Davis Polk

When was your Davis Polk interview? 

Summer 2018

What was it for? 

Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Allen & Overy.

Probably the ‘easiest’ out of everything I have done, as it only involved a single one-hour interview.

I felt welcomed and the interviewers did their best to guide me and relieve my stress.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Allen & Overy interview?

As with any US firm, make sure you have read widely around the role of law firms in transactions, in this case M&A. I found that Davis Polk was less concerned about your personal experiences and competencies (given that the second interviewer was not even in the room when I was asked these in around 5 minutes), but more so about your ‘commercial awareness’. This involved a case study within the interview (for which you are given around 30 minutes before it to prepare), which in my case related to a [Redacted] company wanting to invest in [Redacted] and asking for some[Redacted] in case the investment does not go as planned, for example in case a dispute arose.

The process was ‘easy’ as far as that is possible, but you will still be called to discuss highly technical aspects, and in my case this involved basic contract law.

*Redacted specific case study details.

Sophie Bessisso, another future trainee at Davis Polk:

I’m sure you’ve probably covered with your mentee the general tips for any interview. Your mentee is also probably already aware of this from the interview instructions, but there is a case study for which he’ll be given about 15-20 minutes to prepare. This is then discussed with the two partners in the partner interview. From my experience with the case study, the questions they asked were directly flowing from the case study, so it shouldn’t cause any trouble to the mentee if he just reads it carefully.

I would also advise that the mentee thinks about why he/she is interested in corporate law specifically and about any relevant skills that he might be expected to use at Davis Polk, as well as how his past experiences demonstrate those skills.

Vivek Thanki – a future trainee at Davis Polk:

First of all, congratulations on getting invited to interview!

As you know the interview involves a case study element which you are given time to read beforehand. The case study itself varies from year to year, but it will typically be a corporate transaction or current affairs article of some kind (a couple of pages you’ll have time to read when you arrive, on which you can make notes etc). Then you’ll discuss this with two of the partners/counsel in the interview. Keep in mind the legal and commercial issues which arise from the case study, and although they might quiz you a bit on these, it’s really just an opportunity for you to effectively demonstrate your knowledge and problem solving skills.

Beyond general commercial awareness (keeping up to date with current affairs and having a broad understanding of what might be involved in corporate transactions), there isn’t a set way of preparing for the case study. Try and demonstrate all relevant knowledge you have of the topics raised – the partners will not expect you to know everything! I find being able to grasp the substance of an issue is always more important than simply mentioning technical terms – but if you know these, there’s no reason not to (so long as you’re able to explain them). Of course, the partners will want to find out more about you, so they’ll ask more general interview questions as well (either before or after you’ve discussed the case study). Use any chance you have at the end to ask them plenty of questions too (I always find the best interviews turn into more of a two-way conversation by the end).

After you’ve met with the partners, you’ll meet an associate/counsel and trainee. This is really just more of an informal chat, for you to find out more about each other. I can genuinely say it’s an extremely friendly firm, and everyone is always interested to meet prospective trainees – so even though it’s an interview, try and enjoy it (that’ll be what shows through the most)! I’ve often been asked how Davis Polk is set apart from other US firms. There are some key differences between the different US firms in London – Davis Polk mainly focuses on general ‘big-ticket’ corporate transactions (M&As, IPOs, capital markets etc). This results in a wide range of work experience, on different types of corporate transactions. The firm has longstanding relationships with the major investment banks, and regularly represents them in major deals. By contrast, a lot of other US firms in London (e.g. Weil, Kirkland, Ropes, Sidley) focus on private equity related work (and predominantly represent private equity houses/sponsors). In terms of a place to start a career, the small intake at Davis Polk (even compared to other US firms) means that trainees become an integral part of the team from day one; the lean office means that you get to know most people (if not everyone) even before you start. Moreover, I’d say that the US and UK qualified lawyers work together more closely than those at other US firms, resulting in greater exposure to US securities law, and more importantly, a very cohesive team.

As you may already know, Davis Polk is a ‘lockstep’ firm meaning that lawyers at all levels are remunerated according to their experience and seniority (equally with others at their level). Although this is the case at some other US firms, many others (such as those mentioned above) operate ‘eat-what-you-kill’ remuneration whereby lawyers are paid according to the work/clients they bring to the firm individually. At Davis Polk, the lockstep system results in an extremely collaborative environment where work is shared between lawyers. I hope this gives you a good overview. Aside from all the comparisons mentioned, I was mainly drawn to Davis Polk because of the people who work there, and because it was the place I personally felt most at home – but this is something you can only assess for yourself once you’ve spent time there (and at other firms). Finally, thank you for taking the time to apply to Davis Polk – it’s much appreciated. Hope all goes well.