Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP - True Picture

Like the waltz’s triple meter, Orrick’s three-sector focus on tech, energy and finance is the heart of its global operations.

Orrick training contract review 2021

The Firm

What makes a waltz a waltz? What makes it so distinctive? It’s the 3:4 beat. That beautiful, continuous oom-cha-cha flowing through the piece. But since you came here to learn about legal careers, we'll be brisk: in the legal dancehall of fame, Orrick is the mighty waltz, with the three beats oom-cha-cha-ing through it: technology, energy and finance. “These are pervasive throughout the firm,” trainees told us. “Even if you don’t do a finance seat, you’ll come across the area anyway.”

Gain insight from Orrick's experts on how to become a lawyer in the corporate tech and venture capital space >>

Orrick started life in sunny California and went on to establish its expertise in these key sectors, with particular skill in the projects sphere. In its London base, the firm is highly ranked in venture capital in Chambers UK; renewable energy and commodities trading are also strengths. Trainees wanted to “be part of a smaller, more agile team” in London alongside Orrick’s international reach – the firm has over 25 offices across the US, Europe and Asia. The firm’s intake size was another selling point, with one source reckoning “you’d have to fight over getting a small piece of work” at firms with bigger intakes. “Here, you’re one of six so you can build connections and learn more.”

The Seats

Orrick trainees get to do six seats, each lasting four months. “I really like it,” one source said. “Four months is just enough time to really get a feel for an area, and then you get to see so much more.” A transactional/corporate seat is compulsory, as is a contentious seat. Real estate used to be a key seat, but the firm currently doesn’t offer it since the departure of a ten-lawyer team to Forsters. Seat allocation is “pretty straightforward” – trainees are assigned their first seat randomly, then for following seats they submit three preferences to HR. “You normally get one of your three preferences,” said trainees.The firm also offers client secondments.

“You tend to be dealing with multiple companies, like three or four at once.”

For their corporate seat, trainees sit with either M&A or the technology companies group (TCG) – many end up doing both over the course of their training contract. TCG focuses on venture capital work not only in the tech sector but also life sciences and energy. The team works with a lot of start-ups and early-stage companies on their funding rounds and advises them on corporate governance. The team recently advised software platform Codility on its $22 million Series A financing. There’s also some work with investors: the team recently advised Stripe and Goodwater Capital on a £144 million financing round in Monzo, for example. “It’s an exciting and fast-paced area,” trainees reflected. “You tend to be dealing with multiple companies, like three or four at once.” As a trainee, typical tasks included drafting ancillary documents and “managing the signing process.” Trainees also appreciated getting “a lot of direct contact” with people outside of the firm, like shareholders: “It’s a good way to build up confidence.”

Trainees found transactions in M&A quite different to those in TCG, “in that they tend to be quite drawn out – they happen over months rather than weeks.” The team mainly handles mid-market deals and a hefty amount of renewable energy M&A: it recently advised NextEnergy on an £8.5 million acquisition of a solar project in Northern Ireland. Beyond the energy sector, the team advised French TV studio CANAL+ on its acquisition of ROK Studios, a Nigerian production house. There was sometimes overlap with TCG: “When clients have grown, we help in selling them on.” Interviewees experienced “a lot of buy-side mandates” which entailed “a lot more due diligence.” Along with getting to draft ancillary documents, trainees were also tasked with “managing the documents list, which was often 30 to 40 pages long!”

“Big infrastructure projects.”

The energy and infrastructure team is known for its renewables expertise, but it also has oil and gas clients. (The big news here is that Orrick recently nabbed a renewables team from Watson Farley Williams). “Big infrastructure projects” are the norm here, and interviewees described a smattering of project finance work too. Trainees worked on projects including offshore wind farms, broadband infrastructure and solar projects. The team recently acted for Future Earth Energy on a £150 million energy-from-waste facility in Derbyshire, and advised Conrad Energy on the acquisition and development of three power plants. Trainees here also found themselves “assisting the M&A team in buying and selling energy assets.” This included working on operation and maintenance agreements, engineering procurements and construction contracts. Energy trainee responsibilities were similar to those of corporate seats, though some mentioned getting to “assist in drafting shareholder purchase agreementsandattend client meetings.”

In previous years, trainees could do a split seat between competition and litigation. Now the seats are separate, and there isn’t any litigious work in competition. The team deals with merger control matters and assists clients with investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) or the European Commission. Clients include big names like eBay and Microsoft – the team recently helped Telenor get initial merger clearance from the European Commission for its $3 billion acquisition of a majority stake in a Finnish telecommunications group. The seat was “quite research-heavy” for trainees and involved a fair bit of proofreading and drafting articles.

Litigation and arbitration sources dabbled in FCA investigations and “large, 20-year-old disputes,” as well as “cases in the commercial court or the Queen’s Bench Division.” Testament to the firm’s finance strengths, major accountancy firms call on Orrick in times of need, including members of the Big Four. For example, the team recently acted for KPMG in relation to the collapse of Carillion, advising on investigations by regulators like the Financial Reporting Council. The firm also represented EY in a £13 million claim brought by a former partner who alleged he was constructively dismissed. Trainees can also decide to devote a litigation seat entirely to cyber and data privacy, which is “a new area the firm is looking into” – two partners who focus on this space recently joined the team. Alongside research, doc review and bundling, interviewees found “there’s also good opportunity for courtroom experience.”

Trainee Life

“There’s always a buzz around the place,” trainees told us, highlighting “the fact we work with tech clients – a lot of that culture comes to us from the industry.” Trainees felt the innovative culture associated with tech companies had rubbed off on the firm, “not just as a matter of branding, but in the way people work.” Others pinned Orrick’s buzz on its California roots, noting: “We still have a West Coast style, even in London.” This translated into an environment where “everyone from PAs to partners is willing to have a conversation with you.”

Another US law firm staple you’ll find at Orrick is pro bono. All lawyers have a 20-hour target and “almost everyone goes above and beyond that.” Trainees felt “spoiled for choice” with pro bono opportunities. Many had worked with charities LawWorks and Together for Short Lives, providing advice to support children with serious conditions and their families. “We help make sure the local authority and the NHS are giving them the appropriate care packages,” one trainee explained.The firm also works with learning disability charity Mencap, “representing people trying to get their Personal Independence Payments reinstated.”

“Quite a few 11pm finishes.”

When it came to having a life outside the firm, trainees admitted “some weeks are easier than others.” Overall, most found their hours“quite good,” but be warned: ‘quite good’ for this bunch meant 9am starts and 8pm finishes on average. “We know what we’re signing up for,” they insisted. As expected, corporate seats usually required later stints with “quite a few 11pm finishes.” Equally though, sources found “if you don’t have that much to do, teams are happy for you to take advantage of that.” Many noted they “felt appreciated” when they worked hard hours. We’d also feel appreciated on a trainee salary of £45,000, which takes a “massive jump” to £120,000 for NQs. It’s not the highest-paying of the US firms, but none of our interviewees sniffed at it.

Qualification starts out informally at Orrick. Trainees usually have a chat with partners in the practices they’re interested in to gauge whether there’s space for an NQ. During the fifth seat, they can apply for up to three departments. This then “gets discussed at UK partner level,” before being taken to the US for final approval. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Orrick offered all six qualifiers fixed-term contracts until the end of 2020, and delayed its final decision on permanent NQ positions until later in the year.

Ten lawyers a-leaping

Orrick’s social highlights included the Christmas party and letting off steam at a trampoline park in Wandsworth.


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How to get an Orrick training contract


Open day deadline (2021): 1 October 2020

Training contract deadline (2023): 29 May 2020 (opens 1 October 2020)


Orrick’s recruitment team usually attend between six to ten law fairs each year. In 2020 they're (virtually) at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, UCL, Surrey, City, BPP and University of Law. They are also attending a fair with Aspiring Solicitors. 

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.”

Open days

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. 

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.”

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

107 Cheapside,
Website www.orrick.com

  • Partners 32 (London)
  • Associates 70 (incl of counsel) (London)
  • Total trainees 14
  • UK offices London
  • Overseas offices 25
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: Sophia Eleftheriou seleftheriou@orrick.com 020 7862 4600
  • Training partner: Sushila Nayak 
  • 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: None
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st October 2020
  • Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 29th May 2021
  • Vacation scheme deadline: 31st January 2021 
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £45,000
  • Second-year salary: £49,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £120,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa:
  • GDL: £8,000
  • UPC: £9,500
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: London
  • Overseas seats: None
  • Client secondments: Yes

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. Financial Times selected Orrick the Most Innovative Law Firm in North America for 2016- 2018 and runner-up in 2019, and Fortune named us 15th on its 2019 list of the 100 Best Places to Work, the fifth year in a row we’ve been listed.

Types of work undertaken
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 US and UK unicorns, 10 of the world’s largest 25 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 and 3 of the top 10 most active VC investors in European fintech, funds and government entities. We were named a 2019 Technology Group of the Year by Law360, and rank 3rd globally for venture capital and #1 in Europe for the past 17 consecutive quarters (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, restructuring, structured finance, tax and technology.

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 broadbased 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 June and July 2021. 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 2020

Aspring Selectors, Bristol, City, Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, University of Law, BPP, Surrey.

Social media

Twitter @Orrick

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

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