SULLIVAN & CROMWELL LLP

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2 SULLIVAN & CROMWELL LLP LC.N AWARD WINNER 2014 BEST TRAINING PRINCIPAL BEN PERRY Sullivan & Cromwell, founded in New York in 1879, has had a London office since 1972 and English lawyers since In 2010 the firm decided to launch a UK trainee programme with the aim of making home-grown recruits part of the future of the London office and the firm. Key to the success of Sullivan & Cromwell s fledgling programme is Ben Perry, a partner at the firm and 2014 recipient of the Best Training Principal (Small Intake) award. Given that the firm s first cohort of trainees only started in September 2013, this is recognition indeed that it s not how long you ve been doing it, but how well you do it that counts. The firm s London office currently has a legal staff of approximately 80, made up of English, US and dualqualified lawyers, as well as trainees. Ben joined in 2000 and was made partner in 2008, coinciding with a period when the firm was looking at how best to expand. In 2010, as part of general discussions about strategy and the next steps to take, we concluded that the way to efficiently and sustainably grow the recruitment of English qualified lawyers was to start a trainee programme, he recalls. Ben and his fellow partner Jamie Logie (co-head of the trainee team) hired Kirsten Davies as the firm s new trainee solicitor recruitment manager, taking advantage of her significant experience in setting up trainee schemes. I came on board in 2010, but the firm had already realised that in order to build on its UK practice, it needed a trainee programme to grow its own, as it were, she explains. The team currently comprises Ben, Jamie, Kirsten and Lisa Bennett (legal recruiting assistant), but the whole recruitment process is very much a firm-wide effort. The practice is relatively small, so I am always reaching out to partners and associates to get them involved for example, with the interviews and vacation schemes, says Kirsten. It 38 Best in Law 2014 LawCareers.Net

3 BEST TRAINING PRINCIPAL BEN PERRY is a very hands-on process for all our lawyers. Ben adds: We are a core team of four, which is small by comparison with other US firms, let alone the large English firms, so we have to be smart about the way we run things. So, you re a student and considering applying to a firm that has just launched its training programme what about that particular proposition appeals? How did Sullivan & Cromwell draw four early adopters Sean Ruscitto, Anna Hagan, Victor Siek and Michelle Vickers to its as-yet untried scheme? With no existing trainees to talk to, how were they convinced? For a start, all separately affirm that they liked the idea of being the inaugural bunch of trainees. When I learnt that I could be part of the first intake, I was excited, recalls Sean. I felt that there would be scope for input into the new programme. Anna agrees: The main thing that stood out was the fact that they hadn t taken trainees before; there was an emphasis on how we might be able to help shape the programme. That was a big draw for me. I also liked that there were just four of us, as I thought that would mean more responsibility and more contact with partners and associates. Michelle was also attracted by the newness of the programme, but her resolve to apply was strengthened after a pleasant exchange with Kirsten: I sent her an with some general questions, not expecting much back, but she sent such a nice, personal response I was so impressed. The clincher for the putative trainees was the informal interview process, organised by Ben and Kirsten, but involving many other members of the firm. Sean says: The interview was so relaxed it was just a chat with two partners, getting to know them and the firm, and them finding out about me. It was a welcome change from some other firms assessment days and online testing. Anna agrees: I met Ben always makes it clear that it is a priority to him that the trainees have the best experience and makes us feel confident that he is looking out for us with Kirsten first, had an interview with Ben that involved a short case study, then another partner interview and finally a quick chat with Jamie. Refreshingly, it was not a daunting experience at all. Victor says that although he was nervous, everyone he met with put him at ease: It wasn t nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. There were no hoops to jump through or silly questions to answer it was just like having a normal conversation with normal people. Michelle recalls returning to the firm after her vacation scheme, armed with notes and questions, only to discover it really was just a lovely lunch with the offer of a training contract as part of it. The only awkward moment was dealing with the bones in my fish! Although this may all seem very informal and unplanned, Ben underlines that it is a conscious approach: We spend a lot of time with students and applicants, talking to them and trying to get a sense of what makes them tick. We don t do psychometric testing, for example it s all about human interaction and the personal touch. As a small team, we are very invested in the trainee programme and are willing to go the extra mile for the candidates that we want to attract. And once the trainees are here, it s the personal time that we spend with them that makes all the difference. In the period between being recruited and starting at the firm in September 2013, the chosen four studied the LPC together and were invited to various events at the firm, including partner dinners and the annual European Legal Seminar. Once at the firm, they were whisked off to the US headquarters for a chance to contrast the small London office with the mammoth US version, which takes on around 100 new associates every autumn. The trip to New York was cool, especially meeting the big players and getting a sense of the atmosphere there, remarks Anna. Victor agrees: Everyone in the New York office mentioned the new UK trainee programme and it seemed that the entire firm was on board with the decision, which was nice to know. Back in London, the advantages of being in a small cohort quickly became evident. I think we do get more responsibility than trainees at other firms, reflects Anna. With LawCareers.Net Best in Law

4 SULLIVAN & CROMWELL LLP only one trainee per department at any one time, we are asked to draft agreements and letters, and attend meetings, although always with the comfort of someone checking what you re doing. Once they see that you re capable, they re happy to let you have a go. Kirsten adds: There is a real opportunity for trainees to get involved from the start, taking early responsibility and engaging with truly international work and clients at a superior level. All of the trainees mention the combination of interesting work and the safety net of support. The firm is less hierarchical than others, suggests Michelle. I sit in a room with Ben, so can run things past him. There has never been a situation when I felt that I couldn t bother him or anyone else with questions. No one makes you feel awkward, left standing at the door and knocking! Sean also singles out Kirsten and Lisa for high praise, explaining that we can talk to them about any issues that we have. However, both Ben and Kirsten make the point that with added responsibility comes added visibility. Ben says: Particularly because they are joining a small intake, we want trainees with drive, ambition, curiosity and a willingness to get on with things. Kirsten concurs: We offer our trainees a fantastic opportunity; but to ensure that continues, our numbers need to stay small and that in turn means that there is nowhere to hide! You will be in high demand, according to your abilities, working with partners and senior lawyers on deals every day. One word that everyone keeps coming back to is personal. This is a firm that places a great deal of emphasis on treating each trainee as an individual. There isn t a fixed programme as such; rather, it is based on what each of us needs, explains Michelle. One of the best experiences I ve had was being given a discrete part of a deal to handle on my own; it felt good to be trusted with that. The partners and associates that you work with every day know where you re at and what you can cope with. Victor continues: We work in small teams, which is a function of the size of office and intake, but it also means there is much less administrative rigidity. There are no immutable rules the training contract is personalised and flexible. Sean thinks that the firm gives each of us as much as we can handle, while Anna is delighted that the quality of work is impressive; we re certainly not putting together bundles or making tea! The firm also listens to what the trainees have to say about the fledgling programme and how it can be improved feedback flows in all directions, as Kirsten explains: We ask for input from everyone, from the summer vac scheme students to the trainees and partners. We go to our lateral hires to find out how they did things at their previous firms. We understand that this is an evolving process. If the trainees flag something up, we will discuss it and make changes. Michelle cites a specific example: A couple of us suggested that it would be good to have some formal training on the repetitive tasks that trainees often do, such as writing up board minutes. The firm agreed and organised it. I think one of the good things about being new is that we are constantly looking at whether things should be done differently, states Ben. We ve even changed since the trainees joined in September For 40 Best in Law 2014 LawCareers.Net

5 Sullivan & Cromwell LLP 1 New Fetter Lane London EC4A 1AN BEST TRAINING PRINCIPAL BEN PERRY T E W Method of application CV and letter Application deadline: Apply by 31 July 2015 for training contracts commencing in 2017 Method of selection: Partner interviews and written exercise Work areas Banking & finance Capital markets Company & commercial Competition & EU law Corporate finance/mergers & acquisitions Corporate tax Insolvency/restructuring Projects/project finance Offices London What the trainees said: Ben has been very involved with the training process from the beginning. I believe this has been demonstrated from the interview right through to being in our current seat. As this is the first intake of trainees, I think it is all the more important to have a present, friendly and approachable TP qualities that Ben has continued to show. Ben Perry and Jamie Logie built the training contract programme along with the S&C partners and the exceptional human resources staff. Ben has personally made a huge commitment to the programme in terms of time and effort. I had the privilege of being his first trainee and shared an office with him. He understands and pre-empts many of the challenges that trainees face, and has helped me to settle in to working life. He also makes a real effort to ensure that the firm stays in close contact with its future trainees by organising social events every quarter. the three years prior to that, we were running the recruitment operation without any actual trainees in-house. Finally, in recognition that this award honours Ben and his role as training principal, in the context of a tight-knit and supportive team, we hear from those who have benefited directly from his tutelage and support. Ben always makes it clear that it is a priority to him that the trainees have the best experience and makes us feel confident that he is looking out for us, explains Victor; while Anna speaks of his dedication to ensuring each step of the training contract is seamless and that we receive the highest quality of training. Sean applauds the fact that Ben is committed to the trainee programme and always makes time for us ; and Michelle emphasises that he is genuinely interested in our development and is always actively involved in ways to improve both our experience and those of future intakes. While the trainee scheme may be the new kid on the block, Ben is already an old hand at supporting the firm s partners of the future. By Isla Grant Ben is a great role model. LawCareers.Net Best in Law

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