It’s pretty sweet at Maples, the boutique property firm with a “cosy atmosphere” in the heart of London.
Maples Teesdale training contract review 2024
Here’s a firm for the property law buffs. As a specialist firm in the City, “all of the departments are based around commercial property,” trainees made clear. “The finance department will deal with property deals, while litigation will be property litigation.” So, if property law is very much your jam, you’re looking at prime real estate. Ba-dum-tsh…
“A hustly bustly area off Bank where our clients are very close.”
It couldn’t escape trainees’ notice that the firm is “rated very highly in all aspects of commercial property.” Maples’ particular strength in the mid-market is noted in Chambers UK, as is its real estate litigation practice. With these kinds of credentials, “we have close relationships with a few big, domestic firms.” As a result, “the majority of trainees do client secondments, which is unusual in the work we do.” Situated“in a hustly bustly area off Bank where our clients are very close,” the move to another was made very easy.
“I was actually looking for a smaller, more intimate firm,” another shared. “I didn’t want to be viewed as simply part of a system. I knew that a smaller firm would value what I did.” Newbies who join are one of just three or four trainees each year, joining a total headcount of just over 60.The current crop discovered a “cosy atmosphere where you know everyone within a couple of weeks.” With the trainees sharing an office with their supervising partners, our sources praised the care they received: “The partners are good at leaning over and asking if you need more work or if you are overwhelmed.”
Everyone does a stint in commercial property and litigation. For the remaining two seats, trainees choose from corporate, finance and construction. So, as a trainee explained, “you only miss out on one seat, and it’s unlikely that it would be the one you wanted to do.”
In the compulsory litigation seat, trainees are exposed to property disputes over dilapidations, business tenancy renewals, and post-COVID rent disputes. For example, it defended Cineworld against multiple rent arrears claims in the millions of pounds following enforced closures during lockdowns. In one right-to-light case, Maples Teesdale recently represented the Rotunda Centre in Kingston in its challenge against an obstruction notice brought by owners of a neighbouring building. Then there are “squatter’s cases or situations where our clients’ tenants haven’t paid rent, and we go through the court proceedings.” Trainees can expect to take a stab at first drafts of letters, conduct legal research, take care of court bundles and take on some advisory roles for clients. “Since there’s a lot of landlord and tenant work, we lay the groundwork for clients to prevent a dispute from happening,” a source highlighted.
The firm’s headline department, commercial property, advises on property investment transactions and handles asset management work. It’s particularly strong on strategic transactions involving hotels and shopping centres – It recently acted on the £60 million regeneration of the Dolphin Shopping Centre in Poole on behalf of Legal & General, for example. Clients include property developers, private equity investors, pension funds and banks, and even government bodies. A good example is the City of London Corporation, which the firm advised on a £480 million project in Basinghall Street (it will be the site of magic circle law firm Clifford Chance’s new offices). Trainees reported drafting leases, licenses for alterations, and rent deposit deeds, as well as carrying out due diligence and taking care of various project management tasks. Our sources also mentioned preparing Land Registry applications and lots of research tasks. In addition, trainees “liaise with clients to make sure that they are happy with certain provisions.”
“Developers or funders for big development projects valued at tens of millions of pounds.”
As for the construction department, “it acts for developers or funders for big development projects valued at tens of millions of pounds.” The work covers both contentious and non-contentious matters that involve retail parks, offices, student accommodations and industrial estates. A number of projects are long term, so trainees usually take on project management roles. This could mean circulating key documents to all parties, conducting client calls, assisting with agents and chasing up any and all of the above! They also conducted research, “reviewed contracts and subcontracts” and got involved with work with engineers and architects involved on projects.Clients include Sky and Indian hotel developer Interglobe Hotels, which the team acted for in its development of UK hotels, which started with the redevelopment of Hotel George in Kensington, London.
“Trainees are most scared of finance because it is the hardest,” an interviewee confessed. This complex practice is notoriously jargon heavy, and Maples isn’t exempt. The team works on a combination of investment and development finance transactions, including joint venture financing, senior and mezzanine debt, and preferred equity loan arrangements. It’s mostly lender-side stuff, but the firm acts for borrowers as well. Trainees prepared ancillary documents and checklists and drafted board minutes. “We might be given smaller matters to work on and because it’s a small team, it's hands-on.” Trainees also mentioned liaising with clients, dealing with lawyers on the other side of a transaction, and lots of project management work.
The culture at Maples Teesdale is influenced by its size. Since “the firm is small, trainees have day to day interactions with everyone even before they join some of the seats” and this made settling in a piece of cake. The office is split onto two floors, so “you end up speaking to everyone as you are moving about.” Trainees are expected to be in around four days a week.
A number of trainees agreed that “more effort could be made for team bonding and social activities, but the firm is picking it up and recognizing that it’s an important factor.” Some recent social highlights included sporting events, spring socials, Halloween scavenger hunts, afternoon teas, lunches with talk sessions and Christmas dinners.
“They brought in a massage therapist that trainees could book an appointment with.”
The firm’s wellbeing committee was also given some praise for organising a few events, including a candle-making seminar. “They also brought in a massage therapist that trainees could book an appointment with, and put together ‘teach your talent’ events” allowing anyone in the firm to showcase their hidden strengths. “A paralegal led a meditation session, and the previous managing partner directed one on lino carving,” a trainee explained. (We might need to Google that last one...)
This focus on wellness carried through to attitudes around the work hours. According to one source, “if you are staying after 6pm, and you can’t explain why, they will tell you to go home.” When asked about compensation, a trainee pointed out that “the pay is very good for the hours you are expected to work. Issues might arise when you qualify because other places are more competitive. However, for the ability to leave at 5.30pm and not think about work too much, this is a good salary.”
When it came to diversity, trainees recognised that there is room for improvement while acknowledging that efforts are being made. “We are in the process of organising talks held within the firm related to mental health and diversity and inclusion.” One did voice their concern “that diversity initiatives can be swept up into wellbeing, and the firm could separate it.” Though, the firm did tell us that they plan to relaunch their diversity and inclusion initiatives in the near future.
Since ongoing training is a crucial part of any training contract, the firm’s dedicated professional support lawyer organises regular know-how sessions. “It’s combined with any updates to the law and their impacts on our clients.” Everyone at Maples also has access to webinars and subscriptions. “Every year when the new intakes start, we have weekly finance sessions because there is a lot of new knowledge in the finance department,” a trainee commented.
Finally, the qualification process at Maples is a “fairly open dialogue between the partners and trainees,” an interviewee said. Our sources mentioned that they share their preferences with the teams they are interested in and ask whether they have openings. Two months before qualification, trainees will find out whether they’re going to be offered a permanent position.
A staple at Maples: From winter coat drives, to wrapping Christmas presents for lower income families, there are plenty of CSR activities to get involved with.
How to get a Maples Teesdale training contract
Training contract deadline: 16 August 2024
Maples Teesdale uses an online application form which can be accessed on the trainee section of the firm's website. Training principal John Bosworth 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 from working at the very large full-service firms.”
Maples usually receives about 120 applications for its three training contracts, and approximately 10% of those applicants 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. Bosworth 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.”
Whilst there are certain academic criteria, each application is reviewed by a partner. Candidates are also asked in advance if they have any special requirements that would help them perform to the best of their abilities in the interview itself.
What else are they after? Bosworth 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, Bosworth 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,
Maples Teesdale is the leading specialist commercial real estate law firm in the UK and is acknowledged as a leader in its sector. The firm provides 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 real estate requirements. Maples Teesdale takes a real and long-term interest in the industry.
Main areas of work
Commercial real estate, construction, corporate real estate, real estate finance, real estate disputes and planning law.
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 practice, the firm’s largest department is commercial real estate. This is supported by construction, corporate real estate, real estate finance, real estate disputes 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.
25 days annual leave, contributory pension scheme, cycle loan scheme, interest free season ticket loans, life assurance, private medical insurance, subsidised gym membership, childcare vouchers, employee introduction bonus, volunteering day, discretionary performance related bonus scheme, bring your dog to work days, employee assistance programme, discretionary Christmas bonus and an additional day off over Christmas.
Key amongst our values at Maples Teesdale is to ensure that internally we offer a friendly, supportive, inclusive and collegiate working atmosphere for our staff and, that externally we provide commercial advice and are available and responsive to our clients. As a firm specialising in commercial property, we also value understanding of the real estate market and strive to be reflective of the industry and the community in which we operate.
We proactively address gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic discrimination at all levels of our business; from recruitment to engagement in an active programme of internal and external community, charity and environmental events and initiatives run by our CSR Committee. Our Wellbeing Committee has organised for members of our team to be trained as mental health counsellors and run unconscious bias workshops. We also regularly celebrate cultural diversity, marking events such as religious holidays, Pride and National Womens’ Week.
We are proud of our work with the East End Community Foundation, an organisation that connects businesses with grassroots organisations in the East End. We linked up with the Foundation as we recognise that when you are working in an office in the City it is easy to overlook the poverty and other socio-economic issues on your doorstep. We provide volunteers from our firm for activities as diverse as fixing fences in a community farm, to offering CV and interview technique advice and work experience. Our team is very committed to this relationship and at a recent event we had volunteers from all levels of the firm, from the managing partner to support staff.
As a firm we are signatories to the Commitment Statement and active members of Real Estate Balance, a group which is committed to addressing gender imbalance in the real estate sector. This is an area we are particularly passionate about, because as a specialist commercial property law firm, we have a foot in two industries where women are underrepresented; law and real estate.
The results of all of the above taken with our ongoing commitment to continued improvement, has been remarkable internally in terms staff engagement, motivation and general well-being and the cohesiveness of the team has been strengthened further.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: £50-150 million (Band 1)