White & Case LLP - True Picture

If you’re looking for a global powerhouse with some of the best projects, capital markets, banking and disputes work in the London market, then this firm’s a case in point. 

White & Case training contract review 2022

The Firm

The words ‘truly global’ adorn White & Case’s description of itself on its suave website – and we certainly wouldn’t dispute that characterisation. This firm laid down its roots in the concrete jungle that is NYC in 1901 and has grown into a global behemoth with 44 offices worldwide and an eye-popping $2.39 billion turnover (2020) that positions it comfortably in AmLaw’s top ten US law firms by revenue. Reinforcing W&C's reputation is the size of its London office (one of the biggest in the firm's network) and the depth of its practice area expertise covered in the capital. 

TOP READ: Learn about White & Case's opportunities in the Middle East.

While many US legal imports in London tend to have a small trainee intake, W&C has nearly 90 first and second-year trainees on its list, alongside 17 NQs. While the trainee population is fairly large, our sources still felt that they were able to get early responsibility on lean teams throughout the training contract. Sticking with numbers, the firm has 33 rankings in Chambers UK alone, with top spots going to W&C’s debt capital markets, international arbitration (in the construction sector), and projects expertise. Other areas that are highly rated include energy & natural resources, restructuring/insolvency, aviation finance and big-ticket lender work in the banking & finance space. You’ll find many, many more accolades for the firm’s work across the Chambers Global, USA, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, High Net Worth and FinTech guides. 

If you’re still looking for a reason to join W&C, then our survey respondents had many that may strike a chord with you. These included W&C’s “global outlook; reputation; the guaranteed international secondment; high pay; interesting clients/work; our involvement in a lot of international, cross-border style work; and the nice people.” Sources also liked that “White & Case is an ‘American’ firm, which also has a big London office that gains work in its own right.” Several respondents, meanwhile, made note of the firm’s “emerging markets expertise” as a case for submitting an application for the training contract on offer here. 

The Seats 

Even the most seasoned traveller would find the international secondment options at W&C tasty: the firm’s globetrotting trainees can pick between Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Houston, Johannesburg, Moscow, New York, Paris, Prague, Singapore, Stockholm, and Tokyo (all of W&C's secondments continued throughout the pandemic, albeit virtually when restrictions prevented overseas travel).

“...drafting a submission directly with the partner that went to the tribunal.”

Add to this a whole gamut of practice areas and you can see that our sources had a wide range of options to choose from. Trainees will typically do a finance-related and a contentious seat (or take up a litigation programme in lieu of a dedicated contentious seat) throughout the training contract. The disputes department took on the largest number of trainees in the most recent rotation, but other groups with significant capacity include capital markets, banking & finance, arbitration, corporate M&A and private equity. Before you start, and “about a month before you’re meant to switch seats,” trainees are sent a form to fill out and indicate three seat preferences for their upcoming rotation. Sources explained that “you add a narrative to support your choices and have to answer a few questions.” Sounds suitably thorough to us. Our survey indicated a general level of satisfaction with the seat allocation process, with most third-seaters indicating they had got their first choice. 

The firm’s offerings in the contentious space cover a lot of what you’d expect from a global behemoth: namely, plenty of banking, corporate and commercial disputes. In banking litigation, the majority of the firm’s clients are well-known investment banks, like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. The firm recently represented VTB Capital, which acted as a lender during the contested sale of Bulgarian telecoms company Vivacom. The firm’s corporate and commercial litigation team, meanwhile, regularly handles cases that are worth hundreds of millions, if not billions. On this side of the disputes coin, the firm represents Facebook across six continents in 150 countries, as well as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Minerals & Metals Group (MMG). The firm recently represented Turkish conglomerate Çukurova during a $2 billion dispute over the ownership of a controlling share of Turkcell, Turkey’s largest mobile phone operator. Sources explained that “the first few months tend to involve a lot of admin,” with time spent on “document management, citation checking, note taking and proof reading for filings.” However, after that, interviewees noted that they were given “a lot of substantive work,” which involved drafting witness statements, conducting legal research, and, in one instance, “drafting a submission directly with the partner that went to the tribunal.”

“...a lot of client contact in the contentious seats.”

Sources told us that “disputes is split into litigation and arbitration,” but noted “a lot of crossovers between the two.” We heard that “trainees can usually do a bit of both, and partners and associates work across both teams.” Interviewees liked that the split between the two gave them plenty of variety in the seat. W&C scores three Chambers UK rankings for construction, commercial and investor-state arbitration, plus enviable arbitration rankings in Chambers Global and Chambers USA. In the UK, the firm represents Total, ENGIE, Webuild, United Energy Group, and Uniper Global Commodities among others; lawyers here recently represented Inpex during disputes related to the pricing of works for one of the largest natural gas projects, estimated to be worth over $40 billion. Over on the investor-state side of things, the firm also represents Uzbekistan, Belarus and Peru, alongside US energy company TECO. The team successfully represented the Russian Federation during its defence of a claim by Russian oligarch Mr Sergei Pugachev, who commenced arbitration proceedings related to various investments he had made in Russia. Our interviewees mentioned doing similar tasks to those on the litigation side, which included managing documents and the process around witness and expert involvement in the case. Overall, sources liked that there was “a lot of client contact in the contentious seats.”

On the transactional side of things, the firm’s extensive capital markets practices covers debt and equity capital markets work, as well as structured finance and high-yield matters. W&C’s debt practice covers everything from sovereign activities, emerging markets and corporate hybrids to private placements, green bonds and liability management. So, if it’s debt and it’s capital markets, then White & Case most likely has it covered. The who’s-who of financial institutions (The Bank of England and Morgan Stanley, for example) feature on the department’s client list, alongside countries like Ghana, Serbia, Suriname, Uzbekistan and Zambia. The firm recently represented The Bank of England during its $2 billion debt issuance programme update, as well as the biggest group of Argentina’s bondholders (the Ad Hoc Bondholder Group of Argentina) during a $64 billion debt restructuring matter. On the equity side of things, W&C has a strong emerging markets practice, and recently advised the largest payments and fintech company in Kazakhstan, Kaspi.kz, on its multibillion-dollar IPO. Slightly more familiar names on its client list include J.P. Morgan, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and the Qatar Investment Authority. Sources noted that “capital markets is a massive department” that makes for a “super busy” seat. One interviewee enthused that “capital markets left a really good impression on me,” while another highlighted that it was a seat where “if you show you are capable, you’re given a lot of responsibility.” Rather than being left to fend for themselves, sources said they “received great guidance and teaching,” with this trainee explaining that they were “exposed to working with the client and other professional advisers – I developed really good transactional skills.”

“A lot of commercially-oriented brainstorming work for clients on how to set up a project.”

W&C’s banking & finance department is also split into several teams including debt finance, bank lending, private credit and direct lending, and borrower finance. The department is recognised by Chambers UK for its big-ticket lender and borrower work. Deal values run into the billions here too: the group represented Encore Capital Group on its $1.5 billion funding structure and advised Blackstone Alternative Credit Advisors on its c. £4 billion finance package to Advent International. Borrower clients include British clothing retailer Fat Face, vegan food brand Oatly and aviation services company Swissport. On the lender side, pick a bank and it’s likely that White & Case represents them: Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Nordea, and the Royal Bank of Canada all feature on the client list. Trainees we spoke to had worked “more bank-side” and noted “a pretty strong emerging markets practice as well.” Sources said they were “allocated work based on capacity and whatever was going around.” The typical trainee tasks included “managing checklists – can’t forget that one – a lot of deal management, and keeping track of all the documents.” However, it wasn’t all project management, with this source revealing that they did “a lot of first drafts of loan agreements and a few security docs.

It would be remiss of us not to mention W&C’s prolific projects practice. Strong relationships with global financial institutions certainly don’t hinder the firm’s work when it comes to advising on the financing of some of the globe’s biggest projects. W&C has a robust energy focus: it has recently advised on the $20 billion (plus) Mozambique LNG project, the multibillion-dollar Tahrir petrochemical project in Egypt, and a Brazilian solar power project for Latin American company Atlas Renewable Energy. The firm’s clients also include Carbon Holdings, Energean, Saudi Aramco, The African Development Bank, and Heirs Oil and Gas. “I frequently did research tasks on various types of infrastructure remodels,”one source told us, alongside “a lot of commercially-oriented brainstorming work for clients on how to set up a project.” On the less-glamorous-but-essential side was “updating checklists, and standard admin tasks like proof-reading contracts.”

Trainee Life

For those looking at the above and thinking ‘yeah, I’ve heard about those US firms,’ sources reassured us that the more unsavoury “stories you hear about American firms don’t happen at W&C.” One trope about US BigLaw that did resonate, however, was the hours. The average hours registered across our W&C survey in the previous week was just over 59, which is at the higher end of the results we’ve collected during this research round. The average start time was 9.30am, but logging-off times could be hard to predict. If all is going well or it’s a quieter time, then closing up any time between 7pm and 9pm was deemed good, but if there’s a crucial deadline coming up then trainees could be working until the early hours of the morning. The more finance-oriented seats, like capital markets and asset finance, could come with some long hours, while disputes and international arbitration tended to have steadier hours due to longstanding and more predictable court deadlines (“you can see when the deadlines are approaching”). 

“...the firm has been particularly strong with diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

Sources felt that the “culture varies from department to department,” and some seats got mixed reviews. Corporate M&A, for example, was described by one as having “a great culture in the team – it’s very welcoming,” while another thought “there is a hierarchy in the team, meaning trainees do the most basic work.” However, on a broad basis we heard “the partners and senior associates are very friendly and approachable, while junior and mid-level associates are extremely helpful and understanding.” The term “non-hierarchical” came up a lot on both the survey and in phone interviews, as did the sentiment that “the firm has been particularly strong with diversity and inclusion initiatives.” Nearly 80% of survey respondents said they were happy, and elsewhere responses indicated that trainees felt comfortable being themselves at White & Case.

>>Listen to our podcast on White & Case’s Candid Conversations D&I initiative<<

On that diversity note we just mentioned: this interviewee highlighted that “White & Case is culturally diverse and inclusive. Half the people on my intake are internationaland that’s true of other intakes as well.” These intakes are supported by a range of affinity groups for women, minority ethnic lawyers and those who identify as LGBT+. The firm’s commitment to pro bono was equally highly praised by trainees. Sources explained that the firm “sends out regular emails about pro bono opportunities and there’s a lot of interesting stuff!” Recent pro bono work at the firm has included immigration and refugee matters, as well as access to disability benefits cases. As with many firms, sources said “there are more pro bono opportunities in contentious than in transactional areas,” and trainees were encouraged to “get involved as long as it doesn’t affect billable work.” One area our interviewees felt could do with more attention was mental health support. However, sources did note that “since the start of the pandemic, there have been virtual meditation sessions, as well as workshops on how to manage anxiety.”

It’s a Case of take it or take it 

For those looking to stay, “qualification starts midway through your fourth seat,” we heard. “You put down three departments you’d like to qualify into,” sources explained, and “each department has a different interview and qualification process.” In 2021, W&C retained 32 out of 40 qualifiers. 

How to get a White & Case training contract


Open day deadlines: 1 November and 13 November 2021

Vacation scheme deadlines: 31 October (winter); 15 January 2022 (spring and summer)

First-year insight scheme deadline: 31 March 2022

Training contract deadline (2021): 15 July 2022

White & Case has several ways for prospective trainees to get to know the firm, from vacation and insight schemes to open days. Of course, if you’ve already made up your mind, then there is also the option to apply directly for the training contract.

Open days and insight schemes

White & Case holds two open days in November as well as two, two-day insight schemes in May. The former, says graduate resourcing & development manager, Gemma Barns, are “for penultimate-year students, finalists and graduates from any degree discipline,” while the insights schemes are also for any degree discipline, but are aimed at first-year students.

In both instances, those interested “are required to submit an online application form.” Applications for the insight schemes are between 15 September 2021 and 31 March 2022, while open day application close on 1 November 2021 for the first one and 13 November for the second. However, if you’re not lucky enough to attend one of these, Barns says they’re “a stand-alone opportunity” and are not part of the application process for a training contract at the firm.

The vacation scheme

One route into the firm is via the firm’s three vacation schemes, which take 25 people each. Running in winter, spring and summer, each one is two-weeks long and “participants sit in one practice area during the vacation scheme,” Barns explains. “This allows them to develop really strong supervisor and buddy relationships over the two weeks, and to take on more advanced work as the scheme progresses.” Barns tells us that during vac schemes, participants can expect to do “real client work, which can include drafting memos, legal research, attending meetings and court hearings, for example.” The aim, says Barns, is to ensure that “participants get exposure to our different practice areas and members of the firm across all levels, allowing them to build their networks both professionally and personally.” If that’s sounding rather tasty, be aware that the firm gets approximately 3,200 applications, which takes the form of an online application and covering letter. From there, it’s a “video interview assessed by the graduate resourcing team” followed by “a face-to-face interview with a member of the team and one associate, plus a written assessment.”

The training contract

For those looking to score the training contract, W&C want-to-be trainees need a solid 2:1, or on track to get one, and an AAB at A level, or equivalent. However, it’s not all about the academics and Barns tells us that “we are looking for candidates with a broad range of experiences and transferable skills that allow them to thoroughly demonstrate the competencies that we are looking for.” Rather than a one size fits all approach, Barns explains, “we actively seek out people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to join our equally diverse global teams.” To ensure the process is as inclusive as possible, Barns tells us the firm has several measures in place. “We use Rare Recruitment’s Contextual Recruitment System (CRS) which allows us to review every candidate application in context of their background,” Barns explains. Furthermore, the firm operates “blind recruitment whereby interviewers don’t receive a copy of the candidate’s application before, during or after the interview. This puts all candidates on a level footing during the interview process as the interviewers assess candidates against our set competencies.” The firm also has “one on one conversations with candidates who notify us that they have a disability or long-term health condition to understand any adjustments they require.”

White & Case receives around 1,500 applications for the training contract each year, and as with the vac scheme, starts off quite simple with a cover letter and online application form. For those applying directly, the firm “runs assessment centres, of approximately eight candidates” per assessment. These centres “include a research task, group business simulation, interview with one member of the graduate resourcing and development team and one associate, and a networking lunch with current trainees,” Barns tells us. “Successful candidates are then invited to a training contract interview with two partners, including a pre-prepared commercial presentation.”

From there, as with the vac scheme, applicants will do a video interview, where Barnes tells us “candidates will answer three questions. They’ll have 15 seconds to prepare for each question and 90 seconds to answer. Before they answer the questions, they’ll have the opportunity to complete a practice question to help them feel more at ease.”

As with the vac scheme, Barns says face-to-face interviews are an opportunity to meet the team, associates and partners. Barns says “we want to hear about their experiences so far and why they’re interested in a career in law. We also want to know why they’re interested in joining White & Case.”

For direct applicants, there is also a 30-minute telephone interview with a member of the graduate team, “and the questions focus on the competencies we look for in our trainee solicitors,” says Barns.

Whatever the route in, Barns is at pains to explain that “through our assessment and interview processes, we are looking for candidates who have real integrity, are driven to succeed, share our mindset and client focus, and those who are a demonstrated team player.”

The firm offers 50 training contracts each year, more than any other US-headquartered firm in London.

White & Case LLP

5 Old Broad Street,
Website https://www.whitecase.com/locations/emea/london

  • Partners: 122 (London)
  • Assistant solicitors: 236 (London)
  • Total trainees: 89 (London)
  • UK offices: London
  • Overseas offices: 44
  • Contacts  
  • • Graduate recruiter: Gemma Barns, Graduate Resourcing & Development Manager
  • • Training Principal: Inigo Esteve
  • Application criteria  
  • Training contracts pa: 50
  • Applications pa: 4,500
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 75
  • Dates and deadlines  
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 15 July 2022
  • Winter vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 31 October 2021
  • Spring and Summer vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 15 January 2022
  • Salary and benefits  
  • First-year salary: £52,000
  • Second-year salary: £57,000
  • Post qualification salary: £140,000
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: GDL: £7,500; LPC: £10,500
  • International and regional  
  • Offices with training contracts: London
  • Overseas seats: Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Moscow, New York, Paris, Prague, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo.

Firm profile

White & Case is a global law firm of more than 2,500 lawyers worldwide. We’ve built an unrivalled network of 45 offices in 31 countries. That investment is the foundation for our client work in over 200 countries today. Complex client projects, nuanced local market knowledge and global capabilities define who we are. Many White & Case clients are multinational organisations with complex needs that require the involvement of multiple offices. As part of our training contract.

Discover White & Case through the eyes of our people. Read more (https://inside.whitecase.com/) about our work, our people and our offer.

Main areas of work

As a White & Case lawyer, you’ll work on fast-paced cutting-edge cross-border projects from the outset of your career. In London, our key areas of work include: debt finance (including regulatory compliance); financial restructuring and insolvency; capital markets (high yield and securitisation); dispute resolution (including antitrust, commercial litigation, intellectual property, international arbitration, trade, white collar and construction and engineering); energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance (EIPAF); corporate (including M&A, private equity, employment, compensation and benefits, investment funds, real estate and tax).

Training opportunities

Training opportunities White & Case is looking to recruit ambitious trainees who have a desire to gain hands-on practical experience from day one and a willingness to take charge of their own career. We value globally-minded citizens of the world who are eager to work across borders and cultures, and who are intrigued by solving problems within multiple legal systems. They should have an understanding of international commercial issues and an interest in working on big-ticket, cross-border work. We recruit both law and non-law students and owing to the nature of our work, language skills are of interest. Applicants will be welcomed for their individuality, their ability to contribute to the cutting-edge work we do and the energy with which they approach the job at hand. They should have achieved, or be on track to achieve, a solid 2:1, have a positive and friendly attitude, be enthusiastic and work well in teams.

The training contract consists of four six-month seats, one of which is guaranteed to be spent in one of our overseas offices, including Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Moscow, New York, Paris, Prague, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo. The remaining three seats can be spent in any one of the Firm’s practice groups in London. Receiving a high level of partner and associate contact from day one, our trainees can be confident that they will receive high-quality, stimulating and rewarding work. Trainees work in small, focused teams, so their colleagues trust them to perform tasks accurately and efficiently. White & Case is a “high-stretch, high-support” workplace that celebrates individual excellence and team success. We actively encourage our trainees to take early responsibility, and there is a strong emphasis on practical training, with plenty of support and feedback. Alongside the training contract, our trainees are encouraged to get involved in all aspects of our globally-renowned pro bono programme, often working directly with clients and even managing small matters. White & Case recruits and develops trainee solicitors with the aim of retaining them on qualification.

Work placements
A vacation scheme provides a great way to experience first-hand what life is like as a White & Case trainee. Playing an active part in the life of the London office you will receive real work from a dedicated supervisor, attend interactive, informative sessions and be given plenty of opportunities to network at social events.

Open days
You can apply to attend one of our London office open days for a useful insight into the Firm and the training we offer. We are holding open days for second-year students, penultimate-year students, finalists and graduates.

First-year two-day insight scheme
As a first-year student, you can apply for one of our two-day insight schemes which will take place from 4 - 5 May or 11 - 12 May 2022. Over the course of the two days you will attend presentations, workshops and work-shadow a trainee.

White & Case Virtual Learning Programme
Our virtual learning programme offers the opportunity to gain first-hand insight into life as a White & Case trainee and experience the realities of cross-border law.

There is no cost to access the programme; it is self-paced to fit around your schedule, and no application form or legal knowledge is required. You'll gain insight into the fast-paced cutting-edge projects our lawyers and trainees work on, and gain valuable skills by undertaking true-to-life legal tasks. Participation in the learning programme will be recognised on our application forms, and it is a great way to demonstrate your interest in law and White & Case.

Wherever you are based, we want to give everyone the opportunity to get to know us.

If you're globally minded and ambitious, join our virtual learning programme here. (link https://www.theforage.com/virtual-internships/prototype/HECBn5zqCvBpAXitG/UK%2520Virtual%2520Learning%2520Programme?utm_source=company_website&utm_medium=careers%20page&utm_creative=sharelink)

Social media

Twitter @WhiteCase
YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/whitecaseglobal

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 3)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: CLOs (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 3)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 2)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 4)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 4)
    • Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 6)
    • Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction: International Arbitration (Band 1)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Infrastructure (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 3)
    • Projects (Band 1)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)

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White & Case virtual

White & Case’s Virtual Work Experience Programme