Put simply, Latham & Watkins is a "truly international" corporate powerhouse.
Latham & Watkins training contract review 2022
To get an idea of Latham’s standing in the legal market, you need only look at its finances. This year, the firm pulled in a cool $4.33 billion, representing a 15% hike on the previous year, and making the firm the second highest grossing in the world. Further proof of its prestige can be found in the firm’s Chambers UK rankings, which hold its banking, capital markets and private equity teams in the highest regard. Latham's rankings from Chambers Global are even more impressive, where it earns consistently high rankings across a range of jurisdictions in all the key corporate disciplines – go to Chambers.com for the full list. Our insiders were also keen to highlight that “though the corporate and banking teams are our biggest and most well-known departments, we aren’t just a finance firm.” They pointed out that “other groups such as environment and DTT [data technology transactions] are also very strong and have had a lot of trainees qualifying there recently.”
“The London office has its own work streams that are completely independent of the US – there’s no sense of hierarchy among the offices.”
The firm’s global reach was a key pull for our interviewees, one of whom was keen to clarify that “the firm is truly international and doesn’t feel like a US or UK firm.” To exemplify the point one insider told us: “I’ve done more work in Europe, Africa, and South America than I have in the US.” They reiterated that “the London office has its own work streams that are completely independent of the US – there’s no sense of hierarchy among the offices.” However, the firm's roots can be traced back to California, and a few of our more honest interviewees admitted that the distinctly US salary on offer was a key attraction. This year, the firm even raised the salary for its incoming trainees to £50,000, positioning itself among the very highest-paying firms in the city. Sources were also keen to make clear the pedigree of lawyer at the firm. “People are just so good at what they do here,” one trainee remarked, adding that “it’s a privilege to work under them, especially when they take the time to train you.”
Trainees submit three preferences every rotation, which the graduate recruitment team will consult to allocate seats. All trainees must complete a seat in both finance and corporate; secondments are also exclusively available to second-year trainees. Most of our interviewees had no issue securing preferences; however, one felt that “there isn’t too much transparency around why decisions are made,” adding that “many are allocated seats on the basis of the firm’s business needs.”
Our insiders also advised that for those who are interested in secondments, “make that known to graduate recruitment in advance so they have it flagged in their mind.” We were also told that secondments are very much dependent on business need and subject to change at every rotation. Past spots have included Singapore, Hong Kong and New York. There’s also a client secondment to the investment firm Carlyle available.
Latham’s disputes team covers commercial litigation, international arbitration, white-collar, antitrust, financial regulation and competition. Recently, the team represented the insolvency administrator of a German airline, Air Berlin, in a dispute regarding a €2 billion action for damages against its former parent company, Etihad Airways.It also defended defended Ukraine in an arbitration brought by three Cypriot companies under the Energy Charter Treaty. One source explained that “as a trainee you are given two supervisors, typically one in litigation and one in arbitration. You do get capacity requests from other groups but most of your work comes from those two areas.” One source added that “my supervisor has been accommodating of my preferences and what I want to be exposed to.” Our interviewees had done everything from “discussing strategy with barristers” and preparing for hearings to “reviewing case law to help produce lines of argument.”
“Banking is the crown jewel of the London office, and diamonds are made under pressure.”
“Banking is the crown jewel of the London office,” one trainee declared, dramatically adding: “and diamonds are made under pressure.” Trainees are certainly under pressure as there’s no shortage of mega deals with high-profile clients. All the giants of the finance world are on the firm’s books, including J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the last of which the firm recently advised on the terms of a loan in connection with Thoma Bravo’s $3.9 billion takeover of Sophos. Trainees explained: “There is a lot of crossover work with teams such as project finance and M&A.” This is a team with a steep learning curve, but trainees emphasised that “by the end of the seat you are able to manage CP checklists, provide comments on documents and do a lot of the case management.”
Another of the firm’s jewels is ECM, or equity capital markets. Consistent with the Latham style, deals here are often high-profile and cross-border. For example, recently the team represented advised a syndicate banks on the £1.3 billion refinancing of Aston Martin. It also advised the Issa brothers, founders and co-CEOs of EG Group, and private equity firm TDR Capital on the financing for the acquisition of Asda. As well as racking up experience conducting due diligence, trainees were also able to engage in some advisory work too. As one source told us: “Many public companies have a number of ongoing obligations, so I spent a lot of time conducting research on those.” Trainees also helped prepare prospectuses, “some of which can be 1,000 pages long!”
“On one transaction, I was liaising with over 20 foreign counsel…”
Latham’s corporate department deals with private equity and M&A transactions. Retail, oil and gas, healthcare and start-up companies are the firm’s primary clients, with pharmaceuticals becoming a growing specialism. 888 Holdings, GlaxoSmithKline and Credit Suisse are all clients of the firm. The team also advised NVIDIA on its $40 billion acquisition of Arm, a UK-based semiconductor and software design company. “The main transaction I worked on was more project management than legal analysis,” one source told us. Another added: “On one transaction, I was liaising with over 20 foreign counsel, which included answering any technical questions people had.” We were also told that all trainees are put on an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) rota which they review with associates. “Most people won’t find that exciting but it provides good exposure to drafting and you are able to lead on the communication with clients,” one trainee summarised.
DTT (data technology transactions) is an advisory seat focused on providing support on corporate transactions such as by conducting due diligence on issues of data protection. Trainees also emphasised that “the team generates a lot of independent work too,” with opportunities for trainees to engage with life sciences, commercial, IP and IT related work, “the common theme being technology.” Facebook is one of Latham's notable clients which the firm has advised on its involvement in Libra, its flagship digital currency initiative. The firm has also represented Japanese pharmaceutical giant Daiichi Sankyo on its collaboration with AstraZeneca to facilitate the development and commercialisation of Daiichi Sankyo’s lead product for cancer treatment.
“There is an endless stream of interesting and meaningful pro bono opportunities."
Qualification kicks off two months into trainees’ final seat. Although some trainees felt the process could be more transparent, the results from our survey show that trainees overwhelmingly expected to stay with the firm. “There aren’t any interviews,” trainees explained. “We just put down a template of the teams we are interested in qualifying into – you can put down as many preferences as you want.” They added that “we are also encouraged to reach out to partners directly, so they take an interest in us and pay more attention to the work we are currently doing.” This year the firm kept on all of its qualifiers.
When trainees need a break from banks, corporations and the business world “there is an endless stream of interesting and meaningful pro bono opportunities." We were told that the firm recommends its associates complete at least 20 hours of pro bono each year, after which they will be rewarded with something called a ‘guardians of justice badge’. Many trainees we spoke to had billed way in excess of that, with some reporting having racked up in excess of 200 hours without pushback.
Cutting straight to the chase, our insiders admitted that “the hours can be crap.” One source told us that “there haven't been many times I've logged off before 10pm recently,” while one trainee in the firm’s banking department highlighted periods were the hours felt “extreme.” However, this wasn’t much of a surprise to our interviewees who pointed out that “you know what you sign up for at a prestigious firm like Latham,” and argued that “we work similar hours to other firms but are way better compensated.” True enough, trainees can expect to earn just under £150,000 upon qualification, far in excess of what their peers at any of the magic circle firms will be taking home. The highest number of hours we heard of a trainee working in a single week was 70 hours, which by any account is a lot. However, the median number of hours worked in a week in our survey was a much more modest 50 hours, and the lowest was 38 hours, confirming that there are breaks in the storm. One trainee added that “while there are lots of days where you work very late, there are gaps when you send stuff out or are waiting for things to be reviewed when you have a nap or go to the gym.”
“In our trainee intake of around 25 people, we have around five with international visas."
While trainees reflected that “there are a lot of type-A personalities” and accepted that “you’re not going to have too many relaxed days,” they also maintained that “people do make time for trainees.” One source gave an example: “In banking we had catch-ups with department heads, and we had junior mentors who scheduled regular check-ins.” However, they did point out that “there’s a clear understanding on the trainee side that you have to wait for the right moment to approach people as most are very busy.” Some felt that it often felt like “a sink or swim environment,” arguing that “while the exposure and responsibility you get is amazing, if you are new to a seat, or don’t understand the background of the deal or people’s preferences, it can be intense.” We heard that Latham rewards trainees who are proactive, have good initiative, and, of course, are very bright. One trainee advised to “communicate to everyone you’re working with how much you've taken on; the people most prone to getting overwhelmed are those on multiple work streams.”
Latham’s international model makes for a diverse working environment. “In our trainee intake of around 25 people, we have around five with international visas,” one trainee estimated. However, our insiders were also clear that there was room for improvement, highlighting that "some groups are noticeably less diverse than others." Trainees were impressed by the firm’s efforts to recruit diverse candidates and provide inclusivity training. One source also praised the high variety of mentoring programmes and affinity groups to join.
Social activities may have been kept to a minimum, courtesy of the pandemic, but trainees can expect some boujee socials such as banking and corporate’s annual ski trip in the near future.
How to get a Latham & Watkins training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 31 October 2021 (winter), 2 January 2022 (summer)
Training contract deadline (2024): 10 July 2022
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 a two-week scheme in 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 (one for Winter). 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 its 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.
Interview with Sarah Gadd, partner at Latham & Watkins.
Chambers Student: Can you tell me more about what it means to be an ‘international’ firm?
Sarah Gadd: Our status as an international firm is important. Our London office is the second largest in our global network with more than 500 lawyers advising, across practices and industries, on some of the market’s most significant transactions, disputes, and regulatory matters. Though our origins may be in the US, our culture, structure, and the work we do is truly global. For example, our Executive Committee is made up of representatives from across the global network, including London.
CS: What would you identify as some of the main differences between working at Latham compared to a magic circle firm?
SG: We work on all the same types of transactions and disputes matters as the magic circle. For example, if we are acting for a company on an IPO, a magic circle firm will be often be acting for the underwriter and vice versa. In that sense, you get the same opportunities to work on great deals. Our culture is also non-hierarchal. We are run by committees rather than king-pin partners and we value all of our lawyers as individuals. With our structure of small, collaborative teams, you are also able to benefit from exposure to complex work at a much earlier stage in your career.
CS: The firm has had another very successful financial year. Which practice areas are generating the most growth and how sustainable do you see this?
SG: Our London office has been busy across the board. The key industries and sectors that have been driving the global economy such as tech, energy & infrastructure, life sciences, and financial services have been reflected at Latham. We have great teams working in these areas. We’ve worked with a lot of cutting-edge emerging companies in the tech sector; on many big-ticket IPOs including Wise, Deliveroo, and Darktrace; a number of COVID-related capital financings for Aston Martin, Wetherspoons, and Taylor Wimpey; on high-profile restructurings for the likes of New Look, PizzaExpress, and FatFace; on significant sports deals, such as Man Utd’s shirt sponsorship deal and McLaren’s refinancing and equity investment; and with various household names on landmark M&A transactions, including 888, Farrow & Ball, and Bloom & Wild.
We’ve made major investments in our capabilities in recent years and have a broad and balanced platform, including a number of counter-cyclical practices.
There’s no doubt we’ve made significant strides over the past few years, have grown market share, continued to hire top talent, and significantly expanded our client base. We are excited by the opportunities we’re now seeing.
CS: With the shift to remote working, many trainees and associates have recorded working much longer hours. How is the firm supporting the mental health of its trainees and associates in this new reality?
SG: The health and well-being of our people is among Latham’s highest priorities. For over a decade, our global well-being platform, LiveWell Latham, has been supporting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our lawyers and staff. From a mental health standpoint, we encourage colleagues to take advantage of access to a 24/7 counseling and coaching program, our customized stress management and resilience training program, and free subscriptions to Headspace, among many other resources. During the pandemic, the firm really doubled down on support with virtual programming that spoke to the moment, including topical expert webinars, an original podcast series co-hosted by a psychologist, and online group fitness classes. Additionally, we have been training our managers and supervisors in mental health literacy, so they can communicate with empathy, bring firm resources to bear for anyone who may be struggling, and normalize the conversation around mental health.
With the shift to remote working, the firm has also looked very closely at the type and timing of the work we take on and are careful in how we staff new matters. For example, based on feedback from trainees, we introduced a ‘switch off’ policy whereby from 6pm onwards, everyone’s Outlook status becomes amber. Working across different time zones means people might notice your status is green and think you are available for a call at all times. However, we wanted to discourage the idea that working late meant you were available to take on more work. This has had a hugely positive impact.
CS:What is the future of the firm’s WFH policy?
SG: There isn’t a top-down policy. We’ve never taken attendance and will never do so.
Latham & Watkins
- Partners 117
- Associates 351
- Total trainees 48
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices Austin, 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, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 24
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 40
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 10 July 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 27 September 2021
- Vacation scheme 2021/2022 deadline: 31 October 2021 (Winter), 2 January 2022 (Summer)
- Open day deadline: See website for more details
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £50,000
- Second-year salary: £55,000
- See website for more details.
- 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 3,000 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 two 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 2021
• First and second year students: February 2022
University law careers fairs 2021
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, 2021
- 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 2)
- Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 3)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
- Competition Law (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Public International Law (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 4)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 3)
- Infrastructure (Band 1)
- 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 1)
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