A significantly expanded global presence and distinct sector focus are what's on offer at insurance specialists Clyde & Co.
Turning the Clyde
“We’re a bit of an outsider,” agreed trainees at Clyde & Co. “We might be a top 20 firm in terms of revenue and international reach but we’re definitely not a typical corporate finance firm. We’re not in direct competition with the magic circle or silver circle firms either. We have a more distinct sector focus and I’d say around 75% of the work we do is litigious.” Clyde is certainly its own beast. Take a glance at the firm’s Chambers UK rankings and you get an idea of what makes Clyde & Co tick. Top rankings for aviation, commodities, police law and shipping hint at variety, but the firm’s greatest asset is its intimidating insurance expertise. The firm is top ranked by Chambers UK for insurance, reinsurance, volume claims, and personal injury defendant work.
It’s an expertise that extends across borders, and the firm pursues a more wholeheartedly international outlook than any other UK insurance firm. For the first time in 2017/18, the firm brought in more revenue overseas than it did in the UK. That balance has been made possible by a blistering pace of overseas expansion. While the last couple of years have seen Clyde land in Dublin and Hamburg, the firm’s scope takes it to many ‘frontier markets.’ Clyde & Co boasts sites in exotic locations such as Chongqing, Ulaanbaatar and Dar es Salaam – the last of which is also a secondment option. Kudos to you if you know where in the world all of the above are. “The line that is trotted out is that we are trying to match the footprints of our clients and make it easier to be referred to as a global brand,” sources explained. But despite this ongoing growth strategy UK trainees hadn’t noticed much disruption. “In terms of the actual training contract in London, it doesn’t feel like much has changed,” trainees assured us.
In 2019, the firm kept on 35 of its 45 trainees. Qualification was described as being as “smooth as it could be.” Some departments do interview, but it’s dependent on how many people apply for each role.
At the time of our calls, there were only eight trainees completing their contracts in Manchester. The vast majority – over 70 – were London trainees. But while those London trainees are usually based – as you might expect – in London, all London trainees must entertain the possibility of having to complete a seat in Guildford (which hosts the firm’s specialist marine and cargo insurance seats). “It’s not compulsory but if you are allocated it, there’s no point fighting it,” sources warned. Some weren’t enthralled by the prospect of a “pain in the arse commute” – especially those living in North London. “But if you live within close reach of Waterloo, the commute really isn’t that bad,” sources agreed.Moreover, the consensus was that “those who do end up going usually end up enjoying it.” Reports indicated a more relaxed culture there, plus greater responsibility. Oh, “and the firm also covers all your travel expenses.”
The seat allocation process has recently switched over to a “funky new” algorithm and app, so sources couldn’t yet report on how that was working out. Trainees could comment on another change though: “There is a general consensus that there are fewer international secondments than were advertised.” The bottom line is that these vary year-by-year depending on business needs. Recent popular locations have included San Francisco, Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
“The losses are so big that they exceed the affected business’s tower of insurance.”
Since insurance is Clyde’s thing, there are a variety of niche insurance seats on offer, including political risk, product liability, corporate insurance and specialty risk. And, as well as handling contentious claims, lawyers advise on the non-contentious business of the insurance industry. For example, the firm recently helped GIC Re, a state-sponsored reinsurer, to join the Lloyds insurance market. Across all of the teams it’s safe to say that the firm works for some of the biggest names in the industry, including AXA, AIG and Chubb. Unfortunately most contentious cases are kept strictly confidential.
The work undertaken in the political risk team “is as sexy as insurance gets,” according to one trainee. “It deals with companies that have an international subsidiary operating in a jurisdiction with an unstable government. For example, a country like Venezuela might nationalise an industry, leading to huge losses, and insurers may dispute whether it falls under the working policy.” The specialty risk team deals with high value insurance litigation and arbitration. “We typically work for the insurers on some of the very biggest losses,” trainees explained. “It could be something like an explosion in a mine, a wildfire or an oil spill where the losses are so big that they exceed the affected business’s tower of insurance.” Cases on this scale mean trainees “aren’t going to be drafting advice to clients.” Instead, trainees are kept busy bundling, completing disclosure exercises and producing research. “You might look at how courts have interpreted certain past policies; how they have responded to certain arguments; and the wording of the arbitration clauses in the insurance policy.” Another added: “There is statute, but for the most part you are going off case law and applying historical cases to facts you already have.”
“I now know a lot about how industrial waste shredders work!”
The professional and financial disputes team is one of the firm’s “flagship practices” and covers professional negligence defence work for solicitors, accountants, contractors and builders. It also advises on insurance coverage issues. “There is a massive variety of subject matters,” sources confirmed. “I was working on one case against surveyors for an alleged undervaluation of property and another concerning negligent advice produced by a barrister, on top of a few more general financial litigation cases.” The firm recently advised fellow law firm Dechert against multi-million pound claims brought by Eurasian Natural Resource Corporation that Dechert’s advice was harmful to ENRC’s interests. Reports of responsibility varied here. Once source revealed that they “spent a lot of time at the printer and doing document review,” putting it down to “pot luck as to when you come into the team.” Some luckier trainees we spoke to flagged opportunities to attend trials, draft witness statements and conduct research.
Clyde & Co’s product liability team covers sectors including agriculture, automotive, manufacturing and medical devices. Working alongside the property insurance team, one source described their time managing the fallout from “the million different causes of fires.It’s interesting because you have to spend a lot of time trying to understand the technical issues at hand before you even get into the intricate legal questions that come up in insurance and tort law.Following a fire, we would typically send an investigator on behalf of the insurer who would investigate the site and look at possible causes. Often the cases have complex scientific or technical backgrounds. I now know a lot about how industrial waste shredders work!” On smaller cases trainees are able take greater ownership and “really take the lead in writing coverage reports.” Recent cases have includedadvising insurers in connection with a major dairy product recall in New Zealand; anddefending manufacturers of PIP breast implants and hip implants against injury claims.
The aviation sector is one of the firm’s strengths, with the firm taking on related insurance, litigation, regulatory and finance work to bag a top nationwide ranking from Chambers UK. Clients include easyJet and Emirates. The firm recently advised Air Serbia in a case where the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency alleged that some of its flights were not authorised within the European Common Aviation Area. Trainees working here, meanwhile, told us about a range of matters which “could involve a plane crash, or ‘oh! I got coffee spilled on me and I’m burnt.’” Clyde usually works for the airline or insurer in these matters. Trainees recalled: “The airline would send over a complaint from a customer. You then draft advice back to the airline and draft a response to the customer. You do the initial report to the insurers which would vary from a couple of lines to a five page document. A senior associate would review your work; the team was very helpful.” Aviation finance was less fun. “It was one of the reasons I came to Clyde,” said one source. “It’s a good team but I thought the work was very repetitive. The transactions I was working on usually involved amending CP documents and reviewing the comments on them, then updating CP lists. It’s very procedural.”
“Once you have showed you are competent, you begin amending larger agreements.”
Another sector-based group, shipping, was described by one trainee as a “fairly academic type of law – many of the foundational principles are based in case law – but it’s applied to fast-paced commercial matters.” Within the shipping finance team “there’s a mixture of standard shipping financing loans, more complicated sale and leaseback structured transactions, and construction contracts.” Sources explained: “There is some crossover with the shipping disputes team, but when you’re working on a finance deal, you always hope to make sure it doesn’t end up in a dispute!” Standard trainee tasks here include keeping track of changes on agreements and managing the conditions precedent checklist. Sources emphasized that “once you have showed you are competent, you begin amending larger agreements and drafting contracts for the sale and purchase of vessels, and facility agreements.”
There are some “crazy cases that come up” in Clyde and Co’s shipping disputes team. “I was there when China had just imposed tariffs on soya beans so we had a few cases where inbound cargo went off and was entirely maggot infested,” one trainee recalled. “There are still plenty more standard disputes over things like interpretations of a profit share clause though.” The team recently defended Lampe & Schwartze, the cargo insurers for Volcafe, against allegations that the company hadn’t done enough to prevent damage to nine consignments of bagged coffee beans – a case which made it up to the UK Supreme Court. Clyde also acted for Alpine Eternity, an oil and chemicals tanker, and insurers Britannia P&I club, after the vessel collided with Iranian-owned oil rig 'SPD 13A' back in 2015. “In terms of work as a trainee, there is a lot admin, indexing, and making bundles. However, there are also opportunities to draft submissions on smaller claims,” trainees pointed out.
Wake and cake
“We’re not cookie cutter, vanilla lawyers,” said one of our interviewees of the Clyde clan. “We’re not a bunch of people who went to the same school, same university, all pursuing law because it’s a cosy middle-class profession. People have much broader interests which makes a much more interesting place to work and hang out.”
“We’re not cookie cutter vanilla lawyers…”
Unfortunately, when it comes to diversity, Clyde & Co is slightly more vanilla, as sources were surprised at the predominantly white trainee roster. One source was also pained to point out that “there aren’t many female role models at the partnership level either.” However, sources also made clear that “it’s something that they are aware of and trying to change,” pointing to “an increased number of events and communication about what the firm is doing to change their image.”
On a more positive note, one source went out of their way to point out that “there is quite a lot of cake. On a good day a partner brings in a Konditor cake. Trainees usually just bring in a caterpillar cake.” Standard.More broadly, sources emphasised that “generally, the partners are very down to earth people. They will have a chat with you in the kitchen and nobody has any qualms asking questions to them directly.” Much of the firm’s social calendar was dictated by departments, but sources pointed to a firm-wide Christmas party in The Tower of London and a trainee-wide outing to a Bavarian beer house as particular highlights.
Sources agreed that the “salary isn’t the most competitive in the City,” but this was one side of a trade-off they were happy with. “Unlike most big firms, we get to leave at a decent time.” Indeed, most trainees were getting out between 6pm and 7pm. Those who opted for transactional seats had “demonstrably longer hours,” with “regular spells of 10pm finishes.” So one source found Clyde & Co’s “image as a City law firm with non-City hours problematic.It’s not a regional firm. At some point, whatever seat, you are going to have to work hard and get your hands dirty. Your main reason for applying shouldn’t be because you want to be checking out at 5.30pm – it should be because the work is brilliantly interesting.”
Just a day before Chambers Student went to press, Clyde announced that Matthew Kelsall will be taking over as CEO at the start of 2020.
How to get a Clyde & Co training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): TBC (opens 1 October 2019)
If you're looking to register your interest in Clydes early, apply for one of the firm's open days or its Bright Futures Programme, which runs between December 3rd and 7th 2018.
Those who make it onto the programme shadow a lawyer in their department of choice and also receive guidance from a trainee mentor. A variety of social events are also scheduled, and those who impress most might get fast tracked onto the vacation scheme.
Clydes' open days, meanwhile, are for both law and non-law students at any stage of their degree and run from January 2019. The day includes an overview of the firm, presentations, workshops, mingling opportunities with the current trainees and plenty of application tips.
The vac scheme and training contract application form
Clydes attracts around 1,000 applications for its vacation scheme each year, and roughly 2,000 for the training contract (of which there are between 40 and 50 on offer). The firm recruits most of its trainees through the scheme, and highlights it as a useful means of getting to know the Clyde culture – applicants are therefore encouraged to take this route.
The online application form, which is accompanied by a cover letter, asks “three set questions, which test candidates on their career motivation, their commercial awareness and what interests they have outside of academia,” our graduate recruitment sources explained. “It's important for applicants to highlight any transferable skills gained through work experience and extracurricular activities.”
Vac scheme route
Clyde & Co offers vacation schemes during spring (London only) and summer (in London, Manchester, Scotland and Dubai). There are no online tests, so once applications are screened by the graduate team successful candidates are invited to an assessment centre day. These take place in early February and a maximum of eight candidates are invited to each one. The lucky few undertake a group exercise, as well as an interview with a member of the graduate team/HR and either an associate, a senior associate or a legal director.
Attendees spend two weeks sitting in one of the firm's departments. At the point of offer, vac schemers rank three preferences detailing where they would like to sit over the two weeks. Trainees mentioned that the first week “is spent getting to know the ins and outs of the department.” Vacation scheme students are allocated a supervisor, a trainee buddy and an associate mentor. They also have the opportunity to network across the firm as a variety of social events take place; in the past they've included the underground cookery school, go-carting and cocktail making.
Direct training contract applications
Those who wish to submit a direct application for a training contract have until summer 2020 (exact date TBC) to apply. Once screened by the graduate team, successful applicants are invited to an assessment centre day. These require candidates to complete a group exercise based on a commercial case study; two in-tray exercises based on scenarios that trainees typically face; and an hour-long interview with two partners. The in-tray exercises include a written assessment and a prioritisation/organisational task.
The academic criteria that Clydes sets is AAB at A level, a “strong” 2:1 degree (taking into account mitigating circumstances alongside the Rare contextualised recruitment system), and a commendation for the GDL (if applicable) and LPC. Law students should be aware that Clydes pays “close attention to the black letter law subjects such as contract and tort law.” We were also told that “the firm looks for well-rounded individuals, so it's important that candidates demonstrate their interests/hobbies outside of academia.”
Becoming a financial disputes lawyer
Clyde and Co's professional and financial disputes lawyers detail how to make it in a practice area where experts' careers are on the line.
Clyde & Co LLP
The St. Botolph Building,
- Partners 440
- Associates 1,800*
- Totaltrainees 82*
- UK offices: London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Guildford, Leeds, Bristol, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow plus various international offices
- Overseas offices: 50 offices and associated offices globally
- *denotes worldwide figures
- Graduate team, [email protected], 0207 876 5555
- Training partner: James Major
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 35
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 340
- Vacation scheme places pa: 60
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2019
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2019
- Vacation scheme 2020 deadline: 5th January 2020
- NOTE[ - 2020 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
- Open day deadline: Rolling
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £40,000 (London), £26,500 (Manchester)
- Second-year salary: £42,000 (London), £28,500 (Manchester)
- Post-qualification salary: £70,000 (London)
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £8,000 those studying in London & £7,000 those studying outside of London
- International regional
- Offices with training contracts: Manchester, MENA and Hong Kong
- Overseas seats: San Francisco, Dar es Salaam, Hong Kong, MENA
- Client secondments: Various, including Deloitte & Willis
Main areas of work
• Clyde & Co Bright Futures Programme (9th – 13th December 2019). Aimed at first year law students and penultimate year non-law students
• Spring Vacation Scheme 2020 – 30th March - 9th April . Aimed at finalists and above
• Summer 1 Vacation Scheme – 15th - 26th June. Aimed at penultimate year law students
• Summer 2 Vacation Scheme – 6th -17th July. Aimed at penultimate year law students Manchester:
• Summer Vacation Scheme 20th -31st July. Aimed at penultimate years and above Dubai:
• Summer Scheme (2 weeks) – July 2020. Aimed at penultimate years and above
Insight days and first-year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
Aberdeen and surrounds
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 2)
Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounds
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Construction: Purchaser (Band 3)
- Construction: Supplier (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 5)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Planning (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Legal (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
North East & Yorkshire
- Professional Negligence: Mainly Defendant Recognised Practitioner
- Construction (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Health & Safety (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Professional Discipline (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Construction Recognised Practitioner
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 1)
- Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 4)
- Asset Finance: Shipping Finance (Band 2)
- Aviation (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Commodities: Physicals (Band 2)
- Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 4)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
- Health & Safety (Band 2)
- Healthcare (Band 5)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims (Band 1)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 2)
- Insurance: Reinsurance (Band 1)
- Insurance: Volume Claims (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
- Personal Injury: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Police Law: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Professional Discipline (Band 4)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Shipping (Band 2)
- Transport: Logistics (Band 2)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Defendant) (Band 3)