We'd rate your chances of slotting into a genuinely global network of like-minded lawyers at this magic circle Brit.
CLIFFORD Chance's presence in the US can't be viewed in isolation. 32 worldwide offices, over 3,000 attorneys and global recognition from whoever you ask – it's an inviting backdrop to would-be associates. Year on year, we hear about how juniors can “work across jurisdictions with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I speak with and work with colleagues abroad on a daily basis.” Summers even go abroad for two weeks. That stood out as the chief reason associates joined this prestigious magic circle institution. Working at a firm with such inherent internationalism – associates said – “makes for more challenging and interesting work.”
CC's US footprint currently sticks to the classic one-two of DC and New York. It's four times bigger in New York, but its 200 lawyer headcount is far skinnier than the hulking Wall Street heavyweights. Still, it's the largest magic circle firm in the US and, anyway, it reaps the cultural benefits of its manageable size. That's the now, but CC's website shows it to be a firm that's all about the future, particularly in its US strategy: “There's definitely a commitment to raising the US's contribution toward the firm's global revenue – it makes me feel good as someone who is here in New York.” To back this up, Evan Cohen emphasizes: “Our US law practice is the number-one priority for our firm, and growth in the US is a primary component of our strategy."
In New York juniors plunge straight into a general 'transactional pool,' unless they express a preference for litigation from the start. It's a two and a half year stint for associates in the pool doing “a little bit of everything transactional,” before getting the chance to specialize.
The title masks a diverse set of specialties. Chambers USA gives shout-outs to the firm's expertise in corporate M&A, insurance, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and aviation work. It also highlights the firm's strength in working on Latin American transactions. On the contentious side, the US offices get plaudits for white-collar litigation. But we mustn't forget CC's global charm. Chambers Global recognizes CC's collective efforts as among the very best around the world for banking and finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, insurance, private equity, projects & energy, restructuring/insolvency and tax.
The vast majority of juniors join in the New York office, with about a sixth heading to the smaller DC base. All associates get work from an assignment coordinator who juniors felt was “really on top of how much availability everyone has and everyone's preferences.” Litigators reckoned “the assignment manager plays less of a role for us because of the nature of litigation cases – they are usually more long-term.”
Those who'd spent time in the transactional pool found they had done “a good amount of everything” from three broad groups: corporate; banking and finance; and capital markets. Juniors appreciated the flexibility, with one explaining: “I came here wanting to do M&A and real estate, but it turned out I didn't like it. They were flexible with being able to switch preferences.” The only downside? “It could be a bit long – some people know what they want to do sooner than two and a half years.”
The firm's banking & finance practice is broad in its coverage: “We really do have everything you can think of,” said one associate. Juniors had “worked with various banks on both the issuer and underwriter side” and had mostly worked on asset finance (particularly aviation), leveraged finance and structured finance. Our sources were impressed with their experience: “I was worried about being a junior going into BigLaw – I thought I would be doing loads of tedious tasks. But with every deal I've worked on I've had hands-on experience drafting agreements and being on the phone to clients. It has allowed me to learn a lot in a short time.”
Banking and finance clients: Colombian development bank FDN; Rialto Mortgage Finance; Argentine cable provider Supercanal. The team recently advised BNP Paribas, J.P. Morgan, Mizuho and Rabobank on $9.2 billion acquisition financing provided to pulp and paper company Suzano Papel e Celulose.
Globally, the firm is huge in all areas of capital markets and the New York office's derivatives and securitization practices attract particular acclaim. In work for an array of asset managers, associates dive into a tangled bowl of alphabetti-spaghetti: REITs, CLOs, RMBS and more. “For me it involves assisting clients with securities filings and debt and equity offerings,” said one involved associate. “And I'm consistently talking with clients directly. I've done menial tasks like filling out diligence templates and putting together signature pages, but I've also been able to negotiate various security documents and regularly draft opinions.”
Don't forget that the work in both of these transactional teams is highly international (just check out the matter examples). Associates take calls and coordinate processes on cross-border matters with colleagues in other offices, and, as one source relayed: “If a question of law arises with respect to another country there will always be someone in the firm we can ask!”
Capital markets clients: Credit Suisse Asset Management; Deutsche Bank; Wells Fargo. The team recently represented underwriters including Barclays and J.P. Morgan in connection with a $1 billion secondary offering by HNA Tourism of common stock of Park Hotels & Resorts.
Litigation takes a much smaller cohort, who mostly tackled white-collar and regulatory matters. “My work involves government investigations by the DOJ or FCC. I've done a lot of securities enforcement and FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] work.” Clients include corporations, institutions and high-flying execs under investigation, and the work encompasses cyber and data privacy work – “there is a heavy focus on the tech industry at the moment.” Matters often require international coordination here too. One source described “assisting our London team with civil matters, drafting supplementary witness statements across UK and NY teams.” Most juniors start on legal research and doc review, progressing to “managing the doc review process” and “preparing deposition outlines.” One source was even able to accompany a senior associate to “interview witnesses and draft the witness statement.”DC's litigation team is regulation-focused, and sources told us: “The partner/associate ratio here is nearly one to one.”
Litigation clients: Bank of Montreal; Santander; Jeffrey Webb (former vice-president of FIFA). Lawyers in the New York office recently worked closely with the London office to represent Mike Lynch, the founder of UK technology company Autonomy, during DOJ, SEC and SFO investigations into suspect accounting.
“From very early on, everyone is assigned a career development partner. You meet with them one-on-one and they’re generally invested in your growth and learning.” Even day to day, juniors felt “a lot of the partners I’ve worked with really make the effort to include junior associates, whether that’s having them sit in on calls or actually interacting with the clients. It’s really appreciated.” This can vary from person to person – “certain people could be a little more engaged with career development” – but most sources judged that “if I were interested in pursuing a path to partnership, I know I would have a lot of support and assistance from everyone here.” It's another suggestion that CC's culture is positively different from some of its larger New York brethren.
Junior associates were equally happy with the training provided, but higher praise was reserved for the “continuous feedback. Each quarter, the people you’ve worked with provide mini appraisals. The practice head will review that material. They also check that you’re happy with the work or if there’s any other type of assignments you want. It demonstrates that they’re making sure we’re hitting benchmarks as well as checking everyone is happy.”
“CC is committed to pro bono, especially at the top of the food chain! Partners are interested in engaging with junior and midlevel associates on pro bono, and are great at giving advice on it.” The firm has ties with several organizations, including My Sister’s Place (an organization for survivors of domestic abuse), but the firm is also open to attorneys bringing in their own matters: “I brought in mine from a legal aid organization in New York. If you want to do pro bono, they’re very enthusiastic about it.” Existing enthusiasm is one thing however. The firm only asks that attorneys spend 50 hours a year on pro bono – the ABA suggested amount. As a result: “Most people do it, but some definitely don’t.” Sources had worked on employment cases, immigration and asylum matters, and a popular program involved “working with high school students where we coach them and prepare for a mock trial.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per attorney: undisclosed
“I think it’s very international here – you walk the halls and hear different languages being spoken.” The global culture at Clifford Chance was reiterated by juniors across the board: “The firm initiatives are global but the network of offices work seamlessly. There’s a mentality of working together internationally.” Many added that working together was easier because of the lockstep system for partnership compensation. This meant that “everyone is very cooperative and supportive, rather than trying to elbow other people and hoard work.”
On the social side, associates usually have monthly get-togethers, sometimes coinciding with various holidays. “We recently had a Halloween party which was adorable. Members of the firm brought their children in to trick-or-treat around the office.” The New York office also has a “rotating art exhibit on the fourth floor, so we have office-wide events to celebrate the arrival of a new exhibit.” On the junior end, sources were “genuinely friends with people I went through the summer program with. Suffice to say, we frequently grab a beer after work!”
Hours & Compensation
Associates are guided by an informal 2,000-hour target – but they stressed that “it’s not formally enforced. I’ve never been told I’m working too little. It’s definitely a concern if people are working too much. When I was very busy, several people checked in on me to see if there was anything they could do to help.” Lawyers arrive around 9:30am, and left before 8pm when the going was steady. But it's a feature of the work, especially in the transactional pool, that the going is seldom steady for long. “I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, but some nights before a closing can be quite late,” said one. “It's rare for me to go home without ordering dinner at the firm,” said a more heavily laden associate. Weekend work, however short, plus a few added hours in the evening was also common.
“The best thing the firm does to show they’re aware of the toll of working long hours is that if you bill more that 250 hours in a month, they give you a $400 gift certificate for an outing of some kind. You could go to a show or out for dinner with your family. Partnership realize it’s nice to get an immediate reward after a bad month.” The firm also matched the recent market salary increase – “and so quickly, which was appreciated.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Sources agreed that CC's visible efforts to increase diverse representation were “very heartening. A recent entering class in litigation was entirely female.” The firm has signed on to participate in the Mansfield Rule 2.0 and juniors praised the number of active affinity groups, finding them to be “very well supported.” Sources highlighted the women's committee, which had held a mix of “formal and informal gatherings including monthly coffee get-togethers, and a screening of the RBG documentary.” Interviewees recognized that “diversity is something the firm is conscious of and they're trying to make improvements, but it will take time. The immediate results from that effort can be seen more at the junior end.”
Strategy & Future
As mentioned, CC is focused on increasing its presence in the US, both in terms of offices and practices. Some also highlighted the firm's desire to “expand into fintech and other growing tech areas like Bitcoin.” The firm recently launched two new innovation projects – Clifford Chance Create and Clifford Chance Applied Solutions.
"My advice is pretty simple – be confident in your answers and engage. Every minute counts – and I meant that for both myself and the student I'm meeting." Find out more about Clifford Chance's recruitment process by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 641
Interviewees outside OCI: 16
Clifford Chance conducts OCIs at around 13 law schools, and typically meets between 550 and 600 students on campus each season.
The interviews are largely conducted by partners and senior associates on the hiring committee, in addition to “a group of very active partners who commit to returning to their alma mater’s campus each year,” New York hiring partner Nick Williams tells us. This initial interview is “largely personality-driven,” says Williams. “I’m looking for someone who displays a genuine interest in the work we do, but with outside interests as well. It’s important to find candidates who are well-rounded.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Be confident in your answers and engage. Every minute counts. If you go off on a tangent it may be hard to come back, so it’s incumbent on both parties to keep the conversation on track.” – New York hiring partner, Nick Williams.
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 195
Successful candidates are invited back to the firm and undertake callback interviews. These consist of four 30-minute interviews with two partners and two associates. At this stage, the questions are “more substantive”: Nick Williams explains that he's “looking for candidates to show me something I can’t glean from the resume in front of me.” There are also some specific questions that interviewers ask each interviewee to standardize the process. “In addition to that, I find questions that let me know what has brought a candidate to Clifford Chance over another firm very telling,” says Williams.
Top tips for this stage:
“Many candidates get too wrapped up in knowing specific facts about the interviewers: I am much more interested in hearing about a candidate’s reason for interviewing with us, why he/she chose to go to law school or what he/she has learned from their first year other than being able to recite my online bio!” – hiring partner, Nick Williams.
Clifford Chance’s summer program lasts for ten weeks and involves “interactive training programs, opportunities to meet attorneys both inside and outside the office through work assignments and networking events, and of course, the opportunity to spend two of the ten weeks working in one of offices abroad,” Williams reveals. Work assignment is structured similarly to assignment for juniors: there is no formal rotation system, meaning “we have the opportunity to really tailor the experience.”
Top tips for this stage:
“Work hard, be responsive and timely. We don’t expect our summers to know it all, but we do expect them to show us just why they want to be here.” – hiring partner Nick Williams.
Clifford Chance LLP
31 W 52nd Street,
- Head office: London
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 30
- Worldwide revenue: $2,175,000,000
- Partners (US): 72
- Associates (US): 200
- Main recruitment contact: Sarah Posner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring Partner: Nicholas R. Williams (NY) Steve Nickelsburg (DC)
- Diversity officer: Zarrar Sehgal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 23
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls (1), 2Ls (20), SEO (1)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: NY:16, DC: 6
- Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $7,916.67/semi-monthly
- 2Ls: $7,916.67/semi-monthly
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
NY: Banking and finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, private funds, insurance, litigation and dispute resolution, real estate and tax, pensions and employment.
DC: Banking and finance (with a specific focus on project finance), litigation and dispute resolution and structured finance.
Clifford Chance offers the opportunity to join a major US practice and the world’s leading international law firm. We are the first fully-integrated worldwide firm to provide coordinated legal advice to the world’s leading financial institutions, corporations and governments. The combination of a large US presence with unparalleled resources in Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East makes us uniquely qualified to handle complex cross-border and domestic transactions, disputes and investigations.
Law Schools attended for OCIs in 2019:
• George Washington
• St. John’s
Summer associate profile:
We believe in giving our lawyers a high level of exposure and responsibility from the very beginning. Over the ten-week program, our clerks will work on a wide variety of assignments to not only gain exposure to our full range of practice areas, but to get to know the partners and associates in those departments as well. Through close attorney contact, formal training, time spent in one of our offices abroad, and social events that explore the city, our summer law clerks receive a realistic vision of what it means to be a Clifford Chance lawyer.
Summer program components:
In addition to the hands-on experience they’ll receive working alongside our partners and associates on real assignments, our summer law clerks participate in formal training programs focused on legal writing, corporate transactions, as well as a seminar specifically geared toward working as an international lawyer. Feedback is given on a formal and informal basis, allowing our clerks to have a clear idea of their development.
Recruitment website: www.cliffordchance.com/usrecruting
US Twitter: @CC_Americas
UK Twitter: @CC_UK_PR
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
- Tax (Band 4)
USA - Nationwide
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory Recognised Practitioner
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
- REITs (Band 2)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 1)