It's all Chicago-go-go at Mayer Brown, a megafirm with a growing international network and a new career development initiative.
MORE than 130 years of history; a network of 26 US and international offices (the most recent, Tokyo, opened in 2018); Chambers USA nationwide rankings for capital markets, antitrust, financial services, outsourcing, projects, transport and tax, plus more covering five states. Any of these are good reasons to want to join Mayer Brown. But the most common refrain we heard from junior associates was that “everybody seemed to have a life outside the office. I knew things would get busy, but generally attorneys here seem satisfied with their professional and personal lives.” You might also be attracted by the firm's new career development initiatives, which aim to support associates' career goals whether they stay with the firm or not. More on that below.
Leading the charge is new managing partner Jeremy Clay, who tells us the firm has “put together a global talent development plan intended to help develop associates from the point of joining to becoming an equity partner. It covers a range of initiatives.”Chicago, New York and DC are by far the largest of the firm's eight US bases and take most new associate arrivals.
Incoming juniors rank their three preferred practice groups at the end of summer. Work assignment in the majority of practice groups is “completely free market,” but most associates found “it's been more a case of partners reaching out to us than having to go door to door.” That said, “there are some slow periods when I have to go out and hustle...” Some sources felt “the process needs a bit of work as it can be difficult to understand in the first year, though I can see the benefits now I've been here a while.” Our interviewees agreed that as you progress from your first to your second to your third year you have the chance to “take more control of your own career.” Litigation absorbs the most juniors each year, with finance and corporate snapping up most of the rest. New York also has a sizable IP cohort.
“I understand that someone needs to do the less substantive stuff.”
Every litigator we spoke to “had worked on cases of all different sizes and types” – securitization suits, antitrust cases, labor disputes, bankruptcy matters, and class actions. We also heard that DC offers “a lot of appellate and Supreme Court work,” that there's a “pretty prominent false advertising practice” in Los Angeles, and that there's more focus on banking in New York. Associates told us that “you don't get pigeonholed into one subset” of litigation and felt that “it's great to get experience in lots of different areas.” Juniors told us they spend most of their time managing discovery and drafting things like subpoena requests and deposition outlines. “I've also done massive cases with more document review,” one source added. “I understand that someone needs to do the less substantive stuff.”
Litigation clients: Google, Nestlé, HSBC. Defended Facebook against class actions brought in relation to the site's facial recognition features, in which the plaintiffs were seeking $30 billion in damages.
In corporate & securities, associates are now divided into four subgroups: M&A, fund formation, capital markets, and technology transactions. Each group has its own training programs and work allocation methods. Associates told us the clients are “all over the map in terms of industries” from financial services firms to chemicals corporations, though it's worth noting that Houston sticks mostly to energy. “I'm still doing some due diligence, but I've also drafted various ancillary agreements and done scheduling for some deals,” one third-year reported – typical tasks for an associate at a BigLaw firm.
Corporate clients: Caesars Entertainment, TransCanada, Wendy's. Advised energy holding company SCANA on a $14.6 billion stock-for-stock merger agreement with Dominion Energy.
Mayer Brown's finance team is distinct from corporate and has a focus on securitization and structured finance, as well as covering project finance. “We've become more of a presence globally and domestically in project finance,” one associate asserted. “Our international group is large and growing and we've handled a couple of big international deals.” The firm is ranked by Chambers Global for its projects work in Africa, Latin America and worldwide. New associates on the team begin with “a lot of simple junior tasks like making sure documents are updated. As my first year progressed I took more stabs at drafting ancillaries.” By their third year associates “get more opportunities to take the first cut at credit agreements and main deal documents” with welcome support from senior attorneys.
Finance clients: Bank of Montreal, Citibank, Société Générale. Represented China Merchants Bank during the $1.6 billion financing of automotive safety business Key Safety Systems' purchase of the bankrupt Takata Corporation.
All new associates take part in a six-month fast-track program of weekly trainings, designed to match the tasks they're doing at the time – from basic timekeeping to client handling. After that there's more training available for those who want it. “I wanted to work on writing skills so the firm hired a tutor,” one source said. “An associate's development here really depends on if they go out of their way to make sure they're developing connections.” This kind of networking is vital for associates aiming to make partner. “It's an achievable goal,” our interviewees believed. “The firm has always preached retaining talent rather than solely going to the lateral market.” And Mayer Brown practices what it preaches: while it has a sizable summer class (51 in 2019) it also makes up a lot of partners in the US each year – 22 in 2019.
Mayer Brown is aware that not all associates are pursuing partnership. It recently adjusted the role of one of its recruitment coordinators to include responsibility for assisting those interested in exiting the firm. “They make in-house positions at the firm's clients available to associates,” one source revealed. “It's a really good idea and it's not like they're pushing us out.” Sources had already noticed these efforts paying off. “One of my colleagues was going to resign for an opportunity in another city,” an insider recalled; “because the firm really valued them they allowed that associate relocate to another office and work a few days from home.”
Hours & Compensation
That individual isn't the only associate to enjoy remote working. “The firm is really good about it,” a Los Angeles source said, “as long as we're accessible that's all that matters.” A source in New York weighed in: “From around 6pm the office tends to clear out, but I get emails after that. I usually leave by 8pm then depending on how much document review I have to do I might put in another hour or two at home.” Reports from Chicago were similar, whereas in DC“generally people leave at around 6pm and if I have to work more than an hour at home that counts as a late night. There have been a few 14-hour days but they're definitely not the norm.”
“From around 6pm the office tends to clear out, but I get emails after that.”
When the market boosted associate salaries in 2018, Mayer Brown took the opportunity to lower its hours targets “to be more consistent with other firms.” Associates now have a 1,900 billable hour requirement, and need to reach 2,000 'client equivalent' hours to be bonus eligible. Each 100-hour threshold up to 2,300 hours then comes with a bigger bonus (though New York has a different structure altogether). The firm released a five-page memo to explain all this to associates, who unfortunately still came away thinking “it wasn't entirely clear.” Some felt “it's not a great structure for firm morale,” though others countered: “It's all very transparent and they now count 100 hours of work for the firm that's not billable toward the target.” Sources were also torn about how achievable their targets were; those in smaller offices were less confident about making the grade.
Up to 200 hours of pro bono can count toward the bonus target, and there's a 60-hour pro bono requirement for first and second-years. Nobody we spoke to found that difficult to reach, having received “almost daily emails about pro bono cases and training. There's a full team focused on pro bono!” Immigration cases have dominated pro bono activities at many firms and Mayer Brown is no exception, with juniors jumping at the chance to take such cases to court. In Chicago the firm also works with various small business clinics and call centers – “We used to have seven attorneys working at one, now it's 35.” Associates also told us about working on nonprofit contract disputes and collaborations with the Innocence Project, concluding that “if you can think of a pro bono matter, you can do it.”
Pro bono hours
- For all attorneys across all US offices: 50,054
- Average per US attorney: 56
“Mayer Brown looks for intelligence and academic credentials, but also at whether a candidate has interests outside the law.” Find out more about what else Mayer Brown is looking for by clicking on the 'Bonus Features' tab above.
Diversity & Inclusion
Sources believed that “Mayer Brown is doing a good job recruiting female and diverse associates at the junior level.” Its initiatives include four $15,000 diversity scholarships for law students. “There's a good amount of talk about improving diversity, but it's generally led by associates,” we heard. Each office has its own diversity committees alongside a firmwide organization and an associate diversity council. “Unless diverse associates affirmatively seek out support, things can fall by the wayside,” one source reflected, and many felt the area with most room for improvement was “retaining diverse attorneys. It's hard because of the lack of mentors at the top.” The firm's women's forums were popular – these host regular meetings at which female partners discuss their career path and how they shaped their practice.
“It's hard because of the lack of mentors at the top.”
“Mayer Brown is really low on divas,” one of our interviewees joked. And they weren't talking about Mariah Carey wannabes – “there aren't partners who scream and yell.” In past years we've noted that Mayer Brown has something of a 'law nerd' reputation. Our latest interviewees felt that “the idea this firm is full of buttoned-up Ivy Leaguers is a misconception,” though. Chicago's six-floor office is divided up by practice area and each has its own character: in litigation for instance “there are more people in suits.” We heard that “there is a nerd feeling” in the DC offices akin to “scientists locked in a lab.” The Los Angeles office is “more laid-back,” while New York“generally acts differently from other offices. It's not competitive though and people are extremely friendly.” The common thread? “I can have interactions with people at all levels,” one junior said, “and they're not all just about the job.” Interviewees also said they interact quite a bit with colleagues overseas – “the ability to communicate globally through video phones is really spectacular and seamless.”
“The idea this firm is full of buttoned-up Ivy Leaguers is a misconception.”
Most associates agreed that “there's not much of a social life” at Mayer Brown. “We do have events, but I'm not spending my whole life with my co-workers and that's no bad thing.” Some suggested: “There are a lot of introverts here,” and pointed out that “not having lots of happy hours means we're not always in the office.”Chicago stands out for having certain practice groups which are more gregarious, like finance. The office also has an attorney lounge which was popular among our interviewees. “It opens at 3pm with snacks and drinks,” sources said, “and everybody including partners typically heads down at some point.”
Strategy & Future
“The firm is very fiscally conservative, which is good and bad,” a junior reckoned. “We take on fewer junior associates so can offer them more.” Newly installed managing partner Jeremy Clay tells us: “The primary focus for us is to continue deepening our offering in areas in which we're already strong, continuing to build bigger high-quality litigation, finance, funds and M&A capability.” Geographically, he suggests Mayer Brown will be beefing up its presence in “New York and the West Coast plus Asia, including our new Tokyo office. An important part of what we're doing is building one firm across the world.” For more from Clay, click on the 'Bonus Features' tab above for our full interview with him.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,091
Interviewees outside OCI: 25
Mayer Brown takes a national approach to hiring, with teams focusing on key schools including Harvard, University of Michigan, Northwestern and University of Chicago (regional schools are also on the firm's radar). Most of the 20 or so students interviewed at each campus will meet a senior and a junior attorney. They'll often be alumni of the school, so will be able to discuss their track to a career at Mayer Brown.
At this point, the firm is primarily looking for interest in their practice and any particular niches the candidate has an eye on. Research is key: approach the interview with a good idea of what Mayer Brown does and doesn't do and tailor your own questions accordingly.
Top tips: “The most important things to ask about is day-to-day life and what type of responsibilities associates get on matters – get a sense of what life would be like as a junior.”
“As an interviewer, I ask what the applicants see themselves doing five years from now, which can link to a practice group interest.”
Applicants invited to second stage: 310
When candidates come back for a callback, they'll meet with partners and associates from the practice areas they've already expressed an interest in for a series of four or five 20-30 minute interviews. In most cases, each applicant will meet a junior associate to talk through starting from the bottom of the ladder.
Culture is key at callbacks: Mayer Brown is looking for motivated and thoughtful reasons for wanting to join the firm. “The ideal candidates are smart, thoughtful, and care about their work. They are also going to be engaged in the practice of law and client satisfaction.”
Top tips: “Some of the process is about trying to figure out life experiences beyond what's on your resume: what are your passions? What experiences do you value?”
“When I'm interviewing I'm typically just gauging their interest in the firm, and whether they can articulate an interest in Mayer Brown in particular.”
Mayer's summer experience differs by office: in Chicago, New York, DC and Houston the ten-week program is built around a pool-based work allocation system that allows candidates to work in a variety of practice groups. Training comes through national and local programs, and as well as the typical social sessions there are events organized by the diversity committee, women's committee and Mayer's affinity groups.
Each summer associate typically gets a few mentors to steer them in the right direction, but the firm advises they “reach out to partners and associates with whom they have an interest in working.” Recruitment and summer committee members check in with summers throughout the process to keep an eye on which practice they'd like to join upon receiving an offer.
Notable summer events: summer concerts, sporting events, cooking nights and scavenger hunts.
Top tips: “Try every practice group: I came in wanting to do litigation and realized I didn't like it. The firm is very flexible on work product so nobody will care if you don't end up picking a practice you sample – having said that, do express interest in the groups you do end up liking.”
“Some summer associates come in with the mindset that they'll get easy assignments – instead, they should approach the work as if they were already full-time associates here.”
OCI applicants will know who their interviewers are in advance, so take the time to read up on their practice and role in the firm.
Interview with managing partner Jeremy Clay
Chambers Associate: You've been managing partner for nearly a year now, what have been the biggest developments at the firm in that time?
Jeremy Clay: 2018 was a strong year overall for the legal industry. There was a good economic environment with strong growth worldwide; it was particularly interesting to see a boom in cybersecurity and data privacy. Global trade has been a big issue as we've seen the impact of tariffs and the trade war between China and the US – that's been important to us given our presence in both markets. Regulatory enforcement and the investigations space is again an extraordinary growth area. 2019 will be an interesting year as recent global political and economic developments take effect.
CA: How would you describe Mayer Brown's current position in the legal market? What are the firm's biggest strengths?
JC: We are one of the leading international business firms and one of the few with 200 lawyers or so in each of New York, London and Hong Kong, which positions us strongly in those key global financial centers. Our real business strengths are in our financial services client base; a very significant litigation practice including investigations, white collar and cybersecurity; and a quickly developing fund formation and transaction team (doing some great M&A deals) that's been a big story for us over the last few years.
CA: What are your priorities looking to the future?
JC: Continuing to globalize and to build a globally integrated firm. An important part of what we're doing is building one firm across the world; it's an important message to our people and to our clients and it's something of which we're proud.
The primary focus for us to is to continue deepening our offering in areas in which we're already strong, continuing to build bigger high quality litigation, finance, funds and M&A capability. There are other areas we want to grow in like international arbitration, cybersecurity and investigations, as these will be areas of focus over the next period. We are also focused on our bankruptcy and restructuring capabilities, as nobody can pretend the economies of the world will get an easy ride over the next few years. Geographically, New York and the West Coast plus Asia are focuses for us, including growing our new Tokyo office.
CA: We heard from juniors about efforts to improve their experience, new career development initiatives etc. What sets apart Mayer Brown from peers when it comes to associate life?
JC: We looked at it this again a couple of years ago through an engagement survey; the response came back saying we did some things well and that there are others we need to do better. Since I've taken over as managing partner we've put together a global talent development plan intended to help develop associates from the point of joining to becoming an equity partner. It covers a range of initiatives, including those relating to training, mentoring, work allocation, parental and other leave and how to come back into the business, and of course diversity. It's something we've done on a global basis so that we interact much more dynamically with associates and counsel.
CA: Why is law an attractive profession for students to join today?
JC: The business of law is hugely different from what it once was and I think the opportunities coming into BigLaw are changing. It can of course be a career track where a lawyer develops within the firm and has a 30+ year career, but there are other potential career paths, whether that's in house, in government, with startups, or indeed going on to develop a different career. Firms like Mayer Brown can provide a great career experience, but if our lawyers decide they want to step out of the business we have support programs in place. We want to help people who want to do something different and to maintain our relationships with them as alumni. It's of course demanding, but it's still a great profession to become a part of.
CA: When did you decide to become a lawyer? Why?
JC: I decided to become a lawyer after reading law at university, I was surprised to find I liked the black letter law and wanted to continue down that path. Until I'd got properly to grips with it, I hadn't been sure of that.
CA: What achievement are you most proud of?
JC: Before I became managing partner last year, I was a full time real estate partner, and I'm most proud of being part of a team we established at Mayer Brown, both in London and globally, that's become a really first rate international real estate practice. The real estate market has many cycles, but we have been able to create a sustainable top-ranked business in London and globally - at this time that's what I'm most proud of.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry?
JC: Two things – be prepared to work hard, to step up and make judgment calls, be prepared to step forward and give real time advice. It's hard to do but if you want to be a so called trusted adviser you need to step up. The other thing is have a to-do list going at all times – it will save your life.
Mayer Brown LLP
71 South Wacker Drive,
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 18
- Worldwide revenue: $1.389 billion
- Partners (US): 422
- Counsel (US): 93
- Associates (US): 425
- Main recruitment contacts: See www.mayerbrown.com/careers for office specific contacts
- Hiring partner: J Bradley (Brad) Keck
- Diversity officer: Jeremiah DeBerry, Partner Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 50
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019:1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 43, 3Ls: 0, Pre-Clerks: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: Palo Alto: 5, New York: 15, Washington DC: 5, Houston: 4, Charlotte: 5, Chicago:14, Los Angeles: 4
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,654/week
- 2Ls: $3,654/week
- Post 3Ls: $3,654/week
- Split summers offered? Case by case, office by office basis
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Atypical
Mayer Brown is a leading global law firm with offices in 26 cities across the Americas, Asia and Europe. The firm’s presence in the world’s key business and legal centers enables it to offer clients access to local market knowledge and depth combined with a global reach. The firm’s practice areas include: banking and finance; corporate and securities; litigation and dispute resolution; antitrust and competition; US Supreme Court and appellate matters; employment and benefits; environmental; financial services regulatory and enforcement; government and global trade; intellectual property; real estate; tax; restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency; and private clients, trusts, and estates.
Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Loyola, Michigan, North Carolina, NYU, Northwestern, Penn, Stanford, Texas, Virginia, Yale.
Summer associate profile:
Mayer Brown seeks to hire associates of exceptional promise from a variety of backgrounds. Because Mayer Brown seeks to hire associates with the potential to become partners at the firm, its hiring standards are rigorous. Above all, Mayer Brown is interested in candidates who share the firm’s dedication to providing high-quality legal services and who have demonstrated superior academic ability and personal achievement.
Summer program components:
Summer Associates at Mayer Brown are not assigned to practice areas and there is no formal rotation between groups. The firm’s goal is to expose summer associates to as many practices areas and attorneys as possible during the program. Each summer associate is assigned at least two attorney mentors and receives written reviews on every assignment. Each summer associate will attend development meetings with partners at mid-summer and at the end of summer.
For more information please visit: www.mayerbrownfutures.com/americas/
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Environment Recognised Practitioner
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Antitrust (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Communications (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 3)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
- Real Estate (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax Recognised Practitioner
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
- Appellate Law (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- ERISA Litigation (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 4)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance & Litigation) (Band 1)
- Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation Recognised Practitioner
- Government Contracts (Band 3)
- Government Relations (Band 4)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 4)
- Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Political Law Recognised Practitioner
- Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP (Band 1)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Transportation: Rail (for Railroads) (Band 3)
- Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)