The hundreds-of-lawyers giants aren’t the only firms doing impressive corporate work in the City…
Small but mighty corporate firm Marriott Harrison offers similar comforts to the famed hotel chain: partners as supportive as king-sized beds, a top-notch location in the Grade I listed Staple Inn and a customer-centric approach. We assume there’s free WiFi, too. With a headcount of just 41 qualified lawyers, there’s no room for abrasive personalities here according to trainees: “It sounds really cheesy, but people do make the biggest difference and that really shone through in my first week here. Trainees are really valued.”
Others pointed out that the firm’s small size means “trainees get exposure to higher level work and senior lawyers from an early stage. Even on the vac scheme I got the opportunity to talk to clients.” Marriott’s client base is impressive given its stature, and it earns Chambers UK rankings for lower mid-market corporate M&A and private equity venture capital investment. That’s not the whole picture and one incoming trainee was pleased to find “the firm offered seats in all the areas I was interested in: commercial, corporate, employment and dispute resolution.”
“It’s really nice to work for a firm which gives back to the community.”
They and others were also impressed by Marriott Harrison’s CSR initiatives, including a partnership with Age UK in Camden. “Elderly people in the community bring round their phones and laptops and we help them with the tech”in a ‘gadget workshop’. “It’s not at all related to law, it’s just a way to stay in touch.” Each year the firm picks a designated charity: in 2020 they selected foodbank network NGO the Trussell Trust. “It’s really nice to work for a firm which gives back to the community,”interviewees concluded.
Each trainee completes four seats of six months; newbies “don’t get much say” on their first stop but can express preferences for the remaining three about a month before rotating. Corporate is the biggest department, “so you’ll definitely do at least one seat there” and some had completed multiple spells. Though all of our sources secured their seats of choice, they warned “allocation is determined to a large extent by business need. For example, we typically have a paralegal in the property group, so they don’t take trainees.”
Corporate trainees deal with lower mid-market M&A and venture capital. Clients range from companies like Cello Health and Coolabi to private equity houses Mobeus Equity Partners and Chiltern Capital. The firm recently advised engineering consultancy Hurley Palmer Flatt and its shareholders on its £60 million sale to US engineering firm HDR after 50 years of independence. Deals can get knotty, such as on one 600-shareholder transaction that fell into a trainee’s lap. “I was always supervised, but I got to handle the transaction the way I wanted. The work is fast paced but the stress is a positive.” There’s a corporate lawyer mentality for you! The seat keeps trainees on their toes: “It’s not uncommon to be doing a piece of work and suddenly get an email asking you to research something else and prepare a note for the client.”
“The work is fast paced but the stress is a positive.”
Those who’d done multiple seats here found the second stint “was a good opportunity to build on the experience ahead of qualification, I got lots more client facetime which was really valuable.” Some more “menial” tasks include sending emails and photocopying, “which do feel like paper-pushing but they’re a necessary part of transactions and I was never stuck doing just one thing.” Trainees also got plenty of opportunities to handle the “nitty gritty, juicy” tasks: filings for Companies House and client calls. Insiders also drafted ancillary documents: “Obviously they’re reviewed before going out, but supervisors always asked whether I was happy with the changes. We’re involved from the very beginning of deals.” As is common in most corporate seats, late nights are on the cards when deals are due for completion. “The latest I’ve worked is 2am, but it’s definitely not a regular occurrence and the firm is very respectful of people having personal lives,” a source felt. “Provided you give enough notice, you can log off when you need to.”
Things are (comparatively) relaxed in employment: “Our hours completely depend on the workload. If you’ve finished what you need to do you can leave at 5.30pm, which is pretty good for a lawyer!” Employment tribunal claims, contracts, redundancy issues and day-to-day HR concerns at clients keep this group busy. Marriott Harrison typically represents employers and senior executives, as well as investment funds: the firm recently advised one of Europe’s leading venture capital firms on a bespoke training programme for investee companies on UK employment law. Trainees here can juggle a mix of disputes and non-contentious matters, advising both individual and corporate clients. “I’ve done due diligence on the employment side of investment or purchase transactions,” one explained. “We also help draft employment-specific provisions in share purchase agreements.”
“The firm operates as a family, there’s a genuine feeling of community.”
Trainees in the commercial, IP and data protection group identified its distinct appeal: “Everything I worked on felt like it was useful in daily life. It’s good to know what’s expected of companies in terms of data protection because people spend their lives on websites.” Domestic and international clients alike have recently called on MH for advice on the transference of personal data outside the European Economic Area. Like an all-you-can-eat buffet, sources jumped to “try a bit of everything.” Rather than potato salad and sausages, trainees got to sample legal delicacies like drafting commercial contracts and reviewing companies’ data protection measures. The covid-19 pandemic slowed workflow here, but trainees found associates and partners “always try to get you involved, even if it’s in something non-billable.”
Commercial litigation is the main course in dispute resolution, with menu options including shareholder litigation, freezing injunctions, arbitration, breach of trust and fraud. Although the firm does work for individuals, commercial clients form the bulk of the client base: Marriott Harrison recently represented an international hotel chain in a £2.8 million clash with a major airport’s owners over utilities charges. The team also lent its expertise to a Seychelles-incorporated company in claims brought against Turkish defendants for repayment of $17.7 million of loans. Our trainee sources were most commonly drafting witness statements, bundling, participating in mediations and liaising with counsel – they managed to fit all this in and wrap up by 6.30pm on most days.
“Marriott Harrison makes sure everyone is in touch across the firm, not just within departments.” Smaller headcounts lend themselves to greater firmwide camaraderie, and trainees said “the firm operates as a family, there’s a genuine feeling of community. When I was in the corporate group I had questions about property law and felt comfortable approaching that department because we all know each other.” Conceding that “obviously we have job titles like associate or partner,” interviewees suggested “that’s just a professional distinction, not a personal one. I never feel silly going for a drink with a partner.”
“The firm is invested in us becoming future partners.”
New arrivals in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic “felt very welcomed. I had various emails with people offering to do Zoom calls to see how I was getting on. I haven’t felt disadvantaged at all.” More experienced trainees weren’t left out: “Some of the partners told me they’d come in to the office when I did, so they could carry on with face-to-face training.” First and second years alike credited the firm with trying to “recreate the office atmosphere as much as possible,” including with team challenges. Incoming trainees are invited to play on the 5-a-side football team and join in monthly first-Thursday drinks before starting at the firm.
“The firm is invested in us becoming future partners,” a source reflected. “Many partners trained here so it’s clear there’s interest in progressing our careers. It’s nice to see their confidence in us, because that builds our own confidence.” The first step is of course the qualification process, which is fairly informal and discussed in advance within each seat appraisal. Marriott Harrison retained both its qualifying trainees in 2020.
Let me introduce you to someone…
The firm runs an annual MH Connect networking event: trainees and associates get to invite “potential business clients”from other organisations for an informal soiree. “Trainees organise it and partners aren’t invited – it’s really good fun.”
- Partners: 19
- Associates: 18
- Total trainees: 4
- UK offices: London
- Graduate recruiter: Liz Arscott, [email protected]
- Training partner: David Strong, [email protected] co.uk
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2-3
- Applications pa: 200-300
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 unless mitigating circumstances
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: No set min
- Vacation scheme places pa: 24
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 01/11/2020
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 23/03/2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 01/11/2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 23/03/2021
- Open day deadline date: N/A
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £36,000
- Second-year salary: £38,000
- Post-qualification salary: TBD
- Holiday entitlement: 20 days plus bank holidays
Marriott Harrison is a leading independent London law firm recognised for the high quality and personable approach of its lawyers.
The firm provides a partner-led service for clients across a wide range of commercial practice areas and sectors, with a particular focus on owner-managed businesses and investors into those enterprises. It operates at a level which is often only matched by firms several times larger, deploying specialist teams of lawyers who work at the highest levels of competence in each of its core practice areas.
The firm’s lawyers have diverse professional backgrounds. Some have had previous non-legal careers, others have considerable experience at magic circle or major city firms and an increasing number are home grown.
Main areas of work
Corporate, commercial real estate, restructuring, banking, commercial, IP/IT, employment, dispute resolution.
Seat options: Corporate, Restructuring & banking, Commercial & IP/IT, Employment, Dispute resolution, & Real estate
4 x 6 month seats, with corporate and a contentious seat both compulsory. All trainees sit with a partner.
MH aims usually hires its trainee solicitors exclusively from its summer vacation scheme. Every participant in the summer vacation scheme will work in the office for one week between June and July and will typically attend with three other participants. Anyone ready to start a training contract in the following calendar year is eligible to apply, with applications to be made by 31 March each year.
Life insurance, private healthcare, weekly in-office yoga, season ticket loan, CSR days, enhanced pension contributions.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
The firm is committed to diversity and wellbeing and is naturally inclusive. It has an internal programme of talks entitled “MH Discover”. The programme is the initiative of various partners, associates and trainees. Previous topics include: Unconscious Bias, Domestic Violence, Art and the Visual Diet, Work/Life Balance, Homelessness and Sustainability.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)