Mayer Brown has broken the US mold with its stellar training programme, but stays true to its roots with first-rate corporate and pro bono work.
Mayer Brown training contract review 2024
Chi-town’s Mayer Brown “just has that reputation in finance, corporate and litigation, which was the main thing for me,” confessed one newbie.Need we say no more, as Chambers UK can do all the talking on that front: MB is top of the pile in London for its contentious construction practice, as well as it’s professional negligence in tech and construction and real estate matters over £150 million. Nationwide, MB scoops up top billings for construction international arbitration matters and work in energy & natural resources (mining). Rounding it off, a big thumbs up goes to its mid-market banking and finance on the lenders side and capital market derivatives. But admittedly, we’re not even scratching the surface of its full set of Chambers ranking, so you might want to grab a cuppa and head over to the website to get the full picture.
“You will work hard at the firm, but you definitely get a good deal in terms of how you are trained.”
Aside from top-quality work, what made Mayer Brown stand tall amongst the slew of US law firms in the capital was “the really good training which was getting really good reviews everywhere I read.” Indeed, US firms are not really known for their rigorous training programmes, but at MB “they put a lot of time and effort into training. You will work hard at the firm, but you definitely get a good deal in terms of how you are trained.” Also top of the agenda - and more in keeping with its US roots - is the firm’s pro bono work, which all trainees get involved with from day one. Mayer Brown also sticks by its American counterparts by opting to keep a close-knit trainee cohort, with just 15 joining the firm last year at its London base.
“There were quite a lot of changes in grad recruitment over the last few years,” outlined one source. Another highlighted that “we have a new grad recruitment manager who is really good. Honestly, grad recruitment was in a state of chaos before Grace came!” Others also gave a big shout out to Graduate Recruitment Manager Grace Ambrose, for her honesty and transparency throughout the seat allocation process.Under the current system, trainees fill out a form prior to joining along with their preferences. “You’re likely to be given seats that are less specialised first and ones that are used to taking on newbies,” mentioned one insider. Seats fitting this bill tend to be finance, corporate, corporate dispute resolution or construction litigation. If you’re keen to do a secondment, there is a long-standing corporate econdment opportunity with Unilever. On the internationalfront, trainees have previously jetted off to MB’s Hong Kong office.
MB’s corporateoffering was considered one of the core seats. The team handles a lot of “private equity deals, public and private M&A, IPOs and listings” andthe work was also said to be mid-market.Clients include the liked to Unilever, Petronas and The British Land Company. For trainees, “there’s a lot of project management, so you get a lot of responsibility.” Tasks also involved signings and drafting too, you could be drafting parts of a prospectus, to warranty provisions and SPAs, as well as due diligence reports. To give a taste of what this team does, it recently represented Credit Agricole’s global wealth management brand (Indosuez Wealth Management,) on its acquisition of Wealth Dynamics, a fintech provider of client lifecycle management solutions.
Thefinance team, however, is different as “there’s lots of high-end work as opposed to mid-market,” with clients such as Barclays & ING on the list.There is an enormous range of nine subgroups sitting under the department and some trainees got the chance to work with all. The sub teams include, project finance, fund finance, real estate finance, ABL, securitisation and derivatives. The real estate finance team recently represented Citibank and SMBC – a Japanese multinational bank – as senior arrangers and lenders to an asset management firm for its refinancing of real estate in Canary Wharf. “You’re a lot less siloed than say, in corporate” reflected one interviewee. They added that also, the deal teams are bigger, so you don’t have to step up in that sense. Associates do more of the drafting work.” Another mentioned that “one day you can be working on a funds deal, securitisations and then the next you could be doing leveraged finance, there’s a great variety.” Thoughtypical trainee tasks included a lot of project and documents management by organising signing and coordinating CP checklists.
Moving over to the firm’s contentious offering, the construction litigation team moves “at a much slower pace than transactional areas.” The matters involved a mix of national and international work and one interviewee shared that “from an arbitration perspective, the work is construction based so there are some massive cases.” As is common with many contentious seats, trainees did a lot of research tasks where a point of law needed to be checked. Trainees also got quite a bit of responsibility, as “you’re liaising with counsel and experts and helping to draft letters of instruction to experts to summarise the case. Chasing the experts is left to you!” Though external emails would, of course, be checked over by an associate before it went out. The team acts for Standard Life in a claim against its professional team and development manager, following significant delay and cost overruns during the construction of a retail park in Newbury.
Another seat with a strong litigation focus was employment. “There’s lots of evidence gathering and reviewing to be done,” noted one interviewee, along with liaising with local counsel, bundling and taking witness statements. There was also the chance to do some corporate support work, such as settlement agreements and reviewing apprenticeships agreements. Like corporate, this team was said to be “exceptionally busy!” MB’s employment team advised QBE in enhancing its paternity leave policy. It also advised AT&T’s employment Legal/HR team on the preparatory steps they needed to take following the sale of its advertising marketplace, Xandr, to Microsoft.
Interviewees were generally upbeat about the culture. Though, it was noted that it varies across the firm quite a lot. “There’s a big divide between the third and fourth floor. Litigation dispute resolution sit on the third and transactional is on the fourth. Some people on the third swear they’ve never stepped foot on the fourth!” one source joked. That’s not to say this has a negative impact on the firm culture, only that “the work is very different between them. Naturally you’ll get a bit more chit chat on the litigation floor as work isn’t happening as instantly.” We also heard that all teams have drinks regularly, and every department has a budget for social events. Corporate does a Bake Off every week and everyone gets to vote on the best bakes. Finance also does things like drinks and food. Over in litigation “you take people and the clients out, so that’s cool too and as a trainee you always get invited to those things.”
“They deserve full marks for the training alone!”
Aside from the work, one thing that clearly resounded with trainees was the comprehensive training at the firm. “It’s lived up to it’s strong reputation,” one trainee quipped. At the beginning of a seat, trainees get intensive and structured training which differs depending on the practice area: “it’s good as they go into such detail about tricky things and also give you a good overview into a practice area.” On top of that, the on the on-the-job learning “is front loaded and it’s fantastic. They’re happy to repeat things for you when you start. They deserve full marks for the training alone!” raved one insider.This all went down swimmingly with our interviewees, as another shared that “it’s a good way to learn. You’re constantly being challenged but you’re never left to drown, and feedback will never be scathing.”
On the topic of feedback, supervisors were similarly hailed by trainees: “you sit next to them in the office which means you can listen in to calls.” Though as is the case in plenty of other firms, “it can be a bit of a lottery with who you get.” But at the mid and end seat appraisals, supervisors did take their time with trainees, as one newbie reflected that “they take it seriously and collect feedback from teams you’ve worked with. They then give you tips on how to improve too.”
Speaking of taking things seriously, pro bono is a massive deal at MB. So much so that trainees also have to do a minimum of 20 hours a year, but “the majority go way over that – I hit mine in six weeks!” There’s a wealth of opportunities, though the Islington law centre came up in a lot of conversations with our interviewees, as well as Z2K (a benefits and housing charity in London). Not only that, “if you have your own pro bono ideas, you’re encouraged to raise them! The firm lets you do things you’re personally interested in as well.” The work allowed insiders to get that little bit extra responsibility over the course of the training contract: “you can get to do things like write a letter of claim from scratch, something you’d just never do at trainee level.”
“…they put a lot of money into training and that’s part of a great package you get.”
Talking about hours, insiders noted that construction litigation was more consistent. “In that team you can do 50 – 60 hours that are all nicely spread out,” noted one rookie.How that translated on the clock was that trainees came usually came in at 9.30am and didn’t stay much past 7.30pm. On the other hand, corporate “is more like you don’t leave before 7pm, and work usually flows into the early hours.” Trainees in the finance department found it hard to give a general picture to hours as “it’s been quiet at the moment, as people aren’t borrowing money.” However, trainees can expect to stay on longer where there is a closing ongoing. Thankfully, trainees did mention that “there’s not really facetime in the department, so I’ve been sent home quite a few times!” With longer hours comes the bigger US- style pay grade, though some mentioned that with all the hours they’ve worked as a trainee, “a little boost wouldn’t go amiss.” At the same time, others appreciated that “if you look at it by the hour, it is never going to work out well as a trainee at a busy firm. The way I see it, they put a lot of money into training and that’s part of a great package you get.” To top it off, with the salary doubling at NQ level to a handsome £120k, one conceded that “it’s very fair compared to other firms and we are incredibly well paid.”
But in order to see that salary multiply, trainees must make it through MB’s qualification process. Fortunately, much like the seat allocation process, “grad recruitment is very upfront and transparent about it.” Trainees submit application packs which go to the graduate recruitment and development team to share with the heads of departments that they're interested in. The firm then checks which teams will have places available and then a partner sits down with the pack, which contains trainees' CVs and their appraisals. There is an interview process too, but how much more formal it gets depends on the department. The only snag is that “everything needs a US sign off, which could throw things off.” This didn’t deter our sources however, who all felt confident about their chances. In 2023, the firm retained 12 out of 14 qualifying trainees.
MB does D&I: The firm “puts their money where their mouth is” when it comes to D&I, working with the likes of Aspiring Solicitors, who help those from diverse backgrounds secure vac schemes and TCs.
How to get a Mayer Brown training contract
- Vacation scheme deadline (2024): 31 January 2024
- Training contract deadline (2026): 31 March 2024
Mayer Brown runs two vacation schemes each year: one in the spring (from 15-26 April 2024) and one in the summer (from 10-21 June 2024). There are up to 15 places available on each two-week programme, and the firm generally receives around 1,800 applications for its vacation schemes.
The first stage of the recruitment process is an online application, which includes your educational background and any relevant legal work experience. Applicants also have to pass online verbal reasoning and situational strengths tests, complete a trainee job simulation (which is a combination of multiple choice, written and video interview questions), and attend an assessment centre to secure a vac scheme place.
Vac schemers are seated in one of the firm’s core legal departments. “Graduate recruitment work hard to accommodate your preferences as to where you'd like to go,” a current trainee said. Dominic Griffiths, London office managing partner, tells us the overall aim of the placement is to give candidates “a feel for being a trainee at Mayer Brown. We ensure they get good quality work that's typical of what they'd be doing as a trainee.” Our trainee sources backed this up, with one telling us: “I got to go to the High Court during my visit. It was great to feel like I was helping out the team on something valuable.”
Alongside vac schemers' work comes various social and networking opportunities. “It's important people get to know a firm in its entirety – all the employees who make the cogs work, as well as the partners and solicitors,” says Griffiths.
During the second week of the scheme, candidates face a final stage training contract interview with members of the graduate recruitment panel, who will ask about their understanding of the role of a City solicitor and why they're interested in Mayer Brown, along with questions testing their commercial awareness and business acumen. The majority of the firm's trainees are recruited through the vacation schemes and the firm stresses that it welcomes vac scheme applications from final-year students and graduates too.
In 2023, the firm received over 400 direct training contract applications. Those who impress on the application form and online assessments are invited to complete the Mayer Brown trainee job simulation followed by an assessment day. This involves a fact-finding exercise designed to see if you can “think on your feet,” a written exercise and a group task. The day also includes a lunch with some of the firm's trainees plus a “quite rigorous” competency and strengths-based interview with two fee earners.
According to Griffiths, candidates need to demonstrate they're keen on law, and on Mayer Brown in particular: “We want to see a sense of passion for working here. We don't always know in interviews if someone will be a brilliant lawyer, but we can judge their enthusiasm and dedication to the profession.”
He goes on to reveal he's “a great believer in work experience. Pure legal work is all well and good, but I do like to see people with a diverse range of experience as well. It shows they're inquisitive about their career and have thought deeply about it.”
Mayer Brown also has a long-standing solicitor apprentices programme, which offers aspiring solicitors an alternative path into the profession and route to qualification. The Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship offers candidates the opportunity to qualify by combining work and part-time study over a period of six years. During that time, participants gain an LLB and complete the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE) 1 & 2. The solicitor apprenticeship is a great alternative for those wishing to pursue a career in law, without the huge financial burden incurred by fees and student loans. The minimum entry requirement is ABB or equivalent at A level.
Mayer Brown International LLP
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
At Mayer Brown, we aim to cultivate a work environment in which we embrace, respect and value inclusivity and diversity. By demonstrating respect, both within and beyond our workplace, we support and celebrate our differences, while strengthening the productivity, creativity and effectiveness of our firm. Creating and maintaining a more inclusive and diverse work environment is one of our key priorities, and this has spurred many of our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. We drive these initiatives through our recruitment, training, mentoring, promotion, allocation of work and opportunities, expanding and developing our diversity networks and setting diversity targets.
In our London office we have five employee networks:
•Women’s Network, with a mission statement to ensure that no woman at Mayer Brown experiences obstacles to her position at Mayer Brown because she is a woman, which is open to everyone (regardless of role or gender);
•Enable Network aiming to enable all at the firm regardless of disabilities, physical and mental health conditions, medical diagnoses, personal difficulties or challenges;
•Fusion Network to represent those from diverse ethnic minority backgrounds;
•Work & Me Network as a forum for all individuals with caring responsibilities outside of work; and
•LGBT+ Network for all LGBTQ+ staff and allies to meet, support and interact with one another, and for diverse role models to be visible.
We also have a working group dedicated to social mobility.
Our networks regularly hold events, and previous highlights include a talk and panel discussion on colour blindness vs colour braveness, an evening discussion and Q&A with Jake Graf, an award-winning actor, film-maker, transgender rights activist and co-author of Becoming Us: A Story of Transgender Love, Joy and Family, a women’s health event, and a speaker discussing life with Asperger’s.
We have launched several initiatives focused on employee mental and physical wellbeing, which is vital to create an inclusive culture. These include a global wellbeing month and a global mental health week. We have an on-site counsellor to support mental health. Recognising we can all help to eliminate the stigma associated with poor mental health, we have a team of mental health first aiders and we hold a range of events and seminars to promote mental health, such as an eight-week mindfulness course, suicide prevention training and talks on financial wellbeing, beating the winter blues, pushing past anxiety and on creating optimal sleep.
We work with Sponsors of Educational Opportunity (SEO), Aspiring Solicitors (AS), MyPlus Consulting and many other organisations to provide students from under-represented groups with training, mentoring, networking and work experience.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Fund Finance (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 1)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Environment & Climate Change (Band 4)
- Pensions (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 1)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
- Construction: International Arbitration (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining: International (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 4)