New York's Weil keeps the City's wheels turning, with its robust global capabilities in finance, restructuring, funds and capital markets.
First things first: pronouncing a firm’s name correctly is essential, and for Weil you essentially say ‘while.’ The other vital piece of information is “it’s a corporate, restructuring, finance and funds powerhouse,”noted one trainee source. “It handles top-bracket work at a very high level; the deals are intellectually stimulating and never cookie-cutter.”This elite New Yorker has certainly provided its lawyers with more than just a slice of headline-hitting private equity and bankruptcy work.It has overseen some of the largest and most high-profile bankruptcies in recent memory, including those of major US names like Lehman Brothers, General Motors and Sears. Its private equity practice, meanwhile, is world-beating, positioned as it is at the very top of Chambers Global’s rankings for this area. Its prominence in the UK for this work is highlighted especially.
“…the responsibility is second to none. We’re treated as associates here.”
Weil braved the Atlantic crossing 25 years ago; now, the London office plays a crucial role in the firm’s global operation, which comprises 17 offices (eight of which are in the US). The London office is the firm’s second biggest and global revenue increased by 4% in 2019 – from $1.46bn to $1.5bn. Weil’s commitment to the City was revealed in its recent partnership promotion round: of the 16 partners promoted globally last year, four were made in London, bringing the UK partnership ranks to 41. In addition, Weil has continued to invest in its London offering via lateral hiring: five new lateral partners were brought on board last year. Most notably, the firm bagged an M&A expert from Linklaters to bolster its corporate practice.
Alongside its first-class private equity practice, Chambers Globalalso rates Weil highly for its corporate and finance expertise across seven jurisdictions around the world. For you, future trainee, the most important one for you to know about is the firm’s standing in Chambers UK. On a UK-wide basis, Weil’s private equity-related buyouts and investment funds expertise is highly regarded, while its know-how across banking and finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, restructuring/insolvency and tax practices also comes in for praise.
The promise of big-ticket cross-border work aside, a training contract at Weil also comes with some of those factors associated with US firms in the City: lean teams, big exposure and even bigger pay cheques. Of course, trainees work mighty hard and the hours can be intense, but ultimately, as this source mused, the real pay-off is that “the responsibility is second to none. We’re treated as associates here, with structures in place for you to prove yourself as you do the same standard of work as a magic circle firm.”
Trainees are required to do at least one finance and one corporate seat. Finance covers structured finance as well as banking, business finance and restructuring (BFR), while corporate covers corporate/M&A, private equity, funds and BFR. Litigation-oriented options consist of employment, regulatory and BFR practices. Client secondments and overseas seats are reportedly quite rare. “Technically” you can go to Paris, Hong Kong or New York, but language requisites and business cases are required “as they effectively lose a trainee” from an already finite pool.
First seats are assigned to trainees before they join. While “not quite a point of contention,” juniors aired a few grumbles about an “opaque” seat allocation system that “can be quite obfuscated,” which left many wanting it to be more “transparent.” That said, sources found that “generally, if someone doesn’t get their first choice, they’ll be prioritised for the next round and people are generally happy.”Our sources also advised that “it doesn’t hurt to go and talk to the department. It’s worth doing as it gives them a heads-up.”
“You’re expected to take on lots of responsibility […] you do both the trainee and junior associate role.”
The corporate department is the firm’s largest in London and covers cross-border M&A, joint ventures, takeovers, and carve-outs. Juniors also noted a “new focus” on public M&A in addition to private equity work. Notably, the firm recently advised on the proposed $80 billion combination between two insurance giants, Willis Towers Watson and Aon; the deal is still to be completed, and at the time of writing it was the largest M&A deal to be announced in 2020. The firm has also worked on a number of ‘take private’ deals (where public companies are made private) of late, including private equity firm Advent International’s ‘public to private' $4.1 billion conversion of UK-based defence and aerospace company Cobham, as well as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board’s (as part of consortium of private investors) $4.1 billion take-private acquisition of UK satellite company Inmarsat. “You’re expected to take on lots of responsibility,” one source reported, adding that because of the smaller team sizes “you do both the trainee and junior associate role.” On big transactions, other firms “had ten lawyers and we had four, so we pick up the slack.”Celebrating the exposure (“the level of client contact is incredible!”), one trainee also noted the variety of responsibility: “There are trainee tasks that feel very admin-focused, but with such big deals you also have so many work streams. I did get a lot of drafting experience on documents that ultimately got used in the transaction, which really made me feel valued and like an associate.”
The firm’s banking team provides a “great seat for you to learn the basics.” It covers both sponsor and lender side work on leveraged finance and high-yield bond matters. Juniors reported working with “mainly private equity sponsors”on the financing side, which involved being staffed on “pretty diverse stuff from big new financings to legacy transactions to reworking the financings of groups.” On the lender side, the firm represents private equity companies like KKR as well as major financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Weil recently advised the latter (alongside Bank of America Merrill Lynch) on the near €700 million refinancing and dividend recapitalisation for a European security solutions provider, Sector Alarm. For the sponsor side, Weil advised private equity firm Bain Capital on its 60% stake in research agency Kantar (worth $4 billion). “It’s quite procedural and transactional, so it’s a good seat to build up your organisational and project management skills,” said one trainee, pointing to their work on the inevitable conditions precedent (CP) checklists, board minutes and other transaction documents required. “I’m not slating that it’s a process task. You learn the job as you go on and it was naïve to think I’d be drafting banking documents!”
“I was afraid to pick up the phone when arriving. Two weeks later and I’m speaking to an exec in Paris about releasing signatures!”
For structured finance, trainees praised the “wide variety of work” on collateralised loan obligations (CLOs), non-conforming loans (NCLs), securitisations and derivatives matters. Of late, the group has worked on numerous CLOs for private equity and investment management giants like Carlyle, Blackstone, BlackRock and Oaktree. Newbies reported undergoing a “baptism of fire”in the first few weeks: “We were thrown on the biggest and most complicated transaction this team has ever done, and we didn’t even know how to turn on a computer at that point!” Another interviewee “was afraid to pick up the phone when arriving. Two weeks later and I’m speaking to an exec in Paris about releasing signatures!” Beyond the typical trainee tasks – like managing checklists, collating bibles, etc. – exposure is readily available “on more interesting things, like black letter law research, document analysis, and the drafting of some bespoke documents.”
The BFR team is roughly split between insolvency work – which covers contentious matters – and restructuring, which is focused on the more commercial and transactional elements of dealing with struggling companies. The firm has advised KMPG as special administrators of the broker MF Global on various issues following its 2011 bankruptcy declaration; recently, Weil assisted on litigation taking place in the UK and Germany. Weil also continues to act for the Lehman Brothers holding company in matters tied to its bankruptcy status and prioritisation of subordinated debt. Juniors championed "the really nice balance of technical issues and commercial elements”available in both strands. On the contentious side, sources reported working on the “nuts and bolts” of litigation, and told of drafting witness statements, interviewing witnesses, conducting legal research, and navigating civil procedures. “Because the teams are pretty lean,” one explained, “you’re told to have a go at putting together the first draft of a witness statement.” On the restructuring side, juniors commended both the variety on offer – “every transaction is different so you’re always doing variations on matters” – and the involvement in meatier tasks, such as being able to work on a lengthy explanatory statement for a scheme of arrangements, “which made me feel more like an associate than trainee.”Weil also looks to the future and focuses on the debt market “to see if certain companies are struggling and whether we can help them out.”
The private funds team assists with “the management process of setting up funds, which involves raising money, forming the fund, and handling the legalities about partnerships and structuring.” Some of the largest private funds are on Weil’s books, including InfraRed Capital Partners, Actis and PAI Partners. The team recently advised Actis on the development, launch and closing of its Long Life Infrastructure fund. Trainees reported contributing to fundraising work for large private equity sponsors, first-time managers and “people spinning out from private equity houses, which is really exciting to be a part of.”Task-wise, juniors highlighted that the “work rolls down the hill,” so substantive drafting usually occurs later down the career line “as it’s all really complicated, but they do give you smaller documents to have a go at.” Conducting document review, liaising with clients, and providing admin support for closures are all common undertakings for trainees here.
Weil has a small litigation team that tends to focus on complex commercial litigation, as well as litigious support for BFR. “During my time,” one source revealed, “I’ve been involved in a High Court defamation proceeding; an international arbitration; a corporate investigation; disputes due diligence on transactional work for the private equity team; the work that was conducted around an estate; and the administration of a big private equity group.” Juniors therefore celebrated the team’s variety: “All in all, it’s a really good mix!”
“We’re an English outfit with a US background,”declared one source when asked to sum up the London office. But does the American buck stop there? “I wouldn’t say the American influence really shapes us,” another reflected, highlighting how much of the work originates from London: “It feels like we’re important and not a subsidiary at all.” Juniors did note that only the firm’s high-yield team in London is comprised of US-qualified lawyers, “so it just feels like you’re in the UK working for an English law firm.”
That said, Weil London’s “massive emphasis” on pro bonotakes its cues from lawyerly norms across the pond. “It’s one of my favourite things here and everyone respects it,” noted one source. “The target is 50 hours a year and people will work towards that. Some people do 300 hours!”Amounts aside, each hour is counted as billable, “so there’s no excuse not to do it.” Juniors reported working with the Innocent Project; providing local support for entrepreneurs and charities seeking to set up social investment tax relief funds; and assisting the Women of Impact partnership, which “gets women-led start-ups funded and it’s entirely for sustainable initiatives.” The firm also has five charities that it’s supporting until 2023; the focus here is on improving access to education in underprivileged communities.
“I wouldn’t say the American influence really shapes us.”
Yet another (stereotypical) cultural import concerns hourly demands. “It’s peaks and troughs,” told one junior. “The consistency of long hours is the crushing thing – and that doesn’t really happen here. People work long hours only when they have to.”Nonetheless, demands can be high: “I’ve been here until 3 or 4am, which was brutal. But on average I can get away at 9pm.” Another junior noted doing 11 hours a day on average. “The hours are long,” one junior warned. “I’m not going to sugar-coat it.”It’s fair to point out here that US firms get a bad rep for hours, but in reality the hours in most City firms (US-founded or not) focused on big-ticket corporate/finance work are the same – expect to work late nights wherever you go.
So, is it all-consuming? “It’s all-consuming in the sense that you don’t switch off that much – you always have your phone and if you get an email you might have to do something there and then, but the hours are massively department-dependent.”Private equity and BFR are understandably busy, whereas employment is reportedly more predictable. “The hours don’t bother me, but they’re not for everyone,” one source concluded. “You know what you’re getting into and no one’s under any false illusions.” With big hours come big rewards and Weil follows the big bucks payment pattern of US firms in the City: “The salary really is amazing and almost too much for someone my age! I’ve got nothing to complain about there.”
Culturally, “the defining characteristic of all trainees is that we’re all radically different and from all walks of life. We’re not a heavy Oxbridge contingent. There’s a lot more that’s different about us than the same.” More difference prevails beyond the trainee ranks: “Day to day, it’s a close-knit firm and the culture is very good. Some teams are known for having a friendlier culture, whereas others are less relaxed.” Juniors across the board celebrated the lack of “macho posturing,” as well as the genuine support offered amidst the current global pandemic: “Talking about culture can feel like arbitrary corporate propaganda, but in the days of the apocalypse, you see it actually exists and proves it’s not a front and that the firm will stand behind its employees.”
Despite the global pandemic, juniors felt comfortable about qualification. “We’re thinking Covid won’t impact trainee retention. The reason for the small intake and the investment they’ve made is because they don’t want to lose trainees. That just doesn’t work for their business model.” In 2020, 12 of 13 qualifiers stayed with the firm.
How to get a Weil training contract
Training contract deadline (2023): 31 July 2021
Fast track scheme deadline (2021): 28 February 2021
Applications and interviews
Weil’s graduate recruitment team attends law fairs at universities across the UK and they also 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 training contract 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 in-person interview with a partner, 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 for an office tour. This stage is geared towards finding out more about a candidate's journey, motivations and career aspirations, but you will also be assessed on your technical and commercial knowledge. Those who have applied for the fast track scheme will be invited to a telephone 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 20 places available across the two schemes. Participants spend each week in a different practice area and you are able to submit preferences in advance. Throughout the scheme you will work alongside senior 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 associate. The one-week placement in June will see you sharing an office with an associate who will supervise you, as you get involved in trainee-level work. If you perform well on the scheme you will be automatically fast tracked to a training contract assessment day. You will also be paid £500 for the week.
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 associate 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
- Associates 95 Associates, 33 Counsel, 128 in total
- Totaltrainees 22
- UKoffices London
- Overseasoffices 14
- Graduate recruiters: Yohanna Wilson & Laura Nelson [email protected] 020 7903 1000
- Training partner: James Harvey
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 10-15
- Applications pa: 580
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB (or equivalent)
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1st June 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 31st July 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 8th September 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 17th January 2021
- Open day deadline: 1st November 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £50,000
- Second-year salary: £55,000
- Post-qualification salary: £133,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: GDL - £8,000, LPC - £10,000
- International and regional
- Overseas seats: New York, Hong Kong & Paris
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
Weil offers a number of open days throughout the year. Weil also runs a one-week fast track scheme for first year law students and second year non-law students. Please visit the website for more information.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Structured Finance (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 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 1)