An "up-and-coming firm with high growth prospects," Morgan Lewis is spreading a little Philadelphia chic on cutting-edge sectors.
Morgan Lewis training contract review 2024
When it comes to the stereotypes of US firms in London, we’ve heard them all here at Chambers Student. Almost regardless of fact or fiction however, reputation plays a big part in drawing trainees to particular firms, and at Morgan Lewis it’s no different: “I was definitely looking for a US firm,” one trainee at Morgan Lewis recalled, “I wanted the kind of sink or swim training that people think of when they think of US firms in London. But I also wanted one that didn’t focus only on transactional and financial services work.”
"With such small teams, trainees are vital to each of them."
This is especially true of Morgan Lewis. The firm is known in the US for its globally renowned strength in employment law, and the firm’s London contingent has a sizeable reputation in cutting-edge sectors like life sciences, energy and technology. As one source put it: “It felt like an up-and-coming firm with high growth prospects.”
At each seat rotation, trainees can indicate a first and second choice, and there is room to explain to HR why during a Teams calls ahead of the allocation process. At Morgan Lewis, there are only two seats that will tick the SRA’s contentious box, so all trainees will spend time in one of litigation or antitrust. The firm also requires trainees to do a transactional seat: “You have to do one of corporate, investment management or finance. It’s most common to do a seat in corporate and one in litigation, but as long as you do one contentious and one transactional seat, you tick that box.” As one trainee at the firm put it: “With such small teams, trainees are vital to each of them, which means that the need for trainees can sometimes overtake the priority of giving you the seats you want.” In years gone by, the majority of the firm’s trainees would spend time on a secondment to one of Morgan Lewis’s overseas offices, including Dubai, Singapore and Brussels: “Only Dubai is running at the moment, which is primarily in their finance team, but they are hoping to have Singapore up and running again soon.”
“There’s a significant US element to a lot of the work we do…”
The corporate team at Morgan Lewis (named corporate & business transactions) offers trainees the standard mid-market mergers & acquisitions and general corporate work that you might expect. But there is some scope for private equity work too if you’re paired with the right partner. The practice at Morgan Lewis is geared towards four key sectors: energy, investment management, life sciences and technology. “There’s a significant US element to a lot of the work we do,” one trainee at the firm told us; “sometimes work is handed down from the US team, so there’s a lot of cross-border work as a part of the seat.” In one recent deal, the firm represented hospitality brand Selina in a $1.2 billion merger with BOA Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). SPACs are companies formed with the sole purpose of raising capital through an IPO and then merging with an existing company.
As the most common contentious seat for trainees at Morgan Lewis, sources told us that the firm’s litigation practice is split into three broad teams: “One deals with aviation insurance claims (and Morgan Lewis has one of the leading practices there), the other focuses on sanctions work relating to Russia, and then the third category encompasses everything else.” This final group includes disputes for banks, fund managers, and other financial institutions, as well as some arbitrations involving multi-jurisdictional issues. “It’s the second biggest team behind corporate,” one trainee explained, “which means there’s a bit more room for responsibility too.” Alongside typical tasks for trainees in litigious seats (like bundling), “I was able to do some drafting too, mostly the first side of sanctions advice.” One point worth noting was that trainees mentioned that litigation “probably felt the most traditional in terms of hierarchy and things like that. From the ways of working to the use of tech, you feel it!”
Among the smaller teams in the London office is Morgan Lewis’s IPoffering. But don’t be fooled, the department as a whole covers a massive spread of offices, and the London team work with some of the most recognizable brands you can name, from Netflix and Ferrari to TGI Fridays. “Our IP team specialises in trade marks and designs, with some occasional copyright stuff as well,” one trainee explained. “Our trade mark work includes some trade mark infringement litigation, trade mark registrations, oppositions, and any communications with the UK or EU intellectual property office opposing other trade mark registrations.” While the IP team is much smaller, with only one partner and a handful of associates, there are two associates at the firm’s Paris office who work quite closely with the team in London. As one source put it: “The benefit of being a smaller team is that you can get to know everyone really well too.” For some time, the IP team at Morgan Lewis has worked with companies like Vans and Abercrombie & Fitch on their trade mark and design enforcement and prosecution in the UK.
As the other contentious seat, antitrustis a relatively common destination for trainees at Morgan Lewis. “It’s a market-leading practice split into two teams,” one source explained; “the first is a contentious antitrust team, the second is merger controls/merger arbitrage.” Essentially, when a company or investor acquires another company, any shares in the company that’s being bought become more valuable, at least for a short time, as soon as the merger is announced, simply because that company is in demand. But this means that if the acquirer buys shares and simultaneously sells them on, they’ll probably make a profit. That’s merger arbitrage, and it’s something of a specialty at Morgan Lewis: “Here, the clients are usually hedge funds, and they take up positions on either side of a transaction, where they then adjust their positions based on our advice.” For trainees coming across contentious work, there was plenty of electronic bundling, but as a general rule: “There will always be a lot of emails coming through, simply because there are so many parties at play.”
While the London office stands on its own two feet, trainees at Morgan Lewis were quick to tell us that they had noticed the push on increasing diversity at the firm coming through from the US: “There’s a huge push in the US, and you can really see that messaging coming through. There’s definitely strong female representation at the higher levels. From an intersectionality point of view, there’s work to be done, but it’s improving.” This extends beyond recruitment at the firm too. “As trainees, we have a 20-hour pro bono target, with 100% participation, something that the firm is very proud of,” one source told us. “We do a lot of work with Amicus on matters relating to racial justice and death row cases in the US, and we do a lot of work assisting domestic violence victims as well.”
“…you can literally see St Paul’s from the office.”
Location was a big selling point among trainees at the firm: “The location is great, you can literally see St Paul’s from the office.” Trainees did point out that while there is technically a budget for an evening meal when you are working late, there was a bit of confusion around whether this is available to trainees. That being said: “They have been providing free lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that counteracts the lack of a canteen!” The general rule is that trainees are expected to be in the office three times a week, with a mandatory all-in day depending on the team. Things are a bit quieter on the social side of things at Morgan Lewis: “We do have a trainee budget and a trainee social secretary, but there’s only 14 of us over two years, so if a few of us are working late it’s a bit of a sad event!” That being said, there is a firm-wide Christmas and summer event for those who like a party.
According to trainees, hours at the firm where slightly more reasonable than the market average, with most trainees starting at 9.00am and finishing between 6.30pm and 7.00pm. “I’ve been very lucky with my hours to be honest; I was expecting a lot worse!” one source commented. “For a US firm even in transactional seats, my hours have been really good.” Of course, there will always be some variety when it comes to the hours and workload that is expected of you: “In corporate, for example, the hours can be intense for a couple of weeks at a time, then in seats like antitrust and litigation things can be much more predictable and much more stable,” another explained.
Qualification was something of a point of contention at the firm, with trainees reporting a general lack of transparency around the process. “This will probably be the most common complaint you get, and it happens very late because we work to a US timetable,” one trainee told us; “you won’t find out if you’ve got a job until July, so it leaves it very late if you end up needing another job.” Trainees mentioned that conversations with partners should be initiated early: “We have been advised to go out for coffees with partners and things like that, but that doesn’t feel a very meritocratic way to go about it.” In 2023, the firm retained five of seven qualifiers.
Sporting the badge:
Morgan Lewis prides itself on its emphasis on business development amongst its trainee cohort: “I’ve been sent to conferences and talks on my own, and you represent the firm there, so it really makes you feel valued.”
How to get a Morgan Lewis training contract
Training contract deadline: 05 July 2024
Morgan Lewis has six available training contracts, and applications start off as most do – with an online application form. The firm typically receives between 250 and 300 applications, and selects around 40 to 45 for a short phone interview with HR. The third stage is an assessment centre, which includes a partner interview, group activity, written exercise and discussion panel with partners.
Current trainees told us these interviews focus on “getting to know you, why you've chosen law and what your interests are. There aren't any off-the-wall questions.”
In terms of what the firm looks for, Training Principal Lisa Cargill said: “As for the type of person that fits here… definitely someone who’s confident and prepared to roll up their sleeves and work hard. We also choose people we’d like to work with!”
Some training contracts are offered off the back of Morgan Lewis's vacation scheme, which takes place in the summer. Obtaining a spot requires an online application followed by a telephone interview with HR and then a partner interview. The firm tends to receive over 350 vac scheme applications each year.
Attendees are assigned to two practice groups, but also take part in seminars and workshops to explore other areas. They're given a supervisor but are encouraged to seek work from other members of their team and to reach out to people within the firm to ask questions. Morgan Lewis also organises social events where attendees are able to get to know people at the firm better.
Entry into Morgan Lewis requires a high 2:1 plus AAB at A level. We look for a range of prior work experience (a mixture of law and non-law), volunteering and extra-curricular activities to demonstrate the development of your skills and experience. In particular, we are looking for candidates to show us their commercial awareness, team spirit, resilience and passion for a career in law. Cargill said, “People at Morgan Lewis have to be prepared to come across new things, tackle them from scratch and not be spoon-fed. Because it’s a small office and you’re working directly with partners you need to have the confidence to take something on and give it your best shot, distilling it down to basic principles”.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
5-10 St. Paul's Churchyard,
From our more than 30* offices across North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the firm provides comprehensive corporate, transactional, regulatory and litigation services to clients of all sizes across all major industries. The firm’s regulatory and industry focused practices help clients address legal, government and policy challenges. Founded in 1873, Morgan Lewis comprises more than 2,200 legal professionals.
Morgan Lewis’ London office offers a wide range of business and commercial services, including: competition; corporate; debt and equity capital markets; finance and restructuring; labour and employment including employment litigation and immigration advice; investment management; structured transactions; tax; intellectual property; international commercial disputes; arbitration and white collar matters. Morgan Lewis is also strong in various business sectors, including life sciences, financial services and technology, where the firm’s leading regulatory and commercial lawyers provide a real insight into their industries.
Morgan Lewis’ London training programme is led by an experienced training principal. Other partners and our trainee supervisors also have broad experience of working with trainees. Following a full induction into the firm, the programme will provide you with consistently high-quality, challenging assignments, working directly with senior lawyers across a range of practices and industry groups on complex and frequently cross-border matters. Through this hands-on and varied experience, you can expect to build a thorough understanding of the firm’s business and of working with international, high-profile clients.
Over two years you will complete four, six-month seats with the opportunity to gain experience in at least three distinct areas of law. International secondment opportunities to our Dubai and Singapore offices may also be available. In addition to formal appraisals, the office environment allows regular contact with, and feedback from, the training principal, supervisors and other lawyers. Trainees will have the opportunity to actively participate in all in-house associate training sessions, and to take part in pro bono work and business development activities.
Our Open Day runs in spring of each year. This one-day programme is a great way to learn more about Morgan Lewis as a firm and about commercial law in general. We will introduce you to our key practice areas in the London office and give you the opportunity to meet with some of our trainees over an informal lunch, before attending a number of skills sessions. To apply for a place applicants should complete the firm’s online application form which is available on our website www.morganlewis.com. The closing date for applications is 19th January 2024.
Our summer schemes are a great way for you to gain genuine insight into life as a trainee at Morgan Lewis. The aim of the scheme is to provide candidates the opportunity to gain an insight into life as a trainee at the firm and during the scheme, you will be given as much hands-on experience as possible. We offer up to 10 places on our two-week programme. To apply for a place on our summer programme applicants should complete the firm’s online application form which is available on our website www.morganlewis.com. The closing date for applications is 26th January 2024.
Life assurance, private medical and dental insurance, long-term disability insurance, pension, season ticket loan, employee assistant programme, cycle to work scheme and NQ qualification leave.
Birmingham, BPP, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, LSE, Manchester, Oxford, UCL & York
*Our Beijing and Shanghai offices operate as representative offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. In Hong Kong, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is a separate Hong Kong general partnership registered with The Law Society of Hong Kong. Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC is a Singapore law corporation affiliated with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Employment: Employer (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Immigration: Business (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 2)