It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, but the rays of good fortune certainly seem to catch this US heavyweight, which offers London trainees access to its global network.
Morgan Lewis training contract review 2022
Morgan Lewis is the Rocky Balboa of US BigLaw heavyweights that have gone on to secure global prestige. From its humble roots in Philadelphia, this firm has grown an extensive international network of 31offices around the world. Today it sits firmly within the AmLaw 100’s top ten firms by revenue, having most recently pulled in almost $2.5 billion in 2021. On its home turf, ML excels in many areas, including energy, white-collar crime investigations, employment, investment funds and capital markets. The latter two areas are also highlighted in Chambers UK, (capital markets is also a world-dominating strength for this US export according to Chambers Global).
“...an ambitious firm where you can be challenged and develop professionally.”
Here in its London base, the physical scale is smaller (125 lawyers and 14 trainees), but the matters are still huge. “I was hoping to work with people from around world,” said one trainee, “and I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve connected with several teams on most continents.” Another reflected: “When applying I wanted an international firm with the kind of clients that came with it.” There’s also a salary that comes with joining this set of elite US firms, which some of our interviewees flagged as a driver too: “If I’m doing the hours then I want the pay to match!” ML pays out a cool £135,000upon qualification, which no doubt helps to seal the deal for many. It’s not just about money of course, as our sources emphasised.
What was more important to several was joining “an ambitious firm where you can be challenged and develop professionally.” Doing this in a good environment was a key concern too: “The thing that made ML stand apart was the interviews; partners were approachable, and the interviews felt more like conversations than a test.” The scope of seats on offer was also felt to be broader than it is at other US firms with a London office, with this trainee explaining that they were looking for an American match that didn’t “purely have a transactional focus.”
Incoming trainees are asked to rank all the seat options at ML in order of preference. Before each subsequent seat rotation, trainees can re-submit their top two preferences for their next destination. This seat allocation system received mixed reviews from our sources, with one citing “a lack of transparency,” while another enthused about getting their top choices: “Sometimes people are competing for seats in certain departments, but groups like litigation and corporate have multiple spots open. Trainees can speak to the partners in their preferred teams, but it’s not required.”
“Everything was cross-border."
A likely destination for trainees is ML’s corporate group – aka corporate and business transactions. The team focuses on four sectors – technology, life sciences, energy, and investment management – and advises on a full range of work including M&A, capital markets and private equity matters. “It was really interesting and quite varied!” a delighted source told us. “It’s fantastic for learning and there’s lots of support from associates who know what it’s like to be a trainee.” Interviewees confirmed that “everything was cross-border,” which involved navigating multiple times zones on deals and occasionally “sending an email at a strange time!” Deals were frequently worth “huge amounts of money,” ranging from a few million to the tens of billions. The team represents clients like Far Point Acquisition, which acquired (as its name would suggest) payment services company Global Blue for $2.6 billion. Other clients include MSP Sports Capital – which recently invested £185 million into McLaren Racing – and insurance group NSM, which acquired Kingsbridge Group for circa $140 million. Due diligence was a common task for our trainees, alongside drafting assignments and project management. “There are documents left, right and centre!” a source revealed. “Sometimes you’re drafting emails to clients, but there are also more substantial documents to get to grips with too.”
Multimillion matters can also be found in ML’s litigation department. Much of the work is confidential, but we can tell you that the group has a growing specialised banking litigation portfolio, alongside capabilities in areas like international arbitration and white-collar investigations. Sources were also positive about this department, with one source simply exclaiming that the work is “brilliant!” Trainees liked that they worked on “high-profile cases that can be incredibly complex – it's great to be involved.” The typical tasks documented depended largely on who we spoke to. Some said they had done the “classic trainee tasks, like lots of bundling and doc review.” Others, however, had been exposed to “the more challenging side of things,” like “drafting letters and witness statements. There was lots of research and liaising with intermediaries. I also attended hearings and was able to prepare applications and consent orders.”
“Sometimes there were over 300 emails in a day!”
ML’s finance department handles deals that span the globe and acts predominantly for lenders (like French corporate and investment bank Natixis), but also borrowers such as mining company Evraz. Familiar names, like J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo and the Bank of America are also on the books. If you’re looking for mind-boggling values, look no further than the firm’s recent advice to the World Gold Council (WGC); ML advised the trade body on its role as sponsor of a fund that owns gold bullion worth $80 billion. Sources liked that “you got to work with senior partners – seeing senior partners on calls was incredible.” One trainee noted that “there’s project management, but because it’s a smaller team you get more responsibility.” That included “being in charge of the ancillary documents and making sure we were on track with the checklists.” There could be substantial research assignments on offer too, where “you would compare similar procedures in the US and UK.” With those international dimensions, that inbox could fill up quickly: “Sometimes there were over 300 emails in a day!”
The competition team recently secured a significant win for Sainsbury’s against Visa and Mastercard’s ‘swipe fees’ at the Supreme Court in June 2020. The group has also been very busy of late handling a variety of Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigations taking place within the pharma sector. A recent example saw the group defend Advanz Pharma against claims of excessive and unfair pricing of one of its thyroid drugs. The department has “a reputation for long hours, but it’s an amazing seat.” There’s lots of merger clearance work available, we heard, and one highlight is “being able to learn about all the different issues that come up across multiple transactions.” What’s more, the department head, who is also the London managing partner, Frances Murphy, is “very approachable to work with, which sets such a good tone at the office.”
“It’s a nice culture,” one trainee declared, with an acknowledgement that “all the clichéd statements about it being open-door and non-hierarchical are true!” Another noted “a general mood of positivity - people are mostly happy to help and it’s very inclusive.” Others highlighted how “connected ML is across the globe” and gave kudos to firm chair Jami McKeon (who's based in the US) for “constantly communicating.” A few sources agreed that ML is “very active in the diversity and inclusion space” and has consolidated its efforts over the past year: “D&I has become a huge focus. We have someone managing our D&I programmes [in the US]. We have affinity groups for first-generation lawyers, as well as groups broken down by different ethnicities.”
"People work very hard and you’re expected to do the same."
“In most of the teams I’ve been in, people work very hard and you’re expected to do the same,” a source pointed out. The positives were that “everyone chips in and is friendly – they understand that you’re a trainee.” The potential downside is that things can get stressful, we heard. As is usual with firms of ML’s calibre and focus, the hours can be intense. We were told that a stint in finance, for example, can mean “always having to be switched on.” The biggest issue, however, was linked to the reality of remote working amidst the pandemic, where the lines between work and home can start to blur. One felt that “these boundaries haven’t been clarified satisfactorily. I’ve had a few emails and calls late at night, where it was said I needed to help straight away. Under normal circumstances that probably wouldn’t happen.” This is a trend we've noticed across firms.
“It’s not the most social firm,” one interviewee flagged. “People are friendly when they’re working, but they go home at the end of the day – they aren’t descending on the pub.” However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no social life at all: there are Christmas and summer parties held each year, and trainees are allocated a group budget that can be spent on social activities: “We’ve organised an evening out at Flight Club when the rules allow us to go.”
“We’re given a timeline for the qualification process, but there are caveats,” one trainee told us, highlighting some concerns that were voiced elsewhere in our interviews as well: “Everything goes through the US, which removes the transparency.” A couple of sources noted that it was “better to apply elsewhere just to be on the safe side,” as “you don’t know if you’re going to get a job at ML.” Interviewees did note that “it’s not HR’s fault – the decisions are out of their hands.” In 2021, Morgan Lewis retained three of its nine qualifiers.
A healthy outlook
For those who don’t secure an NQ position at ML, this trainee had a balanced and healthy perspective: “You've worked for one of the biggest US firms. That’s a huge plus on your CV. As a trainee, you’re also on a high salary and some of the departments have really great work.”
How to get a Morgan Lewis training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 26 January 2022 (opens 11 October 2021)
Training contract deadline (2023): 8 July 2022 (opens 11 October 2021)
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 30 to 35 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. There is also the opportunity to have an informal lunch with some of the 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 we look 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' 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 300 vac scheme applications each year.
Attendees are assigned to a practice group, 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. We also organise 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,
- Partners 43
- Associates: 51
- Total trainees: 14
- UK offices: London
- Overseas offices: 31, including London
- Graduate Recruitment Team, 020 3201 5000
- Training partner: Lisa Cargill
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Minimum required degree grade: High 2.1
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 10
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 11th October 2021
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 8th July 2022
- Vacation scheme applications open: 11th October 2021
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 26th January 2022
- Spring open day applications open: 1st December 2021
- Spring open day applications close: 25th February 2022
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £50,000 pa
- Second-year salary: £55,000 pa
- Post-qualification salary: £135,000 pa
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days pa
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £10,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London Overseas seats: Dubai, Singapore
With 31 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.
Main areas of work
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.
Morgan Lewis offer a limited number of placements during the summer each year. The aim of our placement scheme is to provide candidates the opportunity to gain an insight into life as a trainee at the firm. 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 2022.
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.
University law careers fairs 2021
Birmingham, BPP, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, KCL, Leeds, LSE, Oxford, Warwick and York.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 4)