants, and then reviewing the comments they’ve made.”

Trainees might seek out work in some of the firm’s smaller departments, such as employment, competition or intellectual property. The work is mostly litigation with a mix of non-contentious patent and trade mark work thrown in too, but trainees pointed out they did “exclusively IP litigation; you’re not going to be doing filings or trade marks.” One source said this was “a good area to branch into for someone who enjoys litigation and wants something more technical.” Given the level of technicality, trainees here spent time conducting research and “trying to get your head around the issue at hand!” Once up to speed, trainees might get to draft witness statements as well.

“Partners give work to those who perform, not those who are the loudest.”

Client secondments to banks, financial institutions, real estate firms and regulators are also available to trainees. Overseas seats aren’t so hot, which was a source of frustration for some. However, one or two trainees from each intake usually spend six months in the Dubai office.

Trainee Life

Talking culture, trainees were quick to bring the non-rotational system back into the conversation. “What should invite competitive behaviour doesn’t,” one reflected. Instead of competing with one another, they said “the best support network you have is the trainee cohort. You can trust that if you email round the group asking for help on a matter, someone will respond.” So not everyone is a type-A schmoozer? Apparently not. "If you’re super competitive, people will hate you!” trainees told us, with one suggesting “maybe in the past there was a typical Jones Day trainee, but not anymore." Trainees described a more “balanced” bunch. "I consider myself introverted,” one shared. “I’m not shy but I don’t like being the centre of attention either.”

Ultimately, our sources made clear that “partners give work to those who perform, not those who are the loudest.” In fact, one even observed that “to some extent the partners are competing for the trainees’ attention, which breeds a true open-door culture and makes everything feel quite informal.” Another agreed: "It feels like everyone is on the same level. For example, trainees and partners share the same canteen.” That might sound trivial but this isn’t the case at every firm. “The dress code is pretty relaxed” too – jeans are common attire on Thursdays and Fridays, with “some people just wearing sportswear on Friday” (although we should point out they’re probably not rocking up to client meetings in their spandex).

“I would consider leaving at 8pm to be standard.”

So, what does this non-rotational malarkey mean for trainees’ work/life balance? “It can be hard,” one acknowledged. “When you have seats, you can ride the natural peaks and troughs of business, but I feel pressure to be busy all the time. I would consider leaving at 8pm to be standard.” Another weighed in that “it can be hard to gauge what’s the right amount to be working, especially as the firm is shy about giving a number.” Trainees did their own detective work instead: “We’re all on a WhatsApp group in which we compare hours and from there you can start to get a rough average.” We did hear plenty of stories of trainees being able to get out the door at 6pm, but inevitably the promise of a six-figuresalary upon qualification means trainees work some pretty long hours here.

When everyone has different schedules, “it can be hard to coordinate socially,” sources reflected, but not “out of an unwillingness to do so.” Concrete opportunities to let their hair down include the firmwide Christmas party (most recently at St Paul's Cathedral), which is supplemented by department-led festivities. One source told us they felt the firm had a done a good job of moving “away from a boozy culture of going to the pub to schmooze partners on a Friday. There isn’t pressure to socialise if you don't want to.”

Jones Dayum! The firm frequently tops Bloomberg’s M&A league table for doing the most M&A deals worldwide.

How to get a Jones Day training contract


Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 8 January 2021

Training contract deadline (2023): 8 January 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?'”

Placement scheme

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.

Jones Day

  • Partners: approx 60
  • Associates: approx 100
  • Total trainees: approx 35
  • UK offices: London
  • Overseas offices: 43
  • Contacts  
  • 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
  • Sponsorship: 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

Firm profile
Jones Day is a global law firm with more than 2,500 lawyers in 43 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.

Training opportunities
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.

Placement schemes
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.

Other benefits
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 Legal Apprenticeship Programme, one of the first in the City of London, offers high-achieving candidates wanting to avoid University debt the opportunity to enter the workplace straight from school and qualify as solicitors (with a law degree) after 7 years of earning and learning.

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, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • 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)

More from Jones Day:

Read: Welcome to the London Office

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