Scots in the City
“MMS is such a big deal in Scotland, but it can be difficult to get that across to people, so it's not an obvious firm to train with in the City.” So said interviewees keen to correct this oversight and highlight MMS' perks: “The smaller base here in London means you quickly get stuck into high-level work, plus you don't feel at all isolated from the Scottish offices” in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. These bases north of the border earn many a nod from Chambers UK, with finance, corporate, tax and IP among the firm's strong suits.
The firm is one of the few remaining standalone Scottish stalwarts; the majority of its brethren have opened their arms to mergers with English suitors. On two occasions in recent years it looked like MMS could be joining the merger crowd – in 2011 with legacy Bond Pearce and in 2015 with Addleshaw Goddard – but both occasions came to nought. Trainees thought it “certainly seems possible” that a third wooing attempt could be the charm, but for now “the firm's not rushing into anything.” Training partner RogerTynan clarifies that MMS has “a clear strategy independent of potential mergers,” adding: “The Scottish label is part of who we are, but we're more than that and it's good quality work that defines us.”
This independent streak extends to the unusual three-seat structure. It's a model that attracted our sources, who reasoned that the extra two months in each seat allowed for the fact that “it takes you a while to learn the ropes; by the end of a seat here you've got a fairly strong grasp of things and working close to NQ level.” The case for the prosecution would point out that if you don't like a seat you'll be stuck there for longer, but the firm has allowed trainees to do a split seat if they’re not satisfied with their lot.
Newbies sit through a presentation by each department before joining, then map out their three seats with HR. Some noted “there isn't a great variety of options and we can't choose from every department,” but the vast majority liked the arrangement and appreciated that the initial seat plan isn't set in stone. Seat options do vary from year-to-year, but burgeoning Spensters can typically expect stints in corporate/financial services, property and commercial dispute resolution to be available [check if this is the case in CB]. Come qualification time there was some uncertainty surrounding a process that's “quite lengthy – it's almost like applying for a training contract all over again,” but two appraisals in each seat helped give trainees an idea of their prospects. [XX] of [XX] stayed on in 2017.
Reddit and weep
After a consolidation last year, corporate and financial services work is now available in one seat. Mid-market M&A, initial public offerings (IPOs) and regulatory work all rear their heads, with the firm's client roster spanning from Lloyds Bank to The Restaurant Group (which operates Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito) to Scottish investment whiz Aberdeen Asset Management. Trainees noted a rise in AIM flotations recently – “they're a great experience, as you're drafting documentation that you've never heard of and suddenly you're an expert in very specific areas of law.” On the M&A side, MMS recently advised British Polythene Industries on its £261 million public takeover by plastics engineering company RPC Group. When they weren't drafting the likes of board minutes on deals, financial services matters offered up “fairly cutting-edge stuff: we do a lot of work with firms in Eastern Europe, which seems to be an up-and-coming tech capital; we've also been doing progressive work on online IPOs, and we had a conference about generating capital on Reddit.”
“...progressive work on online IPOS.”
The broach church of commercial dispute resolution (CDR) covers property cases, media disputes, energy wrangles, professional negligence claims, white-collar defence work and more. “The good thing is that all the partners have their own specialisms,” said trainees, who were able to get “a very hands-on experience from the outset.” Entry-level tasks include drafting letters before action, handling budgets and corresponding with the other side, though “you can't run away from bundling and photocopying, the classics!” Court and hearing appearances can come quickly, and in many areas “you interact with the client from day one.” Such clients include London-headquartered energy explorer Premier Oil, investment manager Scottish Equity Partners and Groupe Casino (no gambling here – it's a French retailer); the latter called on the firm to assist it with a £10 million (plus) High Court claim against consumer goods heavyweights Unilever and Procter & Gamble. The highest-flying trainees got to run their own small debt claims before finishing their CDR stint.
Split between social housing and commercial work, MMS' property department juggles investments, developments, disposals and joint ventures. Sources told us that “it can get quite technical; there are some classic residential contracts, but we also deal with complex statutes and Section 106 agreements, which cover planning obligations for developers.” They encountered a more relaxed atmosphere than in corporate, as “deadlines are usually set in a few weeks' time, not in a few hours – it's much more civilised.” South African investment trust Equites Property Fund is a regular client, whom the firm recently advised on its £17 million acquisition of a distribution centre to let to Amazon. “It's a good department to get regular client contact in,” astrainees typically get to handle their own files “from initial instruction to completion.” On the social housing side in particular “it can be quite tough to learn everything new, but I found that super interesting and really enjoyed the research that came with it.”
From Glasgow with love
There are some blue moon seats that crop up, including employment and pensions, and tax. The latter consists of “just a trainee and a director in London – everybody else is based in Glasgow.” We heard that a stint here comes with “steady work as the corporate and property transactions all come through tax at some point, plus the director is a great mentor who takes time out to go over different tax laws.” MMS also runs an increasing number of client secondments, leading trainees to declare “we're getting thin on the ground here!” If a secondment opportunity does arise, it takes the place of a trainee's pre-assigned seat. [Check in CB if we can name any client destinations].
“Partners have nowhere to hide!”
Staring out at the “Apprentice-style views of St Paul's,” trainees were full of praise for their top-floor office in the London Wall Complex close to the Barbican. “You just have to be careful not to get caught staring out of the window for too long!” Across the road from the Museum of London, the location is “great for afternoon drinks, and the First Dates restaurant is nearby if one is inclined.” The open plan layout, meanwhile, means “partners have nowhere to hide! I've never been met with anything but a welcoming smile – maybe that comes down to the Scottish influence.”
More than 300 miles separate MMS London from its Scottish mothership in Glasgow, but “there's good interaction between North and South,” as departments frequently share work across offices. Everybody comes together to let their hair down and move their feet at the annual Vindex Ball, where trainees in previous years have mastered the traditional Scottish ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee). The Ball's location alternates between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and trainees get flown in to attend each year.
It may not have a signature dance move (that we know of) but the London office does conduct its own social happenings; recent examples include a softball tournament and attending a première of the latest James Bond flick. Each department hosts monthly drinks trolleys – now including mocktails for teetotallers – and “because the firm is a bit smaller and close-knit we do sometimes go for 1990s-style long lunches that don't finish 'til 4pm.” Speaking of hours, a typical day runs from 9am to 6.30/7pm. “Face time culture really doesn't exist here, and you're never pressured to stay late,” but midnight finishes are sometimes necessary – especially during busy periods in corporate. “Nothing was completely unmanageable,” a trainee reminisced, “though people said I looked ten years older afterwards!”
It may not have overseas offices of its own, but MMS is part of the international Lex Mundi network of firms – visit chambersstudent.co.uk to find out more.
Maclay Murray & Spens LLP
One Fleet Place,
- Partners: 140
- Associates 272
- Total trainees 55 (first and second years, as of 1 October 2017)
- UK offices 3
- Overseas offices 148
- Graduate recruiter: Alexandra Mundy, [email protected], 0207 320 3751
- Training partner: Felicity Ewing, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 30
- Applications pa: 2,000
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: ABB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 26
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: September 2017
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 31 July 2018
- Vacation scheme applications open: September 2017
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £40,000 per annum in London and £28,500 in Milton Keynes & Watford
- Second-year salary: £44,000 per annum in London and £30,000 in Milton Keynes & Watford
- Post-qualification salary: £70,000 per annum in London and £40,000 in Milton Keynes & Watford
- Holiday entitlement: 24
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £6,000 in London, £5000 outside of London
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London, Milton Keynes & Watford
- Overseas seats: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney
- Client secondments: 5
Main areas of work
Our London training contract consists of six-month seats in four of our nine practice areas. Along with a seat in our banking and finance practice and a contentious seat (or an external litigation course), you may also have the opportunity to work in one of our global offices or to work directly with one of our clients within their team and office.
Milton Keynes and Watford
Our rotational Milton Keynes and Watford training contract will see you move between the two offices, with the opportunity to experience our City-level out-of-town legal service and the chance to work with our numerous household-name clients. Our legal departments include corporate, dispute resolution, financial litigation, real estate, property litigation, construction and employment, and you’ll spend sixmonth seats in four of them.
These placements consist of business games, department visits and social events, giving potential trainees an insight into commercial law and our way of life at Dentons.
University law careers fairs 2017
Cambridge; Nottingham; Warwick; Leicester; Bristol; Oxford; Birmingham; Manchester; Exeter; Durham.