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. “An excellent mix of formal training sessions and on the job experience makes the training very good”, a current trainee tells us, with hands-on learning being particularly prominent in transactional teams.
Taking a breather from its impressive 21% growth in global revenue and 23% rise in profit per equity partner (PEP) last year, Mayer Brown’s financials this year show a modest 1% uptick in revenue to roughly $1.86 billion (£1.44 billion). Moreover, PEP figures fell around 5% and now sit at $2.34 million (£1.81 million) – approximately the same as some Magic Circle outfits.
The small dip can be explained in part by a slow-down in certain sectors coupled with rising inflation, which has impacted firms right across the City. Elsewhere, Mayer Brown’s litigation group performed up to standard, given its global presence and the resuming of normal court activity post-pandemic. Firm chairman Jon Van Gorp noted that the firm has added about 100 lateral partners over the past two years, with the latest addition to the London office being former King & Spalding partner, Richard Nelson, who joined its global energy group.
Mayer Brown offers its freshly qualified solicitors a £120,000 pay package, with the firm’s US-based management team opting against adopting MoneyLaw rates and instead choosing to follow what is a broadly 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 Van Gorp as its “calling cards”, as well as restructuring and high-stakes insurance work. Recent deals include advising on the sale of a major new hotel in London’s Finsbury Park, as well as leading private equity firm TriSpan’s investment in Mowgli, a popular UK Indian restaurant chain. On top of this, Mayer Brown also boasts highly-rated niches in intellectual property, pensions and tech.
No paralegals means rookies handle 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”. The quality of the work varies between teams, as is commonly found by trainees at most firms. One rookie notes that “if you can prove that you can handle more difficult work, then you will be given it and the opportunity to learn from it”. So, being proactive and seeking stimulating work tends to operate in trainees’ favour, with associates also “look[ing] out for good development opportunities they can pass on to trainees”.
Current trainees are also hugely positive about the quality of training that they receive. One insider describes it as “stellar formal and informal training which equips a trainee to do all the typical tasks they would usually be assigned in any given seat”. Moreover, every seat has a “thorough and practical” foundation training programme, with the firm also providing additional, more academic, training, where required. One rookie says that those in a construction seat undertake 15 weeks’ worth of training in construction law. Trainees also find associates “excellent at answering questions” and “always happy to explain why we are doing things a particular way”. Survey respondents are generally positive about their peers as well, with one describing the trainee cohort as a “fantastic resource”, and another finding “no feeling of being in a rat race”. A relatively small trainee intake of around 15 helps solidify bonds.
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”. The firm also notes that trainees can opt to do an international secondment at its Hong Kong or Singapore offices. 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.
Work/life balance varies from seat-to-seat, with generally no facetime culture, “except for maybe in corporate”. Another 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 try and be considerate of your evenings and weekends”. They also “always try to give you notice if you will have to contribute a couple hours of your free time”. 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 remains a common gripe echoing the results of last year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. One trainee describes the legal tech as “fairly outdated, especially with the latest push for AI solutions”, with another finding it “average”, while the lack of WFH budget also elicits a few gripes. That said, some are positive about colleagues “adapt[ing] to running meetings on Teams or other online solutions” and trainees are kitted out with their own laptops.
As for the firm’s office, one current trainee describes the “hipster” meeting rooms as “quite impressive” although “some of them do not have any natural light”. “Showers (with towels provided)” is another plus point. Insiders describe the firm’s London office in the Broadgate Tower development as “lovely and modern” and “very well-located”. Topping the perks is the firm’s subsidised London canteen, ‘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. Also appreciated by trainees is the free access to mindfulness app Headspace, described by one rookie as an “amazing initiative”.