If you've got a taste for the finance things in life (or law), you can bank on this LA native.
Paul Hastings training contract review 2024
From the Big Orange (LA) to the Big Apple, Paul Hastings has spread its roots across the US and beyond. When PH did arrive on English shores, it brought with it years of financial expertise for the London market. The firm now has 21 offices across the US, Asia and Europe, and has certainly made a name for itself on British soil. Specifically, as training principal Matthew Poxon explains, “we operate at the top end of the market as a go-to adviser in the elite space, predominantly for clients when they have complicated big-ticket or bet-the-house deals.”Chambers UK has recognised 13 of the firm’s departments, with special kudos going to its nationwide capital markets CLOs practice. The remainder of the rankings primarily concern finance, though its hotel & leisure, infrastructure and financial crime groups also get tips of the hat. Back in the States, PH has picked up several top-tier accolades for its labour & employment work, amongst others.
The London office has more than doubled in headcount and revenue in the past five years, and PH doesn’t expect to slow down any time soon. Poxon told us that 15 partners have been hired in London in the past year, assuring that “we’re not a firm that only grows laterally - we do hire organically too. It’s a combination of both, not one at the cost of the other.” One trainee was particularly drawn to this growth: “it’s expanding so much, and it seemed so exciting to be a part of that and have the opportunity to grow with the firm.”
“I’ve worked closely with the US offices on matters, and American partners visit regularly.”
Although London trainees might not get to experience the LA weather, multi-jurisdictional matters and cross-office collaboration mean they're not missing out on any opportunities from across the pond. “I’ve worked closely with the US offices on matters, and American partners visit regularly,” a trainee explained. Others wanted the early experience that comes with training at a US firm, especially one with such a small intake. “I wanted a smaller, close-knit environment where I could put names to faces and get to know everyone,” reflected one interviewee. “The firm operates on a lean model, meaning they can pay more and give you increased responsibility.” Yvette Croucher, managing director for talent management, offered the firm’s perspective on responsibility and training: “This is the sort of firm for people who like to jump in, get responsibility and learn on the job. We expect people to put their hand up when they need skill training so we can support them in that.”
The first of the four rotations are assigned by the talent management team, who allocate the next three seats according to trainee preferences and business need. “You have a chat with them and discuss what you might be interested in doing,” a trainee explained, “but the system is quite opaque." The firm told us it does release a list of available seats, though these may change.Third and fourth-seaters generally get priority, but trainees can try out a variety of transactionally oriented practices. There are a few popular clientsecondment opportunities, usually with banks or private equity firms, which are available from your second seat onwards.
“You can get as much responsibility as you want to take on.”
A seat in leveraged finance, one of the bigger teams in the firm, sees trainees working on cross-border and domestic matters with big-name clients in the space. The group typically works on the lender side, but does do sponsor-side work too. A number of household names appear on the client list, like Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, BNP Paribas and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm recently represented 12 banks (including Lloyds, NatWest and Goldman Sachs) and six funds on the $2.3 billion cross-border financing aspects of defence company Ultra Electronics’ takeover by US equity firm Advent International. A trainee summarised, “Lender-side lawyers communicate what the lenders think to the sponsor side and give their own input on how to minimise risk.” We heard there’s a mix of financing matters on offer in the leanly staffed team so “you can get as much responsibility as you want. People are keen to give you NQ or associate-level work if you’d like to step into that role.” Trainees’ day-to-day tasks might include managing closing checklists and collating signature pages. However, sources found that there’s a chance to get involved in more heavy-duty work, such as drafting ancillary documents, liaising with local counsel and plenty of client interaction. One interviewee particularly appreciated the chance to work on an extended matter throughout the seat, finding it helpful to “go granular on one deal as opposed to churning out work.”
“You really feel like you’re contributing and making a tangible difference in bringing something successfully to a close.”
Credit funds was described as a busier seat by interviewees and broadly “deals with the formation of funds and any ongoing queries from clients who work in the credit funds space.” The firm has worked for some big names, such as BlackRock, Apollo and Rothschild, on matters in the billions and trillions. Trainees mentioned that “the work seems more process-driven and less technical than in other seats,” involving more negotiation with investors than grappling with complex areas of the law. For newbies, typical tasks include reviewing sub documents, helping close investors into a fund and negotiating side letters, all while working towards the fund’s set deadline. “They’ve given me a lot of responsibility,” said one grateful interviewee. “You really feel like you’re contributing and making a tangible difference in bringing something successfully to a close.”
Something that sets PH apart is its dedicated Collateralised Loan Obligation seat. For the uninitiated, a CLO is a type of security that’s backed by a pool of debt. This seat is jam-packed with plenty of complex, specialised transactions. Again, the team typically works for banks. For example, these folks advised on the proposed sale of Kensington Mortgage Company to Barclays, and the company’s separation from the holders of its £8 billion securitised assets.
Trainees explained that it’s easier to get the hang of the process of a transaction since its timeline is so short. “By their nature, CLOs are quite repetitive and precedent-based,” said one trainee. “You have to manage quite a lot of closings day to day.” That means trainees might often find themselves taking charge of admin management, preparing closing packs and signature packs, and circulating documents to the relevant parties: “It’s really helpful for developing an understanding of the practice as you’re involved in every aspect of a deal, from its initial warehouse stage through to pricing documents and closing,” one interviewee explained. We also heard it's a drafting-heavy seat, so newbies can expect to get their teeth stuck into some substantive writing tasks.
Interviewees felt that the M&A and private equityseat was also great for learning as trainees “probably touch every or almost every deal going on and can get exposure to lots of different deals at once.” Large-scale matters flow through the firm, and the group recently advised City Football Club on the disposal of shares to existing shareholders. Newbies are kept busy with due diligence, drafting and dealing with one-off client requests. The team works for some big names in the private equity space, such as Oakley Capital and Francisco Partners. Trainees mentioned that “you’re often working as the junior associate on a deal, taking charge of transaction management. There’s a lot of herding sheep and making sure all parties are aligned in terms of timing.” We heard it’s also common for trainees to compile a transaction bible for clients containing all the documents produced and signed throughout a deal.
“Entrepreneurial” and “driven” were adjectives our interviewees used to describe the firm’s culture. “You're treated as an adult immediately,” one trainee explained which, although it might seem like a no-brainer, essentially means “you’re put on things immediately and it’s up to you to take the reins.” However, our interviewees still found that the partners were approachable and “teams try and foster a culture where you can speak to anybody about anything as long as you’re mindful about their time. They’re here to help you.” Sources agreed that the influx of lateral hires has meant the culture is largely team-specific but there’s a good sense of camaraderie among trainees, even though last-minute trips to the pub aren’t too common!
“People recognise when you’re working long hours and give you a breather between deals.”
Working at a US firm often comes with the promise of making big bucks upon qualification and Paul Hastings is no exception, offering NQs a whopping £164,000. With such generous pay, you can expect slightly longer hours as part of the job. A few insiders mentioned that the restructuring and insolvency department is a bit busier, but “all the seats have peaks and troughs. People recognise when you’re working long hours and give you a breather between deals.” Though not common, trainees can expect to work a few late nights, some weekends or even through the night if needed. However, interviewees were quick to add that there’s plenty of flexibility and no pressure to get all your work done in the office. Trainees have also made the most of the firm’s wellbeing allowance, which you can use for things like gym memberships, yoga classes, or massages – whatever “gives you a chance to switch off and step away from your desk.”
The firm has further initiatives when it comes to DEI, and recently invited 60 to 70 students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to the firm for ‘Inside Look’, a full day of workshops, networking and panel sessions. Interviewees also mentioned that trainees can take part in the Generation Success mentoring programme. On the gender front, “I think there are still more male than female partners, but the firm is looking to change that,” said one trainee. “We have a Women’s Associate Network to facilitate friendships and mentor relationships between women at different levels.”
More informally, trainees can get additional guidance from their supervisors, with whom they share an office: “My supervisor is always there as a source of support and stands up for me when I need to push back on things. But, at the same time, they don’t baby me or closely monitor everything I do.” Trainees can use mid and end of seat reviews as an opportunity to receive and provide feedback to their supervisors to ensure they’re getting the most out of the relationship. We heard that training is more informal – a common function of US firms – but there are practice area-specific sessions available for trainees to catch up on recent updates. One trainee valued on-the-job training as “sometimes you learn far more from doing something in practice than watching a presentation.”
Qualification works similarly to seat allocation at PH: trainees state their preferences to the talent management team, which in turn sees if there’s space and business need to accommodate that request. “It’s good to make it known if you want to join a particular department so they know you’re interested before HR approaches them,” a trainee advised. The process is typically wrapped up in the first half of the final seat so there’s no rush to the finish line. Trainees felt that retention can vary, especially since a new (small!) cohort joins every six months but, in 2023, PH retained five out of nine trainees.
The Battle of Paul Hastings
PH’s football team goes head-to-head with other London law firms in a local five-a-side league.
How to get a Paul Hastings training contract
- Opening dates for training contract applications (2026): 1 November 2023
- Training contract deadline (2026): 31 July 2024
- Vac scheme deadline: 29 February 2024
Insight Days and Placement weeks
The firm has not in recent years run a formal vacation scheme, offering instead up to 12 work experience placements each year, which run in July. In 2024 we will be offering a one week vacation scheme for up to 16 students which will be paid. Interested candidates should apply directly online via the firm’s Graduate Careers website. In addition we offer various Insight Schemes and Open Day events over the summer period, with a keen emphasis on attracting diverse talent.
Paul Hastings receives in excess of 400 applications each year for its training contracts. The firm has increased trainee numbers in the past few years and expects to maintain this upward trajectory in 2024 and 2025 "to match the growth strategy of the firm. We’ve always been in a position where we are quite agile and leave spaces open so we can have the flexibility to hire a paralegal or find a trainee that can start quite quickly," said Croucher.
The firm selects a shortlist of around 35 candidates from the initial application. Trainee hopefuls need a consistently impressive set of A-levels and GCSEs, and a good 2:1 degree. Croucher tells us the firm is on the lookout for those A and A* grades, and also reveals that many applicants have postgraduate qualifications like LLMs or other Master's degrees. But the firm takes a holistic approach to hiring and will look at candidates in the round and so encourages candidates to apply if they have not obtained the top grades. The application form is divided into four sections: academics, work experience, hobbies and interests, and finally a group of open-ended questions like, 'Why do you want to be a City lawyer?' and 'What can you offer Paul Hastings?'
Approximately 35 applicants make it through to the first interview, which usually takes place with a member of the Talent Management team and the training principal, Jason Raeburn, or with two other partners. Around 20 are invited back for a second interview, which lasts for a whole morning or afternoon. This takes place with two partners and is accompanied by a written assessment that involves reading and analysing a legal document. This tests a candidate's ability to digest information in a short period of time, understand it and summarise it succinctly.
Croucher told us that, in order to thrive at the firm, "you need to be willing to rise to a challenge, learn on the job, and just roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. Because we’re so collaborative you need to be someone who is confident, can get on with people easily, is personable, enthusiastic with a good splash of humility. We're a very entrepreneurial firm."
Diversity and inclusion initiatives
In addition to a social mobility initiative with Generation Success, the firm runs an annual mentoring programme with Aspiring Solicitors - twelve trainees and junior associates mentor twelve black university students to encourage them in tehir pursuit of a career in law.
"We don't think the SQE will impact our training programme too dramatically. At the moment we’re flexing between both the LPC and SQE and going forward we will frontload the SQE for everyone. We will still be insisting on the GDL" - Yvette Croucher, Managing Director, Talent Management
Paul Hastings (Europe) LLP
With lawyers serving clients from 21 worldwide offices, we provide a wide range of services across Europe, Asia and the US. We are client-focused professionals with a commercial mindset and a collaborative approach to delivering value in everything we do. We combine business acumen, industry knowledge and deep legal expertise. We think and act creatively and proactively to meet the needs of our clients. As well as being client-centric, we are people-centric. We value each individual and their unique perspective. Paul Hastings is not for the hierarchical or the entitled but for the inclusive, creative and entrepreneurial. We hire smart people from diverse backgrounds who are the right fit for our collegial, client-centric and future-focused culture.
Our London office focuses on corporate M&A, private equity, leveraged finance and private/credit funds. There are also opportunities to gain experience in other practice specialisms, including real estate finance, securitisation, corporate and structured finance, tax, payment systems, financial services and regulation, fintech, data privacy, employment, litigation and corporate crime.
We advise clients on matters that are of the highest value to them. We help them maximise opportunities, create and protect value, and nimbly manage risk in a dynamic, uncertain marketplace. We always play to our strengths. We don’t offer ‘products’ or ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions. Each client is unique and each challenge demands a tailored approach. We can deliver creative solutions because we are leaders in our chosen practices and industry sectors.
We pride ourselves on the strong relationship we develop with our clients. We invest time in understanding their businesses and what it takes to make them even more successful. We encourage and reward entrepreneurial flair, original thought and new ideas. Our people have the confidence, experience and expertise to question and to continually sharpen our thinking and the solutions we offer our clients. We empower our people to deliver those solutions and because of this, our teams can move mountains to provide exceptional client service.
We offer an extensive and instructive training programme for our trainees, spending six months in four practice areas with opportunities for a client secondments.
We offer a Summer Work Placement programme in July. Each placement is for one week and is paid. Applications should be made via our website, and the deadline to apply is 29 February 2024.
Standard benefits to include private medical, pension, life insurance, employee assistance programme and active wellbeing plan (monthly allowance for gym/wellbeing activities).
December 2023 and open to second/third year undergraduates, and graduates. Apply from October 2023.
At Paul Hastings, we are committed to acting with integrity, valuing knowledge, and embracing diversity. We have a strong global diversity and inclusion program that focuses on recruiting, retention and development, addresses our brand and upholds our commitment to improving wellbeing of our attorneys and staff.
We are committed to the professional development and career aspirations of our people. We hire great people and provide development programs to help associates reach their goals, whether a path to partnership, in-house with a client, or other organisations. Our goal is to foster an inclusive work environment where diverse perspectives and ideas are not only embraced, but are considered critical to creating innovative solutions for our clients.
Recent initiatives in the London office include hosting a Wellness week in January to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace; the introduction of our Active Wellbeing Plan benefit (offering a contribution towards employee’s choice of ongoing sport, fitness, health, and wellbeing costs); equalising and enhancing our parental leave benefit, which is now available to both birthing and non-birthing parents; and partnering with SupportLinc to offer a global Employee Assistance Program, offering practical information and counselling to all PH employees, partners, and their families.
Paul Hastings is also a proud signatory of the Mindful Business Charter, which is a set of best practices to reduce avoidable stress. The firm actively encourages all Partners and employees to keep these commitments in mind in order to promote a healthy work environment, allowing employees to perform at their best and deliver optimum client service.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 4)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 5)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 6)
- Capital Markets: CLOs (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
- Infrastructure (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Credit Funds Spotlight
- Real Estate Finance (Band 5)