Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP - True Picture

A focus on tech, energy and finance “the most important sectors of the present and for the future” keeps a small trainee intake interested at this “progressive and forward-looking” California-founded firm.

Orrick training contract review 2022

The Firm



Two’s a company, three’s a crowd. So they say! Yet for this Californian king, its trifecta focus on the tech, energy, and finance sectors shows three’s the magic number. “I chose Orrick because of that sector-driven focus,” one trainee told us. “Most of our clients come from those sectors.” Our colleagues at Chambers UK consider the firm one of the best in the country for venture capital work, with its renewable energy and commodities trading also commended.Another source added: “Its presence in the most important sectors of the present and for the future made me choose the firm.” For a firm forged on the West Coast, a forward-looking focus is unsurprising: “It’s full of good people in a modern environment. It just feels fresh rather than stuffy and traditional.”

“It was very cool to work with such innovative companies."

The firm boasts a sprawling 25-strong office network across the US, Europe, and Asia. It recruits just five trainees a year to its sole UK base in London. This small intake“means you get given responsibility immediately instead of being just another trainee in a large group.” The firm also require its trainees do six seats of four months a piece. “This process allows you to experience more areas of the firm and ultimately helps you best decide where you want to qualify.”

The Seats



Orrick trainees will undertake both a transactional/corporate and contentious seat; the rest are optional. First seats are assigned and then trainees submit three preferences to HR for each rotation. “It’s rare you don’t get at least one of your choices,” one source told us. While most seemed happy with the process, one source did hope for “a little more transparency regarding seat rotations.”Client secondments to the likes of the Big Four accountancy firmsare available, but tend to be assigned on a case by case basis.

Trainees in corporate sit with either the M&A team or the technology companies group. While distinct, we heard most sit with both across the contract. The firm specialises in mid-market M&A transactions and advised on more than 60 tech deals in 2020, valuing over $4.2 billion. One such deal saw the firm advise software company Aptean on the acquisition of Paragon Software Systems. The firm also represented RockRose Energy on its £248 million recommended cash offer acquisition by Viaro Energy. One source mentioned “getting immediately stuck in” with emailing clients, organising the data room, and helping to draft disclosure letters, as well as attending closing meetings with clients. “It was very cool to work with such innovative companies on interesting and varied work,” another source added.

"A real mix of work for venture capital companies and high-growth start-ups."

Work can often cross over with the technology companies group, “where there’s a real mix of work for venture capital companies and high-growth start-ups” operating in tech, life sciences, and energy fields. Another was taken aback by Orrick's stature in venture capital across Europe. For example, in 2020 the firm was involved in venture capital transaction raising more than $8.1 billion across the continent. It assisted an AI processor company, Graphcore, in raising $222 million via a Series E financing round. The firm is also advising Kinnevik and Sprints Capital on their investment in the $155 million Series D funding round of Vivino, the developer of a wine app. Sources we spoke with had worked on financing rounds as well as advising these growing companies on corporate governance. “The seat was a fantastic experience overall,” one source beamed. “Tasks are really varied – it often depends which stage you come in at.” So far trainees had been drafting ancillary documents, board resolutions, and GDPR compliance advice, coupled with a lot of “transaction management.”

The energy and infrastructure team strengthen its offshore wind sector capabilities by welcoming a six-person team from Watson Farley & Williams, as well as three more associates. The addition adds to the group’s strengths in renewables and oil and gas work on large infrastructure projects. There’s also project finance work available in the department, as well as support for the M&A team in the buying and selling of energy assets. The team is advising the export credit agencies and lenders on the project financing of the Changfang and Xidao offshore wind project, the largest ever renewables financing. It also advised Emirates Global Aluminium on the ongoing $8 billion project financing of its aluminium smelter in Abu Dhabi. “I loved the work here,” one source told us. “Building wind farms and solar and biomass projects, as well as various digital infrastructure projects, is super interesting.” Trainees had worked on the regulatory elements of project development, written research memos, and drafted the ancillary documents for financing projects.

Trainees highlighted “a lot of tasks being research-based” in competition. Work often involves advice on complex, cross-border matters and assisting on merger clearance for clients such as eBay, Microsoft, and Michelin. The firm is representing Telenor in obtaining Phase I merger control clearance from the European Commission for its €3 billion acquisition of a majority stake in DNA Plc, the Finnish telecom operator. It’s also advising appliance company Haier in its €475 million acquisition of Candy. Sources had written research notes on EU legal matters, helped in “getting spreadsheets together” for merger control work, and “worked with local counsel in over 16 jurisdictions to ensure merger filings were going through properly.” Time here was considered “a good way to learn legal principles and how to draft things.”

The firm’s litigation and arbitration group works across the firm’s main areas of practice. In 2020, the firm launched its cyber & data privacy litigation and regulatory enforcement practice too. On the international arbitration side, the firm represents Khaitan Holding (Mauritius) in its bilateral investment treaty claim against India. Elsewhere, litigators also acted for EY entities when a former audit partner alleged he was wrongfully dismissed. Work involved “lots of research and document review, as well as good opportunities for courtroom experience” in the High Court and Queen’s Bench Division. “Litigation cases can drag on for years, so you slot in where it’s needed,” meaning document review, attending witness interviews, or updating and preparing bundles for trial can be common. One source considered work on a “very big FCA investigation” as a highlight.

Trainee Life



Sources were quick to highlight “the pervasive openness and friendliness” about the firm’s culture. “I couldn’t believe how friendly and welcoming it is. Everyone is extremely approachable and there is not a cut-throat corporate air prevailing.” Trainees collectively found that the firm encourages camaraderie; that they chose the right firm; and perhaps most importantly, that they are happy. “It’s such a welcoming environment, filled with solutions-oriented, positive people.” Thankfully so, as sharp elbows don’t make for fun social events. “There’s a good social scene here, we go out for drinks with each other. It’s just a very friendly place.”

“Pro bono isn't just a tick box exercise for the firm."

For a firm with US roots, the 20-hour a year pro bono target is unsurprising. “Pro bono isn't just a tick box exercise for the firm, they really care about the impact they are having widely.” The firm works with LawWorks and on a programme called Together for Short Lives, to help families and children with terminal illnesses and disabilities. Sources also mentioned work with environmental NGOs and housing allocation cases, as well as a consent project where “you go into schools and teach year 11s about sexual consent.” This unfortunately was postponed due to the pandemic.

Long hours “depend on the department.” Teams understandably vary, with one source finding TCG requiring “consistently long hours,” but on the whole sources didn’t raise many complaints. “You think the hours must be bad with it being a US law firm in London, but they haven’t been.” It’s worth qualifying that sources saw 8pm to be an average finish, with 55 hours also being the average amount of hours trainees had worked in their last full working week. Ultimately, “you work hard and do what needs to be done, but people are respectful of your personal time and recognise hard work.”

The firm’s approach to diversity and inclusion was also celebrated. Yes, “diversity at the higher levels could still be improved, but the firm recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds and nationalities.” Orrick was one of a handful of founding firms to contribute to the multimillion ‘Move the Needle Fund’, which aims tocreate significant change in the profession’s representation of diverse groups. Part of this involves Orrick’s pledge to provide teams that are at least 55% diverse for 40 of its clients by 2025. “The firm is also very active in promoting mental health discussions and checking in on employees’ mental health,” one source added.

To qualify, trainees apply for as many NQ positions as they like during their fifth seat, which are then discussed at partner level. “The process could be a bit more structured,” said one source. Structure or otherwise, retention is historically good and in 2021, the firm retained sevenof eighttrainees.

How to get an Orrick training contract



APPLY HERE

Open day deadline (2021): 1 October 2021

Training contract deadline (2023): 29 May 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Applications

Orrick’s recruitment team usually attend between six to ten law fairs each year. Please see the Orrick recruitment website for an up to date list of law fairs they are expecting to attend in 2021.

Orrick has also recently launched a vacation scheme, which is now the preferred method of applying for a training contract with the Firm. They offer 8-10 places each year on their vacation scheme, which is due to run in June and July 2022. 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 primarily from the feedback from the partners and associates they have worked with, however they will also attend an interview with a partner at the end of their scheme. In 2021, six training contract offers were made from the vacation scheme out of nine participants.

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 also took the step last year of removing 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 a remote 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. Generally Orrick's trainee intakes have a good mix of law and non-law students, with their most recent intake being 75% non-law (3 out of 4).

Assessment Days

Orrick's assessment days for the vacation scheme take place in April there's space for up to 10 candidates on each. Timings for training contract only assessments vary but tend to be from July onwards.

The day kicks off with a presentation on life as a trainee solicitor at the firm, but  involves a a Q&A session with the current trainees; a lunch with a cross-section of lawyers ; a business negotiation exercise; and a first-round interview for a training contract.

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 two partners if they have applied directly for a training contract. a

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 we do, 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.

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 1)