Meet James, a Future Trainee

Future trainee James was attracted to Latham’s distinctive culture and the quality and breadth of training available. After completing a vacation scheme in London, he is looking forward to returning to the firm as a trainee.

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James Thompson

Future Trainee

Latham & Watkins

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born and raised just south of Manchester in Cheshire. After taking one year away from studying, I attended University College London and studied History. Unlike many, I realised that I wanted to pursue a legal career fairly late. Having graduated in September 2021, I completed my applications, attended Latham’s vacation scheme, and was subsequently offered a training contract.

What attracted you to Latham?

The distinctiveness of Latham’s culture drew me in. The firm’s committee approach fosters a meritocratic culture that encourages lawyers of all rank to voice their ideas. Even during the vacation scheme, I attended a practice area group meeting, where, rather than watching from the side-lines, I was invited to speak and introduce myself to the entire team.

I was also impressed by Latham’s sustainable growth in developing its capabilities beyond transactional areas of commercial law, and tackling novel legal work. I was intrigued by how the firm had taken a pioneering role in direct listings; after speaking with several lawyers on the scheme, it became apparent that this was not an anomaly — Latham is a real force for legal innovation.

What did you enjoy the most about your vacation scheme?

I particularly enjoyed seeing how lawyers consider commercial affairs in their work. For example, one meeting I attended featured several topics I had researched before the scheme. I found it rewarding to see how lawyers at the firm carefully considered these issues in the abstract before advising clients on specific matters.

What surprised you the most?

The extent of training available at Latham. Many of my peers at university assumed that US law firms offer no formal training, and instead embrace a strict ‘learn by doing’ culture. As with most things, Latham doesn’t conform to the stereotype. Of course, high levels of responsibility comprise an essential part of training at Latham. Yet this is accompanied by formal training opportunities, such as the international Training & Career Enhancement (TACE) programme, seat-specific training, and training tailored to your career progression.

How would you describe your experience overall?

I had a great time on the vacation scheme. The ability to visit the office made a big difference. I had completed vacation schemes online in the past, which made it much harder to get an impression of the firm.

What is a key takeaway from your experience at Latham?

That Latham is the place I want to work!

Can you briefly outline a typical day during your Vacation Scheme?

The vacation scheme lasted one week, and I was based in the firm’s Structured Finance Practice.

One day began with a research task assigned by my supervisor, which involved preparing a memorandum that outlined the meaning of terms included within a loan facility agreement for a client. After making some progress, I attended a group breakfast with the firm’s Recruitment Committee, where the scheme participants could ask questions. After this, I reached out to a partner in the Structured Finance Practice to discuss their career and the derivatives side of the practice, which I was less familiar with. I was invited to sit in on a call with a client and discuss the meeting afterwards. As the working day drew to a close, my supervisor organised a coffee meeting for me with an associate in the Emerging Companies group, where I learned about Latham’s growth in the area. My day ended with a dinner organised by the Graduate Recruitment Team with other vacation scheme participants and their supervisors.

Do you have any advice for individuals looking to apply for Latham’s vacation scheme?

Do your research. Know what makes Latham stand out. One way you can do this is to read up on different practice areas and the firm more generally before you attend a university event or online Q&A. Alternatively, if you have specific questions about the firm or its work, reach out to someone relevant online. Everyone I encountered at Latham was incredibly generous with their time.

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