Morrison Foerster - True Picture

Lawyers here are lucky MoFos – a stellar reputation for "all things tech" and cross-border matters draw trainees to this US import’s London office.   

Morrison & Foerster training contract review 2022

The Firm 



If you’re looking for a slice of Silicon Valley in your legal life, then Cali-headquartered MoFo can certainly serve that up for you. “I've been blown away by some of the tech clients I've been able to work for,” one of this year's trainees enthused. A training contract at MoFo will expose you to clients that are using the latest tech to drive their businesses forward, like Salesforce, Facebook, Visa, UPS and SoftBank. There are many legal considerations and processes that surround the use of such tech, and this is where MoFo frequently steps in: from its London base its lawyers can advise on everything like commercial agreements, financing arrangements, acquisitions and data privacy regulations. 

“I've been blown away by some of the tech clients I've been able to work for.”

Recent lateral hires in London have strengthened the office’s real estateoffering, which is a significant focus for MoFo overall: many of its private equity, corporate and banking clients have a focus on real estate ventures and investments. These hires indicate that the firm has been busy of late, as does MoFo’s announcement in January 2021 that it would be paying out ‘special appreciation bonuses’ to its associates and business support staff for their efforts during the pandemic. As a US firm in London, trainee and qualification salaries are up there with the highest in the market. NQs receive the same as their US colleagues: a not-so-shabby $202,500. “For the market, the salaries are definitely competitive!” one interviewee gushed.

Compensation is just one part of the MoFo package on offer though: for our sources, the firm’s global reputation was one of the most important factors that led them to accepting their TC place. Chambers Global gives planet-wide kudos to the firm for its TMT(technology, media and telecoms), data protection, IP and life sciences know-how; its accolades across Asia are particularly strong. On its US home turf, MoFo’s tech transactions, privacyand outsourcing work shine, while in London the firm’s capital markets and ITexpertise comes to the fore. MoFo has 16overseas offices across the US, Europe and Asia.

The Seats 



First seats are automatically allocated, but trainees do get a say in where they go in following rotations. Up to three preferences can be submitted at each turn: “HR then take into account other people’s preferences and allocate the seats accordingly.” Sources felt that a major advantage at MoFo is the chance to do a few split seats: “It means I’m leaving my training contract having sat in seven departments. The teams are quite small here, so there’s a reason for it [splitting a seat].”There’s usually an overseas secondment opportunity in the Singapore office, but that has been temporarily put on hold due to the pandemic: “We’ve heard secondments will be back on in the near future."

“I’ve been able to attend hearings with an associate and a partner, and I was involved in every step.”

The litigation department covers general commercial, arbitration, and white-collar crimeand investigations matters. Clients are mostly confidential here, but we can tell you that the group represents some familiar names in the tech and finance sectors. Recent matters have seen the team act for the liquidators of a Cayman Islands company during a dispute with a Saudi Arabian bank and defend a car distributor’s holding company during a $70 million conspiracy and breach of contract claim. Newbies aren’t closeted away when it comes to court proceedings, one source told us: “I’ve been able to attend hearings with an associate and a partner, and I was involved in every step. As a first-year trainee I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of responsibility I was given.” Interviewees explained that they’d worked on witness statements, checked through transcripts and internal memos, made up bundles and conversed with clients. When working on a dispute that was in the pre-action stage, this source had been able to “engage really closely with the two parties; my main role was to collate evidence and draft chronologies.”

Those who’d sat in private equity real estate gave us a snapshot of the set-up there: “We mostly act for big real estate investment management funds that are looking to partner up with smaller operating companies in a venture structure[like a joint venture]. The assets involved could be residential, retail or student accommodation sites.” MoFo has previously advised the likes of Starwood Capital, PIMCO and Oaktree Capital. The team represented BRAVO on its joint ventures with a UK real estate investment trust (REIT) to buy a portfolio of retail assets in the UK. On the transactions where MoFo is representing the fund, trainees spoke of “taking a stab at the bigger documents like the shareholder agreement, as well as doing the ancillary work – it’s been quite varied.” Some sources had split this work with time in the corporate department, where technology is a key sector. Recently, the firm which represented SoftBank on a $40 billion semiconductor M&A deal that had parties in the US, the UK and Japan. Other key clients include Visa and BlackRock. One trainee told us: “I have been able to coordinate the due diligence, amend disclosure letters, draft the ancillaries, and negotiate them with a partner.” 

“The tech our clients are dealing with is very cutting-edge...” 

Over in the tech transactionsgroup, the team advise well-established and emerging tech companies alike. That advice can be centred on the likes of AI developments, the Internet of Things, cloud computing, blockchain and semiconductor tech. Clients include UPS, Colgate-Palmolive, and telecoms outfit Infobip. The group recently advised UPS on the launch of a product in Japan, which involved negotiating commercial package agreements among many other elements. “The tech our clients are dealing with is very cutting-edge,” one source enthused. Due to the complexity of the matters, trainees often undertake big research tasks: “I’m usually responding to questions that come in from clients that want to roll out a new product, so I’ll look into potential consumer protection issues and sometimes check the IP provisions in contracts.”One had also drafted “a search engine optimisation agreement, which was great to get stuck into.”One of the group’s supervisors also does privacy work, so we heard trainees often do a split seat in this area. Interviewees had been exposed to some outsourcing and commercial issues, which gave them the chance to draft IP licences and agreements. 

MoFo’s capital markets lawyers advise issuers, underwriters and agents across a range of private and public financings. A recent lateral hire from Latham & Watkins has bolstered the group’s high-yield and crossover debt offering capabilities. On the private funding (‘private placements’) side, “we usually represent the entity that is issuing bonds or notes, so we help that issuer with the noteholders and make sure everything is in place for the transaction.”On the public side, trainees can expect to come across some IPOs during their time here. Beyond its tech staple, the team advises on transactions taking place in the life sciences, energy, healthcare and education sectors. The group recently represented soft drinks producer Britvic on its private placement of senior notes worth £100 million and €60 million. Other clients here include Tate & Lyle International Finance, JPMorgan American Investment Trust and Birmingham Airport.

Trainee Life 



“The culture at MoFo has something special about it,” one source declared, before explaining: “We have a one-firm mentality where partners and associates want to see you improve and develop. There are no unrealistic expectations – just support for you to keep learning and doing better.” Another highlighted that their vacation scheme gave them a good indication of what trainee life would be like: “There was a real open-door policy. I wandered into pretty much every partner’s office to say hello and every single one was happy to chat and answer questions.”

“I wandered into pretty much every partner’s office to say hello and every single one was happy to chat and answer questions.”

The smaller size of the Londonoffice, a source noted, meant that “everyone knew almost everyone”and connections could be made quickly. New joiners are assigned a buddy from the trainee intake above to help get them settled in: “We can ask them basic questions before we start, which made it less nerve-wracking.”Despite the pandemic, MoFo has kept its social life going, with this interviewee telling us about a range of “virtual escape rooms, quizzes and competitions. The firm’s social committee is also sending people picnic hampers so we can all break in the sun together.”

To help its lawyers adjust to the realities of remote working, MoFo has ramped up its focus on mental health provisions. We heard about trainees attending multiple ‘resilience workshops’ that involved “relaxing talks, breathing exercises and actual exercise routines.” On that note, “there are yoga and personal training Zoom sessions if you fancy stretching or working out at home. The firm also puts on health challenges where we’ve been able to compete against other offices, which was really cool!” One trainee described a session where “we used resistance bands and squats as metaphors for any pressure we may have been feeling – it was funny doing it on camera!”In all seriousness though, interviewees genuinely appreciated the work that had been put into keeping people’s mental health in good shape. 

“When we’re less busy, we’re encouraged to enjoy our time and finish early.”

The shift to remote working has also brought in a change to the hours reported across the industry. We were curious about how that may have impacted life at MoFo: “With Covid and working from home 6pm doesn’t necessarily represent the end of the day,” one trainee commented. “But on average the hours aren’t too bad – I've heard of worse!” This source gave a realistic snapshot of what the hours can be like: “There are weeks that are quiet, and you seem to have a lot of time, and then weeks where you are working until midnight every day.” A few sources said that their average finishing time fell somewhere between 8pm and 10pm. “When we’re less busy, we’re encouraged to enjoy our time and finish early.”

“I think the firm has taken some encouraging steps,” one source reflected when asked about diversity efforts. “They formed a new minority ethic affinity group, MoFo Together, in May last year. The firm also introduced mandatory unconscious bias training.” Another interviewee told us that “the firm interviewed multiple individuals to find a fantastic external speaker to deliver that training, which shows that they wanted people to enjoy the sessions and engage with the group.”Sources spoke of their role as allies and involvement in diversity activities, as well as the mentorship provided by women partners: “They have used their position to support female trainees and give advice.”The various affinity groups at the firm have been “putting in the effort to make sure everyone feels included and that there’s no discrimination.”

When time rolls around for qualification, MoFo’s grad recruitment partner outlines the process to trainees. Sources told us that they were encouraged to have discussions with departments they were interested in. An NQ jobs list is released around May and qualifiers have a week to decide which position(s) they would like to apply for. The process is wrapped up by early June each year, when “the grad recruitment partner calls around to offer us the positions.” MoFo doesn’t usually hold interviews for the NQ roles. In 2021, five of seven qualifierswere retained. 

Pro Bono at MoFo 

A lot of firms use ‘pro bono’ as a buzz term, but it’s really woven into the fabric of MoFo,” said one trainee. “You can get as involved as you like – I'm literally involved in five active pro bono matters right now!” 

How to get a Morrison & Foerster training contract



APPLY HERE

Vacation scheme deadline (2021): 29 November 2021 (spring); 3 January 2022 (summer) [opens October 2021]

Training contract deadline (2023): 3 January 2022 [opens October 2021]

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.”

Interviews

Around forty-five out of the hundreds of applicants are invited for a first-round interview in January to February. This takes place with a member of graduate recruiting and 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 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.”

Between twenty to twenty-five 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

The Scalpel,
52 Lime Street,
London,
EC3M 7AF
Website www.mofo.com

  • Partners 26
  • Associates 45
  • Total trainees 14
  • UK offices London
  • Overseas offices 15
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiters: Rebecca Nasskau, rnasskau@mofo.com, 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 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 3rd January 2022
  • Vacation scheme applications open: October 2021
  • Summer vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 3rd January 2022
  • Spring vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 10th December 2021
  • Salary and benefits  
  • First-year salary: £50,000
  • Second-year salary: £55,000
  • Post-qualification salary: $202,500
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • 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

Firm profile



Morrison & Foerster is a leading global firm, with over 1,000 lawyers in key technology and finance centres in the US, Europe and Asia. In Europe we have a team of more than 125 lawyers in our strategic hubs of London, Berlin and Brussels. We work alongside our colleagues in the US and Asia, drawing on cultural, jurisdictional and market knowledge to deliver the best advice and client service. Dynamic technology and life sciences companies, some of the largest financial investors and financial institutions, leading consumer product companies, and other market leaders come to MoFo for our expertise, knowledge, advice, and individually tailored client service. We handle some of the world’s largest cross-border transactions and resolve some of the biggest disputes across multiple jurisdictions. Our firm was built on, and continues to succeed, because of the talent of our lawyers and their innovative approach in the practice of law. We practice in a collegial environment where we value teamwork, diverse perspectives and employee wellbeing. As our nickname MoFo suggests, we take our work seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Main areas of work



Bankruptcy and restructuring, capital markets, corporate/M&A, tax, data privacy, employment, equity derivatives, financial services regulation, financial transactions, high-yield, investigations, disputes, arbitration, private equity real estate, real estate finance, outsourcing and technology transactions.

Training opportunities



Trainees are given the support and training required to excel in their work; from trainee induction sessions, regular training via our MoFo Academy and significant daily responsibility. This combination enables our trainees to develop the necessary skills to deliver exceptional client service on complex global matters. The training period consists of four six-month seats, with the potential of a seat in our Singapore office. There is an active mentoring programme and a formal review process four times annually to provide continuous support and development. Trainees also have access to our health and wellbeing resources, such as a subscription to the Calm app and a wealth of online information on our portal.

Vacation scheme



We’re looking for dynamic and driven individuals who can display a genuine enthusiasm for a career in law. We value diversity, have a strong commitment to pro bono and want our future trainees to share this philosophy. In 2022, we will be running two two-week summer vacation schemes from 13 June to 24 June and from 27 June to 8 July. We will also be running one, one-week Spring vacation scheme from 4 – 8 April 2022. Our vacation schemes provide insight into life at MoFo and offer the opportunity to consider whether we are the right firm for you. Summer associates will gain a good picture of how much responsibility our trainees are given; it’s also a chance to meet and learn more about our London-based attorneys and staff. The vacation scheme is our sole method of recruiting future trainees.

Other benefits



25 days’ holiday; pension; medical insurance; individual health plans; dental insurance; group life assurance; group income protection; employee assistance programme; free Calm app subscription; Talkspace; Best Doctors; subsidised gym membership; childcare vouchers; My Family Care Benefit; season ticket loan; cycle scheme.

University law careers fairs 2021



We will be attending a number of the virtual law fairs scheduled for this Autumn, including:
• Cambridge Law Fair
• Kings College London Fair
• Durham Law Fair
• Exeter Law Fair
• Three Aspiring Solicitors Diversity Law Fairs

Social media



Twitter @MoFo_LondonGrad
Facebook
MoFoLLP
Instagram
@mofollp

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. We’ve been a longtime champion for diversity within the legal profession and take pride in our diverse workplace. We believe that lawyers with different backgrounds, interests, and experiences working together arrive at better answers and offer fresher perspectives. We continuously work to attract, develop, and retain talented lawyers from diverse backgrounds. Our London attorneys Brian Bates and Trevor James sit on the firmwide Diversity Strategy Committee, the primary mission of which is to recommend major diversity goals and objectives to our board of directors. We also have an active London Diversity Committee and a number of affinity groups.

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 MoFo Together, which focuses on raising awareness and addressing some of the barriers facing ethnic minorities in the legal profession and beyond.

Our senior female lawyers in London also play a role in the firm’s global Women’s Strategy Committee, which works closely with firm leadership, including the firm’s chair, firmwide managing partners, and board of directors to ensure that the advancement of women is a constant strategic priority.

MoFo London’s active LGBTQ+ affinity group brings together members of that community as well as its supporters. The LGBTQ+ affinity group provides a forum to discuss issues of concern to the LGBTQ+ community and works to advance networking opportunities within the London office and the broader firm, with clients, and across the broader London business community. We’re proud that our chair emeritus was the first openly gay managing partner of an international law firm.

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, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 4)
    • Information Technology (Band 4)