For trainees looking to Tee off their career in a smaller firm with big property work and lots of drive, Maples is a hole in one.
Real estate enthusiasts, unite! For a proper introduction to property law, London’s Maples Teesdale is the real (estate) deal. “I wanted somewhere that was known for property and specialises in it, so I could understand the sector from the perspective of various practice areas,” one of our trainee sources declared. All the firm’s Chambers UK accolades revolve around real estate, whether it’s real estate litigation, construction or a high ranking for mid-market real estate transactions. “Every seat you do can be property-related,” insiders said. “So whichever department you qualify into, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge about the work.”
With just over 50 lawyers under its one roof, Maples is by nature “more personable than a megafirm,” according to its six trainees. “I feel like I’ve got a work family – this is a place that makes you want to stay and be part of it all.” They gave a special shout out to managing partner Chris Wilson, “such a nice guy and a really caring leader. That permeates throughout the rest of the firm, and everyone understands that life sometimes gets in the way – many partners trained at big firms then moved here for a quieter life.” Property isn’t the most-fast paced industry, offering a “quieter life” to trainees too: “People will ask why you’re still in the office if it’s past 6pm on a Friday. The firm is really respectful of us having a work/life balance.”
“…make allocation work across the board. It’s a flexible and fluid system.”
Maples sorts out trainees’ starting seat for them – they find out where they’re going a month in advance. From there, rotations are determined by an informal chat between trainees and the training partner: “That’s also when they’ll tell us if any secondment opportunities are available.” Example destinations are long-term asset management client BMO Real Estate Partners and other high-profile companies. “The firm takes our interests into account and tries to make allocation work across the board,” insiders agreed. “It’s a flexible and fluid system.” As there are only six trainees total, “you tend to know which seat you’re likely to get." Sources suggested “it’s not just a repeat because you can’t do every type of work in a department the first time round."
“Everyone comes here because they want a property seat,” and they’re all guaranteed to get at least one: “commercial property basically makes up our whole firm and that department needs the most help.” To get acquainted with Maples, most trainees start off here. Those we spoke to thought this worked well “because you get a broad variety of work from across the team, so you get to know lots of people quickly.” This includes trainee-led matters such as basic contracts and document negotiation. Projects like wayleaves “are really good for trainees to handle because they’re not particularly high-value but are reasonably complicated as they actually involve the law,” we heard. There’s also “a fair amount of back and forth negotiating the terms,” though some were disappointed to “liaise with managing agents rather than the clients themselves” and felt “the seat would be more interesting with a bit more responsibility for us.” On larger matters, Maples represents mega clients like the City of London Corporation and Lord Sugar’s property company, Amsprop; the firm recently advised Legal & General on the £60 million sale of a Sainsbury’s. Pension funds make up a large portion of the firm’s client base: “We help them with anything from asset management, like rent reviews, to sales and purchases.”
If client contact is what you’re looking for, a seat in the construction department might just scratch that itch. “We have more direct client contact because, in addition to surveyors, we’re dealing with a mix of other professionals throughout the matters,” sources explained. “Contractors and various different consultants will also be involved.” Trainees saw similar clients as in commercial property: co-living space operator The Collective recently called on Maples Teesdale to advise on developments totalling £750 million in value. There are however differences in this seat too, as trainees “take a more direct role. We make sure documents truly reflect what’s happening on a building site.” Responsibilities including drafting ancillaries and collateral warranties, plus reporting on primary construction documents like building contracts. “You’re part of the team for sure,” insiders enthused. “You really get to contribute and you’re treated more like a junior lawyer than a trainee.”
“You’re treated more like a junior lawyer than a trainee.”
“We’re a real estate firm, so the corporate group works with companies that own real estate,” trainees said. Examples include advising property investment and development company Martin’s Properties on its corporate reorganisation; and real estate investment management firm Ellandi on the £20.2 million sale of Grays Shopping Centre in Thurrock. Sources described the department as a “satellite” that’s home to just a couple of partners and associates, “so they’re either really busy or dead" as is common in transactional law. A few late nights are par for the course, “but I never worked past 10pm, and that’s unheard of in other departments,” we heard. Typical trainee tasks in a corporate seat include administrating partnership structures and getting documents agreed and signed; less hard-hitting work involves drafting board minutes and “researching topics that aren’t big enough to send to external advisers, like employment queries.” Many praised the team for letting trainees email and call clients directly, and although “important drafts are always checked, there’s little micro-management.”
Coming into real estate finance, trainees were pleased to see many of the same clients they’d worked with in the commercial property and corporate seats: “What really distinguishes Maples is that you get to see the same transactions handled from different perspectives by each group. You then understand how it all fits together.” A trainee in real estate finance gave the example that “you immediately understand how the due diligence process works on the property aspect of a loan transaction, because you’ve already done a property seat.” Maples advises both borrowers and lenders on “anything from portfolio loans for big investors, to advising smaller borrowers who’ve had issues with debt. It’s really interesting working on both sides.” The firm acted for real estate investors PATRIZIA AG on a series of refinancings totalling £72 million in value as well as £136 million of asset disposals.
Each seat has partner supervisors who remain in the role year-round even as trainees rotate, so they’re used to imparting wisdom. Some sources felt that “because supervisors are so senior they’re far removed from the tasks trainees do, so I feel like I can’t ask smaller questions.”They were happy to approach other colleagues with these queries: “We really do have an open-door policy, it’s not just a tagline. We can chat to anyone at any point whether it’s about work or not.”Matter teams are small enough (and inevitably partner-led) so that “everyone gets good supervision.”There’s also a training partner, Anastasia Klein, on hand: “She’s made it clear she’s our voice in the firm and is our first port of call for any problems we might have. We had weekly trainee calls with her during the coronavirus lockdown.”
“I think the managing partner would take it personally if I left the firm.”
In the office, trainees all sit with their partner supervisor. “If I didn’t get to sit with a partner I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to ask about the firm’s business,”said one of the trainees who credited Maples with general transparency. Trainees also get to ‘speak out’ – they each get to host a training session on a subject of their choice to help hone their presentation skills.
As for firm-led training, “nobody here would shout at you if you made an honest mistake. You don’t have to cover anything up and I feel genuinely valued for the work I do – the firm hires people to keep them, not just to do cheap work.” One source was left extremely confident of their long-term future at Maples: “I think the managing partner would take it personally if I left the firm.” In 2020, the firm ended up retaining all three qualifiers.
Join the club
Trainees praised the firm for “keeping appraisals real. We just go for coffee or chat in the office; we don’t have arbitrary, arduous forms like at other places.”
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 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 36
- 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, 2022 start: 20 August 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £36,668
- Second-year salary: £38,754
- Post-qualification salary: £64,445
- 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.
Diversity, wellbeing and inclusion:
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. Earlier this month we organised and hosted a very successful event for our clients and contacts about supporting women in business making the transition into senior management roles. This is part of an ongoing project for us to offer practical advice to women in our in our industries and we are proud of the recognition we have had for these efforts in the market.
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, 2020
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)