Hailing from London, this prestigious magic circle firm packs its associates' schedules with cross-border work.
"EXCITING,” “intriguing,” “fun,” “adventure” – words you'd typically see when browsing for your next vacation, but also used by juniors at Linklaters (or 'Links' as it's affectionately known) to describe their reasons for joining the firm. Yes, Links was the obvious choice for associates who wanted “not only international work but an international outlook.” With its 29 offices across 20 countries and stated aim to be 'the leading global law firm,' our interviewees knew they'd found the one. However, with just two US offices in New York and DC, Links's “international flavor” comes with a more intimate twist compared to some of the larger domestic players it competes with.
Links's status as one of London's premier firms is rock solid, and in 2017 it posted a very healthy revenue of £1.44 billion (comfortably in the global elite). Behind such sparkling financials (and all those offices) is the firm’s prowess, especially in transactional areas like corporate/M&A, capital markets, banking and finance, restructuring and energy – as its top rankings in Chambers Global attest. In fact, Links is ranked fourth in the Chambers Global Top 30 of world-conquering firms, meaning – as juniors helpfully pointed out – that it naturally attracts “driven, open and curious people who are interested in the world.” If you recognize yourself in that description, read on…
Incoming associates are put into what Links calls ‘the pool.’ This system tracks associates’ availability and aims to give them “exposure to multiple groups.” Our sources felt that it had created “a more even distribution of work across the entire first-year class and high utilization rates.” Some unexpectedly enjoyed practices they weren't initially interested in, while others had a more definite idea of the work they'd like to do and would've appreciated the chance to specialize earlier.
“You have to come up with a fund structure that accommodates around 200 investors!”
The bulk of second and third-year associates had settled into the investment funds, capital markets and dispute resolution groups; the rest were dotted between corporate, banking, projects, tax and financial regulation. In investment funds, "the diversity of clients is unmatched.” Associates often acted for sponsors and had encountered investors from China, France, Singapore, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and more. Such geographical scope makes for “one very big puzzle” work-wise, “asyou have to come up with a fund structure that accommodates around 200 investors!” One source enthused: “As a junior you could be negotiating with investors on smaller matters, conducting fund reviews and drafting agreements.”
Dispute resolution associates had worked on a hefty mix of white-collar defense matters, antitrust disputes, arbitrations, government enforcement actions and general commercial wrangles. They enjoyed composing “a lot of correspondence with opposing counsel” and found that “research is definitely up there with one of the most frequent things we do; from that we draft motions and briefs and compose answers for seniors. Then there’s the stuff that’s pretty commonly done in litigation, like doc review.”
In capital markets, juniors are “asked to do a bit of everything,” including debt and equity deals, “a sprinkling” of banking work and some Latin America finance matters. Interviewees enthusiastically described “drafting various transaction documents” and “client advisory memos.” There's also “quite a bit of organizational work” as juniors are often “running the transaction: there's a lot of talking and emailing with the other side, a lot of client interaction and attending meetings – the days are pretty jam-packed!As a third year you’re more like a fifth year in terms of the experience you get.”
Hours & Compensation
Links doesn't have a formal billing requirement, but some associates reported that there is an unofficial guide “called 'the perfect ten.' The ideal is billing ten hours a day – and pro bono work can count – but it's just a goal.” Indeed, our sources didn't feel pressure to hit a specific number and highlighted that “you're generally expected to work a similar number of hours as the people in your practice group.” Overall interviewees appreciated “the more wholesome way of assessing performance: we have this concept of 'good standing,' which incorporates billables, pro bono and time spent developing internal 'know how' by drafting memos and updating informational sources.”
Cross-border work naturally means irregular hours: we heard from juniors rushing to get in by 6am to make a call, while others had left the office at 6am after staying up all night to get a filing done. Most said that they spent between ten and 12 hours a day in the office, but that can increase to between 15 and 17 hours during particularly busy periods. Our resilient sources took this in their stride: “We have so much fun it makes it all worthwhile!” In addition, “the nice thing about being at an English-headquartered firm is that time off is sacred – people generally don't bug you on your time off and I've been able to do things on the weekends.”
Culture & Offices
Most US associates call the New York office home (only one in our sample was based in DC at the time of our calls). It received lukewarm reviews: “Overall it's fairly pleasant, but it's not extraordinary!” On the plus side it benefits from “nice views and a good Midtown location: it's accessible from anywhere in the city and close to a lot of clients, which is helpful.” Links's lease on the office space expires in 2020, so a move could well be on the cards…
English roots may inflect the culture in Links’s US bases, but associates felt the firm’s “internationality” was the real driving force behind it. “Working with people from other culturesdevelops your interpersonal skills and keeps you open to new ideas,” one source suggested. While people “from the top down” were described as “kind, supportive and upbeat,” it was also made clear that the approach to work was serious: “It's certainly an environment that expects the best, and we achieve that by working together and making sure everyone is aware of the role they play and the expectations we have.”
“The nice thing about being at an English-headquartered firm is that time off is sacred.”
The social life may not be as “institutionalized” as it is in the London mothership, but the New York office sticks to the firm's Friday ‘drinks cart’ tradition – an informal “get-together which allows us to enjoy a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day. I knew Linklaters was the firm for me when I heard about it!” Juniors were also eager to tell us about attending the firm's global practice group retreats, which are held in various cities around the world: “Links likes to emphasize how often we work with other offices, and the retreat allowed me to put faces to names.”
Training & Development
This isn't the only time juniors get to link up with their overseas colleagues. Summer associates can request to complete a stint in either Hong Kong or London, and all first years descend on the latter for “afunweek of training with new associates from across the firm.” After this, formal training varies from group to group, but one common thread was “lunchtime sessions that are either hosted by partners or an external provider.” In addition there are “always office-wide trainings on both discrete legal issues and career-based/administrative things.”
All juniors are assigned a mentor (either a partner or counsel) who they work closely with and meet for quarterly check-ins: “These provide you with a good opportunity to just have an informal discussion about how things are going on both a micro and macro career level.” An associate's mentor also conducts an annual review, which incorporates feedback from “five or more nominated colleagues you've worked with, regardless of their location.” There's also an informal midyear review.
“In New York there aren't many female partners and men dominate the senior roles,” but associates said the firm is “fully aware of the problem and actively trying to change it.” A “prettystrong” women’s group has “different prongs to it,” including a mentorship component and “an initiative that aims to elevate female attorneys to partnership positions.” Drawing upon their time spent at global retreats, associates felt that female partner numbers were higher in Links's overseas offices. They suggested the imbalance could be a “cultural thing” in the US, and similarly so on a racial level. Networks exist for racially diverse associates; we heard that an Asian-American initiative is “currently being revived by one of the seniors.”
“Working with people from other cultures keeps you open to new ideas.”
Sources did praise the firm's efforts when it came to LGBT diversity: “We are more diverse than other firms in that respect, and there are a lot of initiatives and partnerships with our clients to maintain and enhance that representation.”
The “big presence” of pro bono at Links was an attraction for some associates. They get “at least bi-weekly” emails from a coordinator detailing available work from organizations such as the Urban Justice Center, Immigration Equality and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Juniors can also source their own projects too: “If it’s something you really care about, they’ll help you set it up.” Some of our transactional sources found that deal volume prevented them from doing as much pro bono as they would've liked, while litigators felt they had more space in their schedules to fit it in. Interviewees had worked on human rights matters, corporate restructurings and labor law cases – one of which involved “lots of ups and downs, a bench trial in front of a well-known judge, and,thankfully,a decision in our favor!”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 5,867
- Average per US attorney: 50
Strategy & Future
Tom Shropshire was appointed global US practice head in 2017. He acknowledges the need for a bigger push in the US, and tells us that "in some respects, competing with US firms, and – let’s be specific – leading New York-based firms, is absolutely our ambition now. We want to make sure we have the highest-quality team doing the best-quality work in the market. However, we are not a deep incumbent New York law firm, so we have to find ways to position ourselves in the market in order to make ourselves attractive to both clients and talent."
“Interviewers will quickly be able to identify candidates who aren’t really interested in what Linklaters is good at.” Given the firm's smaller class size “Links can't afford to have people here who aren't super invested – they want people who are going to stick it out.” Associates therefore advised future candidates to “show you’re passionate about what the firm actually does.” Choosing “some international-focused classes at law school will help, as you’ll be dealing with international issues and clients here.”
Several associates suggested taking note of the dynamics between people at interviews: “Look at the associates and partners to see how they interact. Then ask yourself: 'do I enjoy speaking with them and being around them?' This is what they will be asking themselves about you.” As one put it: “We hire people we'd want to sit on an eight-hour flight with. It makes so much sense if you’re going to be working together for 18 hours a day at times!”
Interview with Tom Shropshire, Linklaters' global US practice head
Chambers Associate:Some associates this year said they'd like Linklaters to make a bigger push in the US. How do you respond to that?
Tom Shropshire: Obviously the strategy and ambitions for the US practice sit within the broader firm strategy – that strategy is to grow revenue, make sure we have healthy business, and deploy our profits in a way that allows us to continue growing that business. One of the growth areas we recently identified was the US. The US as a market presents a huge opportunity for us; if we're thinking about how to best grow revenue in a way that ensures we’re capturing healthy activity globally, the US is a very important piece – and one that has historically been unrepresented in our client portfolio.
We do therefore need to have a bigger push in the States and in our global US practice. New York and DC have an integral role to play in that, but the US is bigger than those two cities. What we need is a US practice that helps the firm deliver on its overall strategy. That means we need to grow our practices and invest in a way that makes sense both inside and outside of the US. In some respects, competing with US firms, and – let’s be specific – leading New York-based firms, is absolutely our ambition now. We want to make sure we have the highest-quality team doing the best-quality work in the market. However, we are not a deep incumbent New York law firm, so we have to find ways to position ourselves in the market in order to make ourselves attractive to both clients and talent. We seek to have a healthy and robust domestic practice that strengthens the firm's platform. We're looking to capture a greater share of work from clients outside of the US who are eager to expand their relationships in the country.
CA:Are there any plans to open new offices in the future?
TS: There are no plans to open up in particular locations, but if our strategy takes us in a direction where it makes sense to open up a new office – whether it's small or large – we’ll do so. What we’re not looking to do is build up a network of offices that can compete on a numerical basis with the largest, domestic New York firms.
CA: Which practice areas are you focusing on in the US?
TS: There are two camps: the maintenance of practices and the growing of practices. From a growth perspective – corporate in New York is a big focus for us, as well as banking and restructuring & insolvency. Those have the biggest opportunities for growth in the near-term. We’re seeking to grow our practices across the board – that doesn’t mean we’re going to double in size, but it does mean that we want to increase our capacity in some practices, such as funds, investment management and capital markets.
CA:Given that you spend a significant amount of time in both the London and New York offices, how would you describe the culture across them?
TS: I think the culture in the US is not distinct from the rest of the firm. When you go visit different Linklaters offices you do get a clear sense of a common culture and shared values, and we use a common language – we’re singing from same hymn sheet. Of course all offices have a local flair, so New York feels different in some respects because you’re dealing with an office full of Americans – which in my mind is a great thing.
Our common aim is to be energetic, hungry and market-facing. We want to build a practice that is active in the market and really shows a lot of energy and determination. We’re also focused on our goal of ensuring Linklaters is a place where diversity and inclusion are positive differentiators. I’ve set that ambition and that’s the pace we’re going to run to. Underneath that, we need an open and transparent culture with greater levels of collaboration. I’m certainly trying to set the pace and example on that – I think it’s key to success, and I think we have room to grow in that regard.
CA:Do you have any words of wisdom for students considering Linklaters?
TS: Whenever students are looking for a place to work they should be thinking about the bargain they are making – and I don’t mean that in a negative sense. They should be going to a place that is going to afford them the chance to develop personally and professionally in the best way they can. They should be choosy, discerning buyers, and make sure that the place they go to gives them the balance to do both of those things.
While I certainly want people to spend their careers here (as I have), what I want is for them to say, ‘I have had a fantastic experience here, and I am better as a result of having been here,’ whether they’re here for two, ten or 20 years. I think students need to apply that standard and approach to whichever place they’re looking to go.
From my perspective, I’m someone who’s really enthusiastic about the firm and its US practice, and I think that together we can certainly achieve fantastic things. Our teams need people who share a similar mindset, in that they are excited by what we’re doing and have the energy and commitment to push our practice forward. We’re trying to build a collaborative organization that harnesses people’s strengths. I certainly get the sense there’s a real yearning for that walking down the hallways. We’re not perfect, but we’ve certainly got the ambition to make sure we’re creating the right circumstances for people to succeed.
1345 Avenue of the Americas,
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 27
- Worldwide revenue: £1,438.4 million
- Partners (US): 43
- Associates (US): 147
- Main recruitment contact: Jennifer Katz-Hickman
- Hiring partners: Justin Storms and Douglas Tween
- Diversity partner: Peter Cohen-Millstein
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 22
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 21 (1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 19, SEO: 2)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Many of our summers split time between two offices
- NY: 18, London: 7, Washington: 3, Hong Kong: 1, Singapore: 1
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $ 3,500/week 2Ls: $ 3,500/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 29 offices in 20 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, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, 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 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.
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 at the end of the summer.
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Latin American Investment (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)