The London office of this tech-focused MoFo is growing year on year.
What do you call a California-headquartered firm in London with “a big tech focus” and “an incredibly strong international presence?” Morrison & Foerster, if we’re being formal. Otherwise, MoFo is just fine – the nickname is actually used by the firm itself. Excited trainees spoke glowingly of MoFo’s “massive, techy deals” and “huge, global clients.” A lot of these clients are tech companies or companies that invest in tech, like Tokyo-headquartered conglomerate SoftBank, which is a key client of the firm. Technology is an important sector for the firm, but MoFo has other strings to its bow – clients of the London office include financial institutions, investors, private equity houses and real estate companies.
Chambers Global ranks MoFo highly in data protection, outsourcing, and its technology, media and telecom work. Locally, Chambers UK notes the firm for capital markets, IT, and outsourcing. MoFo scoops dozens more rankings in its native US, as well as in the Asia-Pacific region – given the prevalence of the tech industry there, it’s some key jurisdictions for the firm. Go to chambers.com for a full breakdown.
“There are new partners coming in quite regularly.”
MoFo has 16 international offices – nine in the US, five in Asia-Pacific and two more in Europe in Berlin and Brussels. London is a strong piece of the MoFo puzzle. With a current headcount of over 80 lawyers, sources noticed “there are new partners coming in quite regularly and bringing new clients.” The firm recently boosted its white collar and investigations practice with a couple of partners from King & Spalding, while the finance department doubled in size in the last year with a flurry of hires including partners from Latham & Watkins.
To accommodate all the new faces, the firm recently relocated to four floors of the Scalpel building in the heart of London’s financial district. But while the office is certainly growing, trainees said it’s still “pretty small, which makes a huge difference in terms of the quality of training they can provide.” With an intake of around seven a year, trainees praised an “incredibly supportive, welcoming culture.”
Listen up MoFos. The firm decides where trainees sit first. For subsequent seats, trainees state their preferences, with second-years taking precedence. Sources said trainees are likely to sit in corporate, finance, or litigation. We also heard split seats were “fairly common.” The firm tries to ensure “the seats will complement each other,” such as finance and restructuring, or tech transactions and data privacy.
For one lucky MoFo (usually a second-year), there’s an opportunity to do a secondment in the firm's Singapore office. Unsurprisingly this is an in-demand spot, so “the firm evaluates who goes based on what you’ve done so far and what your interests are.” This year’s secondment didn’t go ahead due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You could be working for a tech company and then an investment company.”
Corporate“was absolutely the best seat to have done first,” according to one giddy trainee. “You get exposed to loads.” The team handles private and public M&A, venture capital and corporate reorganisations, but M&A formed “the main core” of trainees’ work. “No day is the same,” they said. “You could be working for a tech company and then an investment company.” The team recently acted for SoundCloud in its $75 million investment from broadcasting company Sirius XM. Trainees were tasked with “due diligence, putting comments into the transaction document, and drafting ancillary documents.” They were pleased with their responsibilities, with one telling us: “I did a fair bit of project management, coordinated the review processes and got a reasonable amount of client contact.” Despite being “very busy,” sources said “you never feel like you’re on your own. You’re well looked after.”
Over in finance, trainees can gain experience with both borrowers and lenders in acquisition and leveraged finance, corporate banking, derivatives, debt trading and investment, and restructuring. The firm recently advised fund managers Pemberton Asset Management and GoldPoint Partners as lenders in a $155 million refinancing. Sources were “mainly involved in leveraged finance deals,” but we heard of trainees working on “refinancings and receivables financing” too. Trainees had “administrational and organisational tasks, like indexing files.” Sources found this seat was more about “where things are rather than ‘here’s what the law says,’” so it was their job “to help associates find the relevant emails.” And as with many transactional departments, “you’re swamped with hundreds of emails!” Trainees could also expect to review “ancillary documents like board minutes and directors’ certificates.”
The litigation department does “traditional commercial litigation, white-collar crime and investigations. We also have an arbitration practice and we do civil litigation.” The firm recently acted for the liquidators of investment vehicle Saad Investments in a long-running dispute to recover $400 million in damages from Samba Financial Group. Sources felt they’d been given “meaningful tasks, such as interviewing employees, writing reports and developing the chronology of that individual.” There was also doc review, research, formulating arguments, drafting witness statements and letters to opposing counsel to do, along with “summarising case judgments, analysing news (keeping track of news updates), and attending hearings.”
The technology transactions seatis precisely that:“a commercial tech seat dealing with commercial tech contracts.” The group does a lot of advisory and outsourcing work for tech companies, guiding clients on working with AI, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, social media, blockchain, and semiconductor technologies. The team works with big global companies (like UPS) as well as emerging tech clients (like gardening app Candide). The team recently represented Ubitricity, which provides charging points for electric vehicles, on contracts for the installation of charge points in Portsmouth, Hammersmith and Berkshire. Trainees here could expect to do “drafting, liaising with outside counsel, due diligence, and research.”
“Helping people who’ve tried to claim disability benefits.”
And one more thing about the work at MoFo – it’s a no-no if you’re not into pro bono. Like most American firms, MoFo takes pro bono seriously. Associates have a pro bono hours target to hit and it's highly encouraged at the trainee level too. Firmwide pro bono counsel Rachel Williams circulates opportunities. To get involved, “you flag your interest then try to get a partner or associate on board.” Trainees told us they’d been “encouraged to take the lead” on pro bono matters. In London, MoFo works with anti-poverty charity Z2K, “helping people who’ve tried to claim disability benefits and had their application denied.”
In its native US, MoFo has Californian roots (headquarters are in San Francisco). Year to year, our trainee interviewees often describe a 'Californian influence' on the firm's culture. But don't be mistaken: no one here is kicking back in flip flops. MoFo is as busy as US firms come. “Every department has peaks and troughs,” which could mean “late nights or early mornings when there’s a big project on.” On average, trainees can expect to be in the office for about ten hours a day.
“When you’re pulling late night finishes, you’re doing it for people you want to work with.”
A better example of the firm's Cali cool might be the office's dress-for-your-day policy. But above all else, what really stood out to our sources this year was “the firm’s sense of community,” which meant that “when you’re pulling late night finishes, you’re doing it for people you want to work with.” On the social side, trainees highlighted impromptu get-to-know-you lunches, “fortnightly cheese and wines (which are really pizza nights)” along with “informal drinks on a Friday at around 5pm.” During lockdown, the firm organised a pub quiz: “About half of us tuned in.” That’s enough to give you MoFo FOMO.
Trainees are compensated with a chunky salary befitting of a US firm: trainees start on £46,000 and NQs are ushered in with £118,000. Our sources were keen to stay on at MoFo. To do so, “you communicate your choice [of practice] and grad recruitment will approach the head of department. They’ll see if there’s a business case for you qualifying there.” In 2020, the firm retained all five qualifiers.
One area trainees felt the firm could improve is gender diversity at partner level. At the time of writing, MoFo's last two partner hires were women. Trainees also said “the firm continues to be active in driving its D&I initiatives” and were encouraged that “the firm wants juniors to drive these diversity initiatives and ideas.” The London office established its first ethnic minority affinity group in 2020.
One friendly MoFo:“When I was working late, associates would frequently check in to see how I was doing – they weren’t even part of the deal! The firm markets itself as being a friendly place and it really, really is.”
How to get a Morrison & Foerster training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 4 January 2021 (opens September 2020)
Training contract deadline (2023): 4 January 2021 (opens September 2020)
Online application form
MoFo only recruits trainees through its vacation scheme and asks candidates to apply by completing its online application form on the careers section of the MoFo website. A 2:1 degree and two As and a B at A level are a must at this stage; any work experience is a plus, but not a requirement. When it comes to extracurricular activities, Attorney Recruiting Manager, Rebecca Nasskau tells us that “applicants who can demonstrate interests that reflect the firm's core areas, or its long-standing commitment to diversity and pro bono, also help an application to stand out.” Nasskau adds that “significant sporting, musical or charitable achievements can also provide evidence of focus, commitment and determination, which MoFo lawyers need to have.”
Forty out of the hundreds of applicants are invited for a first-round interview in January to February. This takes place with Rebecca Nasskau two associates and covers the usual 'why law?' and 'why MoFo?' questions. There is also a straightforward legal question for those who have already studied law, as well as a question designed to ascertain commercial awareness. In addition, Nasskau tells us that “we'll ask quite open-ended questions about a candidate's application to get to know them better. Our trainees come from a diverse range of backgrounds so there's not one key trait we look for, but we do like to see an ability to get on with other people and evidence of a genuine interest in the law.” Nasskau continues: “Those who strike the right balance between being prepared but not having overly scripted answers tend to make the best impression.”
Twenty aspiring recruits survive to attend a two-stage second interview in February to March with MoFo's training principal, another partner and one current trainee. Firstly, candidates are tasked with creating a five-minute presentation on a non-legal topic based on current affairs. For example, in previous years, candidates have been invited to take a position on either the junior doctors' strike, the regulation on the use of drones or the rights relating to protesting. Interviewees are then quizzed on their presentation. Co-managing partner Alistair Maughan says: "You don't have to be right but being able to engage in a sensible and mature discussion is the mark of someone who will do well at MoFo." The second part of the process involves reviewing a non-legal case study and discussing it with two associates. “We are looking for people who can identify the key issues and discuss them in a logical way,” Nasskau reveals.
The vac scheme
Usually fourteen to fifteen candidates, make it onto either of the firm's two, fortnight-long vac schemes in June and July. Attendees sit in one department per week and tackle tasks which are usually given to trainees. "I was proofreading, researching and writing articles,” one trainee recalled. Students are also set an assessed research project at the start of the scheme, which assesses their ability to balance deadlines.
Throughout the fortnight, recruiters are keen to see students “building relationships across the whole office, demonstrating their initiative and enjoying themselves.” Feedback on performance during the vac scheme forms the basis of training contract offers. “We invite feedback from everyone in the office – not just partners and associates,” Nasskau says. So no sucking up to the partners while shoving past the secretaries.
Morrison & Foerster (UK) LLP
One Ropemaker Street,
- Partners 24
- Associates 41
- Total trainees 7
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 16
- Graduate recruiters: Rebecca Nasskau, [email protected], 020 7920 4000
- Training Partner: Jeremy Jennings-Mares
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 7
- Applications pa: 400
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Vacation scheme places pa: 15
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: October 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 4th January 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: October 2020
- Summer vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 4th January 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £46,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Post-qualification salary: £118,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Overseas seats: Singapore
- Client secondments: From time to time subject to client requirements
Main areas of work
University law careers fairs 2020
• Cambridge Law Fair
• Oxford Law Fair
• Durham Law Fair
• Warwick Law Fair
• Kings College London Fair
• Three Aspiring Solicitors Diversity Law Fairs
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
For over 40 years, MoFo has been committed to creating a culture that respects and celebrates differences, while providing an inclusive environment where everyone’s contributions are valued. Formed in 2003, MoFo’s Diversity Strategy Committee (DSC) supports a variety of internal diversity, LGBTQ+, and women’s initiatives, programmes, and groups designed to recruit, train, mentor, and retain diverse lawyers and staff. Globally, MoFo has over 30 affinity groups that provide support networks and programming for various employee groups, including 14 groups dedicated to BAME/communities of colour attorneys. In the London office specifically, we have affinity groups for LGBTQ+ members of the office, for women, and a newly formed group, MoFo Together, which focuses on raising awareness and addressing some of the barriers facing ethnic minorities in the legal profession and beyond.
Across the firm, the HealthyMoFo initiative has been developed to deliver quality resources and effective tools to achieve a healthy balance of both physical and mental wellbeing. Sessions on sleep, nutrition and resilience amongst many other topics have helped to contribute to the focus on wellbeing across the firm. The online wellbeing hub provides access to a wealth of information on a variety of health-based topics. The site provides webinars, articles, programmes, access to mini health checks and counselling services. Furthermore, attorneys, trainees and staff are granted a free subscription to the ‘Calm’ app, a useful tool for creating and sustaining good mental health.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
- Information Technology (Band 4)
- Outsourcing (Band 4)