Jones Day (London)
Jones Day made its big move into London over a decade ago when it took over Gouldens - a traditional mid-sized City firm known for its high profits and stellar salaries. Despite initial wobbles, it is one of the most profitable, as well as one of the largest, law firms in the world, with an enormous reputation for massive M&A.
The London office services some major property developers, as well as a host of private equity and hedge funds. It's a pretty major force in litigation, too, and has run some noteworthy cases through the courts in recent years, including a successful defence of Texas Keystone against Excalibur Venture's $1.6bn Kurdistan oil fields claim, which played out over a marathon 57 day trial in 2013.
Prospective trainees will be glad to hear that the firm is still paying its new initiates amongst the highest starting salaries in the City - £42,000 to start, rising every six months to hit a pretty astonishing £51,000 by the time you qualify (although the £75k NQ salary is a bit more run-of-the-mill by US standards). Trainee retention is historically high (14 out of 17 in 2013), and the firm likes to promote from within - the 2012 set of partners all trained with the firm. In the City, that's pretty much unheard of, and to be admired.
The money's not the only difference here. Uniquely, the firm runs a non-rotational training system, where trainees are expected to knock on doors and seek out their own work rather than being assigned to a partner in any particular department. Instead they share an office with a peer. Whilst this certainly eliminates the chances of your being stuck in a slow department for six months, insiders readily agree that it might not be suitable for wallflowers and you need plenty of "self-motivation". There are some worries that it's easy to take on too much (just say no), and there are a few grumbles ("There's a good reason no one else does a non-rotational system, it's shit and doesn't work"), but most insiders rate it and consciously chose the firm for the system, claiming it "gives you a far better education in City law". The benefits include sharing your own office with an equal, having some control over your workload, getting a “high level of responsibility” and enjoying "great client contact".
New joiners get whisked to Washington for a fondly-remembered week of
free booze bonding with their peers from the firm's enormous international network. Although it's worth noting that there's no chance of a seat abroad other than the occasional stint in Dubai.
The firm also gets points for its flat management structure, lack of hierarchy and supportive working environment. The firm will "support associates' efforts to develop new skills and practice areas” and partners "seem to be care about your career goals and general professional development". There are the usual grumbles about long hours, but if you want to take home this sort of wedge you have to expect to burn the midnight oil occasionally. Chargeable targets are officially a reasonable 1500-1700 hours a year, but insiders say that 2000 is probably more like it (not that bonuses make up for it).
As with many a UK office of a big global firm, there are complaints about "opaque" central management from the US, with one senior Jones Dayer worrying about "Lots of senior Americans descending, but with no clear purpose". Fears that "everything goes through the US" were realised last year when several UK partners were moved to Of Counsel status - not a big deal across the pond, where the two titles have more parity, but a humiliating demotion here.
Aside from this there doesn’t seem to be much wrong. The firm consistently comes near the top of our annual Firm of the Year Survey, and dozens of lawyers write in to praise the firm's flexible, laid back atmosphere, extremely sociable employees and approachable partners who are "very friendly", "ridiculously intelligent" and in the pub every Friday (getting a round in). Others add that there aren't too many “sociopaths”, which is nice. Not only that, but the office is getting a nice revamp, too.
The firm pitches itself as a realistic competitor to the Magic Circle (hmm), but with the added bonus of working in a smaller office with greater partnership potential. If you go there expecting to work for a profitable international giant rather than a quirky independent boutique, you should be well rewarded.
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