This London boutique knows a thing or two about real estate, so come for the specialist property work and stay for the camaraderie.
Maples Teesdale training contract review 2022
Kirstie and Phil know their way around property. The highs, the lows, and the heady thrills of your next home. With arguably less televised spectacle, those at Maples Teesdale can similarly boast expertise in all things real estate. Chambers UK gives MT a high ranking for its work on mid-market real estate transactions, but also acknowledges its capabilities when it comes to handling disputes in this area too. Given the nature of the work, we weren’t surprised to hear trainees’ motivations for joining the firm, which were encapsulated neatly by this source: “I just really enjoy commercial real estate.”
“…all the work you do is through a property lens.”
Enjoying commercial real estate at MT means being able to sample its many facets, whether it’s financing matters, planning issues or the contentious fallout from things like tenancy renewals or dilapidations. Coupling its sector-specific expertise, sources we spoke with highlighted the firm’s size as part of the appeal. “There aren’t a swarm of juniors here,” a source noted. “It’s just full of really nice people across two floors. It’s hard to be a bad person when it’s this small.” This applies to those at the very top too: “The managing partner is very keen to get to know you when you start: he really makes you feel welcome.”
Trainees complete four six-month seats. “Almost all trainees do commercial property first,” we were told. A small trainee cohort also helps to reduce any jostling for specific seats at each rotation: “You email your preferences across to the training partnerand most people get them. I haven’t heard of people not getting their preferences.” Trainees can also potentially second to one of the firm’s clients, such as BMO Real Estate Partners or abrdn.
“I did a number of licences for small lease units in various shopping centres and railway stations, which all have unique characteristics.”
The engine room in the Maples shop is its commercial property department. “It’s really partner-heavy,” one source explained, which was deemed a plus point: “It’s really great to almost always have a partner on a deal.” The department works on behalf of landlords and corporate occupiers on all manner of “day-to-day lettings”and large transactions.One source highlighted that “there tends to be some buzz on bigger matters,” like the sale of a shopping centre or a large cinema operator, “as it’s really interesting to deal with assets of that size.”The team recently advised Aberdeen Standard Investments on the sale of a retail park for £46.25 million.Sources were pleased to try their hand at “lots of drafting, negotiating, and client contact” in the seat. Preparing commercial leases, memorandums, and Land Registry applications proved to be common tasks. “You get quite a lot of independence early on,” one interviewee enthused. “I did a number of licences for small lease units in various shopping centres and railway stations, which all have unique characteristics.”This type of work saw lawyers here negotiate a lease for Bleckmann Logistics UK’s new distribution centre in Lutterworth.
There’s some overlap inthe real estate financeteam, which acts for both lenders and borrowers on the financing or refinancing of real estate assets. Fear not, incomers: while “finance can be quite complicated,”the firm “provides quite a few training sessions” to get trainees up to speed. “We work for clearing banks and debt funds,”one source told us. “Making sure the conditions precedent checklist is ticked off” is a common trainee task. “You’re not negotiating transactional documents, but you are very involved and invested.”Responsibility is there to be had, though: “I was involved from start to finish in coordinating the selling of a block of flats,” one trainee said. “There were 200 in each plot, so there was lots of document management and picking up the phone to clients.” Sources had also found work in commercial construction projects, as well as “smaller property development” matters for small lenders. The team advised Deutsche Hypo on the amendment and restatement of a circa £40 million senior facility and related intercreditor arrangements in respect of the refinancing of a large private rented sector (PRS) development in London. The group also advised real estate development funder Maslow Capital on the funding of a property refurbishment to create residential units and commercial spaces with a development value worth over £66 million.
“I was thrown in the deep end but had those inflatable kid wings on, which meant I was very supported.”
Maples’ corporate department is reportedly smaller than others at the firm, with work “usually centred on property sales – it’s typically either a share sale or selling a company that owns property through special purpose vehicles.” We’re told things are “similar to real estate finance in that it is process-driven,”meaning there’s work on board resolutions, other ancillary documents and due diligence questionnaires. “If you want to draft, they encourage you to crack on,” one source noted. “Major documents like the share purchase agreement will be done by seniors but you’ll be given the ancillary documents.” Work moves beyond the UK, too. “I was dealing with a Luxembourg company owned by a Jersey company,” one source noted. “It was really interesting to work with counsel in different jurisdictions.” Trainees had also worked on group restructurings for partnerships that own UK properties; larger real estate acquisitions – like a large-scale holiday park – as well as property acquisitions being made by high net worth individuals. “I learnt very quickly in that seat,” one source recalled. “I was thrown in the deep end but had those inflatable kid wings on, which meant I was very supported.”The team advised PATRIZIA on the off-market sale of Guildhall, a city centre office in Glasgow, on behalf of its UK Value 2 Fund to Maya Capital for a total consideration of about £30 million.
Work in real estate disputes was described by one source as consisting of “lots of standalone tasks, like serving on tenants or working on rent arrears matters.” The isolated nature of tasks was felt to be “good, as it means there’s less oversight and you get a good level of independence.” Trainees had helped prepare for trials that had arisen from rights to light claims: “There’s a specialist in the team who does lots of work in that area, so I was helping prepare notices and ancillary documents.” Putting together letters before action and schedules of dilapidations were also typical trainee tasks. “I did spend quite a lot of time ringing around the courts,” another interviewee noted. Disclosure-related assignments and assisting with tribunal matters also kept trainees busy in this seat. Clients here include the City of London Corporation, Legal & General and CBRE Investors. Recent cases have involved representing Cine-UK in a rent arrears matter brought about by the closure of cinemas during the pandemic, as well as acting for The Cavendish Hotel in a lease renewal dispute.
One source reflected that life at Maples is “quite relaxed and laid-back.” Another added: “Everyone here is just really nice. I’m never nervous about going into the firm; it’s a comforting and comfortable environment.” In part, interviewees felt these cultural dynamics trickled down from the top. “The managing partner is possibly the nicest guy I’ve ever met! He’s just a really lovely bloke.” These collegial qualities meant “there’s room to be cheeky here,” one trainee joked. “There’s just not a bad personality in the bunch; you can chat with anyone.”
That’s good news considering the firm holds “plenty of social events,” whether they’re organised affairs – like pub quizzes and seasonal parties – or more spontaneous shindigs. “It’s not an alcohol-driven social culture,”another interviewee told us. “We’re not out every night, but there can occasionally be some sore heads in the morning, which you don’t feel guilty for!”
“There’s just not a bad personality in the bunch; you can chat with anyone.”
Sources were also quick to praise the firm’s improving approaches to diversity. “There’s much more of an emphasis on it now,” one rookie found. “There always was an emphasis but you’re now seeing the cultural shift.”A diversity committee, CSR events – like running CV workshops for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – and discussions of funding LPCs to boost social mobility were considered moves in the right direction.One source highlighted that “we’re not where we need to be in terms of representation yet,” while another pointed to the “conscious emphasis made when hiring – not everyone went to public school, which is great.”
Another positive note from our interviews concerned trainee hours. “I’ve had a really good work/life balance across the contract,” one source shared, echoing most trainees we spoke with. “Generally, you start at 9.30am and it’s very rare you’ll stay past 7pm.” One source added that “you’re actively told not to work on weekends.” And while late nights are part of the legal equation at some point or another – one source noted the “latest”finish being in corporate at 11.30pm – it’s the exception rather than the rule. “This isn’t a place for people who want to stay late for the sake of it.”
Coupling these manageable demands is the salary, which, though lower than many other outfits in the capital, received positive reviews. “I’m very happy and can’t complain,” one source commented. “You could go to another law firm and make triple figures, but you earn the money there [in the long hours worked].” Another added: “It’s a decent wage for the hours you do and the life you have.”Sounds great to us.
Don’t be such a Tees!
Given that the firm hires trainees with a sole interest in real estate work, qualification usually results in a 100% retention rate: the qualifiers want to stay at a real estate boutique and MT wants to keep them. The firm told us that it is very rare for a trainee not to be offered a job upon qualification. MT did it again in 2021, as it kept on all three of its qualifiers.
How to get a Maples Teesdale training contract
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 120 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.”
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)