Globally minded trainees met their perfect match in Latham’s “absolutely seamless" international network, with a Cali twist.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1934, this superstar law firm was born against a backdrop of dazzling lights, cameras and action. Latham started life as a tax and labour outfit, with namesake Dana Latham going on to be the US Commissioner of Internal Revenue under President Eisenhower. Nowadays, Latham & Watkins is a very different beast – one of the world’s largest international firms with a varied practice, it claims to have no one headquarters. Firm leadership is indeed spread across the world (though all the administration's Chief Officers are based in Los Angeles, New York or London). “We have very much a ‘one firm’ approach,” trainees agreed. “The global network is absolutely seamless; it’s so easy to get in contact with people if you’ve got a query on a specific point and you can have a great relationship with lawyers around the world.”
It seems Latham has exported some Cali cool worldwide: “Latham London life actually has quite a Californian, relaxed style,” we heard. That means flexible working is commonplace and senior lawyers “don’t care what you sound or dress like. We all dress to our day.” Trainers and the occasional activewear is A-OK, “as long as you’re not wearing pyjamas!” Our sources clarified that there’s “no hint of London being a satellite office,” and in fact it’s been “growing significantly and consistently for the last decade.” Most recently, two lateral partner recruits to restructuring in 2018 helped the group become “extremely busy,” and it’s doubled in total headcount in the years since. Growth has affected the training contract too: “Two years ago restructuring had one trainee per seat, but now they take three or four.”
“Latham London life actually has quite a Californian, relaxed style.”
It’s no wonder then that the department gains excellent rankings nationwide in Chambers UK, as do 20 or so other groups including banking and finance, high-yield capital markets, environment, and public international law. Chambers Global ranks Latham among the best firms in the world for equity capital markets, banking and finance, climate change, projects, and corporate/M&A work, along with a whole host of practices – head to chambers.com for the massive full list of Latham’s rankings around the world.
Trainees submit three preferences ahead of each seat rotation. “We all usually get at least one of them, but it’s sometimes just down to luck,” insiders suggested. International secondments are also available, usually for second years only: trainees apply with a supporting statement, but be warned, “some people applied every time for all the secondments and didn’t get any. It can be heartbreaking.” The most popular secondments are to Singapore and Hong Kong, “and occasionally you’ll get a seat in Dubai or Moscow,” but it’s important to note that “it’s rare for there to be a US secondment, which I wish I had known sooner!” There’s also a client secondment to the investment firm Carlyle available. Secondees described their trip overseas as a “really unique experience. The firm looks after you so it’s a smooth and easy process.”
Latham’s corporate department deals with private equity and M&A, though there are “smaller specialised teams within it for public and equity capital markets deals.” Trainees usually act as generalists, as the firm “encourages you to keep your practice broader to build up knowledge.” Retail, oil and gas, healthcare and startup companies are the firm’s primary clients, with pharmaceuticals becoming a growing specialism. “Deals tend to be huge, with big client names. Some are more glamorous than others though – sometimes it’ll just be some ginormous packaging company you’ve never heard of,” a source shared. Latham’s private equity involvement is usually on the buy side, which means “working on a lot of auction processes for large businesses.” When the team does sell-side work, it’s usually for “major private equity houses that have a portfolio company they’re trying to sell. That can be interesting because the timelines are much quicker.” The group recently represented PE house BC Partners on the €3.25 billion sale of French digital animal identification and monitoring company Antelliq. Wild stuff.
“…more than happy for you to take on tasks that would usually be assigned to an NQ.”
Within corporate, equity capital markets spans IPOs, financings and an increasing number of placings. The team usually works for the bank involved in the transaction, though a growing section of the team acts company-side. As ECM only takes one trainee at a time, “it’s naturally a really busy seat as a lot of the higher-level work flows down to you.” Latham recently advised the underwriters on the $25.6 billion IPO of Saudi Arabia’s oil company Saudi Aramco – the biggest IPO of all time. Trainee tasks in this seat largely follow the general corporate template, though we heard that due diligence is more prevalent in private equity. Those cutting their teeth on M&A may get a crack at the initial draft of a sale or purchase agreement if they’re lucky, “which is a good stepping stone towards drafting bigger, meatier documents.” Trainees will inevitably run “transaction management, communicating with clients and local counsel, reviewing authorisations and compiling signature pages.” We heard that corporate supervisors are “more than happy for you to take on tasks that would usually be assigned to an NQ once you’ve proven yourself a little bit.”
Following its lateral boost, restructuring is a growing concern at Latham’s London base. Part of the expansion involved introducing a ‘Tactical Opportunities Team’ – “it makes you feel like a spy, but they’re actually accountants and market specialists. They do analysis to augment the team’s practice and identify potential clients.”Latham’s niche is “enormously complicated restructurings, often with dozens of lenders,”and cross-border issues are the norm so there are “complex regulatory and political issues to navigate as well.” The team recently acted for a committee of lenders to Poundland and Bensons for Beds parent company Steinhoff in an €8.8 billion cross-border restructuring. Trainees found working on administrations “exhilarating – there are hard deadlines and thousands of jobs are at risk,”and described their tasks as “like corporate transactional work, but with a twist.” The twist is that administrative processes mean “you get to boss corporate around for once. You keep a lot of plates spinning.”Careful spinners conducted due diligence while chasing responses and creating step plans “acting as an idiot’s guide to buying a company, with complicated diagrams of who owns what.” Interviewees found this “a good way to get to grips with the whole process from start to finish, even if you don’t sit in restructuring for the whole deal.” There can be a contentious element to the group when a party isn’t paid in full, after which trainees will contact local counsel and conduct research and analysis.
“You get to boss corporate around for once.”
The disputes team covers commercial litigation, international arbitration, and antitrust and competition. Commercial disputes and arbitration have a lot of crossover, with trainees dipping into work from both, but “competition is very sectioned off – they do their own thing as the work is quite different.” Latham’s international arbitration practice includes investment treaty, public law and commercial arbitrations, but trainees mostly see the last of those. Energy and construction clients are the most common to appear: the team represented Austrian construction company Strabag in the first ICSID Convention arbitration brought against Libya, involving questions of international treaty law and foreign investment during a civil war. The commercial litigation practice tilts more strongly towards banking, including shareholder and warranty disputes involving banks, private equity houses, large corporates “and even individuals.”Trainees in both subgroups write letters, complete legal research and analysis, and draft memos. During their chances to go to court, which are “reasonably often,” they manage “a fair amount of admin tasks like preparing bundles and getting ready for hearings.”
A distinct competitiongroup busies itself with merger control regulation and antitrust litigation, recently advising fintech firm iZettle on the merger control aspects of its acquisition by PayPal. “If a company has revenue coming from anywhere at all, even if that company doesn’t have a presence there, you have to do jurisdictional analysis to see where regulations might be triggered,”insiders explained. This analysis is a large part of trainees’ workloads, as is writing letters to regulators and submitting forms to the European Commission.
As with many US firms, Latham opts only for “limited training at the start of each seat,” rather than an intense regime, as the firm prefers trainees “to think on their feet and learn quickly on the job.” This means that to stand a chance of getting in the door, candidates “need to be doers. You’ve got to be comfortable figuring things out for yourself.” Though this approach to work “can be stressful,” rest assured there’s “a good balance between being actively supervised and being independent,”sources said. An associate committee acts as “a great point of contact for reaching out to management. It makes for firm-wide openness on that front.”
Before they arrive, future trainees get a current trainee buddy, who “takes you for lunch and answers any questions you have before joining. It gives you grounding and means you’re less nervous when you arrive.” Once through the door, trainees in turn have a junior associate mentor, and some departments like corporate also provide senior mentors. Mentors get a monthly budget to “go to lunch, dinner, sports games, the theatre, or even get their nails done with the trainee. It helps you feel included at Latham.” The inclusion keeps on coming thanks to a social committee which organises events including karaoke, drinks, ping-pong and shuffleboard tournaments. Some teams host their own socials too, such as banking and corporate’s annual ski trips – “it’s a great way to get to know people outside of work while hitting the snow.” During the 2020 lockdown these socials turned virtual with weekly Zoom drinks seshes: “People make lasting friendships here. I have a load of colleagues that I’d consider friends first and foremost.”As for inclusion and diversity, interviewees reckoned it’s “a big focus” at Latham & Watkins: “One of the benefits of it being a huge firm is the massive diversity support network,”one noted. “We have countless different affinity groups and they host all sorts of events.”
“Enjoying the job means I don’t really mind staying in late.”
Several sources were “really encouraged to do pro bono” – we heard of volunteering at legal advice clinics, including a benefit appeals clinic in Bethnal Green. Work also spans large-scale research reports to the UN on human rights issues. Insiders found pro bono “a great way to step up and get client contact or drafting experience. The firm likes to keep us busy, so pro bono counts towards your billing target once you’re qualified.” Trainees don’t have billing targets, but qualifiers go through a transition period to hitting 1,900-equivalent once qualified. Most interviewees found themselves out the door by 8pm each day, “and once or twice a week you’ll stay until 10 or 11pm.” Of course, there are “certainly times when it’s busier than that – in corporate I’ve done some 16-hour day periods.” Though this “can be tiring,” trainees felt Deliveroo dinners, taxis and “enjoying the job means I don’t really mind staying in late.”
Qualification itself was universally seen as “painless. HR circulates a list and you tell them where you want to qualify.” The process has changed ever so slightly in 2020 – trainees can now submit more than two qualification preferences and have the option to not rank them if they don't want to. The process usually goes down “without too much reshuffling”and Latham has a strong retention record, averaging nearly 90% in the last nine years. Four of 2019’s intake qualified abroad (three into the US and one into Dubai). Anyone looking to so needs to “make your own opportunities and reach out to HR to let them know it’s on your mind.”Those who go are “fully supported,” and get the opportunity to “learn the nuances between each country’s laws.” One of our sources gushed: “I don’t know why I’d leave Latham any time soon, I’m having a great time.” For those that don’t see themselves as a future partner, “Latham is a great place to build a good network then go in-house eventually.” In 2020, 23 of 24 qualifiers stayed on. Out of those who stayed, one went to Latham's Dubai office, another went to the Paris base and one ended up in the US.
Elementary, my dear Watkins!
Latham pays one of the highest NQ salaries in the UK – interviewees were unsurprisingly “very satisfied with the firm’s compensation system.”
How to get a Latham & Watkins training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): January 2021 (spring and summer)
Training contract deadline (2023): July 2021
Applications, interviews and assessments
Bagging a training contract at Latham requires a minimum 2:1 degree and at least AAB at A level. All candidates – whether they're applying for a vacation scheme or directly for a training contract – complete an online application form that asks about work and academic history, as well as their motivation for wanting to join the firm. “We're looking for well-structured, concise answers on the application form – answers that show a clear understanding of – and drive for – Latham's training contract,” a member of the graduate recruitment team told us. The firm also prefers applicants with some relevant work experience, whether legal or commercial.
The firm does not recruit on a rolling basis and will be in touch with all applicants once deadlines have passed.
Applicants whose online applications stand out are invited to complete a video interview, consisting of around five questions. Those who are successful at this second stage are invited to an assessment centre, which is the last stage of the process and includes an interview. The interview focuses on an applicant's academic history, work experience, why they want to work for Latham, and their motivations for looking to work in the city as a commercial lawyer.
Latham strongly encourages trainee hopefuls to apply to its vacation scheme; on average approximately 70% of its trainees have completed a vacation scheme with the firm. The firm runs a one week scheme in December as well as its two-week schemes in spring and summer, and accepting around 20 successful candidates onto each. The schemes are open to law and non-law graduates and undergraduates.
Candidates who bag secure a place on one of the vacation schemes spend time in two practice areas. The firm does its best to accommodate preferences for each of these stints. Scheme attendees sit in an office with their supervisor: “It's just like a miniature version of the training contract itself in this regard,” a trainee reflected. In addition to helping their supervisor with their day to day work, attendees will be given a research task tied to each practice area they sample. They're also asked to complete a group exercise during their time on their scheme. Throughout, “your supervisors will help ensure you get a good insight into Life at Latham, and you’re encouraged to be proactive and reach out to people to learn as much as you can about the firm and it’s work, as well as trainee life” explained a member of the graduate recruitment team. “The firm is interested in seeing how you can work alongside others and have the potential to contribute to the firm in the future.” The vacation schemes also give attendees a chance to attend practice area talks and social and networking events.
Towards the end of each of the schemes, attendees are invited to an interview for the training contract. Feedback from the interview – as well as from assigned work and general performance during the vacation schemes – is taken into account when training contract decisions are made.
Latham & Watkins
- Partners 117
- Associates 351
- Total trainees 48
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, Dubai, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Riyadh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington, D.C.
- Graduate recruiter: Zoe Washington, [email protected]
- Training partner: Deborah Kirk
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 24
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 60
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: July 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: Late September 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: January 2021
- Open day deadline: See website for more details
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £46,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa:£8,000 per course
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Singapore, Hong Kong
- Overseas seats: Decided on business need, previous seats have included Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, LA, Boston, New York, Madrid, Brussels, Paris etc.
- Client secondments: Yes, based on business needs
Latham & Watkins has more than 2,700 fee earners in offices across Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia. Our non-hierarchical, collegiate management style and ambitious and entrepreneurial culture makes Latham & Watkins a unique place to work. Over 70% of the firm’s transactions involve five or more offices and the collaborative atmosphere is strengthened by the firm’s diversity. Described as one of the “Top 10 Most Innovative Law Firms in Europe” by the Financial Times’ 2019 report of the most innovative law firms, our award-winning London office is home to over 400 lawyers and recognised for its work advising some of the world’s leading corporates, financial institutions and private equity firms on market-shaping transactions, disputes, and regulatory matters.
Main areas of work
Our leading finance practice has earned an exceptional reputation in the market, regularly advising on all types of leveraged, acquisition and project finance work. We have market-leading experience in M&A, debt and equity financing, high yield, restructurings, recapitalisations, divestitures, data privacy and cyber security, and outsourcing. We also offer comprehensive tax and environmental advice for complex multi-jurisdictional transactions and disputes.
With more than 600 litigators located in 19 major business centers globally, we are one of the few firms capable of providing clients with immediate, high-quality legal expertise anywhere in the world, whether our clients’ needs are local or international.
Over the last 10 years, our lawyers provided approximately 3.7 million pro bono hours globally in free legal services to underserved individuals and families and the nonprofit sector valued at approximately US$1.8 billion.
Latham offers a training contract with real responsibility on global matters combined with supervision from the best lawyers in their field. In addition to a sophisticated training programme, trainees also benefit from a core three week trainee foundation designed to bridge the gap between law schools and practice. There is also training in each seat. After induction trainees complete four, six month seats. Two of these will be in corporate and finance. Trainees have the opportunity to apply for a secondment on either their third or fourth seat. The firm has an average retention rate of 96%.
We run three vacation schemes over the academic year. Our vacation schemes are an exciting opportunity not only for us to get to know you, but also for you to get to know us. During the course of one or two weeks, you will sit in two practice areas. You can expect to be involved in client calls, court visits, Q&As and training, as well as group work and social events. You will also have the opportunity to interview for our training contract.
Open days and first-year opportunities
We have designed our open days to give you an insight into life at a commercial law firm and the culture at Latham. Visit lwcareers.com for more details on opportunities and application deadlines.
• Penultimate year law students, all final year students and graduates: November/December 2020
• First and second year students: February/March 2021
University law careers fairs 2020
We visit campuses across the UK. Look out for us at law fairs, virtual events, in your careers services and working with your law societies. This year we are visiting: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, King’s, Leeds, LSE, Nottingham, Oxford, Queen Mary, UCL, Warwick, York, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Queen’s Belfast, Cardiff, Trinity College Dublin.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 1)
- Banking Litigation (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Equity (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 4)
- Competition Law (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 5)
- Public International Law (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 3)
- Infrastructure (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 4)
- Media & Entertainment: Film & Television (Band 3)
- Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 1)
- Projects (Band 2)
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