Linklaters remains an icon of London’s international legal market, exposing trainees to some of the biggest deals in the world.
A Tale of 30 Cities
Queen Victoria spoke German, French, Italian, Latin, and some Urdu. Her grandchildren were spread among the royalty of Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and elsewhere. It seems apt that Linklaters came into existence the same year that Queen Vic was crowned – at the brink of an explosion in globalisation. The firm first capitalised on the booms and crashes that occurred after the post-Napoleonic depression, and has since built its own empire of 30 offices across 20 countries and earned its place among law firm royalty – the magic circle.
“Reputation, reputation, reputation!” Every interviewee we spoke to was drawn to Linklaters like moths to a flame. This behemoth stands among the most formidable firms in the world, especially for transactional work. Linklaters is ranked in the top band worldwide in Chambers Global for banking & finance, capital markets (both debt and equity), corporate/M&A, employee benefits, projects & energy and tax. Within our rainy shores, Links gets ranked in Chambers UK for, well we don’t have the wordcount to spare, but key strengths are corporate, finance, transport and infrastructure, litigation, tech/IP/life sciences, and projects, energy & natural resources.
A Corporate Carol
Before their first seat, trainees go through a “well-structured” process where the firm brings them in to hear the practice groups talk about their work. “It’s good for getting us thinking about what we’re interested in.” Though we heard it can still be “a bit pot luck” where you’re placed as a first-seater. Midway through their first seat, trainees give their preferences for both their second and third seat. Newbies find this “useful – at that stage you know what else you would like to do. We can have a conversation with training development about where we want to go in our careers.” Interviewees typically were given the majority of the seats they wanted and most do at least one transactional seat.
Trainees’ fourth seat is left open, partly because an overwhelming majority opt for an overseas seat. Many also undergo client secondments at this stage. Juniors submit their preferences on whether they want an international or client secondment. Appraisals, reviews and feedback may all be taken into consideration when allocating; the firm is trialling seat allocation by algorithm. International secondees found that “the offices are often smaller than London office, but things can still get busy. The deal size might be smaller, but that has little bearing on the amount of work lawyers do.” People who opt for client secondments are often forgoing the jet-set lifestyle to seek more commercial experience in their training contract. Both types of secondments offer “work that you don’t necessarily come across in London - it’s been an amazing, hands-on experience and the working styles are really interesting and different.”
“It’s been an amazing hands-on experience.”
Links' mammoth corporate department predominantly works for banks and an incredible amount of FTSE 100 companies. “Once I opened the newspaper and the deal I was working on was all over the place – it’s a nice feeling knowing I contributed to that.” The giant group is divided into four sub-groups: equities and public M&A, private M&A and joint ventures, private equity transactions, and a fourth that “does a mish-mash of tech, oil and gas, and environment stuff.” Trainees can work across the groups, though interviewees noted that private equity work stands out as being “faster and more intense.”
The team worked on Takeda Pharmaceutical Company’s takeover of biopharma company Shire for £46 billion – the largest M&A deal in the world in 2018. One of the ‘smaller’ deals in the group saw the team represent National Grid on the sale of its 25% equity interest, totalling £1.2 billion, in gas distribution business Cadent. Trainees here typically work on verification and drafting diligence reports, board minutes, letters and production notices. The bulk of the work is project managing tasks such as emailing clients, doing checklists and taking minutes, as well as a lot of due diligence. “You wouldn’t say I get the meat of the work, but it becomes a lot less dry if you can convince yourself it’s fun.” Our advice: just think where this training takes you in your career.
Links' equally reputable banking department also splits into four seats: global loans (which covers real estate finance); financial restructuring; leveraged finance; and restructuring and insolvency. The latter covers “funky stuff like ring-fencing” and an opportunity to do “advisory work” in a transactional department. Trainees can pick up work from any subgroup, though they are assigned to a specific one. You'll find all the expected heavyweight banking clients, such as Credit Suisse, Lloyds, The Royal Bank of Canada and NatWest. The team recently advised a consortium of Credit Suisse, HSBC, Lloyds and SMBC in their roles as underwriters of a £440 million loan facility used to fund the acquisition by private equity firm HgCapital of Iris Software. Trainees here typically run checklists, and draft letters and documents like security agreements and debentures. “Banking is a process-heavy seat but for me it was a good way to learn the ropes.”
Disputes at Links is split into four main areas: investigations, arbitration, litigation and a small-but-growing 'crisis management' practice. Litigation covers “classic commercial disputes, judicial reviews, and contract disputes, which we often settle in court.” Investigations covers internal and external investigations including employee complaints, data protection and data breach investigations. The younger arbitration subgroup is currently “growing quite a lot.” The arbitration team recently represented the Bank of New York Mellon in an investor-state arbitration against the Republic of Kazakhstan following the freezing of $22 billion of assets. The litigation group recently acted for Three Mobile in a claim against EE over the breach of a network infrastructure contract. Trainees working in litigation will end up contacting counsel and other offices, bundling and cross-checking references. Lucky trainees can be found drafting court documents of smaller cases as well as drafting letters and research reports. Investigation tasks include writing due diligence reports, writing up interview notes and other document review-based tasks: “It can get quite process-y. A lot of tasks fall to trainees when they’re not the most interesting!” But the subject matter – especially in investigations – was a natural source of intrigue, we were told.
“Pro bono isn’t compulsory, but it’s definitely encouraged.”
Investment funds at Linklaters has two main groups of work: fund formation and an investment practice that represents “pension funds and big institutional investors putting money with the biggest fund houses in the world, and advising them on the risk of their investments.” The group recently advised chemical asset investors Wilmcote Holdings in various jurisdictions on securing equity for a proposed acquisition of a life sciences company. They also helped out Luxembourg-based asset management group Aermont in the raising of a real estate fund, with third-party commitments totalling €2 billion. Trainees here typically deal with closing, call clients and input comments, as well as the odd bit of drafting of ancillary documents.
Linklaters lawyers can sign up to a mailing list to hear about pro bono opportunities. “Pro bono isn’t compulsory, but it’s definitely encouraged. It’s really big in disputes, but you can get involved no matter what department you’re in.” Types of pro bono we heard of include immigration and asylum work, housing and employment clinics and helping non-profits. Newbies undergo training in the more niche areas of pro bono before they’re allowed to take part; the firm also offers a housing-focused pro bono secondments for fourth-seaters.
Included as part of a multi-week training induction in London, a new lawyers programme sees all trainee attorneys around the world meet up for a full week of workshops and networking events: “It’s a great opportunity – I still contact the people I met from around the world if I need some help. It maintains that collaborative environment, which is cool.” Back in London, we heard that trainee supervisors “hold your hand and guide you, but don’t shield you from real life.”
Though we heard reports of some “personality or working style clashes that make that relationship less than perfect,” most of our interviewees found that supervisors are “really friendly, patient and supportive.” It's encouraged that trainees should receive ten positive comments to one negative one ensures a bouncy level of comfort. Interviewees also felt that supervisors have a “feeling of responsibility over my development – they still keep in touch, which is endearing.” There’s also the Link Up scheme that uses some fine wordplay to get people to sign up to meet with a random person in the building for coffee. “It’s a great support system and it’s always nice to talk to someone outside the group and get a different perspective.” It's systems like this, along with the fact the firm has polished, structured training programs coming out of its ears, that differentiate it from many US firms, and potentially make up for the pay gap.
Trainees found their colleagues to be “super nice and understanding – I genuinely love and respect the people working here. People are always wondering about your work and how you’re doing.” The large intake of around 50 people every six months doesn’t isolate newbies: “I can say for certain I can tell you all about every single person in my intake.” A trainee social committee plans outings for drinks, food and other activities. When not dining out, Links lawyers can benefit from Silks, the in-house canteen. With a salad bar, a grill counter, an Asian counter, a pizza counter, and a vegan counter, trainees are never without options. “It’s nice because you don’t need to make lunch plans, you just go down when you want, and you’re bound to meet somebody you know.” The office also has “anything you ever need so you never have to leave,” including a gym, in-house GPs, dentists and physiotherapists, beauticians, dry-cleaning, and the “essential” sleep pods.
“I can tell you all about every single person in my intake.”
Essential seems like the right word: “The whole London team is at 150% utilisation, there’s a really intense vibe.” The magic circle firms don't differ hugely on hours. We deduced that the average leaving on a good day is 7pm to 8pm each day, but times will shoot up around signings and trials. And “there are certain seats like capital markets and TMT that are really busy – you will be going home at midnight every other day. You may even have to sleep in work.” If you’re falling asleep just reading this, it’s likely Linklaters isn’t for you: “A lot is expected of you. It requires effort. You need to have the attitude that you’re here to do the absolute best and contribute as much as you can to your team.” Those who thrive here will take to the lifestyle like a duck to water, and the recent NQ pay rise (which was mirrored across the magic circle) will certainly help. “Most people coming in know what it’ll be like. I don’t think people are put off by long hours necessarily.”
We heard that Linklaters “puts a lot of effort into diversity and inclusion,” interviewees told us. “Because of the culture, I feel very comfortable and everyone is naturally an advocate of diversity.” Though the firm “really tries to push for women, the partnership is still quite male-dominated. I think there are further steps the firm can take.” Recently the firm has been trying out strategies such as grants and online internships so that “people from different socio-economic backgrounds can come here, not just the privileged few.”
Trainees start discussions around qualification before they go into their fourth seat secondment. Going for “simple coffee chats” with the departments they’re looking to qualify into means that “it’s an informal process – you do it in your own time so you feel comfortable.” A formal process does take place in which trainees specify to HR three or four groups they would like to qualify in. But “HR is just there for admin reasons. The responsibility falls on the trainee and the group training partner – it’s up to the trainee to have those meetings.” If that sounds anxiety-inducing, fear not, as we heard the process overall is “smooth if you know who to talk to and when to talk to them. You deal with it as you please.” In 2019, Links kept on 90 out of its 105 qualifiers.
Linklaters has a mentoring programme, pairing up those on their LPC with current trainees.
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How to get a Linklaters training contract
Linklaters recruits from a wide range of universities and accepts applications from both law and non-law students. The proportion of law to non-law graduates is 60:40. Alongside visits to many UK universities, recruiters are also sent to South Africa, India and Australia to interview overseas candidates. To apply, candidates fill in their basic information, academic record and contextual data, before taking the online assessment based on the Linklaters agile mindset framework. The process is not timed, and the six modules cover scenarios such as global transactions and critical thinking. This should take between 60-90 minutes to complete and helps the firm to understand more about you and your skillset. The assessment also helps applicants to find out more about what life is like as a Linklaters trainee and gives a personalised feedback report. The online assessment for a vac scheme is the same as the one for the training contract.
Alongside the online assessment, applicants will be invited to complete an online Watson Glaser critical thinking test. You'll be doing yourself a favour by having a stab at a practice test, which can be found online.
Assessments and interviews
Successful applicants – for training contracts and vac scheme places alike – attend one of many assessment days held each year. The day involves a case study and two interviews. The case study is a hypothetical example of work a trainee might face. Candidates will have time to read and review the material and are then asked to write about some of the issues they spotted.
The first interview takes place with graduate recruitment, who will be looking for examples from interviewees which demonstrate you have the qualities in their 'mindset framework' such as leadership and excellence. Recruiters say “you can use examples from work, your hobbies and interests, or your studies – it’s up to you."
Then there's an interview with a partner and managing associate; they’ll discuss your case study, and ask a few more questions about you. Again, they will be looking for a candidate to demonstrate qualities in their 'mindset framework,' such as intellect, commercial thinking, resilience and teamwork.
During the assessment day, candidates get a chance to tour the building and have lunch with the current trainees – a good chance to ask questions and find out more about working at the firm. From here the firm makes its offers.
The vacation scheme
Around 70% of Linklaters' vac schemers go on to train with the firm. The firm runs winter, spring and summer schemes – these are open to law and non-law students in their penultimate-year and final-year of study, as well as graduates and postgrads.
Vac schemers visit one or two practice groups during their visit and can state preferences for these beforehand. Each attendee works alongside an associate who acts as a formal mentor and provides both guidance and feedback. A buddy from the trainee group stands in as a more informal point of contact.
Over the course of the vac scheme there are presentations on core practice areas, a talk from the managing partner about the firm’s strategy, and an advice session on how to conduct yourself at an interview. Vac schemers also participate in a hypothetical client pitch and a mediation exercise.
Those who complete the scheme are automatically allotted a final interview for a training contract. This takes place with a partner and managing associate and lasts an hour.
One Silk Street,
- Partners 490
- Associates 2,310
- Total trainees 230+ (London)
- ContactsGraduate recruitment
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 100
- Applications pa: 3,500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications: Please see firm website for dates and deadlines
- 2019/2020 vacation scheme applications: Please see firm website for dates and deadlines
- [NOTE - 2020 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £47,000
- Second-year salary: £52,000
- Post-qualification salary: total cash potential of up to £100,000
- Holiday entitlement: 27 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant: Yes
- International and regional
- International offices: Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Dubai, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington DC
- Overseas seats: Yes
- Client secondments: Yes
From a shifting geopolitical landscape to the exponential growth in FinTech, this is a time of unprecedented change. At Linklaters, we’re ready. Our people go further to support our clients, with market-leading legal insight and innovation. And we go further for each other, too. We’re people you want to work with, generous with our time and ready to help. So no matter what the future holds, with us you’ll be one step ahead. Great change is here. Get ready.
Main areas of work
Rather than specialise in just one area, we’re proud to have best-in-class divisions across the board, in corporate, finance and projects, and dispute resolution. And in practice, they frequently work together to advise clients. As a Linklaters colleague, our breadth of expertise means that, wherever you focus, you’ll be involved in the very best work, and benefit from continuous, tailored training from experienced lawyers.
The Linklaters training programme offers the knowledge and contacts you need to hit the ground running. Non-law graduates spend a conversion year studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). And all graduates complete the bespoke, accelerated Legal Practice Course (LPC) before starting training contracts. Then over two years you’ll take up four six-month seats (placements) in different practice areas and sometimes abroad, for the breadth and depth of knowledge you need to develop and qualify. Throughout your career, you’ll be supported with world-class training, courtesy of the Linklaters Law and Business School.
Our two-week Winter and Spring vacation schemes, and our four-week Summer vacation schemes are open to penultimate-year students, final-year students, graduates and postgraduates studying both law and non-law subjects at UK and Irish universities.
For the GDL and LPC, Linklaters covers all costs, and we also offer maintenance grants. Other benefits include performance-related bonuses, a contributory pension, private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, in-house healthcare, family friendly benefits, an in-house gym and subsidised staff restaurant, an interest-free season ticket loan, holiday travel insurance, a Timebank scheme, Cycle2Work and Give As You Earn.
Open days and first-year opportunities
For information on our events, keep an eye on our calendar (careers.linklaters.com/en/early-careers/ meet-us), or sign up to our mailing list.
University law career fairs 2019
You can also visit our events calendar to find out when we’ll be visiting your university.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: High-end Capabilities (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: High-end Capabilities (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
- Banking Litigation (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Equity (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 1)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 4)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 1)
- Pensions (Band 1)
- Planning Recognised Practitioner
- Public International Law (Band 3)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 2)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 2)
- Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 2)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 2)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 1)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Infrastructure (Band 1)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
- International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 3)
- Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 3)
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
- Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Pensions Litigation (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
- Projects (Band 1)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 1)
- Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 1)
- Telecommunications (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 1)