Orrick trainees get six bites at the London office’s triple focus on energy, finance and tech.
Piquing your Pinterest
“I wanted to work on high-profile transactions for clients I recognised,” said one Orrick trainee. “A lot of the work Orrick does is with companies I see in the news or brands I use on a daily basis.” Like Pinterest – we all know how addictive that can be. There’s also Condé Nast, Microsoft and GoPro. On the finance front, the Big Four are a good example of the firm’s clientele – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC have all called on Orrick in times of need.
This San Francisco-founded firm has a network of 27 offices globally, and its London base has a triple sector focus on energy and infrastructure, finance, and technology. The firm’s venture capital, energy and commodities trading work are all ranked by Chambers UK. Trainees said the core practice areas are “pervasive throughout” the firm: “Even if you’re not in the energy department, you can have an energy slant to a corporate or real estate deal.”
“You have to work hard to add value as quickly as you can.”
The firm doesn’t have a formal vac scheme but it does run open days, which several interviewees had attended before applying. Orrick favours the six-seat structure. “For someone who’s indecisive, it’s a great way of getting a taste of different areas,” one source said – and it also means trainees get to see pretty much all of the firm. Of course, a shorter time in a department means “you have to work hard to add value as quickly as you can.” Rookies might repeat seats and will probably do so for the department they want to qualify into. Trainees submit three preferences per rotation. There are currently no overseas seats, but there have been “talks of the Paris competition team taking someone on soon.” And trainees who find themselves “in the right place at the right time” can go overseas for work; client secondments to the likes of Goldman Sachs are already on offer.
Unicorns and candy, have your answers handy
Everyone does a corporate seat, whether that's in M&A, corporate IP or the technology companies group (TCG). Wherever they’re placed, trainees “can work across the whole corporate department.” TCG handles venture capital and financing for technology start-ups, and trainees reckoned there was a 60/40 split between company-side and investor-side work. The firm recently advised fintech company Revolut on a $250 million financing, bringing its valuation to over $1 billion and giving it ‘unicorn’ status. AI chipmaker Graphcore also became a unicorn – Orrick advised it on a $200 million funding round. On matters like these, trainees get to be “in charge of the signing process and liaise with shareholders” – one reported assisting on four signings within their first week in the seat. Trainees build up to drafting ancillary documents, but initially “make sure all the documents are executed properly – it’s one of the more menial tasks, but it’s your time to shine.” Just like a unicorn.
“They made sure the client knew it was my work.”
Trainees in M&A got involved with “buying and selling of solar farms.” Orrick recently acted for NextEnergy Solar Holdings on its acquisition of ten solar projects for £52.9 million. London also worked with Orrick’s offices in Milan, Paris and China advising domestic appliance maker Qingdao Haier on its $475 million acquisition of Italian rival Candy. On one techy deal, a trainee got to spend “48 hours in Barcelona getting all the closing mechanics done.” Another trainee sits in corporate IP, where there's “a lot of due diligence” to assist the M&A team on the IP aspects of deals. “The partner used my research as the basis for what they were going to say to the client,” one source said, “and they made sure the client knew it was my work.”
The real estate department supports the corporate team on solar and energy deals, but much of its work comes in via “a couple of large institutional organisations” such as shopping centre owner Intu – it’s been Orrick’s client for over 30 years. “We do their leases and arrangements with the tenants of all their different centres,” a trainee informed us. Recently the firm advised Intu on a £148 million joint venture for shared ownership of Chapelfield Shopping Centre in Norwich. Shopping centre work is a specialty of the team – it recently advised on the letting of units in a £178 million development in Watford. Trainees are given “responsibility for the first drafts of documents,” as well as research and due diligence; sources also said the seat “gives you so much client contact.”
The litigation team recently defended Jasminder Singh, chair of Edwardian Hotels, against a £200 million unfair prejudice petition. The team also acted for EY when it faced a £39 million claim alleging it was part of a conspiracy to defraud shareholders of several companies it had acted as administrator for. One trainee remembered working on an investigation: “When people came in for their interviews with us, I would ask them questions.If the partner asked a question, they could defer to me to ask if it fit with what I’d seen in the documents – they trusted me!” That said, compared to in corporate, “you don’t have quite the same client contact day to day.”
Golden State of Mind
Orrick lawyers have an annual 20-hour pro bono target, and the firm partners with LawWorks on pro bono matters. Lawyers recently “helped get a ground-floor property for a disabled child in a wheelchair,” and worked with colleagues in Italy and the US “ascertaining whether Libya’s criminal code and procedures are in accordance with international law.”
Trainees get mid-seat reviews with their supervisor and submit self-appraisals before an end-of-seat review with the training principal and HR. The first qualification chat happens during the end-of-seat review at the end of their fourth seat. Trainees submit their choices to HR, then partners ask the global management board to approve the qualifiers. In 2019 four out of six second-years were retained. Trainees felt the US input did make the process “a little less transparent,” butadded this was the only major noticeable influence from the States: “It doesn’t feel at all like we’re a satellite office.”
“The culture is quite California-esque.”
Well, there may be one other US influence – “only in the sense that the culture is quite California-esque.” How so? “Everyone is united and on an equal footing. The number of times I’ve been brought into a meeting with a partner and they refer to me as a colleague… it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.” Trainees with prior work experience remembered feeling “almost anonymous” in larger firms, but said: “It’s not like that at Orrick.”
Orrick’s trainee salary is similar to magic circle firms. “On qualification it skyrockets” to £105,000. “I think most people are very happy with that – I know I am!” one source beamed. Some other US firms pay more, but trainees thought “there’s a bit of a trade-off” with hours.Hmmm. It's far from a Dolly Parton affair at Orrick: across departments, the day starts at 9.30am with most leaving the office between 8pm and 9pm. The “more traditional” real estate group starts a bit earlier because “clients are nine-to-five kinda people.” TCG has “slightly crazier” hours:a normal clock-out time might be 9pm, 10pm or even (gulp) 11pm. If that’s normal, what does it look like when it’s busy? 4am was the latest home time we heard of. That said, “sometimes the partner might be here until 11pm, but there’s no way in hell they expect you to be.”
But is it work hard play hard? “I remember being apprehensive that Orrick wasn’t very social,” one source said, “but there are people here I’d call my best friends – we’re trying to organise a holiday!” The firm’s official calendar isn’t overflowing with events, but the odd quiz night and drinks trolleys keep trainees happy. There’s also an “extremely active” diversity and inclusion committee which has held talks on mental health awareness and MeToo. Globally, the firm holdsDive/In – “a day dedicated to promoting the successes of diverse lawyers and clients.”
Orrick trainees are supported by senior colleagues who, sources felt, “have made it their life mission to make sure we have the most incredible training.” Fair enough!
How to get an Orrick training contract
Open day deadline (2020): 31 January 2020
Training contract deadline (2022): 29 May 2020 (opens 1 October 2019)
Orrick’s recruitment team usually attend between six to ten law fairs each year. In 2019 they're at Nottingham, Cambridge, York, Bristol, Oxford, Durham, BPP, LSE, UCL.
The firm doesn't have a vacation scheme, but does run three or four open days each year; the application form for these is the same as that for a training contract.
Applicants have to list all their academic achievements to date, from GCSEs all the way up to GDL and LPC grades if applicable. Grades for each module studied at degree level are also expected. Director of Administration Halina Kasprowiak tells us: “We don’t have any kind of automatic sifting criteria.” She goes on to say that a 2:2 degree isn’t a deal-breaker, but such an application must stand out in other ways, and supporting academics (A levels or GDL scores, for example) must be impressive.
Applicants are asked to flag any language skills and detail their work experience. “We're open about that,” says Kasprowiak. “You could have worked for a high-street solicitor or spent time at a set of chambers; it doesn’t have to be experience in a City practice, or even specific legal experience. Having worked in a pub or a shop doesn’t mean you don't have transferable skills relevant to a City practice.”
The form also includes a covering letter prompted by a few open-ended questions. “We pay particular attention to the covering letter,” says Kasprowiak. “We’re looking for people who have really thought it through, who write well and get their points across succinctly.”
Orrick's open days take place in March and there's space for up to nine candidates on each. Applications should be made online via Orrick's graduate recruitment website.
The day kicks off with a presentation on life as a solicitor at the firm, but also involves a drafting exercise; a Q&A session with the current trainees; a lunch with a cross-section of lawyers and paralegals; a business negotiation exercise; and a first-round interview for a training contract. After a jam-packed day, Orrick puts on some drinks in the evening.
Open-day participants are observed throughout the day and not just in the interview. Kasprowiak and her team look out to see whether candidates have remained engaged during all aspects. When it comes to the negotiation exercise, the firm is “looking to see how candidates work together as a team – have they divided up the exercise so that each person has had a chance to speak?” Kasprowiak's top tip? Don’t be the one person hogging the limelight.
Those who make a good impression are invited back within a few weeks for a final-stage interview with two partners. In 2018, 36 candidates attended open days and 15 were invited back for a second interview.
Kasprowiak tells us that from this year's intake of eight, five had done an open day but typically around a quarter of incoming trainees complete one.
Orrick invites around 20 direct training contract applicants to a first-stage interview in the summer. In addition to graduate recruitment staff, a senior associate will be present in the first interview.
Interviewees are given 30 minutes to read a letter and draft a response. In one previous year, the letter took the form of a complaint from a company alleging that its IP rights had been infringed by another company’s product. “They weren't writing as a lawyer but as this respondent company’s owner,” says Kasprowiak, adding: “We gave them an overview of IP law and what certain terms meant.” She tells us the exercise is intended to assess a candidate's commercial awareness and writing ability, not their legal knowledge.
Interviewers discuss a candidate's response “so we can understand their thought process and hear about the next steps they would take from a commercial standpoint.” There's also a discussion of the interviewee's application form plus some competency-based questions.
Around ten to 15 of these interviewees are invited back for a second interview. This sees candidates given 45 minutes to prepare two discussion questions: one has traditionally been a situation one might face as an NQ, though we're told this is subject to change. “A client phones – says they want to buy a hotel and need help. The candidate has to figure out what questions they need to ask the client, what things will need to be discussed at the first meeting, and which colleagues they will be asking to get involved and why,” Kasprowiak explains. The second question asks candidates to tackle a provision from an agreement that has ambiguities and mistakes in it: they need to spot the errors and reformulate them to make the clause more accurate.
Two partners then interview candidates on these before moving on to standard fare like ‘Why law?’ and ‘Why Orrick?’, plus some current-affairs questions. At the end, interviewees have a chance to ask their own questions, something Kasprowiak recommends: "You should always have at least one question to ask to demonstrate that you're truly engaged and interested.”
Interview with training principal Ali Ramadan
CS: What should students know about the firm’s strategy and what it wants to achieve over the next few years?
Ali Ramadan: The firm remains committed to our core sectors: technology, energy and infrastructure and financial services. That’s the key focus across the firm. We’re looking to continue to grow those in London. We’ve made lateral hires, including myself – I came from Bird & Bird. We’re also building out our private equity practice. We’ve had new partners join us in 2018 from Milbank and Simpson Thacher. We’re committed to growing in practice areas that make sense for the firm and private equity is one of those areas given our strength in technology and venture capital.
CS: Has Brexit and the uncertainty around it impacted the volume or type of work the firm is doing at all?
Ali: I don’t think it’s impacting us yet. Uncertainty is always very unhelpful in the market and talk of No Deal adds to that. We’re still seeing investors invest and deals are being done, but whether or not we will see a cooling off effect depends on the next few months with a new Prime Minister and their ultimate approach to Brexit. I don’t think we’ll see an immediate impact if there’s a managed No Deal/Deal scenario where there is a transition period. Whatever ultimately happens there will be an adjusting period over the next couple of years which we expect to impact deal volume.
CS: Are there any significant highlights from the last year that you’d like to highlight to our readers?
Ali: Our technology practice remains strong. We’ve had some really interesting transactions. We’ve acted for a number of companies – Revolut and Graphcore – who have become ‘unicorns’. That’s been exciting for us. Our tech practice had 218 transactions in London in 2018 – the London venture capital team did the most deals by volume in 2018 according to Pitchbook data. The technology market seems to be doing very well.
It’s been in the press that the firm launched a fund to invest in legal technology, which is an area we see as important. The firm also has Orrick Analytics – a team of professionals who complete due diligence and review contracts using technology with the mission to reduce the costs at which we deliver this type of work to our clients. We’re trying to innovate as much as we can. We recognise the market is changing and we want to stay one step ahead.
CS: Are you growing or shrinking trainee numbers?
Ali: At the moment we have six trainees a year. This year starting in August we’re going to have eight. This year was just an exception because we had some good candidates. We have no immediate plans to increase it beyond six.
CS: Anything to add?
Ali: We hit the billion-dollar mark as a global firm, which we’re very proud of. The firm is very committed to growing out the London office and trainees are an important part of that. There are real opportunities to work on some interesting transactions especially in the tech space.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
- Partners 32 (London)
- Associates 70 (incl of counsel) (London)
- Total trainees 14
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 25
- Graduate recruiter: Hannah Jackson, [email protected], 020 7862 4600
- Training partner: Ali Ramadan
- Method of application
- Online at www.orrick.com/careers/ london/graduate-recruitment
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Applications pa: 300
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: Min 3 at A & B
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st October 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 29th May 2020
- Open day deadline: 31st January 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £45,000
- Second-year salary: £49,000
- Post-qualification salary: £105,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: GDL: £8,000, LPC: £9,500
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Overseas seats: None
- Client secondments: Yes
Orrick is a global law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers in 25 offices located throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. We focus on three sectors: technology, energy and infrastructure and finance. We aim to be a best place to work for the best talent and we are always adapting to the ever-increasing pace of innovation. Financial Times selected Orrick the Most Innovative Law Firm in North America for a third year in a row in 2018, and Fortune named us 15th on its 2019 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Orrick has earned a global reputation advising both established and emerging companies, banks and international financial institutions. Our clients include the most disruptive technology companies, 20% of U.S. unicorns, 10 of the 25 world’s largest public tech companies, 7 of the top 15 energy companies globally, 14 of the top 20 global financial institutions, 2 of the 3 most successful fintech companies, funds and government entities. We were named a 2019 Technology Group of the Year by Law360 and rank 3rd for global venture capital (PitchBook). Chambers ranks us Band 1 for both renewable energy and infrastructure.
Main areas of work
Antitrust and competition, arbitration, banking and finance, banking and debt capital markets, capital markets, commercial law, commercial litigation, emerging companies, employment, energy and infrastructure, intellectual property, international dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, professional negligence, real estate, restructuring, structured finance, tax and technology.
If you set your standards high and have a strong work ethic then Orrick could be for you. We are looking for bright, talented graduates of any discipline who are looking for a firm offering a broadbased training contract. Applicants should have at least three A-level passes at grades A and B and a 2.1 degree. Orrick is a firm for those looking for a high level of responsibility from day one. We value team players and aim to give individuals the opportunity to flourish in an inclusive and supportive work environment, encouraging interaction across our international offices. We support learning through a focus on training and a mentoring programme that will provide trainees with the right foundation for building their legal career. A genuine open door policy means trainees work closely with partners and associates. Our two-year training programme is made up of four six-month seats with regular appraisals throughout. Our dedicated trainee partner oversees the supervision of our trainees. There is an extensive training programme with regular and focused sessions on legal and soft skills to enhance your development as a lawyer.
Open days and first year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Employment: Employer Recognised Practitioner
- Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 2)