This magic circle firm's US operation is a shiny gold Link in its worldwide chain...
“I QUICKLY got the impression that this was one of the few international firms that truly uses all of its resources – there really is the 'one Linklaters' deal across the world.” Sources were near unanimous in agreement about what first attracted them to this prestigious magic circle firm (nicknamed 'Links' by its employees): “I came here for the same reason most people do: I mean I wanted to be a transactional lawyer and I wanted to do top-notch M&A. But mostly I wanted to work on high-level international stuff and that's what you get here. We have very few domestic clients.”
Linklaters has 29 offices and 2,600 lawyers worldwide. However, since its US operation only comprises around 125 lawyers spread between two locations, it can still feel quite cozy: “We are this big global firm but the New York office is only a hundred or so people. You do recognize basically everyone's face. A big part of the culture is based on that, and the fact that they don't really hire jerks.” They're no jerks when it comes to business either – counting a horde of mega names among their clientèle such as AT&T, Credit Suisse, investment multinational BlackRock and pharma giant Novartis.
The majority of New York newcomers will end up in investment management, tax, banking, dispute resolution and corporate, with a few lone rangers scattered across antitrust, financial regulation and capital markets (LatAm). The firm recently phased out its system of assigning new recruits to a specific practice group and instead implemented a pool system. As a result, work allocation is becoming “more informal across the board,” one corporate associate observed. “Now we get a list of deals quite regularly and we can then volunteer for the ones we're interested in. Either that or the assigning partners or senior associates just approach certain juniors and request their help.”
Links's investment management team “is a little bit different from those you'd see in other firms.” They don't work with any mutual funds and mostly work on private ones for large private equity houses. Over in banking “the most frequent work is arranging US guarantors for British companies that want to borrow money.” On 'network deals' – those not run out of New York – “once you've done a few as a junior you're sort of allowed to run them yourself.” In litigation, work is likely to involve more variety, as one interviewee reported: “I started with a breach of contract case for a bank. Now I've done a couple of antitrust cases and several internal investigations. Foreign clients also come to us with concerns about US sanctions.”
“Substantive work during the day.”
Perhaps due to the group's small size – “there are only five partners in litigation, three in New York and two in DC” – juniors can expect top-notch assignments: “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.” In 2013, the firm added a new team to the wider dispute resolution department. The 'International Governance and Development' practice works with clients in developing countries, as well as NGOs focused on international development – further proof, if any was needed, of Linklaters' steadfast commitment to global growth.
Complementing its internationalism is Linklaters USA's pride in its ties to the old country. As one source opined, the 'British thing' “affects the culture in a number of ways.” A few associates reported that “people tend to dress more formally here – I'm not talking top-hat-and-tails but I compare it to other New York firms and both male and female lawyers here usually wear a suit.” On top of that there's “a drinks cart every Friday, the closing book is called a 'bible', if you don't get stuff in on time they put you on a 'sinners list', and meetings are called 'prayers' – which is funny because no one knows what they are at first and nobody shows up!” Here at Chambers Associate we like to think we do our bit in fostering Anglo-American relations but we can safely say we've never heard of this kind of lingo being used at another UK firm. “We know playing up the British thing is just a bit of fun, and it's nice to have something that sets the office apart from your average New York BigLaw joint.”
“Though it's a social place, most get-togethers are informal and take place outside the office,” juniors told us. In-house, there's the drinks carts, as well as “popcorn socials and afternoon cakes” on Wednesday afternoons. The firm also throws “a pretty good holiday party toward the end of the year." In 2015, "it was at Chelsea Piers; there was a lavish dinner and then we all danced till 2am.” In 2016, it was held at the Estrela Penthouse at Le Parker Meridien.
Hours & Compensation
When it comes to working hours, Links dances to a different tune to most of its city rivals. Days rarely extend past 10pm with most sources echoing this associate: “I don't really have late nights, like past ten or 11pm, but I do quite often work on the weekend.” Sources attributed the less punishing hours to the British influence and “a culture that's averse to ruining people's evenings and weekends for no reason.” That said, if you do end up staying past eight during the winter, the firm gets you dinner and a cab home, a perk that you earn after nine during the balmy summer months.
“A culture that's averse to ruining people's evenings and weekends for no reason.”
Interviewees appreciated that the firm doesn't impose a billable target – “literally no one's ever told me you should be hitting this many hours.” And most agreed that “as long as you're doing the same amount as those around you, you don't feel under pressure to take on extra assignments.” This casual approach extends to remuneration: “Salaries are completely lockstep as are bonuses, which are tied to the Cravath scale.”
Partners see pro bono as “a good way for associates to get their feet wet” and so encourage it from your summer onwards. The following response was not uncommon: “I worked on 50 hours of pro bono last year and that's pretty typical for junior associates. We constantly get emails with opportunities and if someone's working on a pro bono deal he or she will often ask for help.” As for those opportunities, a lot of work comes through New York Lawyers in the Public Interest (NYLPI) and the Urban Justice Center. Juniors have also started giving legal assistance to the MinKwon Center for Community Action – a nonprofit that helps out in New York's Korean community.
Pro bono hours:
- For all US attorneys: 4,236
- Average per US attorney: 34
Training & Development
Links's summer is the first opportunity for feet-wetting as associates dip their toes on both sides of the pond. Rookies can request to split their time, with five weeks spent in any two of the following locations: New York, London or Hong Kong, and occasionally other locations (e.g. Frankfurt). In between the split, newbies worldwide descend on the London HQ for a long weekend of socializing and training. Sources agreed that the former was more useful than the latter, “because there are lawyers from so many different jurisdictions a lot of the stuff which is UK-specific doesn't relate.”
“Lawyers from so many different jurisdictions.”
Once they get back to home base, there are regular practice-specific training sessions. If these don't suffice “there's also a pretty comprehensive list of courses online and if you sign up to any of those they'll fly you to London to take part.” There used to be just one formal appraisal for associates but “now we have quarterly informal reviews – the idea is to be able to catch things that could potentially be issues early on.” But never fear, “it's all still fairly informal – at the end of the year you write a self-review and nominate people to deliver it.”
Juniors were slightly critical of Links's Big Apple home, which is right in the middle of a cluster of BigLaw names in Midtown. “It's not not nice, just a bit shabby. I mean we've got views of the park, which is great, but I think the lease is up in a couple of years and right now it'd be nice to move into the next space.” Another associate clarified those remarks: “The building isn't run down or anything but the administrative staff aren't great – it takes a while to get something fixed.”
The firm's DC office, which at time of writing has one first-year associate, occupies half of a small building on the city's South Side. This base is a bit more mod – “a client the other day said it looks like the Apple Store.” For the moment the DC office isn't large enough to stage a comprehensive summer program.
Linklaters actively promotes its internationalism and it's for this reason that many sources thought it “does better at diversity than many other NYC firms.” There is an ever increasing contingent of Mandarin-speaking lawyers, but really “people here are from all over the place.” On top of this there's an “incredibly active” women's committee that organizes regular networking events, a monthly breakfast and a book club where women come together and talk about their work and experience of the firm. There are also affinity groups for LGBT and ethnic minority lawyers – Linklaters offers a number of placement opportunities to 1Ls from these two groups.
As we alluded to above, speaking a second, third, or even fourth language is a mega plus during the Linklaters recruitment process. Justin Storms – the firm's hiring partner – explains the current strategy: “Part of what we’ve done this year, at the request of our Hong Kong office, is to focus on recruiting fluent Mandarin speakers who can support our China-facing work.”
That said, monoglots need not be too disheartened: “It's by no means necessary to be proficient in another language, and what we're looking for first and foremost is whether someone has an affinity with Linklaters and will work well in this environment.”
Due to the fact that “London is very much the headquarters” of Linklaters, recent uncertainty due to the Brexit vote has obviously affected the whole firm. However, rather than be caught off guard, the powers that be had been planning for all eventualities – “we were briefed on the potential consequences before the result and afterwards we set up a war room to help advise American clients with British interests.” As Justin Storms puts it: “We know there'll be long-term uncertainty but for a law firm such as ours this can actually present a lot of opportunities.”
Interview with Linklaters hiring partner Justin Storms
Chambers Associate: Roughly how many associates do you take on each year?
Justin Storms: For next Fall we anticipate around 15. In terms of the summer class, it's still a work in progress but it will probably be in the mid-20s.
CA: Has the scope of your recruiting drive changed at all recently?
JS: Part of what we've done this year, at the request of our Hong Kong office, is to focus on recruiting fluent Mandarin speakers who can support our China-facing work. There aren't that many firms that provide opportunities to do the high-quality work that we do in that area from the platform of a truly international firm.
CA: What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?
JS: One element of our focus on diversity is our partnership with LCLD (Leadership Council on Legal Diversity) We were the first, and are still the only, magic circle member of that organization. Through their 1L Scholars Program, our participating 1L summer associates are afforded a number of network benefits to support diverse law students. We also participate in LCLD’s Pathfinder and Fellowship programs, which are geared toward supporting midlevel and more senior diverse lawyers.
CA: What questions do you ask during the OCIs and callback interviews? And what attributes do you specifically look for?
JS: I can’t say I have a set of “go to” questions – I try and tailor questions to a student’s specific experiences listed on their resume or shared during the interview. One of the things that I personally look for is a “self-starting” quality that I think helps junior lawyers (and senior lawyers) succeed. That, together with an open and outward-looking personality and a willingness to jump in to new situations, which are both important aspects of our culture.
We don't look for any particular activity while at law school, but the fact that there is engagement in some activity is important. It can be anything, really, so long as a candidate demonstrates involvement and energy. Most of all, it’s important to try and stand out and distinguish oneself – we speak to over 20 people in a day, and they each only get 20 minutes to stand out.
CA: What is the firm's approach to judicial clerking – do many people do it?
JS: We regularly have an associate either go and clerk before they go to law school or join us after a period clerking. We think it's a valuable experience for a young lawyer to have. We have partners in this office who have clerked, so it's not by any means limited to litigators.
CA: What does the firm offer that is unique?
JS: Having come from a US firm, I can say that Linklaters does take a bit of its soul from its British roots. It's not like people here aren't type-A, ambitious or driven personalities. They wouldn’t have succeeded without those qualities. But there is a deeply ingrained understanding within the firm that being demanding and being respectful are not mutually exclusive. That may not quite be unique, but it does stand out to many people who join us from elsewhere.
1345 Avenue of the Americas,
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 27
- Partners (US): 43
- Associates (US): 163
- Summer Salary 2017
- 1Ls: $3,500/week
- 2Ls: $3,500/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,500/week
- 1Ls hired? Yes
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in overseas office? Yes
- Summers 2017: 26
- Offers/acceptances 2016: 15 offers, 14 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, Singapore and Tokyo. 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 2017:
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.