Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP - True Picture

Metaph-orrick-ly speaking, this US firm has the world of venture capital right in its hands.

Orrick training contract review 2024

The Firm

If we asked you to picture San Francisco, there’s only one landmark which could spring to mind: the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Well, you can thank local legend Orrick for that, as the firm was instrumental in financing its construction. In fact, Orrick is one of those few firms that can truly mean it when they say they embody their roots. Because if we also asked you to tell us what the city is most known for, we can guarantee tech and start-ups would spring to mind and, for Orrick, this industry is its forte. The firm is a triple threat when it comes to tech, energy and finance work, and has shared this expertise across all its 25 bases across the globe, including London. Chambers UKcan attest to this, as it hands out top marks to Orrick for its private equity: venture capital investment work, as well as its energy and natural resources work in renewables and alternative energy. Chambers Fintech also shines a light on its fintech legal work in corporate, securities and financing.

“The small intake creates a tight knit culture. Everyone is good together!”

Only a lucky few make it through the gates to Orrick's training contract each year and last year, just five did. That makes it as rare as a ticket to Wonka’s chocolate factory. Though unlike those kids, trainees who land a place on the TC are all united by an interest in either tech, energy and finance work (or all three!) as well as working at a US firm: “Orrick has a unique offer, which was interesting and different from other offers I had from magic circle firms.” Keeping the cohort number low is deliberate on behalf of the firm. Training Principal Sushila Nayak states that “our programme isn’t very large, but that makes it easier for us to get to know our trainees individually. We try to ensure that they get the kind of experience that will allow them to make well informed career decisions by the time they qualify.” Not only does this help on the individual level, but “the small intake creates a tight knit culture. Everyone is good together!” beamed one insider.

Find out more about becoming a corporate tech and venture capital lawyer with Orrick.

The Seats

As the firm is constantly trying to ensure trainees get a good breadth of experience in their training contract, it operates slightly differently in that trainees sit in six seats of four months. As is the case on many training contracts, priority goes to second years. Trainees put down three choices and HR allocate those choices based on business needs and what trainees have done previously. We also heard that trainees will sit in a corporate and litigious seat, but there are plenty of seats on offer that can cover this. When it comes to secondments, they crop up on the list on a more ad-hoc basis.

One of the firm’s core seats is the technology companies group – or TCG as trainees call it –which primarily works with emerging companies seeking venture capital investment. “We tend to work on both the companies and investor side,” noted one source. They added that “the benefit of the deals here is they’re quite fast. You will see from start to finish half a dozen deals to completion that you wouldn’t see in M&A transactions.” Though the work could sometimes be described as “plate spinning. You get used to it, and it’s fun!” Trainees also got stuck in with a lot more substantive work quite early on, such as drafting corporate authorities, proofing main documents and running the signing processes for all documents related to the transaction. Another interviewee shared that “the further in I got, I was able to help draft with investment agreements.” Names like PayPal, BMW & 9fin dot the client roster and in a recent case, the team advised Hitachi Ventures in its investment in the financing of BeZero Carbon, a UK based climate tech company.

“There is help where you need it, but no one is holding your hand and pulling you along!”

The M&A and private equity team (MAPE) does exactly what it says on the tin. For instance, the team recently advised brumbrum, an Italian car sale and long-term rental company, in the sale of its share capital to Cazoo. Other clients include the likes of Goldman Sachs, Finimize & Aptean. Trainees got involved with drafting documents like SPAs, under supervision of a senior lawyer. They also got to manage the signing process of a deal, using DocuSign, as well as undertaking due diligence. “There is quite a big amount of responsibility as a lot of ancillary documents need to be drafted,” mentioned one source. Things such as shareholder resolutions and board minutes are ancillaries that “you are responsible for as a trainee.” Sharing their thoughts on the seat, one insider enthused that “there is help where you need it, but no one is holding your hand and pulling you along!”

Orrick’slitigation seat is “worlds apart from teams like TCG in terms of what you will be doing as a trainee.” With clients including the likes of the  Big Four accounting firms and a multinational oil and gas corporation, trainees worked on fewer matters, but did a lot of legal research, pre action letters or settlement actions. They also did witness statements and assisted on elements of bundling. The team handles investor and construction disputes, Commercial Court litigation and acts for claimants over breach of contract claims against suppliers. Some trainees also noted that were was opportunity for arbitration work which was internationally focused.The team recently acted for Optimares, an aircraft interior manufacturer, in the High Court against Qatar Airways over a dispute over agreements to the design and manufacture the airlines business and economy class seats.

The firm’s banking and financeseathandles fintech companies, funds, and financial institutionslike Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas & Société Générale. “We do a lot of venture debt,” mentioned on trainee. They also noted that it is comparable to TCG, in the sense that “from the early stages, I got quite a lot of drafting main documents like corporate authorities.” They added that “though it’s different documents, the work is still similar.” Recently, Orrick acted for Global Processing Services on a £100 million convertible loan note to its founders, Visa Ventures and Dunedin private equity.

Trainee Life

You can’t describe the culture without experiencing it,” led one trainee, “but it’s a very supportive workplace.” Others reassured us that “it’s much less aggressive than what other American firms are purported to be like in the market. It has much more of a friendly open culture which is driven by partners.” In fact, we heard “no partner has their door shut in the London office!” Speaking of the office, “all trainees get their own, which is shared with a supervisor and one other person.” A few sources noted they preferred the closed office set up as “it is much more conducive to getting your head down!” The rule for office working is that trainees “should be in more often than not,” so the policy is three days in and two days at home. Tuesday and Thursdays are team days for corporate and as for the other day, we heard “you work out when your supervisor is in and coincide.”

“You don’t feel chucked into the deep end. Sitting with the supervisor means they are there to check in whenever you want.”

When asked about their relationship with their supervisor, one source beamed that “it’s brilliant, it is really, really good. I’ve had good relationships with all of them!” This sentiment was echoed by most of our interviewees who had many lovely things to say about theirs. Feedback was viewed positively too, as our sources felt this was chocked full of detail in the mid seat reviews and regular check-ins: “you don’t feel chucked into the deep end. Sitting with the supervisor means they are there to check in whenever you want.” Adding to career development was the department-based training. Those in corporate had the benefit of a “proper induction” at the start, as it is a larger team. In finance, the team is smaller, so it was more akin to the learn as you go set up US firms are known for, with bits of training given during the seat. Though, “corporate teach skills that are useful everywhere,” and as all trainees will end up sitting in this department, nobody misses out.

How long trainees stayed on the clock varied, but “generally there are heavier hours in TCG,” noted one interviewee. Another source told us that “I think in a week, I would be very surprised to leave at 5.30pm. Usually it’s more like 7.30pm and sometimes you see 10pm or later.” But when those later nights do come round “it’s not sprung on you, you know it’s going to happen. There is lots of communication on that!” The paycertainly goes a long way too, as trainees earn a sizeable £50,000 in their first year, which rises to £55,000 in their second. Then, for NQs the jump is “incredibly high” at £140,000 – “they certainly dangle that carrot in front of you!” joked one source.

Overall, trainees enjoyed the firm’s social life, though a few felt it could be better on the trainee front as “events are not as frequent as in other firms.” Along with the classic summer and Christmas party, we heard the firm is quite sporty: “there is a robust five a side football team, as well as a netball team and the firm also does a charity cycle to Paris.” Other events are team dependent, but one trainee was lucky enough to do some Formula One racing.

Unlike a lot of firms, Orrick trainees must do 20 hours of pro bono work each year. But getting those hours in wasn’t hard for our sources as the firm has an enormous list of projects like helping environmental startups and giving legal advice to refugees or people struggling in the care system. There is an international flavour to matters as well, as previously some have had the opportunity to go over to Ukraine to help out: “someone went to help out there last year. There’s also a project in Greece we are a sponsor of and there are opportunities to go to Athens to help out in camp to provide legal advice to refugees.”

Finally, when qualification comes round, trainees reassured us that this is a relatively informal process. The newbies we spoke to were a little unsure of the specifics of the process, though everyone was aware that they needed to have conversations with the department they had their eye on, to make them aware that they wanted to qualify into the area. There isn’t too much of a formal process as there is no interview, and all trainees need to do is write down their preferences. These choices are then approved internally. In 2023, Orrick retained eight of ten qualifying trainees.

Fl-orrick-ulturist: The firm gives employees a budget to buy a plant for their office and offers them wildflower seeds to promote the re-wilding of their gardens.


How to get an Orrick training contract  

  • Vacation scheme deadline: 31 January 2024  
  • Training contract deadline: 30 April 2024  


Orrick’s recruitment team usually attend between six to ten law fairs each year.   

Orrick’s vacation scheme, is the preferred method of applying for a training contract with the firm. They offer 10-15 places each year on their vacation scheme, which is due to run in June/July 2023. Candidates will sit with two different practice groups and will also be allocated a trainee buddy to support them during their time on the scheme. Candidates are assessed via the feedback from the partners and associates they have worked with, scores from written and verbal exercises across the scheme as well as a final interview at the end of the scheme.  

Orrick also offers the opportunity to apply directly for a training contract however this route is primarily recommended for those who can't attend a vacation scheme due to pre-existing commitments. The application form is the same for both routes of applying.  

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 must be impressive. The firm is, however, an avid user of contextual recruitment, and has used Rare Contextual Recruitment in their recruitment process for many years. As part of their commitment to diversity & inclusion, they have also removed specific A-level requirements, instead preferring to assess candidates' pre-undergraduate academics in context and looking more closely at undergraduate and post-graduate grades.  

Applicants are also 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. It is important that candidates tailor their covering letter to Orrick – so many covering letters received could be applicable to any City practice. Tailoring your covering letter and showcasing that you have researched the firm and their practice areas in detail is one of the easiest ways to stand out from the crowd. You might want to include specific matters that caught your eye or other specific details such as recent partner hires in key strategic areas or one of our pro-bono or D&I initiatives."  

Following the written application stage, candidates are asked the take the Watson Glaser psychometric test which evaluates candidates' critical thinking and verbal reasoning skills. Candidates who are successful at this stage are then invited to take part in an assessment day. Generally, Orrick's trainee intakes have a good mix of law and non-law students, with their previous intakes having a relatively equal mix of both law and non-law graduates. 


Orrick’s assessments for the vacation scheme take place in March and April. Timings for training contract only assessments vary but tend to be from May onwards.  

For vacation schemes the assessment day typically includes a written exercise on a hypothetical legal scenario. This exercise is intended to assess a candidate’s commercial awareness, writing ability, and their capability to apply practical problem-solving and legal principles to complex issues. Whilst the exercise is legal in nature, it is designed to be equally accessible to non-law students. There is also a competency-based interview and presentation exercise, which you can expect to take place with an associate or partner and a member of the recruitment team. Successful applicants are awarded a spot on the summer vacation scheme. Candidates will also have a final stage interview at the end of the vacation scheme, which is typically with the training principal.   

For direct training contract applicants, the robust assessment day typically includes a drafting exercise, presentation or negotiation exercise and an interview.  

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 to the vacation scheme, or for a final-stage interview with the training principal if they have applied directly for a training contract.   

Interviews at Orrick tend to be fairly informal, however candidates should make sure that they have thoroughly researched the firm, understand the type of work that it does, and come prepared to answer questions on a wide range of topics, from their work experience and extracurricular activities to commercial topics and current affairs.  

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

107 Cheapside,
Website www.orrick.com

Firm profile
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 and innovation, 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. 

Types of work undertaken
Orrick has earned a global reputation advising both established and emerging companies, banks and international financial institutions. In Tech & Innovation, we help clients compete globally and thrive in a fast-paced and dynamic landscape. Our clients include more than 4,000 tech and life sciences companies, 13 of the world’s 15 largest public tech companies, 100+ unicorns and 400 leading VC investors globally. We partner with clients on virtually every transaction type – formation through going public – and achieve outstanding litigation and regulatory outcomes for them. Orrick has been ranked the #1 most active venture capital law firm in Europe for the past 30 consecutive quarters and rank #5 globally (PitchBook).

Main areas of work
Banking & finance, capital markets, compensation & benefits, complex litigation & dispute resolution, cyber privacy & data innovation, employment, energy & infrastructure, international arbitration, M&A and private equity, restructuring, structured finance, tax, technology companies group, technology transactions group.

Training opportunities
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 broad based training contract. Applicants should have or be on track to achieve 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.

Other benefits

Pension; group income protection scheme; life assurance; private medical insurance; dental care; subsidised gym membership; season ticket loan and childcare voucher scheme.

Vacation scheme

The primary route to applying for a training contract with us is to apply for a space on one of our summer vacation scheme programmes which will take place in the summer. Our vacation scheme offers participants an opportunity to London office of a US law firm in action and get an insight into what life as a trainee would be like here. During the two-week scheme you’ll spend time in two of our London practices, working on real work alongside our trainees, associates and partners. There will also be a variety of social opportunities and events that run throughout the scheme, giving you an opportunity to really get to know our team.

University law careers fairs 2023

Aspiring Solicitors, Legal Cheek, BPP, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, KCL, Leeds, Oxford and UCL.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • International Arbitration: Highly Regarded Spotlight
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)

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