This US-born giant attracts internationally minded trainees with its guaranteed overseas seat and big-ticket work.
Turning a corner
White & Case's revenue has been breaking the billion-dollar barrier since 2005, and the $2 billion barrier since 2019 when global revenue grew by a cool $246 million to $2.05 billion. And the firm’s certainly been splashing the cash lately, increasing both its trainee salary and law school grants. In addition, it helps that the large London office along with the 43 other offices (plus two extra affiliated offices) work together “seamlessly,” accordingly to trainees: “We don’t think anything of the distance – it’s like they’re sitting next door!” With the firm having been in the UK for almost 50 years, White & Case’s London office is established enough to “stand on its own” – in fact, no other US firm hires more trainees in London than White & Case.
Chambers Global recognises the firm’s presence and prowess on the world stage too, awarding it top global-wide rankings for projects and energy, international arbitration and construction, plus rankings in more than two dozen jurisdictions. The firm is also recognised with top-tier rankings in Chambers UK nationwide for its projects and international construction arbitration work and in London for construction and debt capital markets. Other areas of excellence in the UK include energy, high-end private equity buyouts, banking and finance, and restructuring/insolvency.
“Getting experience abroad is really important to me.”
Reflecting its global presence, White & Case offers trainees a guaranteed fourth-seat overseas stint during their traineeship, which was a huge draw for our interviewees. “Being able to build up my career internationally and getting experience abroad is really important to me,” one said. The globe-trotting seat sees trainees whizzing off to New York, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, Stockholm, Geneva, Frankfurt, Abu Dhabi, Brussels, Johannesburg, Prague or Dubai. Attracting the international crowd makes White & Case a melting pot of people from all across the globe. “It feels like an energetic, thriving, bubbling place,” one interviewee enthused. “You walk around the corner and hear different languages being spoken – it just has that buzz!” Language skills aren’t essential to working at White & Case though – our interviewees had a mix of law and non-law backgrounds, with and without additional language skills.
On your marks, jet set…
Trainees submit three preferences for their next seat two months before each rotation. “The firm says what’s available, and we then list our top three and can say why we want to work where,” one source reported. Before starting, trainees can also meet with graduate recruitment to discuss their options, “just to let them know what we’re thinking about.” A shake-up of overseas seat assignment sees trainees list their practice area preferences with an accompanying explanation of why they want that area and which location they'd prefer, all to stress that “it’s not a holiday.” Interviewees were excited to get away: “It’ll be fun living in a new city, getting to know the clients based there and working with them on a daily basis.”
But since trainees spend three-quarters of their traineeship in London, that's where we'll focus most of our attention, starting with the private equity group. It chiefly acts for private equity sponsors, but “also has public and private company advisory teams that focus on portfolio companies and funds,” handling disposals and acquisitions. The team recently advised global investor PPF Group on its acquisition of Norwegian telecoms company Telenor’s Central and Eastern European assets for €2.8 billion. There’s a lot of due diligence to be done by trainees who sit here. But don’t be put off: “The due diligence process is so varied at a firm like this. It is boring data room stuff sometimes, but our international focus means you get to liaise with overseas counsel, review due diligence reports, and work with precedents.” Other tasks include drafting share purchase agreements and letters, communicating with clients and dealing with signings. “You get the whole picture of the transaction, and get to know everything back to front,” one happy camper said.
“Proofreading shareholders' agreements, helping to update newsletters...”
The corporate M&A department has in the past tended to focus on private M&A, but in recent years more public M&A work governed by the Takeover Code has found its way into the group as a result of lateral partner hires. The team covers both regulatory and transactional work and a variety of deal types, including ones for the oil and gas, telecoms and infrastructure sectors. It recently advised energy exploration and production company Energean Oil & Gas on its acquisition of a further 20% stake in Energean Israel financed by a $460 million IPO. Other clients include Bupa, Balfour Beatty and fintech bank Klarna. Typical trainee tasks include “proofreading shareholders' agreements, helping to update newsletters, and looking into corporate governance.” We heard that the size of the group and the regulatory element to the seat mean that the department’s pace is calmer than the deal-breaking buzz M&A seats are usually known for.
In project finance budding lawyers usually work on three of the department's workstreams: energy, infrastructure and projects. The fourth stream, asset finance, is “quite separate, but you can do some work with them if it finds its way to you.” This seat captures the international nature of the firm, with our interviewees working with countries such as Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Finland, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan and many more. The department has “diversified” its work in the past few years, branching out from a complete oil and gas focus to having “a lot of road and rail as well as renewables work – though the latter's very tentative!” Indeed – most of the focus is still on fossil fuels, minerals and infrastructure. The team recently represented a consortium of nine lenders including BNP Paribas and Société Générale on the financing of an $823 million aluminium ore mine expansion in the Republic of Guinea. It also advised the Czech ministry of transport on the country's first ever public-private infrastructure/road project, which was worth nearly €1 billion. Projects are often long-term affairs so trainee tasks come in the form of discrete tasks on transactions, which interviewees chirpily said was as “a great way to get a snapshot of loads of deals.” Trainees draft emails to the other side, revise letters and deal with checklists, as well as doing proofreading, due diligence, drafting revisions to contracts and dealing with signings. What does a signing involve exactly, we asked? “A signing involves the borrower coming in to sign documents” – ah, that was obvious really. So what does a trainee have to do? “I make sure the documents are fully proofed and fully negotiated. I also organise the room and make sure the documents are printed.”
Go go power arbitrators
The disputes department is home to both litigation and arbitration teams. Litigation has five sub-areas: commercial disputes, financial regulation, technology disputes, white collar and construction. As a trainee in litigation, you can get involved with one or all three. The team works for clients such as Goldman Sachs, Toshiba and Total. It recently acted for media investors Ingenious in a dispute with HMRC about the company's partnership tax situation in which £1 billion was at stake. Trainees like the ability to “jump in and out of cases, so there’s the scope to see all aspects of it live in action.” Court experience isn’t common as the team’s tactic is to settle before court. Trainees here can expect to do proofreading, bundling and “juicy tasks” like writing research notes for partners and contacting the occasional client or counsel.
Arbitration handles commercial matters as well as investor-state arbitrations, acting for both investors and states. It has a particular focus on arbitrations arising from corporate transactions connected to Russia and the CIS, as well as construction arbitrations in the Middle East. The firm has recently been helping the Russian government resist a $50 billion arbitration award against it in the UK, the US and Germany after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague found against it in an arbitration with the ex-majority shareholders of defunct oil company Yukos. White & Case also recently represented Toshiba in three ICC arbitrations relating to the sale of Toshiba’s $18 billion memory chip business. Trainees here can (once again) expect to do a lot of proofreading and document review, as well as bundling. Snippets of drafting are on offer too – for instance working on parts of the introduction to defence and settlement letters.
“When you walk around the office, there’s stars everywhere!”
Pro bono work is also available for trainees – “every single lawyer at the firm has a 20-hour pro bono target and you’re encouraged to meet it.” Those who complete their 20 hours get a cute star to put on their office door, and “when you walk around the office, there’s stars everywhere!” Types of pro bono include working for charities such as the Zoological Society of London and London Air Ambulance on legal analysis and working with the Innocence Network UK.
Trainees sit in the same office as their supervisor, sometimes with an additional person too. Interviewees told us supervisors “take care of you and make sure you’re on track. They’ve all been really approachable so far and we get on really well.” Many found the appraisal process to be “smooth – my supervisor reached out to me, I didn’t have to chase them. It was an easy process, and all very relaxed and encouraging of what I want to do.” Trainees partake in three weeks' training when they step through the firm’s doors. The three weeks take them through trainee basics, and include a few social events which offer the chance to mingle with other trainees, associates and partners.
Another opportunity to mingle is at the White & Case World Cup, which sees lawyers from around the globe get together for three days of football, volleyball, and – for those who favour a more sedate pace – a barbecue. In 2019 it all kicked off in Madrid. Participating lawyers get whisked away for the three-day celebration, and they don’t need to take annual leave to get involved.
“Everyone’s open to talking to you about work questions or career aspirations,” one trainee said when we asked about the feel of the office. This, coupled with an emphasis on inclusion, leads to a “very welcoming atmosphere and a supportive work environment.” One interviewee even rated the firm as “a completely supportive and inclusive firm.” A women’s group, LGBT+ group and BAME group provide a lot of ways for people to get involved with diversity at the firm. The women’s group recently held a talk by a Cambridge professor on gender equality. One source reported: “It’s encouraging that male partners attended too – they were engaged, they wanted to know how they could help and what they could do in support.” When we asked our interviewees if there’s a type of person that thrives at the firm, we repeatedly heard that “everyone’s very nice.” US firms’ reputation left trainees initially “worried that people would be so driven that they’re cold – but everyone here's grounded, approachable and… normal!”
“Not for the faint-hearted.”
When it comes to the working day “it’s long. It’s long. It’s pretty long… it’s lonnng,” one interviewee told us, with a hearty yawn. The hours at White & Case are "not for the faint-hearted," and can put even the hootiest of night owls to the test. We heard of people leaving consistently at midnight and some mammoth days lasting from 9am to 7am (yes, 7am). When it’s quiet, trainees can look to leave at 6pm, and on average we heard rookies have an 8.30 to 9pm finish. “When it gets very intense, that’s when culture matters a lot,” one source reflected. “It really feels like we’re all in it together. That goes a long way to making it not as bad as it could be.”
Qualification is a “simple process – you list your choices in order of preference. You’re encouraged to apply to two or three departments, but you can just put forward one if you want.” Qualification is mentioned even early on in mid-seat and end-of-seat reviews, and “people talk about it quite openly.” Retention is usually good and we heard that “the firm makes a point of trying to offer everyone something.” In 2019 28 out of 34 qualifiers stayed on.
With an age range of ten years between the youngest and oldest trainee, career-changers are very much welcome at White & Case.
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How to get a White & Case training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (winter 2018): 6 November 2018 (opens 1 October 2018)
Vacation scheme deadline (spring and summer 2019): 15 January 2019 (opens 1 October 2018)
First year insight scheme: 31 March 2019 (opens 1 October 2018)
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 July 2019 (opens 1 October 2018)
The firm holds open days in November, with 30 spaces available on each. The open days are for second year students, penultimate-year students, finalists and graduates. The purpose of the open days is to provide participants with a useful insight into the firm and the training on offer. During the open days, there is an introduction to the business and an opportunity to hear about the role of a trainee from some of the current intake. Participants get to chat with many people over lunch before receiving practical tips on applications and interviews, and have the opportunity to put their decision-making skills to the test in an interactive decision-making game. The day finishes with another opportunity to speak with a variety of people about life at White & Case over drinks.
First-year two-day insight schemes
In May White & Case will be holding two-day insight schemes specifically for first-year students, with 30 places available on each. These schemes are designed to help introduce participants to the many areas of law, the different types of firms, and help confirm or dispel any myths associated with becoming a lawyer. Participants will receive guidance on how to strengthen their applications and will get to meet different members of the firm informally over lunch and drinks. Participants will also spend time work-shadowing a White & Case trainee, offering insight into the day-to-day role of a trainee solicitor at White & Case.
To apply for an open day or first-year two-day insight scheme, applicants need to submit an online application form, which is a condensed version of the one used for training contract and vacation scheme applications.
The recruitment process
Aspiring trainees need to have achieved, or be on track to achieve, a solid 2:1. The firm also expects AAB at A level and predominantly As at GCSE or equivalent. In addition to a good academic record, the firm is on the lookout for ambitious trainees with a desire to gain hands-on practical experience from day one. They should have an understanding of international commercial issues and an interest in working on big-ticket, cross-border work.
The firm asks applicants to provide details of extracurricular activities and work experience on their application forms. Both are important for demonstrating that you're well rounded. Head of graduate resourcing and development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Christina Churchman, explains: “If we haven't already had the opportunity to meet an applicant on one of our vacation schemes, then we expect to see evidence that they have taken steps to find out what it is like to work in a law firm. This can be demonstrated by work experience or vacation schemes undertaken at either similar firms or with an in-house legal team at a large corporate or financial institution.”
A lot of attention is paid to the accompanying cover letter, which should “detail why applicants want to work at White & Case, and highlight the specific characteristics of the firm that attracted them to us, such as our training programme, our clients, or the type of work that we do,” Churchman says. “It's an opportunity for them to show they've done their research and understand where we sit in the market.”
White & Case receives 4,000 applications for its vacation schemes each year, and a similar number for training contracts. Those who impress on the application form are asked to complete an online video-interview assessment. Applicants are asked to respond to a few questions and record their responses. Churchman adds that the video assessment “gives candidates an opportunity to bring their application to life and show us more of their personality.”
Following the video interview assessment, successful applicants are invited to attend a face-to-face interview with an associate and a member of the graduate resourcing team, as part of the interview applicants are also asked to complete a written exercise. Following this, the firm makes vacation scheme offers; meanwhile training contract applicants who impress go on to attend an assessment centre involving an interview with an associate and a member of the graduate resourcing team, a written exercise and a group exercise “We're looking to challenge applicants,” says Churchman. Around 50% of candidates then make it through to the final stage interview which takes place with two partners. This includes a presentation on a commercial topic which applicants are asked to prepare in advance. Churchman tells us candidates should expect to be “challenged a little more in this interview and questioned on a broader scope of areas, especially when it comes to gauging their commercial knowledge and interest in White & Case.”
The firm offers 50 training contracts each year, more than any other US-headquartered firm in London. Trainees start in either March or September.
It's worth bearing in mind that 80% to 85% of trainees complete a vacation scheme with the firm before starting. White & Case runs three two-week vacation schemes over the winter, spring and summer holidays. Each vacation scheme has 25 places, but everyone on a scheme can receive a training contract offer. Vac schemers can submit departmental preferences before arriving.
During their placement vac schemers sit with an associate. “They can take on as much as they are willing to,” says Churchman, adding: “We are looking for participants to be proactive and to seek out work from as many people as possible so that they have the best chance of understanding the work we do and integrating themselves within the team.” Sitting in the corporate department during the vac scheme presented just such an opportunity for one current trainee: “My supervisor had a new matter come in on the day I started, and we sealed it off as I was leaving. It felt good getting involved on a mini project.” Churchman goes on to tell us that White & Case is “looking for people who have a deep understanding of the firm – it's impressive when a vac schemer already has an idea of the type of work the department does and the deals it's working on.”
On the social side White & Case hosts welcome drinks on the London Eye, plus a vac scheme social; previous activities include sushi making, mini golf and a dinner hosted by the firm’s partners. Vac schemers are also invited to the firm's summer party, which in 2019 was held on the rooftop of St Paul’s Sky Bar , complete with a band and canapés.
White & Case LLP
5 Old Broad Street,
- Partners 122
- Associates 333
- Total trainees 81
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 43
- Graduate recruiter: Gemma Barns, Graduate Resourcing & Development Manager
- Training partner: Inigo Esteve
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 50
- Applications pa: 4,000
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A Levels: AAB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 75
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications deadline 2022: 15th July 2020
- Winter vacation scheme deadline: 6th November 2019
- Spring and summer vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 15th January 2020
- [NOTE - 2020 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
- Open day deadline: Please visit website
- First-year insight scheme deadline: 31st March 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First year: £48,000
- Second-year salary: £53,000
- Post-qualification salary: £105,000
- 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
Main areas of work
Open days and first year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: High-end Capabilities (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Equity (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 4)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
- Construction: Purchaser (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 4)
- Employment: Employer Recognised Practitioner
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 4)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- 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 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 2)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory Recognised Practitioner
- Infrastructure (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
- Projects (Band 1)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 3)
- Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)