Like the diminutive house in Up, this City property specialist soars among steel, glass and brick.
Cup of Teesdale?
Property boutique Maples Teesdale has all the building blocks budding commercial real estate lawyers need to gain a sturdy foundation in the area. Its practice focus made it a no-brainer for its trainees, who explained: “Instead of just being in a property team at a commercial firm you can become embedded in the sector while being able to try out different practice areas within that.” The firm’s petite stature also appealed to sources looking for “a small-firm vibe – we're smaller than a lot of firms that do the same work but big enough that there’s still a lot going on.” We spoke to managing partner Chris Wilkinson, who told us: “While we won’t stop having a commercial property focus, we are working on strengthening our support areas including litigation, construction, banking and corporate. This means that in the future there’s the prospect of trainees being able to spend more time in those teams.”
“… you can become embedded in the sector while being able to try out different practice areas.”
Maples currently has just one Chambers UK ranking, for mid-market real estate. But sources told us: “There’s an emphasis on growth, especially in the finance practice. Traditionally the core of our work was property with the other groups acting as ancillary groups, but now there’s more focus on those departments bringing in their own clients and becoming breadwinners in their own right.” Trainees were impressed with the quality of work on offer. “I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting into joining a smaller boutique firm,” one said. “but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how hard-hitting the cases and deals are. You’re often up against big-name firms and that comes in tandem with the responsibilities you get as a trainee.”
One lump or two?
Stints in commercial property and dispute resolution are compulsory, leaving trainees with a choice of three other options: construction, property finance and corporate. “The first seat is a case of getting what you’re given,” sources explained, “and towards your second seat you sit down with the training partner and discuss your interests.” More seasoned sources told us: “The contract used to be more prescriptive, but now there’s more opportunity to do things like strategic land planning as well as traditional corporate property work.” This is partly due to the addition of a new partner who specialises in this area. There is potentially the option to complete a client secondment, but these opportunities arise on an 'as needed' basis and require trainees to be proactive.
“Because you sit with a partner you can get very involved.”
The commercial property group covers everything from portfolio management to development projects to investments. The type of properties dealt with include shopping centres, hotels, leisure facilities and offices, while clients include Cineworld, the US Embassy, CBRE, Legal & General and Lloyds Bank. The team recently acted for Lord Sugar’s property company Amsprop on the sale of the Crosspoint building in London’s Square Mile to The Carlyle Group. “One of the first things I did was assist with a big financing portfolio for the sale of a high-value office block,” one trainee revealed. “I was able to assist on the deal from start to finish,” they added. Another source described doing a healthy mix of “standard trainee tasks and the nitty-gritty work that I’d deem more high-level – I was able to take the lead on smaller lease renewals and licence alterations.” Trainee tasks range from “simple things like drafting and negotiating licences” to “handling Land Registry forms and stamp duty applications.”
Any contentious issues end up in the firm’s dispute resolution department, which is well-versed in handling things like dilapidations, rights to light spats, retail insolvencies, business tenancy renewals and rent reviews. The group shares many of the same clients as the other practice groups, and the team is currently representing Cineworld in Leicester Square in a case opposing drilling works taking place in the area, allegedly disrupting business on the premises. Insiders described the seat as “good fun,” describing a workload consisting of “serving lots of notices, like notices to reinstate, and drafting letters of advice to clients.” One trainee even told us: “I was able to attend the Supreme Court with a partner to see a trial.” The same source had also worked on “quite a few documents for CVAs [Company Voluntary Arrangements] and been able to wind up a petition.”
Maples’ construction group covers more niche work than its counterparts, and therefore “comes with its own lingo,” according to insiders. (And they don't mean asking builders how they like their tea.) The work spans the country, with trainees describing “quite a few matters up North as well as in London.” For example, lawyers advised property developer Niveda on a £50 million student accommodation development in Liverpool. Back in the capital, the group advised co-living property company The Collective on two developments in Westminster and Stratford, combining accommodation, retail and co-working spaces. Sources explained that the workload is “mainly non-contentious, although the contentious side is growing.” They added: “Because you sit with a partner you can get very involved. They draft the main building contract and you’ll do ancillary documents like warranties.” Trainees also run some small matters themselves.
The property finance group advises on a range of developments and refinancing matters, acting mainly for lenders, although we heard “there have been a couple of deals on the borrower side.” Trainees reported deals as “typically worth £12 to £13 million, although there are larger ones.” For example, the group recently advised Maslow Capital on a £38 million development loan for a 12-storey block of flats on Manchester’s Trinity Way. One rookie enjoyed being able to “manage my own million-pound deals and track them from start to finish” with partner supervision and described “running the whole conditions precedent process and providing funding advice to clients.”
“…you’re always liaising directly with associates rather than other trainees.”
Lawyers in the corporate team cover things like acquisitions, disposals, shareholder agreements, partnership structures, joint ventures, equity investments and corporate governance. Trainees described the work as “almost exclusively relating to companies that own or invest in real estate. The team also supports the finance department as well as working on the corporate side of deals.” Day to day, trainees find themselves “drafting ancillary documents like deeds and disclosure letters, working on due diligence and managing data sites,” as well as registering documents with Companies House. One source noted that “because it’s a smaller department within a City firm you’re always liaising directly with associates rather than other trainees, which you wouldn’t get at larger firms.”
Trainees described the culture at Maples Teesdale as “inclusive, friendly and welcoming.” They said the firm’s small stature lends itself to “a supportive atmosphere with a lot of advice and guidance. You feel valued, which is why I really like working here.” We also heard that the firm has recently ramped up its efforts when it comes to socialising, with trainees citing the introduction of a new social committee. Recent social highlights include a Christmas party organised by trainees, five-a-side footie meet-ups and monthly drinks. Sources also mentioned “a big push in terms of corporate social responsibility,” with fee earners getting involved in fund-raising efforts including running up Tower 42 for Shelter. We heard that the office is also trying to become greener, encouraging recycling and even clearing parkland in the city.
“There are busier times in seats like finance and corporate.”
Trainees were also pleased to report civilised hours, with an average day of around 9am to 6pm. They added: “There are busier times in seats like finance and corporate, but that won’t usually extend beyond 8pm.” Trainees usually sit with a supervisor, which means “you get immediate feedback as well as mid-seat and end-of-seat appraisals.” We heard the firm recently introduced more formal training, with weekly training and know-how sessions covering topics including “sales contracts in property, breach of contract remedies in litigation, and the basics of land law. We also had some tax advisers come in the other week to help round out people’s knowledge.” Trainees also hold their own sessions on a subject of their choice, which sources found useful for honing their presentation and research skills.
In 2019 three out of four qualifiers stayed on at the firm.
How to get a Maples Teesdale training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 14 August 2020
Maples Teesdale uses an online application form which can be accessed on the trainee section of the firm's website. Training principal Anastasia Klein tells us that the form asks “probing questions, including 'why us?' We want to know if and why candidates want to go to a specialist real estate firm with a comparatively small headcount. It's different to applying to the very large full-service firms.” Maples usually receives about 50 applications for its three training contracts, and approximately 10% of those candidates are invited to interview.
There's one interview, conducted by a panel of two partners, which typically lasts about an hour. “That's usually enough for us to a get a sense of somebody and why they feel they should be joining us, as a niche real estate firm. We can ascertain whether they've really researched us.”
Interviewers look out for evidence of “a clear interest in the area the firm works in, like study modules taken in real estate, but we're not necessarily going to grill somebody on legal matters if they're still only at university.” The interview includes a brief property-focused case study that candidates are asked to discuss at the interview. Klein says “there are no absolute right or wrong answers but it helps give us a feel for the candidates’ basic understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the subject.”
What else are they after? Klein tells us that “it's nice to see paralegalling experience in a real estate department. Then we can see that someone has exposure to it and likes it. It can help an application along if a candidate can genuinely point to an interesting deal they've come across, for instance, and what problems they might have faced. It shows that they already understand something about the subject.” However, Klein emphasises that this isn't a prerequisite.
The interview is also a chance for “us to learn about candidates, and there are questions on the application form about what challenges they've faced and what they like to do outside of work. We like to see how they engage in a social context.” A final word of advice? “We are genuinely looking for people who are excited by the commercial real estate industry, not just someone who wants a job. We see trainees as our future, and so we need to invest in the right candidates who have a passion for real estate, like we do.”
Maples Teesdale LLP
30 King Street,
- Partners 17
- Assistant solicitors 42
- Total trainees 6
- UK offices London
- Contact Training partner: Anastasia Klein [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts: pa 3
- Applications pa: 50
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 degree
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: Friday 14th August 2020
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £35,600
- Second-year salary: £37,625
- Post-qualification salary: £57,500
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
Maples Teesdale are the UK’s leading commercial property law specialists, providing innovative, full service and truly partner led services to UK based and international clients. The firm’s sole focus is real estate. This means that all of the firm’s experience, knowledge, work and industry relationships are sharply focused on helping clients and their property requirements. Maples Teesdale takes a real and long-term interest in the industry.
Main areas of work
Commercial property, construction, corporate, finance, litigation and planning.
Maples Teesdale trainees are the future of the business. You will receive the best training possible in a friendly and supportive environment. At the same time, the firm will ensure that your training contract is stimulating and rewarding. As a specialist real estate practice, the firm’s largest department is commercial property. This is supported by construction, corporate, finance, litigation and planning.
Trainees have the opportunity to gain experience, skills and knowledge across these different departments in four, six-month seats. There may also be an opportunity to spend time on secondment with clients. During each seat rotation, trainees sit with a partner who acts as their supervisor allocating work to them and ensuring that they are also getting regular opportunities to work with a variety of fee-earners. They also play an active role in advising and developing their trainee throughout their training contract. Maples Teesdale want you to feel part of the team from the outset.
The training is very ‘hands on’ and aims to give you as much responsibility as you are confident to handle. You will be actively encouraged to become a valuable member of the team, drafting documents, doing research and attending client meetings.
Pension, Ride2Work cycle loan scheme, interest free season ticket loans, life assurance, private medical insurance.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- Construction: Purchaser Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate Litigation Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)