Solicitor apprenticeship profile: Mayer Brown

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We hear more about Mayer Brown’s solicitor apprenticeship scheme from the folks with first-hand experience.

Mayer Brown solicitor apprenticeship review 2024

Chambers Student: How is the solicitor apprenticeship structured at the firm?

Grace Ambrose, graduate recruitment & development manager: Over six years, Mayer Brown solicitor apprentices are embedded into our business and divide their time between practical legal work and training, and guided, independent study. During years one to four, apprentices are learning towards their LLB (Honours) Law degree and, in the final two years, complete the Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE) preparation and examinations.  Throughout the programme, apprentices complete a professional portfolio documenting their work and progress.  The majority of the portfolio development is completed in years one to four, to ensure that apprentices can concentrate on the SQE in the final years.

Mayer Brown apprentices begin their journey in our business services departments.  This means they complete seats in teams such as risk & compliance, and the firm’s legal library, research and information centre, learning about core business functions and operational processes.  Spending time with these teams provides a great foundation for apprentices before they join our legal departments in year two.  Moving between a broad range of practice groups, apprentices rotate through legal seats in core practice areas, such as corporate & securities, banking & finance, and litigation dispute resolution. In addition, they have the opportunity to complete seats in tax, pensions, employment, intellectual property, real estate and even consider going on secondment to one of our clients or international offices. In each seat, apprentices will be assigned a dedicated supervisor to oversee their performance and development.  However, they will work with an extremely broad range of Mayer Brown colleagues throughout their apprenticeship.

CS: Why did you decide to apply for a legal apprenticeship? What was the appeal of this path into the legal profession compared to other routes?

Chris Howes, apprentice solicitor: From a young age I had wanted to join the Royal Air Force and in early 2018 was lucky enough to commence officer training. I withdrew from training around a month in (for a variety of reasons), with the intention of rejoining at a later date. However, I also began exploring alternative careers around this time, including law. It was whilst doing so that I came across the solicitor apprenticeship programme which, at the time, was fairly new. The opportunity to gain a law degree without any debt and qualify as a solicitor whilst gaining experience at a firm, sounded too good to be true, so I applied for five different firms, including Mayer Brown, and was lucky enough to be offered the job.

“…working with, and learning from, some of the best lawyers in the country.”

I would suggest that the biggest advantage of the programme is the fact that you are able to work within a law firm for six years, gaining valuable experience of different practice areas within the firm, working with, and learning from, some of the best lawyers in the country. This allows you to embed yourself within the firm - networking and forging connections and friendships.

CS: What is the balance between studying and work experience? How did you find the study element?

GA: Apprentices spend four days a week working on live matters and training in the London office, with one day each week dedicated to part-time study with our training provider, BPP University.  The firm provides additional study leave around exam periods and ensures that time spent studying is uninterrupted. In addition to their designated supervisor at the firm, apprentices are assigned a personal tutor at BPP, to oversee and support their academic development. 

CH: Personally, I have generally found that this 20% ‘off the job’ time is more than sufficient, and I have only had to dedicate time outside of that designated day to studying in the lead up to exams or coursework deadlines. However, I will be starting the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) in January, and so the demands on me from a studying point of view will naturally increase in the lead up to, and throughout, that period.

CS: What sort of training, mentorship and support do you get as a legal apprentice?

CH: At Mayer Brown, we receive a large amount of training and support, starting with a comprehensive induction programme at the beginning of the apprenticeship. The learning and development team provide apprentice-specific soft skills training, and there is practice area-specific training provided to the trainees and apprentices at the start of each seat. In terms of support, we are given a supervisor in each of our seats, from whom we get the majority of our work within that seat. The supervisor is also our go-to person for pastoral support and helps with our training and development.

GA: We also pair apprentices with a solicitor apprentice buddy at the start of their scheme to help them settle into life at Mayer Brown. Our solicitor apprentices also maintain regular contact with the Graduate Recruitment & Development team to ensure they have regular Career Development Meetings and to check if they need support to effectively balance the demands of work and study.

CS: What can apprentices expect? What has your experience been like so far?

“People aren’t expecting you to be the finished, polished article from the outset, but just to be willing to learn and respond positively to feedback.”

CH: I have now completed seven different legal seats, and I am almost halfway through my second client secondment. My day-to-day work is incredibly varied, depending on which seat I am sitting in. But broadly speaking, I have been carrying out the same functions as a trainee since around the third year of my apprenticeship programme. It has, of course, been challenging at times, but also hugely rewarding and you learn quite early on one the most valuable lessons: People aren’t expecting you to be the finished, polished article from the outset, but just to be willing to learn and respond positively to feedback.

CS: How does the application process work and what does the firm look for? What did you do to stand out?

GA: The process starts with an online application formthat includes personal information, educational background and any relevant work experience.  Alongside the application form, applicants will need to complete two online tests – a verbal reasoning test and a situational strengths test. We welcome applications from all academic and social backgrounds, and want to get to know why you are committed to pursuing a career in law at Mayer Brown.  We are interested in work experience, but this is not just legal work experience; we want to hear about where you may have developed transferable skills – such as customer service and hospitality roles – and the qualities to help you succeed as a solicitor apprentice. Consider how you can demonstrate strong communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills as well as resilience, an intellectual curiosity and desire to learn. In the application process, we want to see thorough research of the firm and convincing, genuine reasons for wanting to join.  You should use straightforward and concise language to ensure that your points are clear.

“Work out which soft skills you have developed, where you have developed and honed those, and how they could be put to use to benefit the firm(s) that you are applying to.”

CH: My biggest tip would be to establish what genuinely attracts you to each firm that you are applying for, and mention that in the application form and at interview. With regards to selling your experience, whilst not everyone will have legal experience, the experience that you do have will still have given you a number of relevant soft skills (for example, working in a bar will give you great customer service/client relationship skills). Work out which soft skills you have developed, where you have developed and honed those, and how they could be put to use to benefit the firm(s) that you are applying to.

CS: What is unique about the solicitor apprenticeship at the firm?

GA: A key feature of our solicitor apprenticeship is the integration with our trainee solicitor cohort.  Our apprentices complete a two-week induction alongside our trainee intake, prior to beginning their first seat at the firm.  This ensures that, from day one, there is parity in both routes to qualification and that our trainees and apprentices can benefit from a wider peer group. 

CH: One of the main reasons that I chose to apply to Mayer Brown was the structure of the programme at the firm. As I have previously mentioned, at Mayer Brown you have the opportunity to complete ten different legal seats, thus giving you a good sense of what practice areas you like and don’t like. In addition to this, I was struck at interview and during the application process by the firm’s genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility and pro bono work.

CS: What has been your favourite moment of the solicitor apprenticeship?

CH: Whilst it would be hard to pick out a specific ‘favourite moment’ of the apprenticeship programme, the aspect that I have enjoyed most is the opportunity to get to know colleagues from all the different departments within the firm, and even in our offices around the world. One of the things that I have most enjoyed is my work on the firm’s NextGen network (a network of lawyers at the firm below partner level, and their peers at client companies). I have been involved with the network for a number of years and became co-chair earlier this year. This role has enabled me to take on a good level of responsibility within the firm, and travel to NextGen events in a number of our offices.

CS: Any final words of wisdom?

CH: It is easy to be seduced by the benefits of the solicitor apprenticeship (particularly the financial aspect), but applicants should be aware that it is not an ‘easy’ route to qualification as a solicitor, but an alternative one. There are many benefits to the route, but you need to ensure that you properly research it and that it is right for you. Choosing the right firm is also very important. As I’ve mentioned, one of the main reasons that I choose Mayer Brown was the structure of their apprenticeship programme, and the fact that you get exposure to a large number of different areas. Some firms will expect you to stay in a smaller number of departments for a longer period of time. That’s not to suggest that one way is necessarily better than the other, but it is important to do your research and think about what you’d prefer.