RollOnFriday can reveal that Cleary Gottlieb is setting billing targets for students on its vacation schemes, and charging its clients for their work.
RollOnFriday understands that vac schemers at the US firm's London office are expected to produce a certain number of hours of chargeable work during their stay. The actual billing target is not known, but one vac schemer confirmed it was firm policy and understood that research they had been charged out.

  "And my tutors say I don't know anything yet." 
Cleary's promotional literature does say that its vacation schemes in London aim to provide potential training contract applicants with "a practical insight into life as a Cleary lawyer", although few will have appreciated that the experience includes stressing out over billing targets.

It also promises to "involve participants directly in client work". However it is highly unusual, if not unheard of, to involve vac schemers so directly that clients pay for it. Partly because most supervisors palm them off with work which it is difficult to justify billing (deeds scheduling and reading through the nearest agreement to hand 'to understand how a contract works'), and partly because they are usually unqualified university students.  A grad rec manager at another, major City firm told RollOnFriday that it would never charge out vac schemers, on the basis that "they are untrained, so everything they do has to be checked over and you would in effect by charging clients twice".

Cleary should be making a tidy profit from its student labour. It remunerates its 48 vacation scheme students a year on the same basis as most City firms, paying them a token £500 a week. The firm did not respond to requests for comment on whether its clients are superpleased.
Tip Off ROF


Roll On Friday 21 October 16 10:08

If the work has a value then its fair enough that the firm would charge for it.

Anonymous 21 October 16 10:34

Charging/billing is a such a big part of the job it's important to be comfortable with it early on. Probably a good idea to make vac schemers aware of the other side of life as a lawyer, selling and charging for the product they are providing.

Anonymous 21 October 16 11:26

There is a contrary view, in that clients are paying for a student to spend a day on research which they are not confident or nervous about, and that an associate could take 5mins on - the client gets over-charged. Good for business maybe, how about the client?

Anonymous 21 October 16 12:15

Aside from the main point of the article this has just made me realise that I am earning less as a trainee than city vac schemers...

Anonymous 21 October 16 13:32

It just goes to show that disconnect between law firm salaries and that of the masses, when £500 per week for a student summer job is classified as 'token'.

Anonymous 21 October 16 13:52

As an associate at Cleary, I'm happy to confirm that there are no billing targets for any lawyers at the firm, let alone vacation students. It is true that vacation students are involved in real client work. Although many of our vacation students are able to add real value during their time with us, I (personally) have never seen this work charged to clients. I imagine this is handled on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of the work and the student in question's qualifications. Many City firms offer vacation schemes/internships to LLM students or those qualified in other jurisdictions, such a New York, etc.

Anonymous 21 October 16 14:35

Hi, I'm a former associate at Cleary, and would like to second the above post. There are no targets, but you will be beasted within an inch of your life. Cleary is a great place to work, and the training is exceptional.

Anonymous 21 October 16 15:48

it would be ok if they gave them targets but didn't bill the clients... that would give insight to part of a lawyer's life.

but conflicting messages from the cleary folks above no?

Anonymous 21 October 16 17:27

Seconded - ROF should check its sources. The vac schemer in question probably didn't get offered a training contract and is now seeking revenge.

Anonymous 21 October 16 18:25

£500 a week is more than Cleary are paying their senior associates nowadays isn't it?

Anonymous 21 October 16 18:27

Hours target part not true
Charging clients for vac students time has been happening at cleary for years

Anonymous 21 October 16 20:08

I hear some of those vacation students have managed to bill more than some of the UK qualified partners

Anonymous 21 October 16 22:19

The real scandal is the vacation students that were super pleasing themselves in the office #superplease

Anonymous 23 October 16 19:25

I can't see any problem with this. If you can charge out a paralegal you can charge out a vac student.

Anonymous 27 October 16 17:56

I did a vac scheme at Cleary and we were indeed given a list of billing codes and told to enter in our billable hours every day. I, and several others, forgot to enter our billable hours over the first couple of days and I was chased by HR to make sure I was billing what needed to be billed. They told us, "you are doing the work, the client should pay for it"

Anonymous 03 November 16 16:04

The best thing about this article - by some distance - is the cute / funny photo.

Anonymous 07 March 17 23:56

Providing clients aren't ripped off, it's probably good to let the students know how the industry works and that as lawyers they won't spend all day talking about the latest supreme court judgements.