Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Vinson & Elkins RLLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Vinson & Elkins RLLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The clientele’, ‘sector expertise (energy)’, ‘the size of the firm and the type of work’, ‘the energy specialism’, ‘because it’s a US firm with a small cohort of trainees, super-friendly/approachable lawyers and a good mix of transactional and litigation work’, ‘small trainee intake, increased responsibility, ownership over my career’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The client exposure’, ‘the people’, ‘everyone is incredibly friendly and approachable’, ‘the office is really nice!’, ‘everyone is extremely friendly’, ‘it differs from other law firms. We have a “learn-on-the-job” style training contract which I personally really like’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The current imbalance in transactional/litigation work available’, ‘the social side is a bit limited’, ‘trainees are sometimes asked to fetch lunch for the disputes team’, ‘the long hours’, ‘unpredictable hours and late nights’

Best moment? ‘Regular involvement with in-person client meetings’, ‘meeting a tight filing deadline’, ‘going to court for a high-profile emergency injunction application’, ‘the moment I started to understand my part in the deal team and take initiative, knowing I was a vital member of the team’

Worst moment? ‘Holiday interruptions’, ‘some late weekends’, ‘spending an entire weekend in the office for a high-yield bond deal in the first month of my training contract’, ‘making a mistake’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Vinson & Elkins RLLP

Vinson & Elkins’ ‘interesting work in the energy industry’ and the ‘welcoming culture’ experienced on the vacation scheme drew in the current cohort. A small trainee intake equates to a ‘good opportunity to do more substantive, challenging work from the start’ and trainees feel that this ‘increased responsibility’ gives them ‘more ownership over our careers’. The US firm is also full of ‘super-friendly and approachable lawyers’. Trainees at Vinson & Elkins tend to be ‘more entrepreneurial’ because of the ‘initiative required to get involved with desired work’. Training is ‘more hands on’ and involves ‘more substantial work and client interactions’. That the ‘office is really nice!’ is also a big sweetener. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were some complaints about the hours, with ‘some late weekends’, ‘holiday interruptions’ and ‘spending an entire weekend in the office for a high-yield bond deal in the first month of the TC’ making up trainees’ worst moments. On a more positive note, ‘meeting a tight filing deadline’, ‘going to court for a high-profile emergency injunction application’ and ‘the moment I started to understand my part in the deal team and take initiative, knowing I was a vital member of the team’ made Vinson & Elkins trainees feel proud. When it comes to pro bono, ‘there is always an opportunity – if there is something you are interested in, the firm supports you to look into it and to see if there are ways to get involved’. For a ‘good mix of transactional and litigation work’ along with ‘associate-level work’ from the get go, consider Vinson & Elkins.

Life as a trainee… Afzaal Abidi, newly qualified associate, Vinson & Elkins LLP

Afzaal Abidi, Vinson & Elkins RLLP

Departments to date: Complex commercial litigation; Energy, transactions and projects; Mergers and acquisitions and capital markets; Employment

University: University of Nottingham University of Kent

Degree: Senior Status LLB, 2(1), American Studies, 1st

How does the summer vacation placement programme link into the training contract process?
The summer vacation scheme is an integral part of the recruitment process at Vinson & Elkins, with most, if not all, of our trainees being hired through the scheme. The firm prides itself on its collegiality; finding the right fit in terms of culture is therefore vitally important, and the vacation scheme provides an invaluable opportunity to do so. More importantly, the scheme gives participants the chance to establish whether or not the firm is right for them. There are numerous opportunities to do so right from the get go, with participants quickly being engaged on substantive client work across different departments, and regular drinks events and lunches interspersed throughout the week.

How is the training programme structured at Vinson & Elkins?
The unique structure of Vinson & Elkins’ training programme was, for me, one of the strongest draws. The first year is structured much like the ‘traditional’ training contract – trainees sit in two different departments for six months each, working only for their respective department. Things get a bit more interesting in the second year; trainees are non-rotational, and may pick up or carry forward the work that most interests them. This is a fantastic opportunity to tailor your training contract, and offers the chance to develop a deeper understanding of each practice area as you experience deals and disputes from cradle to grave. International secondments are also available to those who express interest, with trainees having been seconded to the firm’s Houston, Tokyo and Dubai offices in the past.

What does a typical day as a trainee at Vinson & Elkins consist of?
During my time in the energy, transactions and projects practice, our lawyers are equally at home advising across project development, project finance or energy M&A matters. As such, the work is incredibly varied; an M&A deal may see me liaising with counsel in Equatorial Guinea in relation to the acquisition of offshore exploration and production assets, whereas projects work may involve drafting contracts for the engineering and construction of a major waterways project in Central America. I have also been actively involved with the firm’s diversity council – we’ve got some really exciting initiatives underway!

How much involvement do trainees have in the deals and transactions they are assisting on at Vinson & Elkins?
Our deals and disputes are generally staffed in a lean fashion, which means that trainees play an integral role in each team, and are actively encouraged to take on meaningful work. This could be anything from drafting documents, conducting research, attending meetings or interacting with clients. It’s exciting to feel like you’re making a real contribution, and to have the opportunity to work closely with everyone from associates to partners. The learning curve can be steep at times, but I’ve never felt unsupported, and I’ve enjoyed getting progressively more responsibility as I’ve advanced through each seat.

What is the culture like at Vinson & Elkins?
We’ve got the best of both worlds at Vinson & Elkins: the opportunity to get involved in multi-jurisdictional deals and disputes with some of the best lawyers in the market, coupled with the collegiality and intimacy of a smaller office. It’s clear to see how our Texan roots have shaped the firm’s values; the sense of community and support are apparent as soon as you set foot into the office. Everyone’s down to earth, and it’s a very open environment, with associates and partners always willing to take time out to talk through complex issues or walk you through their work. Hours can be long, but there’s a fantastic sense of camaraderie, and people are always appreciative of the time you put in. There are plenty of opportunities to blow off steam, too, with social events held throughout the year, and of course the famed Christmas party. In 2019 we booked out Nobu, after which most of the firm took over the local karaoke bar – where things probably went on longer than they should have done – looking forward to the return of a Christmas party, hopefully this year!

About the firm

The firm: Vinson & Elkins’ London office opened in 1974, making it one of the oldest of any US firm. Its clients are predominantly in the energy, finance and infrastructure sectors and the London office specialises in M&A, private equity, construction, project development and finance, international arbitration and dispute resolution, corporate and structured finance, and tax.

The clients: Equinor; Saudi Aramco; SOCAR; Saipem; Apollo; Panama Canal Authority.

The deals: Advised STAR Rafineri AS, a subsidiary of the state oil company of the Azerbaijan Republic, and its sponsors on the financing and development of a US$6.3bn greenfield oil refinery in Turkey on the Aegean Sea; advised The Panama Canal Authority in relation to the construction and engineering aspects of the Panama Canal Expansion Program in Panama; advised Woodside Petroleum Ltd on its merger with BHP Petroleum with an approximately US$43bn merged entity value; advised a US private equity fund on its €3.17bn carve-out acquisition of a global construction chemicals business from a public company.

Training principal: Andrew Nealon

Managing partner: Nick Henchie

Other offices: Austin, Dallas, Dubai, Houston (head office), Los Angeles, New York, Richmond, San Francisco, Tokyo, Washington.

Who we are: Vinson & Elkins is a leading US-based international law firm with more than 700 lawyers located in 11 cities across the globe.

What we do: Vinson & Elkins advises clients that are predominantly in the energy, finance and infrastructure sectors and the London office specialises in M&A, private equity, construction, project development and finance, international arbitration and litigation, corporate and structured finance, and tax.

What we’re looking for: We are looking to recruit ambitious individuals with exceptional academic results, 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.

What you’ll do: The firm operates a partially non-rotational training system; during their first year trainees work primarily within the departments in which they sit and during their second year trainees work across all practice areas and have more freedom to tailor their training.

Perks: Medical insurance, dental insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, Simply Health cash plan, subsidised gym membership, access to private GPs, employee assistance programme, pension, cycle scheme and interest-free season ticket loan.

Sponsorship: V&E will fund the preparatory course(s) and examinations for the SQE and offers a maintenance grant for courses commenced after the date of a training contract offer.

Diversity and inclusion

Louise Woods
Partner, Complex Commercial Litigation (CCL)
Head of International Disputes – Europe

At V&E, our inclusion commitment starts at the top with members of our leadership who oversee our firm-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives. I hold an office lead role for a number of the firm’s diversity initiatives to support participation and progress in London, as I believe strongly in the work we are doing to achieve equality — inclusive of diverse interests, backgrounds, perspectives, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, and physical ability.

We recognise that being a more diverse firm with a truly inclusive culture will help drive our long-term success, both in retaining our top talent and in serving our clients’ needs. Our participation in diversity-focused career fairs and recruiting programmes allows us to identify top-notch legal talent. We have made progress in London with our entry-level trainee recruitment over recent years, and we strive for our partnership to one day look like our incoming trainee cohorts. We are committed to sustaining our focus on diversity and, in particular, the retention of our women and diverse lawyers, and to do so we work to ensure our initiatives permeate our structure, policies and programmes.

As a trainee in London you have the opportunity to be involved in our programming. Our initiatives include diversity-focused events, our schools outreach mentoring programme, and our book club which is focused on thought-provoking texts designed to educate and promote frank and honest discussions with colleagues. The Women’s Initiative in London works to create and sustain a variety of programmes that support our women lawyers, nurture their development, and promote their advancement to all levels of leadership within the firm. The initiative benefits all of our lawyers as the programming includes business development training, mentoring programmes and family-friendly initiatives. Other V&E diversity initiatives include our LGBTQ+ Alliance and our New Parent Mentoring Programme, which have both seen a rise in members in our London office.

I hope you will make time in your schedule to get to know Vinson & Elkins!
For further information on V&E’s commitment to equality please see our dedicated page at