Sullivan & Cromwell (S&C) has come a long way since it was founded in 1879 in the financial district of New York. Its long history has seen the firm work on some illustrious deals, including the construction of Panama Canal where founder William Cromwell played a major role.
Surviving in the global market for this long meant taking risks. From adapting its service offering to organically expanding into newer markets – S&C has risen to changing client needs. The Hong Kong office opened in 1992 and stands to service clients in China and the wider Asia Pacific region where the firm has been involved for decades.
Over thirty years on and S&C has led on some trend-setting deals in China, such as the first-ever private sector merger of two Chinese companies as well as advising Alibaba on the world’s second-largest IPO. S&C acts for several other big (big!) clients in the region like Bank of China and Foxconn. In fact, Asian clients make for a fifth of its non-US clientele, who are catered to by over 50 lawyers in the firm’s Asian offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Finance has always been at the core of S&C’s work since its very inception. This practice at the firm dates back to the time before World War I, where it helped finance America’s railroad infrastructure. It is thus no surprise that the firm does well here in Asia too, frequently winning accolades for the same. Notably, the firm served as lead counsel in the bankruptcy proceedings of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. Capital markets and M&A are other areas where the firm manages to do pretty well for itself.
When it comes to training contracts, the firm offers up to four each year. S&C also runs four-week summer and winter vacation schemes for 12 students interested in joining the firm as trainees. If you are lucky enough to get a place, you will be working directly with the partners. The teams in Hong Kong are quite lean and follow an open door culture: which means it’s possible that you will have real responsibility on big matters. Preparing and drafting client advice is not unheard of at the trainee level, so is participating in strategy discussions.
The firm ensures that trainees are exposed to at least three practice areas during the training contract. The overall training, however, takes a generalist approach. So you can expect to be involved in quite a broad range of areas from finance to regulatory, based on client needs. There is also the option to work in the general practice group, a seat further underlining the emphasis on general training. Trainees here work under many different areas, including capital markets, M&A and private equity. The firm encourages lawyers to have a life outside work too, and hosts regular cultural, sporting and social events.
And of course, you will be handsomely rewarded for your work at S&C. Whilst we’re unsure of exact figures, the firm claims to provide one of the “most attractive” trainee salary and benefits packages compared to its Hong Kong rivals. The firm also covers tuition fees for PCLL courses for all its prospective trainees. What’s more, the induction programme includes a week-long orientation in New York, where new joiners get a chance to learn more about the firm and network with colleagues.
The Hong Kong office is located in Central, aka the financial hotspot of Hong Kong. There are a range of amenities to take advantage of: from lit lunch spots to the bustling nightlife in nearby Lan Kwai Fong, S&C lawyers are spoilt for choice.
The office is “spacious and efficient” and upon entering the building, which is on 20/F of Alexandra House in Central, visitors may be struck by the modern finish of the design. It has well-lit textured walls and tech-studded conference rooms. Overall, the office strikes the perfect balance of professional sombreness with laidback welcoming vibes.