A Britain-born transactional titan of global proportions? Please, sir, I want some more information.
Dickensian London: picture busy cobbled streets filled with Cockneys, crinolines and horse-drawn carts. To this backdrop, two English chaps (probably wearing top hats) started a law firm. That firm was Linklaters, and it would go on to become one of the five elite magic circle firms in the UK. If its founders could see it today – with almost 3,000 attorneys worldwide and 30 offices in 20 countries – they’d probably eat their top hats.
“I was drawn to the firm's global links alongside its community feel.”
With such a global network, it may come as a surprise that in the USA Linklaters has just two bases in New York and DC (juniors are recruited almost entirely into NYC). This modest office presence isn’t dissimilar from most of its magic circle siblings, but in terms of US headcount Linklaters sits a little under its homegrown rivals, with around 125 practicing attorneys. The juxtaposition of this modest US headcount against such a “strong international network” was appealing to many of the associates we interviewed, including this pun artist: “I was drawn to the firm's global links alongside its community feel.”
Linklaters (affectionately dubbed Links by its attorneys) holds one minor accolade from Chambers USA for antitrust in New York, but on the global stage, the firm is a formidable contender in all things transactional. Chambers Globalbestows it with top worldwide rankings in banking and finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, employee benefits, and projects.
During their first six months, first-year associates swim through the firm’s ‘pool’ system. Partners and counsel reach out to them for assistance on projects; juniors can also sign on to matters through a ‘tracker document’. This allows them to get work across each of the firm’s practices, be it antitrust, dispute resolution, corporate, finance, funds or tax. After six months of exploration and “once we’ve felt out each department, we rank our choices from one to three” to join a practice group permanently. Typically, we heard that associates get their top pick, however the decision is very much based on the business needs of the firm.
“My experience has been that work is delegated to me,” one said, but juniors still felt they could find agency by virtue of being part of a firm with a smaller headcount. “We’re leanly staffed,” one explained, “so we’re given client contact and substantive work early on in our career.” Associates were grateful to find “the firm is always understanding if you can’t take on extra work.”
“I’ve worked on deals based in Europe and Asia!”
Finance is the largest practice, particularly in the New York office: bankruptcy and restructuring, acquisition finance, asset finance, capital markets, project finance, fund finance, and general banking all fall in here. Juniors we spoke to had worked on a lot of debt and bond issuances, securitizations, and investment funds. The banking bunch regularly advises clients on regulatory issues associated with the Volcker Rule in the United States, European Union regulations, and the application of local regulations in capital markets hubs throughout Asia. No matter the matter, juniors are likely to get a taste of working with colleagues overseas. Our interviewees mentioned getting chummy over US regulatory issues with lawyers from London, the EU, Japan, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg. Rookies working on issuance matters were entrusted with tasks such as drafting: “I got the first crack at drafting the disclosure document, then I sent it off for comments from the internal team.” When grappling with hedge funds, associates were called on to look at offering documents and analyze an investment against the wider market. From there, they might reach out to clients to update them and negotiate the terms of investment.
Finance clients: Citibank, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas. Represented ING Bank as lender in a $250 million revolving credit facility for The Dow Chemical Company.
Within corporate, US-centric M&A fills a large part of associates’ plates. Newbies here can also get a taste of joint ventures and regulatory compliance matters within the department, as well as finance-flavored work like capital markets. The team works across a diverse range of sectors, including financial services, healthcare/pharmaceuticals, energy, chemicals and the automotive industry. Much like the finance group, the corporate coop advises many international clients, as this insider attested: “I’ve worked on deals based in Europe and Asia!” Another detailed their experience working on a billion-dollar acquisition in Latin America: “My role was negotiating, drafting issues lists, drafting agreements and joining conference calls with clients.”
Corporate clients: Digital Colony, Montagu Private Equity, manufacturing company Assa Abloy. Advised Brazilian food processing company Marfrig Global Foods on its $970 million acquisition of an additional 31% stake in US-headquartered firm National Beef.
Hours & Compensation
Though there is no official billing target at Linklaters, the firm tracks associates’ hours through something called a ‘metric utilization’ system. Sounds fancy! Attorneys can get an idea of whether or not they’re on track for a bonus with the number of hours they’re billing from a guiding percentage – “100% means you’ve reached the goal.” That 100% can include 100 hours of pro bono and community development work. This system got mixed reviews from sources – while some found it “super chilled,” others were less than impressed by “constant reminders” to log their hours. “If you consistently take longer than two days, you won't be in good standing” for a bonus, one warned.
On average associates reported billing around nine hours a day, with the average day running from 9am to 7pm. On busier days some billed around 15 hours. They happily didn’t report too much weekend work. We did hear reports of some having to adjust their vacation plans when the firm was settling into the swing of remote working, which some found a little frustrating: “People were taking vacation because they needed a break, not because they fancied going to the beach!” Of course, teething issues with the transition to remote working are to be expected.
And though associates described a pre-pandemic “resistance” to flexible working, they were pleased to see that “the attitude toward agile working is improving,” which they were hopeful would continue when offices reopen widely. Whenever that may be, Linklaters’ New York cohort will have a brand new space to move into (with hotdesking on the cards according to our sources).
“I’m always working closely with colleagues from around the world.”
The magic circle firms are often attributed with a vague ‘Britishness’ in their working cultures, but we found Linklaters’ world wide web to be the most influential factor in this regard, creating a “collaborative culture” according to our interviewees. Juniors felt linked to the bigger picture: “Being in an international firm means I’m always working closely with colleagues from around the world. We operate as one group.”
Juniors also wanted to highlight the level of mentorship they’d received at the firm. “People were keen to take me under their wing,” one said. We heard that “juniors are encouraged to take on responsibility and ownership of their work, while ensuring that communication lines are open with more senior folks.” That said, one pointed out “you are not always working with partners super close – as a junior lawyer I work with senior associates.” And juniors happily agreed with the sentiments expressed by this interviewee: “The associates care about my development. They don’t just point out my mistakes; feedback is growth-orientated and respectful.”
Juniors can expect formal feedback at biannual meetings with their partner mentor as part of the firm’s review process. “Partners and senior associates are very committed to assisting juniors’ growth within the practice,” according to associates, with some hungry for even more professional development opportunities: “Now that I’m settled, more structured training would be helpful.”
Initially, new joiners learn the ropes via a formal training program in their first week. The sessions are group-specific, covering a range of skills under the practice banners of investment funds, M&A and more. The firm has also introduced career counseling via a third-party provider, to help associates navigate things like sales and purchase agreements.
Linklaters asks its lawyers to do a minimum of 100 hours of pro bono. A pro bono coordinator sends out emails to notify associates of opportunities on offer, covering areas like human trafficking, war crime, LGBTQ+ matters, immigration and child custody cases. The firm also works on a lot of visa applications. “We are given a client and have a meeting with them,” one explained. “Our job is to finalize their visa application and continue with any follow-ups. A big chunk of this is writing a narrative memo.” The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) also now hosts a visa training program for associates. Elsewhere, associates were working on status adjustments on behalf of veterans who’d received dishonorable discharges from duty. There were also opportunities to do good deeds on a smaller scale, such as make up goodie bags for children's hospitals.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 10,871
- Average per US attorney:81
Diversity & Inclusion
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the BLM movement, Linklaters created a Race Action Plan to formalize its anti-racism efforts, with new initiatives like Diverse Voices, a reverse mentoring scheme. Sources also highlighted the fact that the firm recognizes Juneteenth as a paid holiday: “It was lovely to see the whole firm celebrating the abolishment of slavery in the US.”
Along with race & ethnicity, the firm has formal diversity strands for gender, social mobility, age, LGBTQ+ and disability. “The global head of diversity and inclusion fills us in every couple of months” on D&I news and initiatives at company-wide meetings. Associates were further encouraged by the results of the firm’s recruitment efforts so far, with one observing: “Over half my associate class is female or ethnically diverse.”
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 417
Interviewees outside OCI: 5
Linklaters USA conducts OCI interviews at Brooklyn, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, University of Michigan, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, St John’s, and UVA. It also does resume collections at American, Cardozo, Fordham, and Stanford, and participates in the NLGBT Lavender Law Fair, MABLSA Job Fair, and NEBLSA Job Fair. Partners, counsels and senior associates usually conduct the interviews. At each school, interviewers see approximately 20 to 70 students.
Hiring partner Doug Tween tells us: “During our initial interviews we try to focus on the following core competencies: motivation and commitment to excellence, organizational and commercial awareness, intellect and analytical ability, working with others, and communication skills. The best interviews are with candidates who can explain how they satisfy those competencies with specific experiences.” Overall, Linklaters is looking for “intelligent, curious, energetic, team-oriented people who will help us succeed going forward.”
Top tips for this stage:
“This can vary from student to student, but in general we are looking for well-rounded individuals with a combination of strong academics, relevant work experience, leadership positions, and examples of working effectively as part of a team. Language skills are a plus.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
“Be familiar with the firm and what we do. Look at the website, research social media, speak with students who have summered with us in the past. Come to our recruiting events and talk to people. Listen and be prepared with questions that demonstrate you’ve done your homework. Come in with energy and enthusiasm.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
Applicants invited to second stage interview: 138
Callback interviews include five separate meetings. Students meet with one member of HR or recruitment, two partners/counsel, and two associates, each for half an hour. Interviewers here ask behavioral questions that home in on particular competency areas. Tween tells us “at this stage of the interviews, we are interested in delving deeper into the candidates’ past experiences and behaviors to help us get a better sense of what motivates them, how they work with others, and how they have handled challenges in the past.”
Top tips for this stage:
“At this stage of the interview process, you should be able to clearly identify why you are interested in the firm. Doing some research on the firm and your interviewers will enable you to make connections with the people you meet and convince them of your interest.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
“Be ready to talk about your resume, but also about current events. And perhaps most importantly: be prepared with your own, thoughtful questions.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
Our summer associates are part of a pool and typically work with several practice groups throughout the summer. They may also have an opportunity to spend the summer in one of our overseas offices or spend time in more than one office. As well as helping on billable matters, summer associates are expected to work on pro bono assignments. They also attend training sessions throughout the summer to prepare them for practice and introduce them to the firm. Summer associates typically share offices with associates, and each summer associate is assigned a partner/counsel mentor and an associate mentor. Summer associates have informal catch-ups with their mentors over the course of the summer, and they also receive two formal appraisals during the program, one at the midpoint and one at the end of the summer.
Linklaters hosts many social events for summer associates, the most notable being the midsummer retreat to London. “The retreat brings the entire global summer associate class together in London for several days to see the office and learn more about the firm and how we work together to serve our clients,” Tween explains. “The retreat is also an opportunity for the summers to meet our London-based attorneys and get to know their summer associate classmates who are working in different offices. And of course, they also get to do some sight-seeing as a class and experience London.”
Back home in the US, associates informed us of social events ranging from “an axe throwing class and a museum hack tour to exploring nice restaurants.”
The firm tells us nearly all summers return as junior associates. In the New York and Washington offices, juniors are placed in a general pool during their first six months at the firm. At the end of that period they express their preferences and are then placed into specific practice areas.
Top tips for this stage:
“The best way summer associates can impress and make the most of their summer experience with us is by being proactive and engaged; demonstrating that they are excited to learn and be a part of the team; and focusing on contributing and doing their best.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
“Take the opportunity to meet and work with as many people as possible and explore a variety of work.” – Doug Tween, hiring partner
Tween tells us: “Know what distinguishes Linklaters from other top-tier law firms, and be able to explain why Linklaters is the firm for you.”
1345 Avenue of the Americas,
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 29
- Worldwide revenue: £1,523.5million
- Partners (US): 48
- Associates (US): 154
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Katz-Hickman
- Hiring partners: Penelope Jensen, Antonia Sherman and Douglas Tween
- Diversity partner: Peter Cohen-Millstein
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 15
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 21 (1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 19)
- Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $ 3,700/week 2Ls: $ 3,700/week
- Split summers offered? No
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
With more than 2,600 attorneys based in 31 offices in 21 countries, we deliver an outstanding service to our clients anywhere in the world. Our US practice in New York and Washington, DC, 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, 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.
Brooklyn, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, St John's, UVA
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Judicial clerks and student applicants from schools where we do not interview on campus are encouraged to apply via our application portal on our website: https://careers.linklaters.com
Summer associate profile:
We look for people who can make the most of all we have 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 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:
Our summer associates typically gain experience in a variety of practice areas 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.
In addition to our dedicated summer associate training program, we also encourage our summers to attend training sessions offered to associates. Each summer associate is assigned a partner and associate mentor and receives two formal appraisals, at the midpoint and end of the summer.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2021
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Derivatives (Band 3)
“I was a finance lawyer for many years and loved it, yet I’d never taken a secured transactions course in law school. And if you would have told me years ago that one day I’d self-identify as a technology lawyer, I never would have believed you.”