If you’re interested in big numbers – deal-wise and salary-size – then stay a Weil and read about a firm where “everyone keeps it real.”
Weil, Gotshal & Manges training contract review 2022
The 90s. What isn’t there to love about this decade? The Spice Girls. Byker Grove. Nokia phones. Sunny Delight was a US import that took over the nation, but in legal circles there was another crossover from the Atlantic that would have a more enduring impact: premier New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges. This firm was already big news back then, but today it’s a global powerhouse in the legal sector: in the US it shines in many areas, including bankruptcy, antitrust/competition and product liability work, while on the global stage it is one of the best for private equity matters.
As the second largest base in Weil’s network, London plays a key part in the firm’s success story. “We’ve had a strong presence in the UK for many years so this is not a satellite office,” graduate recruitment partner James Harvey tells us. “We’ve got a significant operation here.” That operation boasts the firm’s trademark prestige in private equity matters, but Chambers UK also bestows praise on many other City-centred practices like banking & finance, capital markets, restructuring/insolvency and high-end corporate/M&A. “The business has increased rather than decreased during the pandemic,” says Harvey. “We’ve worked on a large number of transactions, particularly in the private equity and M&A areas, but we’ve also had significant financings and restructurings. It means there’s been plenty of interesting work for trainees to get stuck into.”
“...helps you challenge yourself to be the best lawyer you can be.”
The amount of time Weil’s spent on our drizzle-dappled shores means it feels like a “very anglicised American firm,” according to trainees. When pressed to describe this further, trainees identified a “hard work ethic” that was carried by the dynamism of the people at Weil: “There’s a drive and it’s inspiring to be around these people,” one source reflected. “They’re incredibly intelligent, motivated and passionate about what they do. That rubs off on you and helps you challenge yourself to be the best lawyer you can be. It develops you as a trainee and as a person.” Many of our sources identified their interest in Weil’s areas of expertise, which, as Harvey tells us, provide plenty of opportunity for international work: “Pretty much all our transactions involve international elements and working with overseas offices.”
Trainees are required to do at least one finance and one corporate seat. Client secondments and overseas seats are reportedly quite rare for trainees. Trainees can submit up to three preferences for all their seats in the training contract. A few sources felt that the seat allocation process was “not always transparent,” with one highlighting that “demand for trainees outstrips supply at the moment because the firm’s so busy; trainee choices are very much secondary to partner demand.” This source flagged that “even if you want to do a seat there’s no guarantee that you’d get the seat in your training contract,” while another stated: “In general the firm is really open to you getting a seat at some point if it’s really important to you.” We heard that stints in the smaller departments like litigation and tax are more difficult to get, while trainees are more or less guaranteed seats in larger core groups like private equity, restructuring and banking and finance.
The corporate department is the firm’s largest in London and covers a lot of private equity work. Recent lateral hires have augmented “a growing M&A practice, which shows we are looking to corner more markets.” We heard about an increasing amount of work with start-ups, which was deemed “a great opportunity from a trainee perspective, as fees are kept lower on those matters and you get more exposure on them.” The private equity work can reach into the billions: the team recently advised Providence Equity Partners on various sales and acquisitions of targets worth €5.5 billion in total. Other major private equity names on the client list include Bain Capital Credit, Blackstone Growth and Advent International. Trainees enjoyed the “multi-jurisdictional element to our work, although it can be challenging dealing with all the time differences!” Interviewees emphasised that this is a “very project management-heavy seat,” which involves facilitating a lot of communications between parties, as well as getting approvals and signings. More substantial tasks come in the form of drafting share purchase agreements (SPAs) and helping to run closings: “I had responsibility for closings in multiple jurisdictions. I was checking in with my supervisor, but it was all on me. It was daunting but I learnt a lot!”
"Weird and wacky securitisation products, like diamond or football ticket receivables."
The banking group covers both the sponsor and lender-side of leveraged finance matters, which in many instances “put the finance arrangements in place for private equity firms to acquire targets.” Lender-side work can see the team “act on behalf of 12 different lenders in a consortium, so you have to ‘go round the houses’ to make sure everyone’s on the same page.” The team recently advised a group of major banks who were acting as lead arrangers and bookrunners on the establishment of a facility for security company Verisure Holding – the matter was valued at €1.6 billion. Clients here include Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. On the sponsor side, “we have longstanding relationships with our clients, so [as a trainee] you get to know their model and way of working.” On this side of the coin, lawyers advised Montagu Private Equity on the £130 million financing of its acquisition of business intelligence company ISI. Trainees coordinate with local counsel on these “mostly international matters” and “make sure everyone’s sticking to the time frame.” Trainees found that they could be “very autonomous” in this seat, which saw them preparing the main security documents, running conditions precedent checklists, and attending calls. “It feels more independent,” reflected one source. “You manage yourself and your work, and it’s easier to have more responsibility here.”
Structured finance is split into two areas: securitisations and collateralised loan obligations (CLOs). The work here is “like banking, but it’s an intellectual level above that because the structures are more complicated.”On CLOs, “you’re securitising corporate loans. The assets that make the money on those deals are of a completely different character and risk profile to a fungible asset,” one trainee commented. Securitisation work at Weil covers “weird and wacky securitisation products, like diamond or football ticket receivables – they take a pool of assets and try to collate them in a way that has immediate return for investors.” Trainees found the work “cool in terms of figuring out how you make a monthly income from something like diamonds.” Both sides work for “exciting big-name clients,” like BlackRock, Carlyle and Apollo. Lawyers here are Apollo’s counsel of choice on CLO matters, which have recently involved advising on different deal structures, tax regulations and risk retention elements. The team has been “unfathomably busy” of late: “There are closings every week pretty much.” Frequent closings mean that trainee tasks are “admin-heavy. You need to run the grunt work of collating signatures, distributing documents and keeping checklists up to date.” Interviewees admitted that this “isn’t the most fascinating stuff, but it’s good to get to grips with some of the documents.” When the opportunity arises, trainees are given “more responsibility to draft transaction documents, clauses, agreements, and some opinions.”
“It’s cerebral and quite complicated as you’re coming in once everything’s already gone wrong.”
The restructuring team is roughly split between contentious matters and the transactional manoeuvres required to assist struggling companies. The work spans “really interesting, top of the market, complex deals,” one trainee reported. “It’s cerebral and quite complicated as you’re coming in once everything’s already gone wrong.” The team is advising Floatel (a company that provides accommodation and construction support vessels to the oil and gas industry) on the restructuring of its $877 million debt due to decreasing business. Other companies Weil has been advising of late include Dream Cruises and Odeon Cinemas Group – entities that operate in areas that have been significantly affected by the pandemic. On the more advisory/transactional restructuring matters, the work for trainees can be “really random: there is no normal day. You could be doing a lot of data management and helping out on due diligence, or you could be drafting documents, agreements and letters. It can be complicated and hard to get your head around sometimes!” Fortunately, trainees get to learn by joining in on calls where participants “talk through the structure of the deal and what’s going on.” The contentious work can be more admin-heavy, like “sending things to the other side – it's quite simple but good to learn.”
Weil has a small litigation team that tends to focus on complex commercial litigation, as well as litigious support for the restructuring department. “It runs the entire gamut of what one might expect from dispute resolution,” said one interviewee. “Arbitration, traditional litigation in the High Court and even some Employment Tribunal work.” Trainee tasks are “largely administrative” to begin with, so expect to create a fair few bundles. However, this work is “grounded in the context of the matters themselves, which makes it more interesting.” One source noted that as the seat progressed, they were able to “draft defences and correspondence with the other side, as well as file court documents and arrange counsel.”
We asked interviewees if they did any pro bono work. “Yeah, loads! That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to join here,” one replied enthusiastically. Another told us that they’d “sometimes logged more pro bono work than client.” (We should point out that will be an exception to the rule though!) We heard of work being conducted with charities like the Innocence Project, Women of Impact and Micro Rainbow – a housing organisation for LGBT+ asylum seekers. There’s an annual pro bono goal of 50 hours, but “people exceed that. I’ve billed more than 50 in the last couple of weeks!” Apparently, “trainees do the same amount [of pro bono] as partners on average, so that trickles down. There’s never any pushback and people are enthusiastic about it.”
Partners were described as driving the culture in many ways at Weil: “Everyone’s very down to earth.” Trainees described the firm as “very social – partners say we would usually go out for dinner at end of the deal, but we can’t at the moment.” At the time of our calls, Zoom socials were happening, but they were experienced as “a paler imitation of the real thing.” We heard of virtual cocktail-making courses, cheese and wine nights and quizzes taking place. Overall, Weillians have been “good at reaching out and chatting remotely” to trainees.
On a more didactic note, a trainee appreciated that their supervisors“have had oversight over my work but they’re not so involved that they’re like a helicopter supervisor.” Those looking for more of a hand-holding culture should know that “the impetus is on the trainee to catch up with the supervisor. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just the way it’s done.” This doesn’t mean that partners are distant – “they believe in you: when I get something wrong, they’re chill about it. It makes them easy to approach.” Though Weil traditionally gives trainees “a lot of learning on the job,”working remotely has seen a temporary switch to “a little more structured training; time has been allocated for associates to talk through things with you.”
Interviewees viewed Weil’s diversity and inclusion commitment favourably – “there’s a lot of effort being put in, and it’s not just virtue signalling.” The fact that “people at the top care means it pervades the whole culture and feels genuine.” As well as having inclusion committees, the firm conducts allyship training and talks. The firm is also in the process of publishing a “gender-neutral dress memo that’ll be firm policy”and “most people have their pronouns in their signature.” All this leads to Weil feeling like an “open and accepting place where people are their genuine self.” The firm offers a counselling service, a yoga and sleep app, and a subscription to Calm – “and people do use these things.” We heard there’s “so much mental health support and a heavy emphasis on supporting people.” For example, “when the George Floyd verdict was announced the firm sent an email out immediately saying to Black lawyers, ‘If you need to take time off to process please do.’”
“I got told, ‘Don’t try and be a superhero. It’s not good for you or the people you’re working with.’”
Looking after your mental health is imperative in an industry that can come with long working hours. Weil is no exception to this. The latest finishing time we heard of was 1am, with another trainee highlighting regular 11.30pm/12.30am finishes during busy periods in structured finance. This was honestly described as “hard,” but we largely got an accepting vibe from out interviewees: “You just get on with it. You don’t come into this job without fair warning.” This source also noted that Weil’s culture helps: “I got told, ‘Don’t try and be a superhero.’ It’s not good for you or the people you’re working with. You’ll completely burn out.”
There is a literal pay-off for all this hard work: “It goes without saying that we are handsomely rewarded.” Weil pays its first years £50,000and NQs £145,000. Salary was a big motivation for many in choosing the firm, and some noted that “the benefits are really good too,” such as health insurance and other support.
“The bulk of qualification is done informally,” one trainee noted, but there are formal elements like applications and interviews too if more than one person applies for a role (which we heard is a rare occurrence). The informal part involves talking to partners who are “up front with everything and you’re not left guessing what your position is.” Trainees are also “open – we talk to each other and there’s no competition.” The freedom to qualify pretty much wherever they like means there are “no worries about qualification – the hardest thing is deciding where to qualify!” We did hear, however, that there’s a “proposal that we might have a jobs list posted in future.” We heard that the firm lets qualifiers know which practice areas are hiring but not the specific number of roles within each. Though our interviewees were all keen on staying at the firm, they admitted that “certain types of work aren’t compatible with family life” (a reality in some areas of law across the industry). Lawyers departing Weil tend to “go to clients – we don’t really have people who leave for other law firms.” In 2021, nine of ten qualifiers stayed at the firm.
Bop from the top
“The managing partner Mike Francies is such a nice guy – like, he’d know my name and have a chat with me. He’s very approachable, and because he is, the other partners are as well.”
How to get a Weil training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 10 January 2022 (opens 01 October 2021)
Training contract deadline (2023/2024): 31 July 2022 (opens 01 June 2022)
Applications and interviews
Weil’s graduate recruitment team organise various skills sessions, workshops, partner-led presentations and insight days throughout the year – check Weil's events calendar for details.
Students interested in a training contract with Weil can apply for a vacation scheme or directly for a training contract. Weil also runs a fast track scheme for those who are keen to start developing their career and who are looking to secure a vacation scheme early on in their academic studies.
Applications for vacation schemes, training contracts and the fast track scheme are made via an online application form. All applications are reviewed by Weil’s graduate recruitment team and there are no pre-screening filters. The best of the bunch progress to the next stage, where candidates undertake a critical reasoning test. Applicants that pass the test are then invited to submit an online video interview.
Those who have impressed and have applied for a vacation scheme or direct training contract are offered a first-round interview with an associate and a member of the graduate recruitment team, candidates are also asked to complete an analytical exercise, and there is the opportunity to meet with a trainee after the interview to ask questions. The interview is geared towards finding out more about a candidate's journey, motivations and career aspirations, but you will also be assessed on your commercial awareness . Those who have applied for the fast track scheme will be invited to a Zoom interview with a member of the graduate recruitment team.
Graduate recruitment and development officer Laura Nelson tells us successful candidates are the ones who demonstrate “a keen interest in Weil. If you are able to discuss our practice areas and understand our market position it shows you have a genuine interest to work for the firm.” Successful applicants are then made a fast track scheme or vacation scheme offer. For candidates applying directly for a training contract, there is a second-round interview with two partners before offers are made.
Weil runs two vacation schemes over the spring and summer holidays, each scheme is two-weeks long and participants are paid £500 per week. There are 24 places available across the two schemes. Participants spend two weeks in one practice area and you are able to submit preferences in advance. Throughout the scheme you will work alongside associates, carrying out trainee tasks and responsibilities. Participants are required to complete assessments during the scheme, including a group negotiation exercise, a group pitch presentation and you are invited to attend an interview with two partners.
Fast track scheme
Weil’s fast track scheme is a fantastic way to gain an insight into the legal profession, and understand the work of a trainee. The two-day placement in May will see you attending skills sessions and workshops in addition to having the chance to gain an insight into the day-to-day role of a lawyer, by shadowing one of our trainees.
If you perform well on the scheme you will automatically be fast tracked to a vacation scheme. You will also be paid £100 per day.
According to Laura Nelson, “those who perform really well are the ones who are team players pro-active and show enthusiasm for the work. The vacation scheme and fast track scheme is aimed to mirror the work you would undertake during a training contract, therefore it gives participants a real opportunity to gain an insight into the role of a trainee at Weil." Crazy golf, ping-pong tournaments and dinner on the roof terrace of City restaurant Madison’s have featured in previous vacation schemes and fast track schemes. Participants are also invited to informal drinks on the firm’s office roof terrace with the graduate recruitment team, partners, associates and trainees on their last day.
Supervision and the social life at Weil
Juniors frequently commended their supervisors, “who have been so helpful.” Naturally, though, approaches differ: “Some supervisors are more committed to being supervisors than others. Some really commit with invaluable feedback, but others see it as a tick-box formality.” That said, trainees praised the informal modes of support that are available too. “The culture of the firm helps establish this,” said one source. “I learn by practising and that’s universal here – we learn by doing.”
On the note of socialising, “it’s social when you’re in the firm, but there’s no real emphasis on hanging out outside of work. People would much rather go home after long days!” And while it’s “not a party firm,” juniors spoke warmly of team-specific events and an “incredible Christmas party with everyone from the firm.”
Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP
110 Fetter Lane,
- Partners: 41 (London)
- Assistant solicitors: 99 associates, 38 Counsel (London)
- Total trainees: 26 (London)
- UK offices: London
- Overseas offices: 14
- Graduate recruiter: Yohanna Wilson email@example.com
- Application criteria Training contracts pa: 15
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 26
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 June 2022
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 31 July 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 October 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 10 January 2022
- Insight days deadline: 7 November 2021
- Fast Track Scheme 2022 deadline: 20 March 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £60,000
- Second-year salary: £65,000
- Post qualification salary: £145,000
- PGDL: £12,500
- LPC: £12,500
- SQE 1 & 2: £12,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Overseas seats: Yes – New York, Hong Kong, Paris
Main areas of work
Diversity & Inclusion
The training contract
Vacation schemes 2022
Spring vacation scheme
Summer vacation scheme
Fast track scheme 2022
Insight days (in person)
24 November 2021 (deadline 7 November 2021)
Virtual experience programme
How to apply
If you require any additional support throughout the recruitment process, please contact the Graduate Recruitment team to have a confidential conversation on 020 7903 1000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: CLOs (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 4)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Infrastructure (Band 3)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 1)