“Cool, techy stuff is the norm” at Morrison & Foerster, where trainees work from their cutting-edge office in the Scalpel. The shiny abode vaunts sound-proof rooms kitted out with standing desks, “fantastic” views of Tower Bridge and even “an active art committee”, who display a rotating curation of work for the handful of lucky MoFo trainees.
With its headquarters in Silicon Valley, MoFo’s roster include some pretty big names in the tech space including long-standing client Instagram, who it recently defended in a copyright case. The firm has 18 offices across US, Asia and Europe, and has expanded on its US offering with a new office in Austin, Texas, and a merger with San Fran litigation boutique Durie Tangri.
Rookies are known to cut their teeth on “great work” for some of the biggest US and Japanese companies in the world such as household names Nikon and Softbank, just to name just a few. “You are given responsibility as soon as you can handle it which means the tasks quickly become more exciting,” says one insider. Although MoFo’s smaller size means that mundane “grunt” work is still on the cards, it also means more responsibility with some trainees taking on junior associate levels of work in their first seat. Another positive of the firm’s small intake is that it “means no sharp elbows” and “no internal politics” — we’re all very open with each other” and “try and get together for firm-funded trainee socials as regularly as possible”.
Accordingly, the firm’s training is “good” whilst being on the more hands-on end of the spectrum. One spy shares their view: “If there is more billable work then the departments are less concerned with providing high level training. However, that’s not to say that people are not invested in trainee development and it goes without saying that even highly busy departments are grateful and aware when they should be attending to the needs and health of trainees”. Structured training is said to be better on the corporate-transactional side of things, but regular feedback from higher-ups is appreciated across the board.
The firm operate a pretty lean model as law firms go. Its most recent financial results saw revenues rise a modest 2.4% to $1.26 billion, whilst profit per equity partner slipped 5% to $2.33 million. Notably, however, MoFo’s headcount grew 6% over the same period which may explain the dilution in part. In London, revenue fell 2% to £58.3 million.
MoFo seems unusually friendly and non-hierarchical for a highly profitable US firm. “The firm is very friendly, and it is a standout feature of the firm” proudly exclaims one trainee who also lauds MoFo’s “very flat hierarchy”. Superiors are always available to answer questions, have a chat and even, as one spy tells us, duet classic ABBA tracks during firm karaoke sessions.
But it isn’t all Super Trouper and Dancing Queen. Though it might be as good as it can get at a US firm, trainees can expect to work hard. Weekends and holidays are generally respected, and the hours are not that different to what you might get at a Magic Circle firm, but “it’s not worth making plans on weekdays unless you’re quiet”. Pay sits at £60k and £65k for first and second-year trainees respectively, with a big jump to $215,000 plus bonuses on qualification — a top-notch NQ salary for those who can make the grade.
Details about perks are pretty thin on the ground but there is the opportunity to do a client secondment with some of MoFo’s corporate London clients. The firm has outposts in Berlin and Brussels, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, as well as its nice US offices. Singapore and Brussels currently appear to be the go-to destination for rookies to jet off to if they get the chance. One standout perk this year appears to be the European attorneys meeting in Dubrovnik which trainees were invited to all expenses paid!