Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Address: 2 London Wall Place, London , EC2Y 5AU




Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 '‘Small trainee intake’; ‘I had the best vacation scheme experience’; ‘opportunities to travel’; ‘international work’; ‘professionalism and inclusivity of the people’; ‘wide range of work’; ‘compensation’; ‘fantastic culture’; ‘top intellectual firm’; ‘superb lawyers’; ‘does the more interesting/unusual work in the market’; ‘strong developing markets practice’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘Our brand new office is spectacular’; ‘the work is always interesting’; ‘it’s fascinating to see colleagues apply their expertise to complex legal problems’; ‘the people are brilliant’; ‘great trainee supervisors’; ‘collegiality’; ‘international work’; ‘approachability of partners’; ‘quality of work given’; ‘warm environment’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘Unpredictability of work’; ‘the hours we’re expected to work are intense’; ‘lack of ongoing feedback’; ‘it can at times feel like London is seen as a small regional office by New York’; ‘lack of centralised precedents/standard forms’; ‘lack of bins in new office’; ‘process of allocating seats lacks transparency’; ‘difficult to switch off’
Best moment? 
 '‘The first time I got a document back with less than ten corrections’; ‘closing a deal that we’d been working on for months’; ‘attending court hearings’; ‘going to Lisbon for a finance practice group conference’; ‘managing a debt issuance almost single-handedly’; ‘leading a conference call on my own in a foreign language’
Worst moment?
 '‘Six months of extremely long hours’; ‘working until 5am with unhelpful instructions’; ‘dealing with difficult clients’; ‘trying to get your head around things at the start of a new seat’; ‘being a bit stretched on a small deal team’; ‘long hours of work taking away from weekends and work/life balance’'

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) – committed and hard-working with a fabulous lifestyle

The verdict

The firm

US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is highly regarded for its M&A, private equity and acquisition finance work. Its client list includes international and national business organisations, financial institutions and sovereign governments.  

The star performers

Acquisition finance; Bank lending: investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Competition litigation; Corporate tax; Debt capital markets; Equity capital markets; EU and competition; Finance: high yield; Fraud: civil; International arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Private equity: transactions – high-value deals

The deals

Acted for Google on the CMA study into digital comparison tools, and is currently representing them on the EC’s investigations into alleged abuse of dominant position both in relation to online search and in website advertising; advising HarperCollins on the EC’s investigation into ‘most-favoured-nation’ clauses and Amazon’s e-book distribution deals with various publishers; advised Sony on the EU and international competition aspects of the $2.2bn acquisition of EMI Music Publishing; acting for Qatar Investment Authority in the £3.6bn acquisition (as part of a consortium, which also includes Macquarie and China Investment Corporation) of National Grid’s gas arm; advising General Motors on the £1.14bn sale of Adam Opel and its subsidiary Vauxhall Motors to PSA Peugeot-Citroen

The clients

Alpha; CB Equity; Credit Suisse Asset Management; General Atlantic; Loxam; Nordic Capital; Schroders; The Raine Group; UC Rusal; Warburg Pincus

The verdict

With ‘superb lawyers’ and a ‘wide range of interesting work’, it’s no wonder aspiring solicitors are keen to train at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. This ‘top, intellectual firm’ engages in ‘high-profile work’ with an ‘international dimension’ which a ‘small trainee intake’ get exposure to. Trainees are ‘trusted to run small transactions’ and are ‘treated far more as junior associates’. The working hours are ‘intense’ and it can be ‘difficult to switch off when responsiveness is expected in the evenings and at weekends’, however, one recruit noted that ‘we knew what we were signing up for’. All this hard grafting is likely to pay off as trainees at Cleary reported feeling confident that they’d be kept on post-qualification which earned the firm a Lex 100 Winner medal. Moreover, ‘the office culture is great’, there is ‘collegiality’ and trainees rave about the ‘associates who are excellent teachers’, which goes some way in explaining a further four Lex 100 Winner medals. Unhappiness concerned the ‘lack of ongoing feedback’, ‘unpredictability of work’ and ‘process of allocating seats’ which ‘lacks transparency’. ‘Co-ordinating a closing with four different time zones’, ‘being a bit stretched on a small deal team’ and ‘receiving trainee tips talks from lawyers which was intimidating and made us feel we were doing badly’ were testing times for trainees, however, all was well when ‘doing a debt issuance almost single-handedly’, ‘leading a client call on my own in a foreign language’ and ‘learning from incredibly knowledgeable and effective solicitors across the practice’. Plus, ‘pro bono activities sit well alongside billable work’. For ‘the perfect balance of outstanding work, great people and fantastic culture’, apply to US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

 A day in the life of...

charlotte ritchie

Charlotte Ritchie second seat trainee, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 

Departments to date:  M&A, dispute resolution

University:Christ Church College, Oxford University  
Degree:Politics, Philosophy and Economics 

7.00am:  At least one or two days a week, I try to fit in an exercise class before work. It’s really important to make time for yourself, whatever job you’re doing, and one of the benefits of starting work relatively late (mostly 9.30ish) is that you’ve got a little while first thing to hit the gym or grab breakfast with friends. Today it’s Hatha Yoga, since I’ve had a busy week!

9.00am:  This morning I have breakfast training along with my fellow trainees on the top floor of our brand new offices. As we look out over the skyline of London, one of our most senior lawyers tells us about his experience in public takeovers, including grappling with the UK Takeover Code.

10.00am:  The first thing I do every morning at my desk is write a to-do list of tasks for the day. These have often arisen overnight, or have dropped off the bottom of my to-do list the day before (since they come in pretty quickly during the daytime too). One of the complicated things about working at an international law firm is figuring out the time of day at which you’ll lose other teams you’re working with around the world, and planning your tasks accordingly!

10.15am:  My first bit of substantive work today is a research task. I sit in dispute resolution at the moment, which means a lot of this kind of research – a big reason I enjoy this practice area so much. Today I’m looking at the recoverability of hedging losses under English contract law, for a large banking client who is currently facing significant losses of this kind. The challenge is to consider and weigh up all the relevant law – both the bits that work for your client and the bits that don’t.

12.30pm:  Over lunchtime today I attend the monthly dispute resolution practice group meeting. These are a brilliant insight into what the rest of the firm is doing, as it can be easy as a trainee to completely zero in on your own tasks.

2.00pm:  We’ve got a call scheduled with our South African co-counsel, on which we discuss the relative benefits and drawbacks of proceeding with our client’s case in South Africa, as opposed to in England. Often it won’t be obvious, when starting a case, where it’s going to end up being argued – or even what the parties will be arguing about. After the call, I write up the attendance note (a classic trainee job).

3.00pm:  I have a spare half hour, so I turn to my current pro bono project, in which a team of our lawyers is representing a detainee on Tanzania’s death row. We are currently supervising a factual investigation by lawyers on the ground in Tanzania, and at the same time considering the substantive human rights violations we will eventually be pleading in his case.

4.00pm:  It’s Friday, and that means Friday treats! The office staff take it in turns to provide Friday afternoon snacks for their neighbours each week. This includes both lawyers and professional staff, and is a great way to get to know new people in the firm.

5.00pm:  Back to the meeting rooms for a strategy meeting concerning another of our cases. We’ve just had a successful result in court, so the meeting is about how best to capitalise on that. You might think that a matter starts and ends with a court case, but in reality there’s so much more to consider – both before and after that.

6.30pm:  Getting to the end of another week deserves a toast and a debrief, so us trainees usually head to the pub for a quick drink or two when work is finished on a Friday afternoon. The firm arranged for us all to study the LPC together, so we knew we had people in our corner right from our first day at the firm.

About the firm

Address:2 London Wall Place, London , EC2Y 5AU

Telephone: 020 7847 6861

Managing partner:  Michael Gerstenzang

Other offices: New York, Washington DC, Paris, Brussels, Moscow, Frankfurt, Cologne, Rome, Milan, Hong Kong, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Abu Dhabi and Seoul.  

Who we are: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is a leading international law firm with 16 closely integrated offices located in major financial and political centres around the world.

What we do: Core areas of practice in London are M&A, financing and restructuring, capital markets, international litigation and arbitration, and competition. In addition there are successful self-standing practices in tax, financial regulation, and IP and IT.

What we are looking for: We look for candidates who are enthusiastic about the practice of law in a challenging and dynamic international setting. While academic excellence is a prerequisite, we place particular emphasis on recruiting candidates with whom we and our clients enjoy working. A sense of humour is as important as the ability to think critically.

What you'll do:By recruiting 15-20 trainees each year we are able to offer bespoke training that is tailored to our trainees’ interests, experience and aptitudes. We encourage our trainee solicitors to accept increased responsibility as soon as they are ready to do so.

Perks: 25 days’ holiday, employer pension contribution, gym membership subsidy, private healthcare, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, dental insurance, employee assistance programme, childcare vouchers, Bright Horizons back-up care and subsidised staff restaurant.

Sponsorship:LPC and GDL funding. A maintenance grant of £8,000 is paid for each year of professional study.


Facts and figures

Total partners: 193 (global)

Other fee-earners: 1,200 lawyers globally

Total trainees: 27

Trainee places available for 2021: 15-20

Applications received pa: Approximately 2,000 

Percentage interviewed: 5% of applicants are invited to attend an open day. 


First year: £48,000

Second year: £52,000

Newly qualified: £120,000

 Application process

Apply to:Rory Uwins and Jessica Williams

How: Cover letter, full CV and transcripts via our website.

What's involved: We recruit the vast majority of our future trainees from among our vacation scheme students. Selection for vacation placements is through an open day comprising presentations on the firm, case study workshops and interviews. Candidates applying outside the vacation scheme have two interviews with graduate recruitment, partners and associates.

When to apply:

Training contract commencing 2021: By 31 July 2019.

Winter work placement: By 3 November 2018.

Spring work placement: By 31 January 2019.

Summer work placement: By 31 January 2019.

Spring insight day: By 28 February 2019.