Mishcon Impossible? Not so for this suave London outfit, which takes on the big cases of our times and maintains its cool in stellar private wealth and transactional practices too.
Mishcon de Reya training contract review 2021
When Andrew Scott (of Fleabag priest fame) plays a firm’s deputy chairman in a star-studded and widely praised film, you know that the firm in question must have something special about it. The film, Denial, detailed the libel case brought against Mishcon’s client, Deborah Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz), by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall). Mishcon’s deputy chairman, Anthony Julius, represented Lipstadt in real life and got the full Andrew Scott treatment on the big screen. Another claim to fame for Julius was acting for Lady Diana during her divorce from Prince Charles.
As you can ascertain from above, Mishcon’s cases get quite a bit of attention in the public domain. This has been especially true in recent years throughout the firm’s representation of Gina Miller, first in 2017 to prevent Theresa May from invoking Article 50 without Parliamentary approval, and then again in 2019 for a judicial review of Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament in the run up to Brexit. “It’s not necessarily the type of work you do every day,” a Mishcon trainee admitted, “but it’s interesting that the firm positions itself like that. It engages in the important topical issues of the day.”
Chambers UK showers praise on several of Mishcon’s contentious practices including financial services, civil fraud, insurance, defamation/reputation management and tax (UK-wide), as well as banking litigation, employment, and real estate litigation (in London specifically). But Mishcon certainly isn’t a one-trick litigation pony: beyond its litigation practice, the firm also focuses on corporate, employment, IP, real estate and private client. The firm achieves top-tier rankings for its lower-mid market corporate M&A work, and gains other accolades in competition, IP, gaming, sport, and planning. In Chambers High Net Worth, the firm garners an array of top rankings for various areas of private client work, including art and cultural property, private wealth disputes, private wealth law, defamation, family (high net worth individuals) and financial crime (high net worth individuals).
For their first seat, trainees highlight their preferences for general departments as opposed to specific seats. For their following seats, trainees submit three team-specific preferences from a list that also states who the supervisors are for each seat. Most interviewees received “a mixed bag” of their preferences: “HR does their best to accommodate everyone’s preferences, but it’s not always possible.” Sources agreed that “they try to guarantee your first choice at least once, but there’s only so much they can do.”
"... a lot of international matters, as well as high-profile matters that garnered much media attention."
Trainees can undertake several seats within the dispute resolution realm. These include finance and banking litigation; fraud defence; insurance litigation; and tax litigation. Fraud defence was popular among sources, who emphasised its “very busy” and “fast-paced” nature. “The team specialises in obtaining injunctions or discharging injunctions brought against clients,” interviewees revealed. During their six months, trainees had seen “a lot of international matters, as well as high-profile matters that garnered much media attention.” For instance, the team acts for Russian businessman Georgy Bedzhamov, who is alleged to have been part of a large-scale fraud which led to the collapse of Vneshprombank. Closer to home, the team acted for Ocado in a claim against its former founder, a former employee, and their new business venture – Today Development Partners – for theft and misuse of Ocado’s confidential information. Due to the scope and complexity of some matters, sources noted that they were often “working in quite large teams” that could lead to “more admin tasks like performing disclosure exercises, gathering the initial documents and creating spreadsheets and schedules.” However, trainees were also able to do “a lot of letter drafting to court or to the other side” and “have some involvement in drafting witness statements.” Overall, sources agreed they were getting “a good balance” of tasks.
The finance and banking litigation seat does what it says on the tin: “It’s litigation concerning financial institutions.” Interviewees explained that “while there are some nuances, it’s still litigation at the end of the day, and it’s all kind of commercial.” At the time of research, the team was acting for Richard Lloyd, the former executive director of Which?, in a high-profile case against Google, which sought damages to compensate 4.3 million UK iPhone users for Google unlawfully collecting their internet search history for advertising purposes. Another recent matter saw the department act for The ECU Group as a claimant against multiple HSBC entities in commercial court proceedings for unlawful foreign exchange trading practices. Day to day, trainees were involved in “a lot of general case management,” especially on matters like large group actions. Other tasks included liaising with counsel and corresponding with the other side; putting chronologies together; preparing claim forms; and attempting the first draft of application notices and draft orders. Some also tried drafting advice to clients and “getting involved in some legal analysis.”
Mishcon’s insurance litigation team primarily acts for policy holders against insurers. One trainee highlighted the number of sectors that you can encounter in the seat: “With insurance, you might be working with an individual in relation to their expensive car or you might be working for a pharma company against their insurer.” The team acted for Jersey-based care home Cheval Roc on an insurance coverage claim against Zurich in connection with a landslide affecting the client’s property and business. Sources felt they’d got especially good exposure to clients through “meetings for witness briefings.” Elsewhere, doc review was a common task, as well as working on expert reports and taking the first draft of witness statements.
"... a few smaller matters that you tend to run on your own – there’s a lot more responsibility in that sense.”
On the non-contentious side of things, many interviewees had spent six months in a real estate seat. Sources here got involved in “a good mix of work,” including various leases and lettings, sales, licensing matters, and occasional cross-over matters with the planning team. The group continues to advise Capital & Counties CG on its Covent Garden portfolio worth £2.6 billion (and most recently advised on its purchase of 5 and 6 Henrietta Street for £35 million); it also guided property developer Chelsfield through the legal aspects of its development next to Knightsbridge tube station. Many interviewees highlighted that the real estate seat provided “a few smaller matters that you tend to run on your own – there’s a lot more responsibility in that sense.” On this front, sources took charge of things like “assignments of leases and wayleave agreements.” Other tasks included managing data rooms, completing Land Registry forms and SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) returns, and reviewing sections of documents. From time to time, sources were also able to “have the first go at a sale agreement or lease agreement.”
The firm’s employment practice is one of the smaller departments at the firm. It handles both contentious and non-contentious matters, so trainees saw “the full gamut: from High Court tribunal claims to advisory work to employee handbooks and equal opportunity policies.” The team recently advised Harrods on three tribunal cases; one was brought by an existing employee in relation to detrimental whistleblowing treatment, while another surrounded an employee termination for gross misconduct. Day-to-day responsibilities were varied for trainees: on contentious matters, sources told of “attending client meetings, having the first draft of settlement agreements and liaising with counsel.” Trainees were also able to attend tribunals and mediations when opportunities arose. On the non-contentious side, interviewees mentioned helping with the “drafting of advice for senior executives as well as employees” and “conducting training sessions for clients.”
Mishcon’s private seats cover the likes of immigration, reputation management, private commercial litigation, private wealth disputes, and tax and wealth planning. Multiple sources had spent time in the private commercial litigation seat. ‘But how can commercial litigation be private?’ we hear you cry. We had that same question. One source admitted that “the name didn’t make much sense to me at first,” but went on to explain that “it involves private client work, but instead of family or trust matters it relates to high net worth individuals’ business interests.” For trainees, this involved “a lot of pre-action correspondence and writing strongly worded letters,” as well as a decent level of client exposure: “It involves a lot of problem-solving for clients.”
Seats came with varying working hours, though many admitted that “it’s generally been quite a busy training contract.” Most agreed that real estate had better hours (often 9am to 7pm), while litigation seats were more likely to have “a number of shockers – but not for prolonged periods.” During busier spells, trainees might leave closer to 9pm, with the occasional 1am finish (i.e. a ‘shocker’). Sources weren’t too fazed though, and noted that “when you’re on an injunction, that’s just the way it is.” Most felt they could make time for their private lives, though warned that “if you’ve got a busy week, you probably wouldn’t book plans for 6.30pm on a weekday.” Beyond that, trainees felt encouraged to take leave as and when, and make the most of their weekends uninterrupted.
“The firm is full of big personalities,” interviewees highlighted. “That’s something that’s looked upon favourably – they’re looking for people who are good with clients and are able to work their way around a room.” Although sources were acutely aware that “it’s a commercial environment where people take the work seriously,” they also found Mishcon to be “a place where you can feel at home and be supported, especially as a junior member of the firm.” Trainees especially appreciated the mentoring system in place, which sees them paired up with “a senior partner who you can talk to.” Alongside this, there’s also a ‘buddy system’ which pairs first-years up with second-years: “They always ensure there’s people you can talk to.”
“... they’re looking for people who are good with clients and are able to work their way around a room.”
Other interviewees added that though the people at Mishcon are serious when it comes to work, they are “also looking to appreciate the fun things.” Sources were pleased to say that “you can usually find people to go for a drink with on a Friday if trainees aren’t completely slammed.” Firmwide, trainees highlighted the firm’s “very good” summer party (“last summer it was at the V&A!”) but noted that events “tend to be split by department, just because it’s easier to manage at that level.” Trainees are also tasked with organising “fundraisers for our chosen charity – we put on quizzes, bake sales, we do Tough-Mudders – it’s a nice way to get to know the rest of the firm.”
The firm also takes its diversity efforts seriously, trainees reported. “It’s something that’s on everyone’s radar,” a source reflected. Others praised the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee and noted that Mishcon is “doing a lot of work regarding recruitment at both trainee-level and more generally.” This trainee also flagged how Mishcon’s “looking at what kind of barristers we instruct because it’s often very male-dominated.” Like most law firms, “if you look at the statistics, it’s not as diverse as it should be,” but interviewees were encouraged by the presence of “groups set up to tackle areas like socio-economic, ethnic, and LGBTQ+ diversity.”
In the build-up to qualification, the firm releases a jobs list and trainees must apply for two or more positions. Trainees apply with their ‘Mishcon CVs’, which outline what experiences they’ve gained from their seats and how that applies to the role. Some were under the impression they should speak to partners “to express interest in qualifying in the area and get the ball rolling,” while others reckoned the firm is trying to “eliminate the ‘coffee culture’ element to qualification.” Trainees then interview with their chosen departments and should be prepared to undertake “a case study or activity” in some instances. In 2020, Mishcon retained 13 of 16 qualifiers.
Alongside the firm’s clients and practice expertise, trainees were also drawn to the international work on offer. Sources flagged Mishcon Private as an area where “we get a lot of international work – it’s not just UK-based.” Mishcon closed its New York office earlier in 2020, but also opened a new office in Singapore.
Get hired at Mishcon: the key dates
Vacation schemes 2021 deadline: 31 December 2020
Winter open day: 26 November 2020
Spring open day: 18 March 2021
Our open days give you the opportunity to get to know us better and to understand what makes us tick. You’ll gain an increased level of commercial awareness about how the firm operates, as well as an understanding of the current legal landscape and the future of the legal market.
In conversation with graduate recruitment partners Nadim Meer and Claire Broadbelt and early careers advisor Lucy Boon
Chambers Student: What have been some of the most exciting cases the firm’s worked in recent years?
Lucy Boon: Our employment trainees have been working on the Supreme Court case surrounding the legal status of Pimlico Plumbers workers.
Nadim Meer: The dispute between Carrie Gracie and the BBC over pay inequality has been another headline-grabber.
CS: Have there been any other big developments at Mishcon recently?
NM: MDR LAB is a major one – it’s our programme for early stage tech start-ups in the legal space. We’ve had three cohorts so far, each incubated within Mishcon over a ten-week period. At the end we host a demo day, inviting clients and journalists to see demonstrations of the products.
Each of those businesses is assigned Mishcon lawyers to work with whose role is to help shape the practical role of the technology. Some of these business are doing really well: Ping time-recording software has had several rounds of venture capital funding. Others are now commercialising their products and they’re a great opportunity for lawyers here to get involved in early stage tech businesses.
Claire Broadbelt: Trainees are involved in that as well. The shift towards technology has been driven by clients, they want things done quicker and more efficiently, especially on transactional work. We have big real estate and corporate departments which have invested heavily in developing our business practices and processes in order to ensure that our lawyers can focus on spending their time on legal matters that really add value.
CS: Trainees wanted to make clear Mishcon is very distinctive from other firms. From your perspective what is it that drives that?
CB: It’s been really good to ask our vacation scheme students about this so that we can get an authentic perspective – they all told me they couldn’t believe how nice and friendly everyone at the firm is. When comparing their experience with vacation schemes at other firms they couldn’t believe how people here were genuinely so interested in them. The feedback we have from internal applicants for the scheme is that they are very keen to stay with us as they love working here and feel the firm invests in them. Taking an interest in people and understanding them helps us do that.
We also tend to only take 15 trainees a year and do so deliberately so that we can properly invest in their development. Mishcon has tripled in size since I have been here but the trainee intake hasn’t grown that much. It’s important to us to make sure that we get the right people in and can get them properly involved in the work that we do. This is often for high profile, interesting clients and trainees work directly with partners; you’re not a small cog in a huge wheel, you’re absolutely involved in cases.
NM: Having been here six years I had forgotten just how different Mishcon is to other firms.. There is a real emphasis on values that is like no place else that I've worked and, despite the growth, Mishcon has remained a family orientated organisation. It seemed bizarre compared to the previous firms I’d worked at that people really are interested in what you’re doing and genuinely care. When I first joined, everyone was coming over and asking about me and my practice. At other firms it seemed that nobody really cared about other people’s lives. I think Mishcon’s ethos is what has made this firm a success and enabled it to grow.
LB: Every time a seat rotation comes we’ll have a proper conversation with our trainees. We want to know what they want to do and because we have such a variety of departments they’re spoilt for choice. That carries through to selection of qualification options.
CS: How else do you help support trainees?
CB: In the last couple of years we’ve brought in partner sponsors for each trainee so that they can have regular catch-ups and talk through any concerns. I sponsored a trainee who had never worked in an office before and was a bit daunted by it all. We just had a chat over coffee about what she wanted to do and be involved in here. We spent time making sure she was planning her training contract properly and got to know the teams she might be interested in, as seat rotation can seem to come around very quickly. We very much encourage people to try and get to know people in other teams, and not just the work that they do, before they move there so that they can make sure it’s the right fit for them.
LB: We've had Mark Foster, Margaret Hodge MP, Juliet Stevenson, Stephen Fry, and David Lammy MP come in and talk to us through our Academy. Beyond their legal education, trainees gain a different perspective and are encouraged to consider wider issues in society.
CB: There’s a lot happening outside this bubble that is the law. We’re very privileged with what we do and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
CS: So what kind of person fits well at Mishcon and how can they get across in application that they’re a strong candidate?
LB: Just being very interested, honest and genuine comes across in interview and especially when you’re doing a vacation scheme.
CB: People who show that they can be robust and resilient when needed. You can be sat in a client meeting and think you’re dealing with one problem, then they come up with five others. Trainees also need to be able to deal with working outside their comfort zone. We will always support them through any difficult situations – they won’t be left to fend for themselves - but clients can be very demanding. We want to find people who can deal with those challenges, qualify here and stay for a long time.
CS: You’ve mentioned the growth of the firm – how much growth do you envisage in the near future and in which practice areas do you see opportunities?
CB: We will always seek to make the most of opportunities that arise. In the next few years, arbitration is an area we want to invest further in, particularly with Brexit looming and how that may affect the legal market here. That’s an area where we need to add to our current offering. The same for white collar crime as we have developed a great team, but would like to expand and bring in further specialists.
NM: Aside from adding to our core legal practices, the firm is adding non-law services that complement the core of the firm. We’ve launched MDR Cyber, a cybersecurity consulting service, and MDR Brand Management which offers licensing, franchising and commercial advice which works well with our mainstream IP and Brands team. The next thing I’m keen to drive forward is another non-legal business, Mishcon Purpose, a consultancy targeting businesses that want to create long-term value through being purpose-led. That’s something we’ve been focussing on already, such as our partnership with the B Corporation movement, and I’m really quite excited about developing that further.
CS: Taking into account these new projects and how high-profile some of the firm’s work is, how do you ensure trainees get good levels of responsibility?
CB: It comes down to placement and allocation of trainees in the different seats and making sure that the departments doing interesting work have trainees. It’s also about making sure their supervisors then get them properly involved in that work.
LB: We aim to have only one trainee in each team, so trainees work directly with partners on a variety of cases. It’s a collegiate team environment and it can be all hands on deck when things get busy. Trainees get a lot of client exposure. They're a very valued resource within the firm.
CB: There’s a mindset here where we make sure trainees and vacation scheme students get exposed to good work and good experience. We make sure they get to do things like go to court, attend mediations and get involved in various types of client meetings so they’re learning the right skills for when they qualify. We want to make sure of that even if it means they get involved in interesting things at the expense of chargeable work. We’re conscious of making sure trainees aren’t just working through documents. We can often call on other support to help with that and trainees should be tested and stretched.
NM: In corporate, process work mostly gets allocated to paralegals so we can increase the client exposure that trainees get. We spend a lot of time and effort recruiting trainees so we want to make sure people get the most out of their training and enjoy high quality work when they are with us.
CB: Ultimately we want to have 15 NQ positions available and 15 trainees applying that are ready to do that job. If they’ve just been doing process work then they won’t be.
CS: Do many paralegals make the transition to a training contract?
CB: Yes. We do encourage paralegals to apply but they go through the same process as external candidates so that we are comparing everyone in the same way.
LB: We want to encourage and develop people internally and recognise when our people have been working hard. Two of our recent qualified solicitors were paralegals here and it’s nice to see them make that journey.
CS: How do you think the looming shift to the Solicitor's Qualifying Exam will affect training contracts, if at all?
NM: We’re having sessions to work out our strategy and what works best for us and the trainees we recruit. We want to continue to see applicants with different backgrounds which is very important for us as a firm.
LB: We’re hoping that if anything the SQE will give us the opportunity to expand our training.
CS: Finally, what advice would you give a student considering a career in law or applying to Mishcon specifically?
CB: Do your research for the type of firm you want to work at so you know what would be best for you and then make focused applications. There are lot of different types of firm, it’s hard work and you want to stay on after training. Consider the culture of firms as well as you’ll always do better at a firm where you enjoy spending time with the people there.
Get experience – if you can spend some time in a law firm before committing its invaluable. I originally wanted to be a barrister, but after doing both a mini pupillage then work experience and paralegalling, I realised I really didn’t want to be a barrister after all!
NM: If the applicant’s done their research and genuinely thinks Mishcon is culturally right for them they that will shine through in the process.
Reputation management and immigration seats
In the reputation management seat, the work was “broadly split between pre-publication work and post-publication work.” Pre-publication matters involved situations like this: “A story is going to be run about a client on the internet or in a newspaper, so we liaise with the newspaper to discuss what is acceptable and what isn’t.” Post-publication work cropped up less, but when it did, it involved “claims for defamation, which could lead to full-blown litigation.” As one would expect, the clients are largely confidential but do include high-profile politicians, footballers and TV personalities. In the immigration seat, trainees often assisted with preparing asylum applications and liaised with the Home Office. Sources had attended several meetings and calls with clients, covering initial conversations about a matter to appeals or extradition proceedings. The team provides immigration advice to tech start-up Qubit Digital and recently helped the charity Beit Halochem UK apply to the Home Office for an urgent Tier 2 sponsor licence.
Mishcon de Reya LLP
- Partners 128
- Associates 404
- Total trainees 32
- Graduate recruiter: Lucy Boon, Early Careers Advisor
- Training partners: Claire Broadbent and Nadim Meer
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 15-20
- Applications pa: 1,500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 35-40
- Dates and deadlines
- Vacation scheme applications open: 24 August 2020
- Vacation schemes 2021 deadline: 31 December 2020
- Winter open day: 26 November 2020
- Spring open day: 18 March 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £42,000
- Second-year salary: £45,000
- Post-qualification salary: £72,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000
Our clients are dynamic and sophisticated and we reflect that in our belief in challenging the conventional or accepted ways of working. We fiercely guard our clients’ interests, recognising the significant nexus between business affairs and personal affairs. We appreciate the privilege of sitting alongside our clients as a trusted advisor.
Building strong personal connections to our clients and their businesses is important to us. It is for these reasons we say ‘It’s business. But it’s personal’. A central role played by the Academy, the firm’s in-house place of learning, development and new thinking, the active and innovative social impact strategy and various diversity initiatives are reflected in its platinum level award from the investors in People standard.
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
Our open days give you the opportunity to get to know us better and to understand what makes us tick. You’ll gain an increased level of commercial awareness about how the firm operates, as well as an understanding of the current legal landscape and the future of the legal market.
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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Banking Litigation: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
- Competition Law: Private Enforcement: Claimant (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: Lower Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 2)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
- Litigation (Band 3)
- Planning (Band 4)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 1)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 3)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 4)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 1)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 1)
- Gaming (Band 2)
- Immigration: Business (Band 2)
- Insurance: Mainly Policyholders (Band 3)
- Retail (Band 2)
- Sport (Band 4)
- Tax: Contentious (Band 3)