International interconnection is the name of the game at this British-born magic circle giant.
ASSOCIATES didn't have to pause for thought when asked why they chose Linklaters. “The international character of the firm was hugely appealing,” they chorused. “Linklaters is spread across so many countries, cities and cultures, yet it works together as one. Coming here is a genuine opportunity to work abroad and to work with people abroad. If you're only interested in domestic deals then this isn't the place for you.”
Sources emphasized the interconnection between offices in different jurisdictions: “In my interview I asked a partner how Linklaters distinguishes itself among all the many so-called international firms. He told me that a lot of other firms just have foreign offices in different countries, whereas here we actually work with those offices. Two years into the job I can confirm that that's the case.” In fact, juniors concurred that “almost everything I've done has some sort of cross-border aspect to it.” Some associates head abroad to ply their trade. At the time of our calls, there were US juniors stationed in London, Frankfurt, Paris, Hong Kong and Seoul as well as the New York base. The summer program also allows students to spend half their time at an overseas office, usually either Hong Kong or London, although some opt to stay in the Big Apple.
Hiring partner Justin Storms tells us that the New York office “has only been a growth story for the last ten years. For young attorneys it offers a unique opportunity to be part of a sophisticated 175-year-old firm while still having exposure to growth. It's like being in a small startup firm with the backup of an enormous pool of resources.” This pool comprises 29 offices, a total of 2,600 lawyers and a horde of mega clients like AT&T, Credit Suisse, investment multinational BlackRock and pharma giant Novartis.
The majority of New York newcomers are to be found in investment management, tax, banking, dispute resolution and corporate, with a few lone rangers scattered across antitrust, financial regulation and capital markets (LatAm). Work assignment tends to be “quite informal. You can volunteer for some work if you're excited about it, or partners will directly assign things depending on capacity.” Overall, it's a system that “seems to work.”
"It's not just vanilla deal after vanilla deal."
A junior litigator described the range of matters they'd taken on: “I started with a breach of contract case for a bank. Now I've done a couple of antitrust cases and several internal investigations. Clients also come to us with concerns about US sanctions.” Day to day “there's a lot of research, talking to the client and drafting. I've drafted motions to dismiss, motions in limine. When I first started I drafted half a motion for summary judgment, which was crazy. It's a steep learning curve, but you quickly get up to speed.” Apparently, “I've never been overrun just with doc review. Investigations usually have tight timelines so I haven't had to do months and months of it. In most cases, I prefer to get doc review done from my couch after work, and take on substantive work during the day.”
Over in corporate, associates were happy to note that “it's not just vanilla deal after vanilla deal – a lot of the stuff we do is bespoke.” For juniors that requires “researching random questions of law involved in transactions. There are often unique little concerns to do with other jurisdictions, so I need to be able to figure those out or determine who to talk to.” We heard that “there's certainly the standard due diligence” to contend with, but “honestly, for the bulk of the past year I've been working on a large pharmaceutical transaction. I've not been locked in a room looking at documents. I've been running calls, getting tons of exposure to clients and liaising with people in other offices, like London, Stockholm and Brussels. I've also worked across multiple jurisdictions on private equity deals.” In addition, juniors get the chance to draft “standard-issue formations, resolutions and share purchase agreements.”
“Pro bono is emphasized here and the firm really encourages you to figure out how to fit it into your workload,” we heard. In fact, the firm recently started counting pro bono hours toward overall billing totals. “There are two pro bono partners and a manager who sends out frequent emails with different opportunities,” said interviewees, all of whom had taken on significant amounts. Juniors had, among other things, handled Uvisa cases, worked on human trafficking and housing issues and helped nonprofits to “get 501(c)(3) status to make them non-taxable entities.”
Pro bono hours
Training & Development
Rookies from offices all over the world descend on the firm's London HQ for a week of training. “It's most valuable for networking and socializing,” reckoned associates. “There are lawyers from so many jurisdictions there at the same time so it tends to lose focus in terms of substantive training. For example, as a US attorney I don't deal with EU directives, and there was a session on that.” Others noted that “it was really good to get an overview of what the other departments do. As a litigator it was helpful to attend courses going over the sort of work that different departments do, like M&A and banking, because my work touches on these things.”
"There's a collaborative, flat kind of structure."
Back home, there are practice-specific training sessions available “every week or two.” For tax attorneys, the changing complexities of their practice area means that there are “lots of CLEs to go to and we have weekly meetings where we discuss what's gone on in the tax world.” Outside of the formal feedback given in yearly appraisals, “partners are generally good at backing up and explaining things.” According to juniors, “there's a collaborative, flat kind of structure. The people I work with are pleasant and give feedback in a supportive, growth-oriented way, rather than lashing out at you and pointing out your shortcomings.”
Hours & Compensation
Sources appreciated that the firm doesn't impose a billable target. “I think the goal is to be as busy as the rest of your group,” mused one, while another stated: “There's enough work to be done and I take the time that I need to. I don't worry about my number for the day. I don't feel pressured by that.” The bonus and salary are lockstep, although some thought that “they might be about to implement a metric for the bonus, based on contribution to the firm like pro bono and marketing, not just billable hours.”
"Work/life balance means something different than it would if you were a surf instructor in Malibu."
A standard shift at the office tends to last about 12 hours. “If it's a light day I can get out by 7.30pm, but if I'm slammed with a ton of work I'll be here until 3am or 4am. Fortunately, those nights don't happen that often.” Associates repeated the refrain that “there are peaks and valleys: I've had a month of working late almost every night, getting out between 10pm and 2am. Then the following month was much quieter. Anybody who gets into this business is aware that work/life balance means something different than it would if you were a surf instructor in Malibu.” Apparently, “partners really respect your weekends, unless there's something truly urgent.”
“The culture is one of the best things about Linklaters!” exclaimed a source eagerly. “The office isn't huge like at a lot of US-based firms, so you get to know most people. I've made very close friends here.” Fortunately, “the partners are generally approachable and aren't scary – although there are exceptions of course!” Asked whether the firm's British identity is apparent in New York, sources told us that “there are certain 'Britishisms'. We have a drinks cart on Fridays, the closing book is called a 'bible' and meetings are called 'prayers' – it's funny because no one knows what they are at first and nobody shows up!” One junior was delighted by the fact that “when I call IT support or voicemail it's a British recording.” Plus it's not uncommon to come across documents in which “'color' has a 'u' in.”
"People have an international outlook.”
However, it would be wrong to assume that Links' NY base is all cups of tea and bowler hats. “You hear English accents in the hallways and when all the partners come to visit you remember it's a British-based firm, but if anything it stands out as being very international,” interviewees agreed. “There are obviously a lot of Americans and people from all over the world in this office. People have an international outlook; we're connected to the wider world.”
Juniors described it as a “very social office” although “we're not necessarily going out for drinks every night. I go out for lunch or have coffee with colleagues.” As well as a “standard office holiday party” there are also fortnightly “popcorn socials in the middle of the afternoon and Wednesday afternoon cakes.”
"It's not only white males.”
Associates thought that “it's more diverse here than at many New York firms because a lot of people grew up elsewhere or have international backgrounds. It's not only white males.” Sources praised the women's committee, which “holds a monthly breakfast and a book club where women can gather to talk about how to advance within the firm.” There are also affinity groups for LGBT and ethnic minority lawyers.
The New York office is located in a convenient spot Midtown “along with a lot of other law firms. It's a nice area and it's easy to grab a drink after work – if you wanna pay $15 for a martini!” Inside, “there's nothing spectacular or extraordinary. It's comfortable enough for me to work in for 12 hours straight,” tittered an associate, although we did hear that “sporadic walls are painted in the Linklaters pink,” which sounds cheery.
"It's comfortable enough for me to work in for 12 hours straight."
Last year we heard of a shrine to Will and Kate in the antitrust department; this time around, no royal tributes. But that's not to say attorneys don't add a personal touch to their work space, and some had even spotted “a whiteboard decorated with a pig making facial expressions, and the bottom of an elephant.” Incomers share an office for their first couple of years at the firm. There's also an outpost in DC, which usually has at least one junior associate.
Hiring partner Justin Storms tells us that “we look for students who are outward facing and open to new and different cultures and ways of working – the idea being that this isn't a parochial US practice but an international law firm.” He continues: “Language skills are a plus, and may be necessary in certain offices. What's needed throughout the firm, though, is top notch intellectual and analytical skills.” Comparing Linklaters to a typical 'white shoe' firm, Storms insists that “elbows are less sharp here. We still demand a very high volume of quality work from associates, but our environment is one of mutual respect and collaboration.”
"You need to have a self-starting spark."
Successful candidates are those who “have a willingness to take initiative and move the ball as far as they can. There's an entrepreneurial spirit here, so we look for that self-starting spark." A final word of advice from Justin Storms: “At interview some students say, 'I’m interested in practicing international law,' which means practicing at the Hague or the UN! Here, we practice law internationally: for example New York law, English law and Hong Kong law being practiced in transactions across borders."
Strategy & Future
US managing partner Conrado Tenaglia tells us that “over the past year we've continued to grow and develop our global US practice. We've hired laterals but most of the partners we elect are homegrown.” The focus will continue to be on building up the New York and DC offices. Tenaglia cites antitrust and FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] work as expanding areas for the firm, while “restructuring and insolvency is another area where we are taking a bold approach.”
Justin Storms, hiring partner, Linklaters
Chambers Associate: What’s the scope of your recruiting drive for summer associates? Which campuses do you visit? How many summers do you take on?
Justin Storms: We currently go to 12 different law schools: University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, NYU, Harvard, Georgetown, George Washington, Fordham, Duke, Cornell, Columbia and Brooklyn. We typically have a summer class of around 20 and this past summer we had 20 2Ls and 3 1Ls. We typically make offers to about 95% or 100% of the class.
CA: What are you looking for in a candidate? What qualities? And what type of person thrives at the firm?
JS: The nature of the firm means that we look for students who are outward facing and open to new and different cultures and ways of working, the idea being this isn't a parochial US practice. People should be open to different ways of working, cultural differences, all the things that go with being at an international law firm. Language skills are a plus, and may be necessary in certain offices, but English is the language of the firm.
Of course we look for top notch intellectual and analytical skills. We go to top law schools and take on high ranking students from those schools. While it’s not absolutely necessary, it is good to see that a candidate has some relevant experience – that can show the drive of the person and give a sense of their ability to succeed.
The culture of the firm is very important: apart from being outward facing, we're very hard-working and there's respect for the individual and the ability to work with others. This is a total catchphrase, but we are collegial! Elbows are less sharp here. Obviously we still demand a very high volume of quality work, but our environment is one of mutual respect and collaboration. We look for the right feel and fit. You can tell which students have a willingness to take initiative and move the ball as far as they can. There's an entrepreneurial spirit here, so we look for that self-starting spark.
CA: Any common errors that people make at interview?
JS: For a firm like ours, it's a mistake to approach the interview in a generic fashion. Sometimes people say “I’m interested in international law,” and don't realize that that means practising at the Hague or the UN. Here, we practice law internationally: it's about New York law or English law or Hong Kong law, for example, being practised in transactions across borders. Candidates should be prepared to speak about things on their resume. It's interesting, sometimes interviewers try to speak to students about something from their prior summer job or college thesis, and the candidate is not prepared to speak cogently about it. Maybe there wasn't a whole lot of substance to it, but there has to be something they can speak to, like a good transferable skill. We like to see people who are prepared and thinking proactively about that, and it's surprising how often candidates fail to do that. General passivity and a lack of energy is deadly, for anybody in any interview, no matter how well-qualified they are.
CA: What does the firm offer that is unique?
JS: The fact that we have full service offices in so many jurisdictions. Some of our practitioners are in offices that have been on the ground for 100 years. We're a thriving practice, and associates are able to get high levels of responsibility early on and high quality work on transactions that stretch across multiple borders and international financial hubs like New York, London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Frankfurt.
Practically, our summer associates have the opportunity to split their summer between two offices, including international offices like London and Hong Kong. Being able to do that is unusual. Halfway through the summer we bring everyone together in London for three days for a mid-summer retreat. It's extraordinary to see the home office and for some students it's their first experience in an international business setting, which is very exciting. Sometimes they need to get a passport especially for it! It's a nice opportunity to get a broader sense of the firm.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting? Any initiatives in place?
JS: We work with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) to provide summer internships to pre-law students in our New York office. We also partner with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) in their 1L Scholars program, which affords diverse law students unique networking and development opportunities; we will have three 1L summer associates participating in the program this year. . Our summer class has been consistently around 50% or above inclusive of under-represented students (LGBT, racially or ethnically diverse); this year is no exception. Women also make up 61% of this year’s class.
CA: Anything else that a law student should know about Linklaters?
JS: We represent a unique opportunity to be part of a sophisticated, stable, longstanding, global firm that is over 175 years old. We are focused on investing in and growing our U.S. practice capabilities. In offices like New York and Washington, D.C., there is that exposure to growth and the feel of being in a small firm, but with the advantages of the firm’s enormous pool of resources. As an example, Linklaters associates benefit from the firm’s investment in learning and development, as demonstrated through our local training programs, global milestone trainings and practice group retreats. Another differentiator is our ability to offer unique opportunities for mobility. We encourage our associates to gain broad experience by supporting secondments to clients, complementary practice areas and international offices.
1345 Avenue of the Americas,
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 27
- Partners (US): 43
- Associates (US): 152
- Summer Salary 2016
- 1Ls: $3,077/week
- 2Ls: $3,077/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,077/week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
- Summers 2016: 18
- Offers/acceptances 2015: 19 offers, 17 acceptances (2Ls only)
Main areas of work
Antitrust/competition, banking, bankruptcy, restructuring and insolvency, capital markets, corporate/M&A, energy and infrastructure/project finance, executive compensation and benefits, financial regulation, international governance and development, investment management, Latin American finance, litigation and arbitration, structured finance and derivatives, tax.
Linklaters LLP is a leading global law firm that has been advising the world’s premier companies, financial institutions and governments on their most important and challenging assignments for over 175 years. With more than 2,600 attorneys based in 29 offices in 20 countries, we deliver an outstanding service to our clients anywhere in the world. We boast a strong US practice in New York and Washington, DC, that is reinforced by a global network of US lawyers extending across the world’s major business and financial centers, including: Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Paris, São Paulo, Seoul and Singapore. Our team of US-qualified lawyers delivers integrated advice across multiple legal regimes and market practices, covering transactional, regulatory, disclosure, compliance, litigation and liability management issues globally.
• Associate salaries: 1st year: $180,000
• 2nd year: $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
Brooklyn, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, UVA
Summer associate profile:
We look for people who can make the most of everything Linklaters has to offer: those who will work hard, learn quickly and take responsibility early. You will need analytical intelligence, a high level of attention to detail, creativity, and the people skills required to work well with both colleagues and clients. It is also important to have a genuine interest in business and the financial world, a high level of commercial awareness, and the desire to be part of a global network.
Summer program components:
Linklaters’ summer associates typically rotate through two practice divisions and may have the opportunity to spend time in more than one office. Summers are given real responsibility and are expected to participate in pro bono work in addition to working on billable matters.
Along with our dedicated summer associate training program, we encourage our summers to attend training sessions offered to our associates. Each summer associate is assigned a partner and associate mentor and receives two formal appraisals, one at the midpoint and one at the conclusion of the summer.