The Legal Cheek View
Consistently rated one of the best firms for training in the City, Mayer Brown’s newly qualified (NQ) associates are so well drilled that they’re often targeted by other US and Magic Circle rivals. “Lots of training sessions from senior members. Lots of responsibility and hands on work,” a current trainee tells us, though in more transactional teams, there is often less time for explanations.
After taking a breather from its meteoric seven years of successive growth in revenue last year with a relatively small 2% rise, this year Mayer Brown is back on track. Global revenue is up 21% to $1.85 billion (£1.51 billion), while profit per equity partner (PEP) rose nearly 23% to $2.47 million (£2.01 million).
Mayer Brown offers its freshly qualified solicitors a £107,500 pay package, with the firm’s US-based management team opting against adopting MoneyLaw rates and instead choosing to follow what is a broadly Magic/Silver circle junior solicitor pay scale. This dates back to the firm’s English roots in Rowe & Maw, the legacy firm which Mayer Brown merged with in order to establish its base in London.
In London, Mayer Brown concentrates on finance and real-estate, referred to by the firm’s Chairman Jon Van Gorp as its “calling cards”, as well as restructuring and high-stakes insurance work. On top of this, Mayer Brown also boasts highly-rated niches in intellectual property, pensions and tech. No paralegals means a decent amount of admin-based work. But alongside standard trainee tasks in these practice areas like bundling, bibling, proof-reading and general admin, insiders tell us that there is “meaty work, such as drafting documents, interesting pieces of research, and attending meetings/court”. In the transactional teams in particular, trainees are “required to liaise directly with clients and lawyers at other firms”. One trainee sums it up by saying “there’s a good mix, plenty of standard trainee tasks but there’s quite a lot of opportunity for unusual research or drafting”, adding that “it does vary by department”.
Secondments are another strong point. Trainees and junior associates have sampled life at the likes of Lloyds, HSBC, London Stock Exchange Group, Unilever, Wells Fargo and British Land where they enjoy a high degree of “independence” and “authority”. In the past, common firm secondment destinations included Chicago and Hong Kong and this year the firm reinstated its Hong Kong placement. Mayer Brown is apparently the only firm with more than 200 lawyers in each of London, New York and Hong Kong, the world’s three largest financial centres. The firm also recently opened a new office in Salt Lake City, as well as growing headcount firm-wide with 52 lateral hires in 2021.
Work/life balance varies from seat-to-seat. One insider confessed that the “hours are long, and people expect you to respond to emails very quickly”. But trainees say that the general culture and friendliness of the place is a big boost when the going gets tough. Trainees are “a bunch that will go through hell and back with you”, and there’s “a real attitude of everyone being in it together” while “associates are very good at looking out for the trainees”. One newbie says that his cohort are “really good friends” and “spend a lot of time together outside of working hours which helps with the natural dips and lows of trainee life”. Partners are “very approachable” — and the ones in finance apparently “have some serious bantz”. They get their sleeves rolled up, too: a Mayer Brownite reports that “the senior partner is on a matter with me and is as visible as anyone else in the whole firm”.
Mayer Brown’s young are hoping for a similar refresh of the firm’s IT, which provokes some grumbles. It’s one area where many feel like their Magic Circle counterparts have a better deal with one newbie complaining “the IT is awful” and lamenting that there’s “no budget for WFH”. It appears that more could be done, especially when it comes to working from home, which is allowed on a three-days-per-week basis, though trainees have now been kitted out with a laptop.
Topping the perks is the firm’s London canteen, called ‘The Hub’. The “barista quality” coffee, cakes and pastries “freshly delivered every day from a boutique bakery” and “lots of options including healthy ones such as juices, smoothies, fresh yoghurts and a great salad bar” win widespread approval. Insiders describe the firm’s London office in the Broadgate Tower development as “lovely and modern” following a recent refurbishment that has provided Mayer Brown with “hipster meeting rooms”.