The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Vinson & Elkins’ London office opened in 1974, making it one of the oldest of any US firm. The firm has particular strength in oil and gas, energy projects and global telecoms deals, and advises corporates, private equity investors, service providers and financial institutions. Vinson & Elkins’ network of 16 offices is spread across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
The star performers
Corporate tax; International arbitration; M&A: Upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Oil and gas
Advised Saudi Aramco on the UK-tax aspects of its participation in a $1bn joint initiative to develop and accelerate the commercial deployment of low emissions technologies; representing ExxonMobil in annulment arbitration proceedings brought by Argentina with regards to an award against it on the grounds of its violation of the US-Argentina bilateral treaty agreement; advised Statoil on its acquisition of a 25% stake in Petrobras’ third-largest oil field for $2.9bn; represented the Vitol Group and Helios Investment Partners in connection with the $250m acquisition of Shell’s 20% shareholding in Vivo Energy; coordinated cross-border counsel for Helios Towers Africa on the tax aspects of its debut $600m high yield bond issuance and listing on the Irish Stock Exchange
ExxonMobil; Helios Towers Africa; Oaktree Capital; Saipem; Saudi Aramco; SOCAR; Statoil; TPG Sixth Street Partners; Vitol Group
US firm Vinson & Elkins is renowned for its ‘focus on energy’, as well as for its ‘international standing’. Among the many reasons trainees were drawn to the firm was the non-rotational seat system whereby trainees ‘physically move seats every six months but continue to source work from numerous departments’. This allows recruits to ‘tailor our training contracts to gain further insight into the areas we enjoy’. A ‘smaller trainee intake’ also proved attractive: ‘we are not anonymous within the firm and we are made to feel part of the team early on’. A ‘strong open-door policy’ leads to ‘trainees often being given work and guided directly by partners’. This not only means that recruits ‘can learn from, and aspire to be, the best’ but also ensures that they are given ‘substantive tasks, rather than just grunt work’. The flipside of the non-rotational system is that it ‘can be extremely difficult to navigate and it can become difficult trying to juggle work from numerous departments’. Another downside is that ‘you could go an entire seat without experiencing the department in which you are sitting’. But on a positive note, ‘international secondments are freely offered’ at the firm, which explains the firm’s Lex 100 Winner medal in this category. A further Lex 100 Winner gong has been awarded for the firm’s generous salary. Whilst an instance of ‘working all day Sunday only for the work to be out of date by Monday’ stood out for the wrong reasons, ‘closing an extremely complex deal involving many jurisdictions’ was memorable in a good way. If a ‘non-hierarchical and approachable firm’ which offers ‘excellent work opportunities’ is what you’re looking for, consider Vinson & Elkins.
A day in the life of...
Francesca Gray trainee
Departments to date: International disputes, M&A
University:University of Bristol
How does the summer vacation placement programme link into the training contract process? At Vinson & Elkins, there is a real emphasis on the vacation placement programme. Almost all of the trainees are recruited in this way. As such, the programme is a true snapshot of life as a trainee at the firm. Vacation schemers are tasked with real and exciting work and all members of staff make a massive effort to get them involved. Vacation schemers get to see the social side of the firm too, as various lunches and drinks are held for them each week.
How is the training programme structured at Vinson & Elkins? The training contract at Vinson & Elkins is structured around a ‘non-rotational’ system. This means that while trainees physically rotate into different departments every six months, they are able to continue working on cases/deals that they worked on in their previous seats. In my training, this has proved invaluable. I have been able to see deals/cases through from their start to end, rather than working on them for a limited six month window, before handing them over to the next trainee. Ultimately, this provides the trainees with much more rounded training. International secondments are also a feature of the training contract at Vinson & Elkins. Historically, trainees have spent six months in the firm’s offices in Dubai, Houston, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
What does a typical day as a trainee at Vinson & Elkins consist of? I am currently sitting in the mergers and acquisitions department so usually, my day will consist of reviewing transaction documents, carrying out due diligence and research tasks on the impact of new laws on a client’s investment. Although, owing to the non-rotational system, I also spent a large portion of my day yesterday drafting a witness statement for an arbitration, regarding a dispute in Peru.
How much involvement do trainees have in the deals and transactions they are assisting on at Vinson & Elkins? Trainees are afforded a great deal of responsibility from very early on. In my opinion, this is thanks to the small intake of trainees in a medium-sized office. Generally speaking, there will be one trainee on each deal/case and that trainee will be considered a genuine part of the deal team. Trainees also get a great amount of client exposure. Personally, I have attended multiple client meetings and I am in direct contact with clients each day.
What is the culture like at Vinson & Elkins? The culture at Vinson & Elkins is extremely open and very friendly. All members of staff, from fee-earners to support staff, interact socially each week. The office is small enough that everyone knows each other’s names! Importantly, the culture among the trainees is collegiate rather than competitive. Also, the firm’s Texan roots are certainly felt in London. Each year we celebrate Texas independence day and we have a big BBQ on 4 July. There is even a firm-wide party in Houston every two years!
About the firm
Address:20 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 3BY
Telephone: 020 7065 6000
Fax:020 7065 6001
Training principal: Andrew Nealon
Managing partner: Alex Msimang
Other offices: Austin, Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Hong Kong, Moscow, New York, Richmond, Riyadh, San Francisco, Taipei, Tokyo and Washington.
Who we are: Vinson & Elkins is a leading US-headquartered global law firm with approximately 650 lawyers located in 16 offices across the globe.
What we do: Vinson & Elkins advises clients in the sector’s most complex transactions, projects and disputes. We have extensive experience throughout the energy industry value chain: exploration, production, transportation, refining and marketing, petrochemicals, power and cogeneration, environmental, and regulation – in all major energy hubs and energy markets.
What we are looking for: We are looking to recruit ambitious individuals with exceptional academic results (2(1) degree minimum and at least AAB at A-level or equivalent), sound commercial awareness and rounded personalities. The ability to think laterally and creatively is essential, as is a need for common sense and a willingness to take the initiative. Foreign language skills are an asset, but by no means a requirement.
What you'll do:Vinson & Elkins operates a non-rotational training system and trainees work across our practice areas throughout their two years. This means that while trainees share offices with more senior lawyers and physically change where they sit every six months, they are available to receive work from all departments (and all our offices) at the same time.
Perks: Medical insurance, dental insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, Simply Health cash plan, subsidised gym membership, access to private GPs, employee assistance programme, pension and interest-free season ticket loan.
Sponsorship:We pay GDL and LPC fees and provide a stipend of £8,000 whilst studying the GDL and LPC.
Facts and figures
Total partners: 16
Other fee-earners: 32
Total trainees: 8
Trainee places available for 2021: 5-6
Applications received pa: 302
Percentage interviewed: 17%
First year: £50,000
Second year: £55,000
Newly qualified: £120,000
Apply to:Graduate recruitment
When to apply:by 31 July 2019
Summer: June to August summer vacation placement (apply by 31 January 2019).