US-born Jones Day continues to sweep trainees off their feet with its non-rotational training contract.
Though much less sweaty, Jones Day is a lot like a Central Line train at 9am: there ain’t no seats. When arriving on their first day trainees are “given a blank canvas and walk the floors – you get to create your own practice.” Many chose the firm for its non-rotational system, looking forward to “controlling your own training contract, because you can avoid areas you don’t enjoy – I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in a seat I hated for six months.” Trainees did initially have “reservations about the reputation of US law firms – the hectic hours, competitive culture and all that.” But interviewees reckoned Jones Day has a certain “British charm” (the London office has its roots in a 2003 merger with a mid-size English City firm), meaning trainees “get the advantage of international work but with an open-door, friendly vibe.”
“You're knocking on doors and asking to work for people.”
While spouting these positive buzzwords, trainees did admit “there are things that are hard about” a non-rotational traineeship. One shared: “There are many competing demands when you’re not working for the same people all the time. Not everyone is aware of your work capacity, and you’ve got to communicate clearly or things will get hard for you.” In addition “work doesn’t always come easily or quickly,” so our interviewees advised not coming to Jones Day unless you have “rock-solid resilience – you're knocking on doors and asking to work for people. You might need to do that five to ten times before you get anything.” Interviewees said the system is “made for confident people because the onus is on you,” though it requires a balance: “It’s not for timid people, but at the same time you can’t come in being a Jack the Lad Mr Know-It-All – there’s a middle ground they look for.”
Jones Day understands that its unusual training system is not for everyone, so it encourages those interested to do a vac scheme first, and the firm recruits pretty much exclusively through its winter, spring and summer schemes. These are set up in the same unstructured way as the training contract – “you've got to walk the floor, working with different people on different things to see if the system's suited to you.”
Tom Brady, trainee
Once you're a trainee, though there’s technically “nothing stopping you from trying anything,” one of the potential pitfalls of the non-rotational system is that “you can end up doing too much of one kind of work and not enough of others.” Checklists keep newbies on the straight and narrow: they are required to do 350 hours in three different departments. It's up to trainees to manage their workload to complete this requirement. Most trainees we spoke to had worked with one to four groups so far.
Banking, finance and securities is a newly formed supergroup that holds the firm's banking and finance, securities, corporate, leveraged finance and restructuring practices. Leveraged finance work has become more of a thing at the firm recently after the hire of two lateral partners. Trainees said the creation of this supergroup offered great opportunity for qualifiers: “If you quality into it, you’re expected to work across practices, so you don’t have to specialise.”
“We call it the quarterback role – it must be the American influence!”
Banking and finance works on both the lender and borrower side of a variety of financings, refinancings and restructurings. The team works on “real estate portfolios, amendments and restatements of facilities, and financing for real estate acquisitions.” It recently represented Blackstone on a £165 million loan to Seaforth Land to buy and refurbish the One Kemble Street office building off Kingsway in central London. Trainees reported a high turnover of work here, meaning the department is “quite stressful in general.” Trainee tasks tend to be of the “process management kind – they’re a bit laborious.” That means “you’re pushing papers and putting in things like square brackets,” as well as keeping precedent lists and keeping up to date with checklists. Trainees did enjoy “shepherding and advising local clients on processes – it’s like air traffic control! You genuinely do learn an incredible amount from that.”
Corporate works mainly on M&A, IPOs and “a lot of fund-side equity and debt raises for private equity.” Trainees found working with this subgroup “good experience because the work funnels between corporate and finance.” The group recently advised Californian investment bank Houlihan Lokey on its role in gambling firm GVC Holdings’ £3.9 billion tie-up with Ladbrokes Coral. London lawyers also worked with colleagues across the Jones Day network – from France to Germany to Brazil – on CVC Capital Partners' $703 million acquisition of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' women's health assets. Trainees typically work on project management here too. “For example, we handle post-exchange completion, acting as a go-between,” one told us. “We call it the quarterback role – it must be the American influence!” There's also the possibility trainees might get to “draft key transaction documents like share purchase agreements, disclosure letters, and tax deeds.”
12 Angry Bankers
The restructuring practice handles both transactional and litigious work. The transactional side covers “refinancing or putting companies into administration or liquidation,” while the disputes side “investigates things that have gone wrong.” Perhaps somewhat perversely, newbies said they really enjoyed working on insolvencies – “it’s got the corporate elements that I enjoy, but also everything’s burning down so you get to swoop in and help.” The team recently advised British Land in its capacity as landlord to various struggling high-street retailers who've proposed to compromise their rental liabilities including House of Fraser, Mothercare, Homebase, New Look and Toys R Us. It also represented the joint liquidators of BHS’s £1.2 billion liquidation. The nature of the work means deadlines can be tight: “We were instructed on a Sunday and told the deal was going to be done in two weeks’ time. The hours for that weren’t pretty!” The team works with other groups all across the firm, meaning that trainees can often be found “running around the office picking up bits and bobs between departments.” Trainees also typically work on board minutes, manage trackers and communicate with the other side.
The firm's disputes practice has a penchant for civil fraud, white-collar crime, investigations and investor-state arbitrations. The latter left trainees in awe: “The breadth of what we were covering was huge – there are often multiple proceedings in multiple jurisdictions and the sheer scale tends to be bigger than that of the average litigation case.” The team recently represented a group of 12 Kazakh investment bankers in an international arbitration against the Republic of Uzbekistan about investments in the Uzbek cement industry. There’s also “more run-of-the-mill commercial stuff,” such as insolvency, securities and contract disputes. Clients include “everyone from large companies to high net worth individuals.” The team recently defended Mastercard in a case brought by multiple retailers in connection with the legality of Mastercard fees paid by retailers for card transactions. Trainee tasks include “quite a lot of case management, a huge amount of bundling and getting chronologies sorted.” Less administrative tasks on offer are writing witness statements, preparing slides, research and client contact. “Once you're embedded on a matter, you’re encouraged to pick up client contact and become totally involved,” interviewees said. Trainees found that the non-rotational contract was a benefit in litigation where “because you can stay more than six months, you can build good relations with clients and see a matter through from start to finish.”
Lift me up
Client secondments to banks, financial institutions, real estate firms and regulators are common. But despite the firm having offices in 18 countries, overseas seats aren’t so hot. This is due to the non-rotational training contract – “because you can be staffed on a two-year case, you might have a trial coming up making it hard to factor in that you might go away for six months.” One or two trainees from each intake usually spend six months in the Dubai office.
Trainees reported that “there's a greater drive than in past years to push pro bono.” Rookies can approach pro bono partner Liz Robertson with ideas for charities or projects they want to offer legal support. Interviewees said they spent between two and 20 hours a month on pro bono. Most trainees get involved with the Waterloo Legal Advice Clinic. “It’s a really good experience and a lovely way to give something back,” one source felt. Other pro bono opportunities include offering employment advice to cancer patients through a charity and working with Amicus on helping people sentenced to death in the US – “it baffles me how American law works. It’s so far removed from our judicial system.”
“It’s hectic and hard.”
So trainees can get all kinds of opportunities at Jones Day. The trade-off is some long hours. We heard that clocking up eight or nine billable hours a day is the average (hours spent at the office will be longer than 'billable' hours), while working on multiple projects finishing at once can leave trainees “billing 14 or more hours a day – it’s hectic and hard.” One trainee allegedly got one hour’s sleep a night for an entire week. If we were doctors, we might tell you that's not medically possible. Joking aside, interviewees assured us that “there's a gratitude for working late – that’s what gets me through the nights. Also, I’m part of a team and I need to be here.” A “soft” hours target (it was 1,800 for some of our interviewees) had our interviewees confused: “It’s a soft target, but people do look at your hours and they’re mentioned in appraisals, which suggests they're given more weight than we think.”
Thinking about the support they received more generally, some trainees felt “that’s the biggest failing of the non-rotational system – there’s no one person there to look after you. It’s up to you to forge relationships with people.” Trainees are given a formal mentor who sits down with their mentee every three months for a formal chat, but one source opined: “I don’t feel they’re as informal as they should be.” Interviewees rated their peer group “the biggest support system” they have. Trainees all do the LPC together and so “know each other quite well – we come out the other side a strong cohort.” It helps to be close with your trainee peers at Jones Day. Grad recruitment partner Emily Stew recommends: “If you’re offered work by a team but think you’re not the right person to do it, you offer it to a more suitable colleague.”
The trainee group is put into pairs to share an office, “which keeps you socially stimulated.” Our interviewees also loved the London office as a whole, because it's “small enough to pretty much know everyone in the building – at least to speak to in the lift.” The non-rotational contract fosters “an open rapport with partners and senior associates” – after all they need to keep trainees happy if they want them to work on their matters. Overall, trainees found “there’s a lot of energy and a real buzz – people are always saying hello to each other in the corridors.”
A final word on a sensitive topic: you may have seen that in the US Jones Day is being sued by former associates for gender and pregnancy discrimination. We asked trainees if this had affected them in London and how they felt about the topic. “It doesn’t seem it’s like that at all here,” one said. “I know a lot of women have been made partner and I feel encouraged by that.” Overall, trainees felt that diversity is “something we can work on – but the firm is slowly and surely improving.” Initiatives include three diversity groups for women, BAME lawyers and LGBTQ+ groups respectively, where people meet and discuss issues such implicit bias and retention. And speaking of retention: after a fairly informal NQ process with no interviews, the firm retained 15 of 19 qualifiers in 2019.
Jones Day is one of those American-founded outfits which hates being referred to as a 'US firm'. So don't. 'Global firm' is the preferred tag.
How to get a Jones Day training contract
Apply for 2022 training contracts via the firm's 2019/20 vacation schemes
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 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 1,800 applications in total for its four placement schemes in 2018/19.
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.
21 Tudor Street,
- Partners approx 60
- Associates approx 100
- Total trainees approx 40
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 42
- Rose Taylor, Graduate Recruitment Manager
- Emily Stew, Recruitment Partner
- Adam Brown, Training Partner
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 15-20
- Applications pa: 1,800
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Vacation scheme places pa: 70
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 September 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 10 January 2020
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 September 2019
- Vacation scheme, 2019 deadline: 10 January 2020
- Salary and benefits (2018)
- First-year salary: £52,000
- Second-year salary: £59,000
- Post-qualification salary: £105,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- 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
- Overseas secondments: Dubai
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.
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.
In our rare and distinctive, non-rotational system of training, you will seek and receive work across all departments at the same time, to provide flexibility, responsibility, faster development of potential and the opportunity to compare and contrast different disciplines alongside one another. Your work will vary from small cases which you may handle alone (under the supervision of a senior lawyer) to larger matters where you will assist a partner or an associate solicitor. The firm runs a structured seminar programme to support the practical teaching you receive from associates and partners with whom you work.
We have 70 places for two-week placements in the winter, spring and summer vacations. We pay an allowance of £500 per week. Apply for a placement if you want to train at Jones Day. We expect to recruit nearly all our trainees from our placement candidates. You will see how the firm’s nonrotational 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 cannot guarantee availability, so apply early.
Final deadlines are 25th October 2019 (winter scheme); 13th December 2019 (spring scheme); 10th January 2020 (summer scheme and training contracts).
Free gym, subsidised cafe, private healthcare, season ticket loan, group life cover, salary sacrifice schemes and personal pension.
Opportunities to meet us
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
- Competition Law (Band 6)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 5)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 4)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration Recognised Practitioner
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 4)