Weil, Gotshal & Manges is, along with Shearman and Sterling, probably the most anglicised of the US firms over here - and so probably the most likely to be here for the long haul. Insiders report that the hours are long, but no worse than at other big name City practices and generally not at the absurd levels sometimes rumoured to be found at smaller US offices over here. You're going to be part of a global network of 1,300, but don't be worried about stetsons and six shooters - almost everyone in London is UK-qualified.
The firm's been here a long time. 2016 was the twentieth anniversary of the firm's London office, which makes it a pretty well-established brand in the Great Wen. With around 110 fee-earners, 28 partners, and 23 trainees over here it's one of the biggest US offices in the City, and the work is as high profile as anywhere. The first decade or so was pretty smooth running, with the firm getting its hands filthy in the private equity world (aided by the hire of PE star Marco Compagnoni).
But with PE work drying up, how has Weil got on? Well, as other firms suffered, WGM swiftly managed to diversify and pick up a huge load of restructuring work (Lehman and the like), so it coined it through the recession. The firm has been cashing in on big deals: it advised Barclays in relation to the £1.5bn restructuring of General Healthcare Group and Aston Martin on a $165m private placement. Bonuses for US associates are generally top of the tree and London salaries are the typical stellar rates: how many NQs are going to grumble at £95k?
Although expect to work for it. Associate complaints include: "hour for hour I'd probably earn more working in an Asian sweatshop" and "I work so hard that I once called my other half my boss' name."
The practice is concentrated on profitable corporate and finance work, so if property or litigation is your thing you'll need to look elsewhere. Bear in mind that however committed it is to the UK, decisions affecting your future are still made by partners thousands of miles away (one associate suggested that "the New York office is very domineering").
So what do the workers think? Responses to our Firm of the Year survey were, ahem, mixed. There was praise for "exceptionally talented lawyers", "excellent salaries", "no billable targets" and "great views" from the Fetter Lane offices. Indeed the main thing propping up the positive comments box is "the pay", though you can expect to be "made up to partner in the London office which is rare for a US firm" according to one insider. But criticisms include a lack of work life balance: "I'm expected to answer my work Blackberry when it rings in the middle of the night" grumbled one lawyer. A few respondents referred to "animosity" in the office and partners who "generally dislike each other."
Still, the firm is very keen to stress that it is in London to stay. The fact that London is its fastest growing office (and the largest after New York), and that the office has generated significant profits for the last few years would also seem to support this. And the firm achieved a steller 100% retention rate last year. So if hard-core corporate work is your bag, and you're prepared to work long hours, the combination of cash and clients make for a good deal. Plus, as one assistant comments, you get the benefit of "working for a firm with the same name as an infection spread by rats". Which is nice.
A respondent to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey grumbles that pay and bonuses "lag behind other US firms like Skadden, Bingham (Akin Gump), Debevoise, Latham etc", but says, hey, at least it's "better than the Magic Circle". There's a "good office location", too, and the firm is apparently trying to recruit "from a broader range of universities than most US firms, realising the world doesn't end at Oxbridge". Though there's "still" a "heavy Oxbridge contingent".
And a laterally-hired 4PQE writes that they're "working with clever people, earning loads of money, doing market-leading deals" and while the hours "can be bad" they "appear to be reasonable when compared to similar firms" like Latham, Shearman, Weil and Milbank. Overall they "love it 95% of the time", which is the "best average I've managed so far".