Getting a biglaw SA in London

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Getting a biglaw SA in London

Post by LorneMalvo » Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:37 am

I'll preface this by saying I'm an incoming 1L at a T14 so I may be getting ahead of myself. However, I am very interested in landing a 2L SA in London in the future. Even though I'm an American and spent most of my life here, I have family in London, speak a couple foreign languages, and grew up in Asia going to an international school where I still have some British friends from my community of expats/former classmates.

How difficult is it to obtain these positions? I've been poking around my law school's OCI spreadsheet now that I have a log-in, and it appears that several firms actually hire for their London offices (Allen & Overy/Freshfields/Linklaters/Latham/CliffordChance/Skadden). I'm sure the SA classes are absolutely tiny compared to the bigger US markets, but is competition for these spots due to self-selection or does one really need top 10% grades or something nuts to have a chance? What in general are they looking for in applicants?

Secondly, I know the work centers almost exclusively around US capital markets (makes sense) with some M&A sprinkled in. Is this accurate? What kind of capital markets work (issuer/creditor side)? I've read from TLS that capital markets can be one of the more tedious and detail oriented practice areas without as much room for creativity. Is this accurate even for the European offices' US practice? For some reason, I had the impression they were doing more high-yield bond stuff.

So, if anyone with experience interviewing/SAing/or working with London offices wants to chime in on any of this, it would be much appreciated!!


Re: Getting a biglaw SA in London

Post by Guest » Mon Jul 09, 2018 12:47 pm

You are getting ahead of yourself, it's true, but you are correct that classes are small and self-selection is a strong factor. Your school will have information on the grades that you need in order to be considered during recruitment, but in London they're generally in line with the firm as a whole. A more important factor is your reason for wanting to go to London (or any other foreign market). Having local family or upbringing is a good signal that you're serious about the location and not just looking for a foreign adventure. London offices have a problem attracting and retaining US-qualified hires, so they want there to be some reason for you to move there and likely to remain there. You're also subject to pure luck with regard to the hiring size of the intake in whatever year you want to be recruited. Buoyant market means bigger intake. Bad market means reduced hiring.

You are also mostly correct regarding the work done by US-qualified lawyers in London, though there is variance between firms in the kind and amount of capital markets work. At this point there's a pretty wide spectrum in the size of London offices of American firms, so even though people talk about UK and US firms as groups, it's not so sensible to think of all US offices as operating the same. Some are quite small, and some are mostly UK/EU attorneys, others have larger US contingents. There's no spreadsheet about firms comparatively that you can download, though, and you really just need to reach out to people in a position to know what goes on at any given firm. There's a received wisdom that if you're US-qualified in a UK/Magic Circle firm, then you're considered a very specialized and niche practice that is sort of a backwater in the overall firm, whereas if you're US-qualified in an American firm you're more likely to be involved in diverse matters.


Re: Getting a biglaw SA in London

Post by lslurker » Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:37 am

Hi there! I have no idea if you will see this since the question was posted a few years ago, but I am really interested in a similar route (haven't started law school yet so also a bit ahead of myself, but I'm trying to figure out if it makes sense to get a JD or if I should just go the full nine yards on attempting to relocate and take a UK law conversion course). Would you mind sharing how things worked out for you? Thanks in advance :)

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