This is the Mayer Brown profile for those considering solicitor apprenticeships. Students looking to apply for training contracts should check out Legal Cheek‘s main Mayer Brown profile.
Global player Mayer Brown is a veteran in the solicitor apprenticeship field, having adopted the TC alternative back in 2016. The outfit’s London branch, one of 27 worldwide, works on a mix of corporate, finance, litigation and dispute resolution, real estate, insurance, pensions and employment, competition and trade, tax, intellectual property, and information technology issues. And with the first cohort of Mayer Brown apprentices already now fully-fledged lawyers, the firm boasts a depth of experience and support beyond that of many of its rivals.
Speaking on why he decided to pursue the apprenticeship route, one sixth-year apprentice told us: “University really didn’t appeal to me. I was really done with pure academia, and wanted to make a difference in the workplace and achieve something concrete, rather than focus on purely theoretical issues”. It also doesn’t hurt, he adds, that the “route allows you to become a qualified solicitor, with a law degree, all without incurring any of the debt and being paid along the way”.
For their first 12 months at Mayer Brown, solicitor apprentices join Business Services teams, rotating through departments such as Legal Information Centre and Risk & Compliance. This allows apprentices to adjust to life in the office, without the immediate demands of a fee earning legal seat.
During this time, recruits also begin their academic studies, enrolling onto an LLB at BPP University Law School, and subsequently the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). These studies, like most firms, are undertaken on an allocated work day, which for the apprentice we spoke to was Monday. We’re told that this day is sufficient to complete all the work allocated (if you keep your head down!), although that a little weekend studying may be in order around exams and coursework deadlines. Additional study days are also allocated around busy periods. As for the learning itself, the course is taught entirely online, with no need to travel into a campus.
Having spent the first year in the engine room of MB, budding solicitors then begin a ten-seat rotation, lasting for the remaining five years. We’re told that whilst for the first few years apprentices fill a role marginally below that of trainees, they are treated on par with their graduate counterparts from years three or four onwards. Some are even given greater responsibility on account of their practical experience and knowledge.
There are also opportunities for travel. One apprentice we spoke to dialled in during a six-month stint in the firm’s New York office, having already completed another client secondment in the UK earlier in the programme. This is balanced, however, with a “very London office culture”, providing a friendlier and more welcoming environment for recruits. For an adventurous apprentice willing to take on the world, what more can you ask for?
And it’s not all work and no player for MB’s apprentices. “Particularly with hybrid working reducing the number of days people are in the office, there is some form of networking or drinks running almost every day that apprentices are welcome to attend,” one insider tells us. This, we’re told, ranges from social activities within teams, to professional networking events where rookies can learn necessary skills from 18 or 19, “giving you a strong advantage and head start” on peers. It’s not all socialising in the office, however. We hear that apprentices still have time to catch up with school friends, university course mates, and join local sports teams.
As for the key pulls of the firm, one apprentice offered a long list. “Pro bono and CSR (corporate social responsibility) are big things at the firm, that are a great bonus and offer a range of excellent opportunities to get involved with. You’re also within an environment where if you’re willing to say yes to opportunities, there will be plenty that come your way, and you can certainly get as much out of the programme as you put in,” an apprentice tells us.
By way of advice for apprentice hopefuls, one interviewee offers these pearls of wisdom. “You must think about whether it’s the right route for you. It’s certainly not for everyone, and it’s by no means an easier path to becoming a solicitor. The work is hard and combining it with studying adds an extra challenge. The programme is also a long one and requires a great deal of commitment and dedication.”
Once you’re set on the route, the apprentice offers this advice for candidates in selecting where they want to spend their next six years. “Pick the firm very carefully! Get a real understanding of the work that they do and what the people and structure are like,” they say. Whilst some of this can be done prior to putting in an application, to get a true understanding of the firm, prospective apprentices may need to do some more digging. “Assessment centres are a chance to assess the firm just as much as it is a chance for the firm to assess you,” the rookie explains. “The same is true of open days and all stages of the application process.”
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to applications. “When you apply you need to have a good reason why you’ve chosen to apply to that firm in particular,” they say. For our interviewee, this reason was the range of charity work that the firm undertakes, and the schemes to support professional skilled workers who are refugees. This certainly isn’t the only answer available, however. “You don’t have to pick something to do with the client work or pro bono activities,” they add. “It just has to be something that genuinely impresses you and makes you want to apply to the firm — whatever that may be.”
This is Mayer Brown’s Solicitor Apprenticeship profile. Read Mayer Brown’s full Legal Cheek profile here.