Fake news: the truth about US firms
Posted by Nick Allen
Speaking to candidates daily, one of the statements I regularly hear from them is: ‘I wouldn’t want to work at a US law firm, I value my work/life balance.’ It is interesting to note that the perception around the market is that you are guaranteed to be doing 20-hour days the moment you set foot in a US firm, and, whilst I understand this perception in many cases, it is fair to say is that it is often quite far from the truth. What makes working at a US law enticing is their typically impressive remuneration packages. You’ll get certain firms paying astronomical amounts of money (think K&E, Skadden, Milbank etc), but you’ll also find firms paying above market-rate with the expectation that you work the same number of hours as any of the Top UK firms would do. Thus, for many candidates, joining a US firm where they will get paid substantially more than a UK firm, yet won’t see much of a difference in their working hours becomes a no-brainer. Once they go in for interviews and this point is clarified by recruiting partners, they seem surprised and pleased to know that such opportunities exist within the market. Chargeable hours targets at many US firms we work with [such as Morgan Lewis, Pillsbury, McDermott, Will & Emery and Faegre Baker Daniels] are often as low as 1,500, which is quite a step away from what many would expect. Putting aside a common misconception about US firms being too specialised and only working in specific or niche practice areas, many US firms in London can now boast full-service offerings to their respective clients. This was not the case as recently as ten years ago, where their offices in London were satellites to the US (and were typically working on their time). Major players like Skadden, White & Case, Shearman & Sterling now offer a full range of services to their clients, and historically smaller players such as Morgan Lewis, McDermott Will & Emery, Katten Munchin and Pillsbury are making big names for themselves in the London market by adding breadth and depth to their offerings. Some candidates express concerns that the level of training they would receive at a US firm will not be as good as that at a top UK firm, and whilst that may once have been the case, there are plenty of US firms that have benefitted from multi-partner/team moves away from UK firms in recent history, bringing across a wealth of training and precedent materials. What this means in fact, is that you’ve got well-established teams, who have benefitted from the training and development at leading UK firms now working at US firms. So, provided you pick the right kind of US firm (and there are plenty who fall into this category), you will be able to benefit from a team that has a culture in training their lawyers in the way you would expect a UK firm to. Another gripe about US firms I tend to hear is about culture: ‘Yes, I may get paid well, but I’ve heard that US firms are cut-throat and dog-eat-dog.’ Again, whilst there may be pockets of certain firms where this might be relevant, the feedback I receive from candidates and clients I speak with is altogether different, suggesting it is unfair to paint all US firms with this brush. I have placed candidates into several US firms who have remarked that they are enjoying their time at their new firms as a direct result of the collegiate and tight-knit culture. It’s reassuring to hear that the message being put across during the interview stage rings true. Furthermore, firms having experienced US mergers of late, such as Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Squire Patton Boggs, BLP, have managed to retain their original culture post-merger. The legal market is changing rapidly and London is still seeing a huge rise in the number of US firms operating in the capital and the growth of those that are more established in the market, which creates a great deal of opportunity for ambitious lawyers. For more information about this article, or to speak to Nick about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 02072696328 or email@example.com.