A growing firm caught in the middle of a chain Reyaction: “…as they have grown up as businesses, so have we.”
Mishcon de Reya training contract review 2024
We tend to think that who you hang out with says a lot about you. Funny thing is, it’s not much different with law firms. Mishcon de Reya has, since the 1930s, made a name for itself by mixing with folks on the cutting edge: “Our history was acting for entrepreneurs, independent thinkers,” co-training principal Samantha Kakati tells us, “but as they have grown up as businesses, so have we. Most of our serious client base started out that way.” In fact, in January of this year, Mishcon merged with another firm with a keen eye for entrepreneurs – Taylor Vinters: “In training contract terms, it has meant a wider range of practice areas,” Kakati adds, “but it also means we’re better placed to serve the innovation sector – so emerging companies, tech, life sciences, etc.” The breadth of practice areas on offer wasn’t lost on the firm’s current crop of trainees either: “When I was starting out, I wanted to do as diverse a range of seats as possible, and Mishcon really stood out there. There aren’t many firms where you can do things like family law and art law.”
“Our history was acting for entrepreneurs, independent thinkers…”
Mishcon de Reya’s London base has its eyes fixed on six core practice areas – corporate, dispute resolution, employment, innovation, private and real estate. Chambers UK awards the firm top-tier rankings in corporate M&A and real estate litigation, as well as employment nods in employer and senior executive. Nationwide, the firm bags a handful of top accolades in more niche practices like art and cultural property law and gaming, as well as an established financial services: contentious regulatory ranking. If that’s not enough mentions at the top of the Chambers rankings tree, there’s a nod for family and matrimonial law in Cambridge too (just in case).
“As of the 1 January 2023, we now have offices in Oxford and Cambridge, and there’s an opportunity for our trainees to go to the Cambridge office and sit there,” Kakati tells us. Now with 60 trainees across the two years, getting every trainee their desired seat is a sizeable task: “The way it’s structured is that we have a group of larger departments with teams within them. For your first seat, you can’t choose a specific team, but you can indicate your preference for a department,” one source explained. From that point onwards, trainees using a colour coding system to flag up where they are hoping to sit: “You list five green seats, five amber, and a single red, which is a team you definitely don’t want to sit in!” As one trainee was quick to clarify: “They track that across the training contract, so hopefully by your fourth seat you’ll get the number one on your green list.” All trainees are required to do at least one disputes and at least one transactional seat, but we heard that a disputes-heavy training contract was quite common, “justbecause there are quite a few litigation seats – fraud, finance & banking, and commercial litigation, whereas at another firm there would be just one that encompassed all of it.” It's also worth noting that seats at Mischon are non-location-specific, so it depends on what's required from the supervisor. As a general rule, trainees aren't 'based' at a particular location.
The process for selecting an international seat gets going a little earlier, “usually a few months before a normal seat rotation, just because of visa requirements,” and is followed by an interview. “We are in partnership with a firm called Karas in Hong Kong, which means we’ve now got an opportunity for a secondment there, where previously our only international seat was Singapore,” Kakati adds. Client secondment options include “Global FM, which is a lot of IP and commercial contracts work in-house,” one trainee told us, “and there’s one in property as well, which is split between the property litigation team and the client’s in-house team.”
The employment team at Mishcon is undoubtedly one of the firm’s big hitters, as trainees were quick to emphasise: “It’s one of those where you can confidently say: this is one of the best in the country,” one remarked. For trainees in the seat, there is a “range of work for senior executives, employers and employees, which encompasses non-contentious corporate support work for big US companies, and some really interesting contentious work too.” In one recent example, the firm represented engineering company Vesuvius Holdings in an employment tribunal claim brought by a former senior executive attempting to claim a large sum of money on the grounds of discrimination. “The team is particularly focused on training,” one trainee recalled, “so there’s a lot of that in the first few months, and you get a really wide breadth of experience.” This experience included employment tribunal matters, settlement agreements and advisory work.
As another of Mishcon’s key practices, commercial real estate is a likely destination for a lot of trainees at the firm. The broad real estate offering at Mishcon also includes teams in property litigation, planning, construction, real estate tax and real estate finance, all of which the commercial real estate group works closely with. According to trainees, being able to work across departments is an important part of the ethos at Mishcon, meaning trainees can dip their toes in the project management side of teams like construction or real estate tax. On the transactional side of life in real estate, “a lot of it revolves around work for large institutional clients that the firm has a relationship with.” For trainees in the seat, this meant work on “drafting sales agreements and some of the smaller leases, as well as working on some larger portfolio acquisitions and sales.” Perhaps one of the more niche specialisms at Mishcon is what’s called build to rent (BTR) student accommodation. In one recent deal, the firm acted for BTR developer Watkin Jones on the sale of a portfolio of five purpose-built student accommodation schemes for £150 million.
One of the higher-profile contentious practices at the firm is contentious regulatory and enforcement, which is a team that falls under the broad commercial disputes umbrella. The commercial disputes practice as a whole covers the spectrum of banking, corporate finance and private equity disputes, with contentious regulatory & enforcement focused on clients engaged with regulatory bodies like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). “I got to help out with things like taking client instructions, drafting witness statements, and taking attendance notes,” one source recalled, “but from that I would be given a bit of licence to input the detail of the instruction into the witness statement, so that was really interesting.” In one such case, Mishcon represented the Crane Bank in its claim in the High Court under Ugandan law for fraud and corruption over the compulsory closure of the bank by the Bank of Uganda in 2016.
“The corporate department has expanded post-merger."
“The corporate department has expanded post-merger in terms of the teams,” one trainee told us, “so whether you’re in M&A or private equity, for example, you can really make the seat what you want it to be in terms of asking to get involved in different things.” It’s true that a corporate seat at Mishcon offers variety too: “If you’re working on a corporate restructuring, you might be checking contracts and looking through financial statements. On a classic M&A deal, it might instead be keeping track of everything that’s coming in as part of the due diligence process.” As is often the case with M&A teams, there’s plenty of crossover with the firm’s other groups too. In one recent example, the firm advised Fusion Students on a £1.5 billion joint venture with US investor Cain International to purchase and fund a purpose-built student accommodation portfolio of 7,500-10,000 beds in UK university cities over the next five years.
Somewhat breaking the mould of conventional legal practices, Mishcon Purpose is a relatively new team built around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. The team helps corporate clients to navigate ESG risks, all with the goal of creating sustainable growth. “It’s a very small team, so you get a level of exposure that you might not get in a bigger department,” one source explained, “it’s really exciting being part of a new team finding its feet in the business.” As is the case with all ESG practices, a lot of the work is advisory, assisting clients improve the sustainability of their businesses, whether that’s by integrating net zero policies or working out what to do where suppliers turn out to be using exploitative labour practices. As one trainee put it: “It’s pretty cool to help companies put in place better sustainability practices and do their ESG reporting. There’s a litigation element too, and a lot of charity work.”
As co-training principal Samantha Kakati puts it: “We want to be able to take you to a client meeting because we think you've got something to contribute as a human being.” Indeed, the firm’s investment in its lawyers is such that “our dedicated Mishcon Academy isn’t just for trainees, it’s for the whole firm.” Mishcon’s bespoke learning platform doesn’t stop at the technical aspects of black-letter law, however: “There’s another side to it. Whether it's having a famous historian talking about being black and British right through to having Melanie from the Spice Girls in to talk about mental health, the opportunity to learn as a trainee isn’t just about the law.”
“…the opportunity to learn as a trainee isn’t just about the law.”
This emphasis carries through to other aspects of the firm’s work too. Pro bono forms a big part of life at Mishcon de Reya, covering everything from an LGBTQ+ PRIDE project to clinics for victims of revenge porn. “In terms of your target hours, the firm lets you put 50 towards pro bono projects,” one source told us, “and that’s the case for trainees, associates and above.” For one project, the firm has partnered with Queen Mary University. As a part of this collaboration, trainees are partnered with a law student, who sits in on a call as a part of a legal advice clinic, before the trainee then walks them through the process of drafting letters of advice.
“We have two offices in London where traditionally the lawyers were split between them,” one trainee told us, “there’s only a two-minute walk between them, but the London-based fee earners in Western House are being moved over to Africa House, with all the support staff going the other way.” We heard that Africa House has a reputation for being the more desirable of the two destinations: “Africa House is the ‘flagship’ office where the client-facing spaces are made to feel like a high-end hotel,” one commented; “Western House is considered the wilderness at Mishcon, it’s a lot darker!” The positive reception among trainees is by design too: “We’re trying the carrot rather than the stick when it comes to encouraging people into the office!” co-training principal Daniel Lipman explains; “we’ve got lots of free things in the staff canteen, free breakfasts, free fruits, all sorts of little incentives that are nice to have anyway.”
Mishcon has intentionally steered away from a hard policy when it comes to office working, “but the general expectation is that trainees will be in the office more often than they are not.” This is coupled with weekly catch-ups to make sure trainees are getting sufficient face time with their supervisors too. Hours at the firm were at the more reasonable end of the scale: “At my quietest, I would typically be in at 9am, and then I’d probably leave at 5:45/6pm. On my busiest day I’ve finished at 3am but that was very much an exception. Perhaps a more standard busy day would be 8:30/9pm.” Trainees were also quick to tell us that it’s always acceptable to work the later hours from home.
When trainees reach their final seat, “you get three workshops explaining the qualification process and providing tips on CV and interview prep.” Final seat trainees are required to apply for more than one team and interview with them. While conversations with the early careers team about which of the two is the more favoured option are encouraged, trainees are reassured that these conversations happen in confidence (so the teams you interview with will be none the wiser). “Dependent on the department, you could to a case study where they send you some materials and ask you to do something,” one recalled; “I had to do an hour-long test without any materials, which was followed by an interview with two partners in the team.” In 2023, the firm retained 24 of 28 qualifiers.
All trainees take part in a fundraising activity at some point during their first year, where they are given the goal of raising £5,000 for charity, “and we are given free reign to decide how we want to raise the money, and where we want to donate it.” Last year’s event? A Tough Mudder. You’ve been warned.
How to get a Mishcon de Reya training contract
Spring Vacation Scheme Deadline: 03 November 2023
Summer Vacation Scheme: 05 January 2024
Mishcon de Reya recruits trainees solely through its vacation schemes, typically receiving around 1,500 applications each year. The firm is hosting three vacation schemes in 2024, each lasting one week in the office, on the following dates:
- 08 April 2024 – 12 April 2024
- 17 June 2024 – 21 June 2024
- 01 July 2024 – 05 July 2024
There are four stages to the application and recruitment process: initial application, video interview, case study, and the final interview.
The process kicks off with an online form asking about academics, work experience, and extracurricular activities. A source from the firm’s early careers team explains: “Candidates who have been involved in a range of extracurriculars that showcase other passions within and outside of a career in law” tend to do well here. “We’d like to see your personality come across and understand you as a person!” You’ll also need to answer some free-text questions which may involve a commercial awareness angle: “These questions will give you the opportunity to share your knowledge around topics of interest and will allow you to demonstrate the wider implications of these subjects,” early careers tells us.
Mishcon typically asks for applicants to have a 2:1 degree minimum and ABB at A-Level, but there is some wiggle room for the right candidate. “Please don’t be deterred if your grades are lower than this; we are looking for people who have a strong application form across the board,” the firm tells us. All types of extracurricular activities are valued, including participation in sports, work experience, and legal and non-legal volunteering.
The next step involves a one-way recorded video interview where you’re shown a number of questions and have a set amount of time for you to record your response. “We’re looking for the ability to think on your feet and be able to showcase your skill set, achievements and knowledge in a limited amount of time,” says early careers. “There will be opportunities for you to demonstrate and draw on your commercial knowledge as well as sharing your knowledge of the firm.”
The firm has previously conducted their final two assessments, a case study and an interview, in their London offices where you will meet with several senior fee-earners, members of the firm's People Team, and have time to meet their current trainees. But note that this year the firm is consolidating their case studies and interviews into a single assessment day.
The case study will require candidates to read through provided materials and prepare to have a discussion about the study with an assessor. “We’re looking for candidates with strong commercial knowledge and ability to understand the issues presented during the case study. In line with our core values, we are looking for those who are able to think creatively when coming up with innovative solutions to the issues posted in the case study,” early careers details. They go on to explain that applicants who have performed particularly well at this stage are “those who are able to understand the key points from the scenario given and be able to discuss this in depth with the assessor. Ensuring that you are answering all elements of the question and providing a detailed analysis with evidence from the facts of the case study will allow you to have a detailed discussion with your assessor.”
The interview is a chance for interviewers to learn more about the candidate and their reasons for wanting to train at Mishcon. You’ll meet with two fee earners to discuss your online application and answer some competency and situational based questions. Early careers tells us: “Applicants who can provide strong reasons for why they want to train at Mishcon specifically” tend to do well here. It’s about “understanding what makes Mishcon different and being able to convey this during your explanation of why you want to work here, which will allow you to provide strong reasons for why you want to train with us!” It’s also an opportunity to showcase your personality and explore other themes in your application. “Not only are we looking for the potential to provide our clients with the highest quality legal services in an efficient, professional and business-like manner, but we are also looking for those who are able to place the highest value on teamwork and mutual support to thrive in a collaborative working environment,” they add.
Vac schemers at Mishcon do real work-related tasks and learn more about the firm’s legal departments by speaking to current trainees, training principals, and other fee-earners. You’ll sit with a practice group and have a supervisor, as well as attend sessions with the early careers team and undergo individual and group assessments. The Academy Tech and Knowledge Service teams will also host training sessions on core technologies and how to conduct legal research. To top it all off, you’ll get to enjoy an evening out with your fellow vac schemers!
And finally, the firm adds, “we aren’t looking for students who are able to ‘ace’ an interview. We really want to get to know students, on the job, over a couple of weeks to ensure that they are the right fit for us and equally that we are the right fit for what they are looking for as well!”
Mishcon de Reya LLP
Based in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Singapore, with an association with Karas LLP in Hong Kong, the firm services an international community of clients and provides advice in situations where the constraints of geography often do not apply. The work we undertake is cross-border, multi-jurisdictional and complex, spanning six core practice areas: Corporate; Dispute Resolution; Employment; Innovation; Private; and Real Estate.
Our purpose remains rooted in our founding values. We take pride in the diverse range of people who make up the firm and are proactive in driving change and continuous improvement across the spectrum of equality, diversity and inclusion. Mishcon Academy, our in-house place of learning, development and new thinking for our people, clients and contacts and our innovative impact strategy, including a commitment to be a net zero carbon business, also play a central strategic role in the direction of the firm. In 2020 we launched Mishcon Purpose, a first-of-its-kind sustainability practice providing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) advice and purpose-driven insight to clients.
In times of such far-reaching and profound change we want to be the law firm that enables our clients - and our own people - to shape the world's possibilities. We are here to help our clients benefit from new economies, new geographic centres of wealth, the new global movement of people and capital, and the impact of new technologies and new knowledge.
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
04 October 2023 – Social Mobility open day – Penultimate year of undergraduate study onwards
18 October 2023 – Virtual open day – Penultimate year of undergraduate study onwards
25 October 2023 – Race Equity open day – Penultimate year of undergraduate study onwards
21 February 2024 – First Year open day (applications will open on 10 January 2024) – First year of undergraduate study onwards (or those in the second year of a four-year course)
LinkedIn: Mishcon de Reya LLP: My Company | LinkedIn
Twitter: Mishcon de Reya LLP (@Mishcon_de_Reya) / X (twitter.com)
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
Cambridge and surrounds
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 3)
- Competition Law: Private Enforcement: Claimant (Band 2)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: £10-100 million (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer: High Court Litigation Spotlight
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 2)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 2)
- Financial Crime: Private Prosecutions (Band 2)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Planning (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
- Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 3)
- Restructuring/Insolvency: Disputes Spotlight
- Art and Cultural Property Law (Band 1)
- Banking Litigation: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
- Charities (Band 4)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 2)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 3)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 1)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 2)
- Gaming (Band 1)
- Immigration: Business (Band 2)
- Immigration: Human Rights, Asylum and Deportation (Band 3)
- Insurance: Mainly Policyholders (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
- Partnership (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 3)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Sport (Band 4)
- Tax: Contentious (Band 3)