It’s centenary time for this North Eastern powerhouse, and if you give a Muckle about practising law with some personality, you’ll keep reading.
This Newcastle-based legal outfit has carved out a premier reputation for itself in the North East since its founding in 1920 – so much so that its work and name carry far beyond its local stomping ground. Trainees recalled that they were eager to get in on the unique “community feel” that Muckle created: “I really like that we have one office. It’s a fairly large office but you still know everyone and feel connected to the firm.” Interviewees felt that having just the one location didn’t have any drawbacks, especially considering the sense of “stability” it brings. Others flagged the appeal of Muckle’s strategic stance and emphasised that “we’re trying to be leaders in the North East, but that doesn’t stop us from taking on national work.” Indeed, one notable example of this reach is the firm’s representation of The Football Association (without any bias towards the Toon Army, we’re sure) and its Chartered Standard Clubs across the country.
“We’ve always tried to grow with strategic add-ons to the work we do as a firm."
On its home turf of the North East, Chambers UK awards Muckle tip-top rankings for both its banking & finance and corporate/M&A expertise, and commends its construction, employment, IP, litigation and social housing practices. “We’ve always tried to grow with strategic add-ons to the work we do as a firm," graduate recruitment head and partner Kevin Maloney elaborates. "In the North East, there’s a lot of landed estate particularly in Northumberland, so we’ve grown our agricultural and estates offering with the recruitment of David Towns.”
Trainees’ first seats are allocated to them before starting. From the second seat onwards, trainees have a catch-up with Kevin Maloney, in order to discuss “what you’ve enjoyed, what you haven’t enjoyed, and what preferences you have.” Of course, the firm takes into account business need, but trainees felt it mostly “balances out” with their preferences. In addition, “you don’t really know what you’re going to like until you try it,” a sage trainee pointed out. The element of any surprise is typically removed come the final seat, as “you usually get your preference.”
“really good at making you feel like you helped facilitate the transaction.”
Trainees that had sat in corporate found it to be “a very busy and exciting team.” It’s one of the firm’s biggest departments (next to real estate) and covers the classic corporate transactions including sales, and asset and share purchases. Sources had “acted for buyers and sometimes for sellers,” which involved “drafting shareholder agreements, articles of association and lots of ancillary documents.” Trainees were pleased to get decent client contact too: “I’ve recently been speaking to clients on the phone and sitting in on client meetings.” The team recently acted for Hays Travel on the acquisition of 555 former Thomas Cook stores. Further afield, the group recently represented Sandman Hotel Group during its acquisition of Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links in Dublin. It’s not all deals and acquisitions though: “There’s some non-transactional stuff, like advising on company structures and buy-back agreements. It’s a good balance.” Overall, sources appreciated that the people in the corporate team are “really good at making you feel like you helped facilitate the transaction.”
In the dispute resolution seat, trainees had come across “any dispute you can think of! There’s such a variety of experience within the firm, so we end up dealing with a lot.” This included “simple contractual disputes, construction disputes, procurement cases and IP matters,” among other areas. Elsewhere, trainees cut their teeth on “breach of warranty claims and breach of SPAs [sales and purchase agreements]” with the occasional “debt recovery matter or other ad hoc query” thrown in for good measure. Recently, the team advised the Caribbean Premier League in relation to IP issues over unauthorised use of CPL’s name and registered marks, as well as in relation to contractual disputes with franchise holders. The team also represented Mandale Construction Limited in relation to a group action brought by homeowners over alleged defects in six properties built by the client. Day to day, sources found they could “get involved in client meetings and calls very early on” and appreciated the “experience and exposure to the whole disputes process.” Other typical tasks included reviewing agreements and other documents, as well as drafting advice to clients. “I started to get more autonomy as I went through the seat,” one trainee described. “Everything was still checked, but it was more driven by me.”
Real estate covers development, corporate support and education sector matters. Among highlights of late, the department acted for the North Air Ambulance Service, Teesside, during its acquisition of a new headquarters building, which included the development of the site to include an office block, operations room and a new aircraft hangar. Elsewhere, the firm’s real estate lawyers also advised the McAleer Family Trust on its acquisition of Bridge House, Guildford, from Aviva for £17.7 million. Trainees sitting here got stuck into tasks like “drafting lease reports, SDLT [Stamp Duty Land Tax] returns, and a lot of Land Registry work.” To read about Muckle’s banking seat, go online.
A gander at the firm’s website reveals that there is a ‘Muckle Way’ to working: this involves promoting the values of trust, teamwork, respect and care. How does this play out in practice? “I can’t think of a single person who works here who doesn’t have most of those things,” a trainee reflected. Sources also noticed similarities among colleagues in that “everyone is really good at their job – they are insanely clever – but they also have personal skills.” This allowed interviewees to “feel more comfortable with the people you work with.” Muckle also holds regular social events to reinforce this sense of camaraderie: “The BEAM team [Be Engaged at Muckle] put on social events for employees. We had a table tennis tournament when it was Wimbledon, and there’s a trainee-organised quiz, which is an annual tradition.” Another trainee highlighted a suitably festive “trip to Leeds to go around the Christmas market.”
“it definitely looks like a diverse place to work."
Looking around their office, interviewees were also pleased to see “it definitely looks like a diverse place to work. I’ve had more team heads who are women, which is nice.” Gender diversity at Muckle won much praise, while ethnic diversity was summed up like this: “There’s definitely representation – not as much as female representation, but overall, it’s pretty diverse.” Every so often, the firm schedules certain weeks in the calendar to honour aspects of diversity and wellbeing: “There was a specified diversity week, a ‘green’ week, a mental health week, and a healthy eating week,” one source eagerly reported.
Hours-wise, things kick off a little earlier at Muckle: most reported getting to the office for around 8.30am, regardless of seat. Home time was considerably more variable: “If I’m not busy I can get out at 5pm on the dot, but it depends on what needs to be done,” one representative interviewee summarised. In corporate, trainees were generally leaving closer to 7pm, though “when transactions were on, it would be a lot later.” However, when these late nights rolled around, trainees reiterated that “you’re never staying alone,” with this source adding that “when I’ve stayed until 11pm, the whole team has been here too.” While the hours can sometimes be long, interviewees still reckoned they had enough time for life away from work because “people don’t want you staying for the sake of staying.”
Come qualification time, sources revealed that the process is “relatively informal, mostly because we don’t take a huge cohort of trainees.” Indeed, with an intake of four to five trainees per year, several years have garnered 100% retention stats. At the time of our calls, the firm retained its sole qualifier, while another second-year was due to go through the qualification process later in 2020. All trainees need to do is have “informal chats with team heads and Kevin [Maloney, training principal] so they can gauge interest. Then they tell you well in advance whether there’s room in the department you’re interested in.”
For those who like to get moving, the firm also has a running group (for people of all abilities and fitness levels), which one sprightly source reckoned was “a great way of getting to know people across departments.”
How to get a Muckle training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2020): 31 January 2021 (open 1 November 2020)
Training contract deadline (2022): 31 March 2021 (open 1 November 2020)
Muckle receives a roughly equal number of vacation scheme and direct training contract applications. In total, between 200 and 230 candidates apply for the four trainee spots on offer. The same form is used for both routes.
“The application form is crucial, so we look at it very closely,” graduate recruitment partner Kevin Maloney tells us. “We look for people's personality and attitude coming through, and their cultural fit. We also want to see a genuine motivation to want to work at Muckle.”
All work experience whether paid, voluntary or legal is relevant. “We always tell candidates that any work experience you've got is relevant, especially if it demonstrates client service and other transferable skills,” says Maloney.
Between 30 and 35 vac scheme applicants and 30 to 35 training contract candidates are invited for an interview, which takes place with two members of the graduate recruitment team. Maloney assures us that the 45-minute ordeal is “generally quite relaxed: we ask lots of questions but it's not an interrogation! We're interested in getting to know them better, getting them to demonstrate their transferable skills and whether they'll fit in at the firm.” Successful vac scheme applicants then progress to the scheme while direct candidates go straight to the assessment day.
The vacation scheme
Around 20 to 25 vacation scheme slots are available each year, split over four week-long stints at the end of June and the beginning of July. Those who make it onto the vac scheme kick off their week with an induction hosted by people from different parts of the business. From there they receive work from several practice areas. “It's flexible,” says Maloney, “we try to make it like they're a trainee for a week. The work is very hands-on, and there are no assessments.” One trainee who'd completed a scheme with Muckle said “it was great to do stuff the fee earners actually needed doing – it made my time feel more realistic.”
The assessment day
Around 20 applicants are invited to an assessment day. This starts with a lunch with the trainees which leads into an afternoon of group exercises. “We don't have any critical thinking assessments or psychometric testing,” elaborates Maloney, “instead we emphasise role-play scenarios where candidates are split into teams and given a group exercise. There's nothing they can do to prepare: it's about seeing their collaborative and interpersonal skills, their ability to work under pressure and other skills such as leadership, delegation, time management, commerciality and attention to detail.”
From there approximately eight to ten candidates are invited back for a final interview, which takes place with Maloney and managing partner Jason Wainwright. At this point “what we're really looking for is a cultural fit,” says Maloney. “Can we see them working at Muckle? Have they demonstrated they understand Muckle and our ethos?” The final interview questions range from those about the candidate’s reasons for choosing Muckle, the firm’s strategy and current challenges and issues.
Muckle's banking seat
Banking is one of the smaller teams at Muckle, but many had undertaken a seat there. Trainees got “a good mix between lender side and borrower side work” during their stint and worked for a range of banks – from the HSBCs and Santanders of this world to more local outfits. Lawyers here recently advised Alexander Technologies Europe on the terms of its funding arrangements from Shard Credit Partners, which was part of a management buyout by its incumbent management team. The group also advised the manager of North East Venture Fund, Mercia, on its investment in ATM Security Limited. “There was a lot of refinances too,” one source recalled. “Some of those were business-critical, which was exciting.” Trainees often found themselves in charge of project management, as well as the drafting of general banking ancillary documents and board minutes. Some also tried their drafting hand at other key documents like “guarantees, debentures, and deeds of surrender” too.
Time Central, 32 Gallowgate,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
- Partners 36
- Associates 46
- Total trainees 9
- UK offices 1
- Graduate recruiter: Alison Appleby, 0191 211 7879
- Training partner: Kevin Maloney, [email protected]
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 4
- Applications pa: 130
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum A levels: 3 high grade
- Vacation scheme places pa: 20-25
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 November 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2023 start: 31 March 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: 1 November 2020
- Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 31 January 2021
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £24,500
- Second-year salary: £26,500
- Post-qualification salary: £37,500
- Holiday entitlement: 27 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
- International and regional
- Client secondments: Occasional
Muckle LLP is a leading commercial law firm in the North East of England. The firm has an excellent client base of successful private and public companies, property investors and developers, financial institutions and public sector and educational organisations, which recognise that its innovative commercial skills are a major benefit in enhancing its service delivery to them.
Main areas of work
Corporate; banking; restructuring and insolvency; commercial; construction and engineering; real estate; real estate dispute resolution; employment; dispute resolution; charities, sports and education; private client and agriculture, estates and rural property.
Each trainee undertakes 6 months in each of 4 seats. There are no compulsory seats. We discuss seat rotations with trainees and where possible we try to accommodate preferences but these are always be subject to business requirements.
The closing date for applications for the vacation scheme is 31st January each year. Applicants for the 2021 vac scheme need to be in a position to be able to start a training contract in September 2023. Successful candidates are selected at interview. The vacation scheme takes place in June/July each year across 4 weeks with each successful candidate undertaking one week. There are usually 20/25 applicants on the vac scheme each year. The scheme is unpaid. Trainees are recruited either via the vacation scheme or by direct application which no preference on either.
27 days holiday a year and flexible holiday option, pension, permanent health insurance after six months service, life assurance, corporate discounts and salary sacrifice schemes.
University law careers fairs 2020
University of Newcastle upon Tyne and Northumbria University.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
Muckle LLP is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in its own policies, practices and procedures and in those areas in which it has influence. This applies to the firm’s professional dealings with employees, partners and other solicitors, barristers, clients, business partners and other third parties.
The firm intends to treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect, regardless of their protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010. The diversity of our people is key to our success and we do our best to promote the values of equality, diversity and inclusion in all that we do.
The firm's equality, diversity and inclusion committee drives forward our commitment to developing and nurturing a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion at Muckle LLP. The committee is chaired by a senior partner in the firm. This policy is reviewed by the committee each year.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
Newcastle and surrounds
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
North East & Yorkshire
- Social Housing (Band 3)