Mayer Brown hails from Chicago, but a “British culture” flavours its London base, alongside a range of top-drawer work in sectors like finance, energy, insurance and construction.
Mayer Brown training contract review 2022
The Mayer Brown we see before us today was founded less than 20 years ago, following a transatlantic merger between the City’s Rowe & Maw and US giant Mayer, Brown & Platt. The dual influence of both firms can still be detected in 2021, as this trainee explained: “We get the exciting work of a US firm, but we’ve kept our British culture. People here are so warm it actually caught me off guard at first.” In fact, every trainee we interviewed cited the culture as the main reason for joining the firm: “I spoke to every single partner in my department during my vac scheme, which was a rare thing at other places. I wanted to train at a firm where I wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes.”
“We get the exciting work of a US firm, but we’ve kept our British culture.”
Like many US firms, Mayer Brown has concentrated its UK presence in London. And like many of its US peers, it tends to keep its trainee ranks smaller [28trainees total] in comparison to some of the domestic heavyweights in the City, which was a plus for many: “I ruled out bigger firms because I didn’t want to be one of 80 trainees.”That’s not to say the firm’s work is small-fry: “We can choose from a full selection of practice areas. Every practice we have is highly rated so you know that wherever you qualify, you’ll be doing top-tier work,”this trainee said proudly. We’re inclined to agree. Chambers UK has awarded the firm over 25 rankings, which cover all the usual City suspects you’d expect like banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A and big-ticket real estate. There are certain areas that shine in the London rankings though: Mayer Brown’s professional negligence expertise across various sectors (including law, insurance and finance) is highly recommended, while its construction know-how also pulls in UK-wide praise. In that latter category, it’s the firm’s insurance and energy sector work that gain nods, alongside recognition in contentious pensionsand product liabilitymatters.
Seat allocation is reportedly a “very transparent”process: rookies rank their top four destinations then discuss their intended career path with the firm’s grad recruitment team “to make sure you do seats that make sense for your progression.” Trainees must do at least one transactional and one contentious seat, and business need of course enters the equation too. The vast majority will also go on a client or international secondment.
Covid-19 put a stop to overseas seats, but in more normal times Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and Chicago are usually on the cards. These stints will hopefully resume in March 2022. Client secondments are based on business need, but multiple practices have opportunities available, including corporate and commercial, finance, litigationand commercial real estate. Gaining invaluable knowledge of the practice area and having a more forgiving workload were the highlights of our interviewees’ time in-house, though thorough training during these stints was felt to be lacking a little.
“We don’t just do traditional corporate work.”
Mayer Brown doesn’t divide its corporate department into subgroups, which means “you can take work from anyone!” Trainees still “indicate a preferred supervisor based on their work,”but we heard that a whole range of public M&A, outsourcing, funds, oil and gas (and more) transactions are available here: “The difference between us and other firms is that we don’t just do traditional corporate work, like private equity,”one source commented. Chambers UK praises the corporate team’s work on transactions with elements in North Americaand Asia, as well as its expertise handling clients in sectors such as media, real estate and healthcare. While the more generic proofreading trainee tasks are inevitable, there’s also project management work up for grabs: “I liaised with specialists in the firm or local counsel in foreign offices.” Irrespective of the industry involved, newbies get a lot of drafting experience: “I didn’t expect it at all. They’re great at letting us take the first stab at deal documents.” Deal completion is often the highlight of corporate seats across firms, and Mayer Brown is no exception to that rule: “I was working long hours on a complicated deal, but I was so satisfied when it completed and the client gave us really nice feedback.” A recent deal involved parties in the US, the Netherlands and the UK: the firm represented CDK Global on the $1.45 billion sale of its international arm to Francisco Partners. Other clients here include British Land, Unilever and Entertainment One.
The IP folks “work closely with the corporate team but in a specialist capacity, like doing the due diligence on commercial deals.”HSBC, Lindt and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group all appear on the client roster: “I love how diverse our client base is.”The team recently advised the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group on its arrangements with online travel agencies, concerning the use of its company-branded hotel rooms. There are just seven lawyers in this group, so trainees get to sink their teeth into meatier matters: “I got to negotiate an agreement for a household name.”Others were more involved on the business development side: “There were loads of developments with internet-based data transfers, so I wrote a series of client alerts, which was really interesting.”
Pensions is another of the firm’s pocket-sized practices, “so trainees are involved in everything.” Despite the general “tendency to think of the work as stuffy and boring, it’s actually very varied and commercially focused,”one trainee wanted to make clear. In fact, multiple sources “didn’t expect to enjoy it so much.” It’s a seat where “you really do get to help other people.” For example, trainees had helped to draft policies on child pension schemes, which would entitle children to financial support during their education should their parents die. Scheme member complaints form a large portion of the practice too: “Some are very simple, but others are quite complicated, especially if there’s concern about how benefits are calculated.” On the non-contentious side, the firm advises on the pension schemes at well-known names such as Santander, Prudential and EDF. The group recently advised the Prudential pension scheme on a longevity swap deal with Pacific Life Re, which covered £3.7 billion in pension liabilities and was orchestrated to provide long-term protection for the scheme.
"There’s usually only one trainee per matter so we’re involved in all the different building blocks of the case.”
Contentious matters are typically split into five groups at Mayer Brown – commercial dispute resolution, construction and engineering litigation, international arbitration, competition and antitrust and insurance and reinsurance litigation– with seats available in each. Insurance litigation is split into two main areas: professional liability and coverage. The team works with big insurers like Zurich, Chubb and Liberty Mutual, plus other financial institutions and real estate consultancies. Given the complex nature of the practice, “trainees do more low-level tasks like bundling and proofreading, but there’s usually only one trainee per matter so we’re involved in all the different building blocks of the case.” Some of the luckier trainees got to attend mediations and hearings, “which were really exciting.”
The construction litigation folks typically defend contractors: “Things have accelerated since Grenfell: the same cladding that was on the tower is being found in other buildings.” Mayer Brown defended United Living (as one of various defendants) against a £34 million damages claim made by the London Borough of Camden, which undertook emergency works to a local estate following the Grenfell tragedy. The non-contentious portion covers “anything related to the appointment of contractors and architects,” a trainee explained. Rookies here helped more senior lawyers to get the contracts signed: “I would be looking at the comments, sending out the docs and pushing for responses. I had a lot of client contact and would explain why certain elements were important.”It’s a great seat for developing project management skills: “I got the most independence in this seat. We’re not just expected to run matters, we’re expected to keep them going, too.”Other construction clients include Alstom Transport, Cheyne Capital and Hyundai Corporation.
Sources unanimously agreed that the firm encourages pro bono work – another common feature of life at a US law firm in London. Rookies are automatically assigned to a six-month rota at the Islington Law Clinic: “It’s really valuable for us trainees because we’re responsible for the matters.” Most rookies also work with the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, which helps clients with housing benefits: “Getting good outcomes for the clients is so emotionally rewarding,”one source concluded. Mayer Brown is a member of the UK Joint Protocol for Pro Bono Work, which means pro bono matters must be treated with the same weight as billable work. There’s a 20-hour pro bono target each year, with awards dished out to those who do more than 100 hours.
Trainees put in 50-hour weeks on average and their workloads are pretty much on par with their peers at other US and domestic City firms. These firms are known for their long hours, but there are of course practice area variations: for example, the real estate department at Mayer Brown operates on a steady 9am to 7pm timetable, but 10pm finishes are regular in corporate, with one source adding that they “worked until 1am quite a few times.”Litigious matters, meanwhile,“align with court deadlines, so you can easily predict when you’ll be busy. I was on a very busy case with very long hours, but everyone checked in to make sure I was okay.”
"It’s always my round at the pub!”
Mayer Brown pays more than its UK counterparts, but less than some other US firms, “which pretty much reflects the balance of what our firm is.” Regardless, trainees recognised that “we’re incredibly well paid compared to the rest of the population. It’s always my round at the pub!” Like many firms, Mayer Brown did implement firm-wide pay cuts during the pandemic. However, trainees’ 5% cut was paid back in a lump sum, alongside a bonus that rewarded the work undertaken during the pandemic.
While some sources felt that the firm could’ve been more hands-on with technological assistance during the initial shift to remote working, others were happy to tell us that “the leadership has been very proactive in communication. Our London managing partner, Sally Davies, hosts regular talks about how the firm is doing and always thanks us for our work.” The firm sent everyone a care package at Easter, complete with sweets and an Amazon gift card. Some thought the pandemic provided more opportunities to stay in the loop: “We often have morning meetings where we get an oversight of what the group is doing, which didn’t happen before lockdown.” Secondees were relieved to stay in contact with the firm: “I had a call with the head of corporate every day.”
"Nobody beats about the bush if you make mistakes, but it’s the same with praise.”
Each seat begins with “very comprehensive training,” but sources did highlight that “there’s very little hand-holding here. Nobody beats about the bush if you make mistakes, but it’s the same with praise.” Luckily, “associates and partners are always willing to answer questions: approachability is a key requirement here.” A sense of flat hierarchy is driven from the top down: “Sally is unbelievably down to earth. Last week she came to the pub with everyone who was in the office.” Others reminisced about poking gentle fun at a partner who carries a protein shake around: “There’s no divide between partners and everyone else. More generally, the firm is very good at respecting trainees and listening to our opinions.”
Mayer Brown recently hosted an office-wide summit about diversity and inclusion: “Several trainees and a few other members of the firm shared their experiences, which was really valuable for the firm’s overall progression with D&I.” Although the vast majority of this year’s trainee cohort were educated at Russell Group universities (as is the trend across the industry), just under half didn’t study law at undergrad: “I love the fact that the other trainees aren’t just 15 more of me. In every department, people have different backgrounds.”The firm renewed its focus on mental healthduring the pandemic: “We have multiple mental health first-aiders, a free headspace subscription and a counsellor – although the sessions get booked up quickly.”A series of talks on wellbeing “are aimed at a range of people, from young trainees to working parents.”The firm also hosts monthly virtual yoga sessions as well.
Rather than publishing an NQ jobs list (as is the case at most firms) gradate recruitment asks trainees for their preferred qualification department, before making a business case to the management committee: “It’s not at all competitive. We all wish each other the best,” one satisfied source summed up. Qualifiers typically undergo two interviews: one for their first choice of department, and one for their second choice. More than 80% of our interviewees intend to stay at the firm indefinitely. In 2021, the firm retained 11 of its 15 qualifiers.
The firm plays sports matches against its clients twice a year: football in winter and cricket in summer.
How to get a Mayer Brown training contract
Training contract deadline (2024): 31 January 2022 (opens 1 November 2021)
Mayer Brown runs three vacation schemes each year: two in the summer and one in the spring. There are 10 places available on each two-week programme, and the firm generally receives around 1,200 applications for its vacation schemes.
A cover letter is an essential part of the online application. The box for this is left entirely blank so candidates can express themselves, though be careful not to waffle. Mayer Brown wants to see applicants structure this letter well and demonstrate excellent spelling and grammar. “A well-written application is important,” explains graduate recruitment partner Dominic Griffiths, “as writing and using the English language constitutes 70 to 80% of what we do.” Applicants also have to pass online verbal reasoning and situational strengths tests, have a telephone interview with a member of the graduate recruitment team and attend an assessment day to secure a vac scheme place.
Vac schemers split their time between two departments. “They try to accommodate your preferences as to where you'd like to go,” a current trainee said. Griffiths 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. A day trip to the firm’s Paris office is also part of the placement.
During the second week of the scheme, candidates face a 25 minute interview with a partner and a member of the graduate recruitment team, 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.
applications from final-year students and graduates too.
In 2019 the firm received over 600 direct training contract applications. Those who impress on the application form and online assessments are invited for a telephone interview with graduate recruitment 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 partners.
According to Griffiths, “grades are important, but there's always some flexibility on this front – we decide on a combination of factors.” He tells us 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.”
Apprenticeships for A-level students
In 2015 Mayer Brown introduced the articled route to qualification which offers aspiring solicitors an alternative path into the profession. From September 2018, Mayer Brown moved from the articled route programme to the Trailblazer Solicitor Apprenticeship, which offers candidates the opportunity to qualify by combining work and part-time study over a period of six years. During that time, participants also gain an LLB. The legal apprenticeship is a great alternative for those wishing to pursue a career in the legal profession, without the huge financial burden incurred by fees and student loans. The minimum entry requirement is AAB or equivalent at A level.
Mayer Brown International LLP
- Partners 85 (London)
- Associates 140 (London)
- Total staff 473 (London)
- Total trainees 30
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 26
- Graduate recruiter: Mark Dubes Graduate Recruitment & Development Manager, 020 3130 8621
- Training partner: Stuart Pickford
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 15
- Applications pa: 1,500+
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB or equivalent
- Vacation scheme places pa: 30
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2021
- Training contract deadline 2024 start: 31st January 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1st November 2021
- Vacation Scheme 2022 deadline: 31st January 2022
- Open day deadline: 31st January 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £47,500
- Second-year salary: £52,500
- Post-qualification salary: £95,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London and Hong Kong
- Overseas seats: Several across the USA, Asia and Europe
- Client secondments: Several clients in London
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2021
• University of Sussex & University of Brighton Law Fair – Wednesday 3rd November
• University of Kent Law Fair – Wednesday 3rd November
• Durham Law Fair – Wednesday 17th November
• Lancaster University Law Fair – Wednesday 24th November
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
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 four employee networks for race & ethnicity, families & wellbeing, LGBT+ and women and we have recently set up a working group to concentrate on social mobility. Our next focus will be to set up an employee network in relation to disability. Our networks regularly hold events and recent highlights include a talk and panel discussion on colour blindness vs colour braveness, a panel event on supporting trans people, a women’s health event, and a speaker discussing life with Asperger’s.
We are a sponsor of the Lord Mayors Appeal – Power of Inclusion events which focuses around social mobility and we recently hosted a panel event on Social Mobility – Culture and Belonging. To heighten awareness of unconscious bias and influence positive change, we have designed and implemented an interactive training workshop on unconscious bias.
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 introduced a weekly Pilates class to promote healthy living and 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 PRIME, Sponsors of Educational Opportunity, Aspiring Solicitors (AS) and City Solicitors Horizons to provide students from under-represented groups with training, mentoring, networking and work experience.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 2)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 4)
- Litigation (Band 6)
- Pensions (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Financial (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Insurance (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Legal (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 4)
- Construction: International Arbitration (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 1)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 4)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 4)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Pensions Litigation (Band 3)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 4)