Financial services whiz Mayer Brown is making strides to ensure it stays on top of its game in the brave new world of legal tech and “cross-sector, cross-jurisdiction" practices.
As job titles go, global chief innovation officer is a pretty amazing one. Who wouldn’t want to be in charge of innovation, with all the sense of optimism and progress that the term evokes? Well, that’s the job of Amol Bargaje, who has recently been appointed in the role by Mayer Brown, in a move that signals this firm’s focus on the future. Yes, 2021 is Mayer Brown’s year for showing that it means business in the realm of legal tech and is keeping its document-automating finger firmly on the pulse. And we’d expect nothing less from one of the major players in BigLaw. Following the upheaval and unprecedented events of 2020, managing partner Jeremy Clay tells us that "having to manage a business in a remote-working environment is changing how we manage and think about the way we support our clients and lawyers. The increased use of tech has been essential; moving forward, it will be about how we develop and refine that use to better meet our clients' needs."
Innovation in the application of tech is not the only twinkle in MB’s future-facing gaze. Looking at areas where it can stand out as a legal adviser is another priority. Clay tells us that MB is currently looking at “aligning lawyers around products and industries across jurisdictions," like technology, energy and insurance. “We think that will help drive client service and allow lawyers to work in nontraditional ways and create a competitive advantage.”The other trending area that law firms are looking to bulk up their advice on is ‘ESG,’ which stands for Environmental, Social and Governance and encompasses a whole range of factors including diversity and inclusion and climate change guidance. Like other BigLaw firms that are currently addressing this, Mayer Brown launched its very own ESG blog to assist clients in early 2021.
“The increased use of tech has been an essential tool.”
That’s the future, but what drew many associates to Mayer Brown was the reputation it has built up in the past for its work. “Its market hegemony in financial services” was listed as a reason for joining the firm by one survey respondent, mirroring others who were also impressed by MB’s overall “strength of its finance practice.”In Chambers USA, MB’s capital markets securitization and consumer finance practices are considered to be nation-leading, while the firm also picks up high marks for its insurance know-how and several banking & finance nods in the states it has a presence in. Other highlights include top rankings for tech and outsourcing work in DC; antitrust and communications know-how in its home state of Illinois; and projects and tax capabilities across the US. Most of the juniors on our list were based in New York, followed closely by the firm’s head office, Chicago, with the remainder dotted around Charlotte, Houston, LA, Palo Alto and DC.
Strategy & Future
"Notwithstanding the pandemic," continues managing partner Jeremy Clay, "we are pleased to have increased revenue and profitability in 2020, continuing a pattern of sustained growth over the last ten years." He adds that “we have momentum, which is bolstered by our strong performance during the pandemic." When life does return to some semblance of normality, Clay informs us that "we will operate flexibly even when we can return to our offices. We believe though that the office will still be an important place for collaboration, culture, mentoring and development. This means maintaining our focus on wellbeing and how we support people through this period of continuous change. That’s been a big focus for us. In 2021, we will continue with new and innovative wellbeing initiatives to address the needs of our lawyers and business services staff." For more from Clay, click the Bonus Features tab above.
From an international perspective, MB closed its Bangkok office in early 2021 but continues to serve its clients in Thailand from its bases in Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. Elsewhere, it has been busy growing its presence in Düsseldorf, where it has added antitrust, employment, banking and litigation lawyers over the past year.
After a summer of sampling different practices, incoming juniors list their three departmental preferences, which are balanced with business need. MB’s corporate & securities, finance, and litigation departments housed the majority of the juniors on our list. The firm has a free-market assignment system, but sources told us that there are some safety nets in place, especially when juniors first start, when they’re assigned a couple of matters to help get them started. “I got emails from partners and I was placed on matters by day two,” one interviewee reported. “Right after you start, people come to you.” While there are no staffing coordinators, the biggest groups “have some sort of availability questionnaire,” where associates “flag a traffic-light status to indicate your expected capacity in the next two weeks.”
In the litigation space, sources explained that “our biggest clients are banks.” Though, “in the past year, [US conglomerate] 3M has become one of our biggest clients.” Interviewees said the type of matters encountered depended largely on the office you were in. Associates told us that “New York is best known for commercial, securities and banking litigation,” while “Chicago, which is the biggest office, does a lot of financial services litigation.”Sources added that there’s also “a lot of product liability and mass tort work, alongside antitrust and a sizable telecoms practice.” Working with colleagues elsewhere can also be expected; one source reckoned “ten to 20% of litigation matters are staffed cross-office." On big matters, associates told us they’d completed standard junior tasks like “doc review, research and creating deposition outlines.” On smaller matters, more responsibility could be had handling “discovery and drafting things like motion requests.”
Litigation clients:HSBC, Facebook, ArcelorMittal. Representing 3M in over 1,000 lawsuits filed by a mix of individuals, water suppliers and state and local government entities.
The corporate & securities practice is divided into four subgroups: M&A, capital markets, funds formation, and technology transactions. One junior was pleased to inform us that they’d “got a good level of experience in each of them.” MB is “known for doing private equity M&A – most of our larger clients are PE firms.”New York’s M&A practice, for example, works with a mix of Fortune 100 companies and private equity firms, across a diverse set of industries. Sources highlighted that “the group has increased in size and has developed an insurance M&A practice.”Junior associates said there was a lot of “early responsibility, with sink-or-swim style opportunities” for the especially brave. It was a situation one source said they “preferred, because when you move up you know what’s expected of you.” For “cookie-cutter private M&A deals, you know where you’re going, even with the twists and turns.” There’s still “a lot of substantive work in the non-cookie-cutter space,” which saw a source grapple with “documents where you had to work out compensation on an abstract level based on the predicted growth of a company.”
Corporate clients:The Dow Chemical Company, Nestlé, Heitman Capital. Recently represented Nestlé in two transactions: the sale of its US ice cream business to Froneri International and the acquisition of a gastrointestinal medication from Allergan.
Finance associates pointed out that MB is known most for its “securitization practice, but also for fund finance, project finance – lots of things! Sometimes there’s an overlap and we work with the corporate team.” Another junior relayed how they’d spent a lot of their time working on “lending matters for large banking clients or the private credit group.” What juniors can do “depends on the deals you seek out.”There are the larger matters with big deal teams or the smaller ones where “it can be just you and a partner. You get the opportunity to draft transaction and offering documents and interact with the client.” On those heftier matters “where the client is a bank, they’ll have their juniors too, who you’ll interact with. It’s still substantive work, but it’s a little different.”
Banking & finance clients:BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, General Motors. Recently represented the latter on several debt facilities, which included a credit agreement worth almost $2 billion.
Hours & Compensation
As we’re sure most of you are aware (but should reiterate nonetheless), BigLaw is not “a nine-to-five job.” Yes, “the hours can be intense,”as one New York finance associate put it: “In NY people tend to start later – 10am – and then work pretty late. For a busy time, you can expect to work until at least midnight, which is not uncommon. Billing anything around 200 hours a month is busy, and once you start going above that it gets more painful.” A corporate & securities associate mentioned how they’d “only done one all-nighter but have worked late on many occasions, past one or 2am.” The average hours according to our survey was nearing 60 hours a week. MB has an unlimited vacation policy, with the average number of vacation days taken by our survey respondents coming out at six and a half – three once we had removed a couple of outliers who had taken significantly more vacation than the majority.
Billable hours: 2,000 requirement
Associates are eligible for a bonus at 2,000 hours, but we heard that a market-standard payout only kicks in at 2,100 hours, with the exception of those in New York. A Chicago source felt the bonus was “not in line with the rest of the market.” MB did make temporary salary cuts in 2020 during the pandemic, but these were reversed later in the year. “As a relatively conservative firm, that was the line,” commented a junior. “They wanted to take a step back fiscally to ensure jobs weren’t lost.”
Talking of the people, the thing that stood out for us during our interviewees was a sense of teamwork. “People do a lot of bonding,” said one impressed source. “There’s been a good level of interaction during the pandemic.” Sources said that “everyone is really helpful,” and the strong team culture meant that interviewees felt able to reach out to people above them for help. Juniors added that “midlevels and seniors are all willing to be mentors, which I found incredibly helpful,” and “partners, for the most part, are very approachable.” Ultimately, “it’s a culture that champions hard work, but also one where there’s a soft side and people catch up about weekends, family, and what they’re watching.”
“It’s a culture that champions hard work, but also one where there’s a soft side.”
Sources were keen for curious students to banish any preconceptions of “stereotypical yellers that you might hear horror stories about,”for the lawyers at MB are on the whole “laid-back and don’t have big egos.”What this means in practice is that “you can operate pretty independently as long as you’re getting the work done and meeting your hours.”And if associates ever find themselves in a tough spot, there’s often a sympathetic ear to call upon: “If I’m ever over- or under-worked, I can reach out. If something’s bothering me, I can always go and speak to someone.”
Diversity & Inclusion
Concerns about the free-market system and its potential to leave minority associates under-utilized were expressed. “It’s hard for me to imagine that it’s malicious,” said one source. “The vast majority of it is implicit bias and individuals gravitating toward certain individuals.”The lack of black representation in senior roles led an interviewee to say: “We don’t feel we have a future at the firm.” On gender representation, another junior commented that “on paper the firm endorses diversity, but it’s not reflected in promotions and hires. There is no shortage of qualified females, but every year you look at the list and think ‘okay.’”In 2021, MB elected 27 new partners, nine of whom were women.
"We have set global goals for women in the partnership, and in the US, goals for minority ethnic and LGBTQ+ lawyers in the partnership," says managing partner Jeremy Clay, adding: "We aim to extend these to other regions." The firm has also signed up to the Mansfield Rule program. A junior highlighted that after the death of George Floyd, the firm launched ‘Project Equity,’ which “a lot of associates have got involved in to improve efforts around diversity and inclusion.”Clay adds that Project Equity “focuses on how we address racial and social injustice. It started in the US and has now been rolled out globally. The firm is looking to contribute around 50,000 pro bono hours in the next few years to this initiative." The firm tells us it covers issues including housing, voting rights issues and small business initiatives.
There are “formal associate mentors, who are allocated to you, but what’s more valuable is the organic mentorship you get with the people you work for,”commented one junior. In addition, MB allocates associates “partner mentors in other offices, who are above the fray of local office politics.”
Making partner wasn’t for everyone, with one associate citing the “unpredictability of your schedule”as a reason for looking elsewhere, but at the same time conceding that “if you want to work at a BigLaw firm, it’s one of the best.” For those who do want to move on, we heard that “there are plenty of lateral moves, with some people opting to move in-house at banks.”
A litigator told us that while “there is free rein to find what you’re interested in, most of the projects are immigration-based opportunities in this practice.” In the finance practice, “immigration and visa matters are really popular with associates,” with many liking to “take on more litigation-style opportunities” to supplement their transactional work. At the same time, those in the transactional practices do get tailored emails which “specifically flag” the matters that most line up with their area of practice and knowledge.
“Partners are understanding if there’s an urgent pro bono deadline that needs to be met.”
MB lawyers are encouraged to devote a minimum of 20 hours each year to pro bono, “but no one’s mad at me for not doing that yet,”revealed one relieved and honest source. Being “crazy busy with client matters”can get in the way of associates’ aspirations to do pro bono, but we heard that the impact of the pandemic had freed up some more time to take on this work. A further incentive for associates is that they can bill up to 200 hours of pro bono with the approval of practice leaders. We also heard that “partners are understanding if there’s an urgent pro bono deadline that needs to be met.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 55,208
- Average per (US) attorney: 58
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: 1,295
Mayer Brown takes a national approach to hiring, with dedicated teams focusing on key pipeline schools including, among many others, Harvard, University of Michigan, Northwestern and University of Chicago. The firm also recruits from regional schools. In all cases the firm has a purposeful focus on diversity. Most of the students interviewed at each campus will meet a senior and a junior attorney – often these are alumni of the school and will be able to discuss their track to the firm.
At this point, the firm is primarily looking for interest in their practice and any particular niches the candidate has an eye on. The firm is strong in both litigation and transactional work and had a significant focus on finance companies, funds, insurance companies and banks. Transactional practices are a particular focus of the firm’s recruiting. 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 for this stage:
“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.”
When candidates come back for a callback interview, 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- to 30-minute interviews. In most cases, each applicant will meet a junior associate in order to get the opportunity to talk about starting one’s career at Mayer Brown. Where there is mutual interest, the firm encourages candidates to have additional follow-up meetings and even return for additional introductions over lunches and dinners.
Engagement and focus is key at callbacks: Mayer Brown wants to hear thoughtful reasons behind the motivation to join the firm. The firm is looking for a long-term relationship as most future partners come for the summer program or join as associates. “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,” sources say.
Top tips for this stage:
“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, Houston, Palo Alto and LA, the in-person ten-week program that is expected in 2022 is built around a pool-based work allocation system that allows candidates to work in a variety of practice groups. Training comes through both national and local programs. In addition to the typical social sessions and practice area events, there are events organized by the diversity committee, women's committee and Mayer's other affinity groups.
Each summer associate is assigned at least two mentors to steer them in the right direction, but the firm takes an autonomous approach and advises they “reach out to partners and associates with whom they have an interest in working.” Members of the recruiting committee and the summer program committee check in with summers throughout the process to keep an eye on which practice they'd like to join upon receiving an offer. Summer events include activities like summer concerts, sporting events, cooking nights and scavenger hunts but are designed to appeal to a wide range of interests and foster interaction
Top tips for this stage:
“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 typically 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: Describe the firm’s market position in three sentences or fewer? Which firms would you identify as your biggest competition?
What we saw in 2020, despite the uniquely challenging circumstances, was continued growth in the business in line with the Firm's strategy. Notwithstanding the pandemic, we are pleased to have increased revenue and profitability in 2020, continuing a pattern of sustained growth over the last 10 years.
We outperformed the market in terms of increased client demand in 2020. The aim will be to sustain that growth in 2021 and beyond. We have momentum, which is bolstered by our strong performance during the pandemic.
CA: What is the greatest challenge facing the firm in the next decade? How about the legal market more generally?
There’s a stratum of the market that has significant restructuring and private equity businesses and/or is focused on certain industries like life sciences and tech, and, as a result of that mix, was able to ride out the pandemic. But, as was the case with our firm, if you’ve managed your business to meet client demand in the right sectors and industries, you will experience sustained growth throughout public-health and other crises.
CA: Are there other developments in the firm’s immediate future you think our readers should be aware about? Any office moves/upgrades? Significant lateral hires/ practice growth?
We are aligning lawyers around products and industries across jurisdictions. Examples include industries like tech, energy and insurance; and products like M&A, capital markets and corporate investigations. We think that will help drive client service and allow lawyers to work in non-traditional ways and create a competitive advantage.
Having to manage a business in a remote-working environment is changing how we manage and think about the way we support our clients and lawyers. The increased use of tech has been essential; moving forward, it will be about how we develop and refine that use to better meet our clients' needs.
We will operate flexibly even when we can return to our offices. We believe though that the office will still be an important place for collaboration, culture, mentoring and development. This means maintaining our focus on wellbeing and how we support people through this period of continuous change. That’s been a big focus for us. In 2021, we will continue with new and innovative wellbeing initiatives to address the needs of our lawyers and business services staff.
Other big challenges include redefining the role of the law firm in our communities. For example, in 2020 we established Project Equity, which focuses on how we address racial and social injustice. It started in the US and has now been rolled out globally. The firm is looking to contribute around 50,000 pro bono hours in the next few years to this initiative.
Creating a truly diverse global law firm is a strategic goal. In order to help achieve this we have set global goals for women in the partnership, and in the US, goals for minority ethnic and LGBTQ+ lawyers in the partnership—we aim to extend these to other regions. We’ve also signed up to the Mansfield Rule program to accelerate achievement of these goals.
Mayer Brown LLP
71 South Wacker Drive,
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 18
- Worldwide revenue: $1.517 billion
- Partners (US): 438
- Counsel (US): 110
- Associates (US): 463
- 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 2021: 59
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021:1Ls: 3, 2Ls: 74, 3Ls: 0, Pre-Clerks: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Palo Alto: 4, New York: 19, Washington, DC: 12, Houston: 4, Charlotte: 6, Chicago: 27, Los Angeles: 5
- Summer salary 2021: 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, 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, 2021
- Tax (Band 4)
- Real Estate (Band 4)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Immigration (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 5)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Antitrust (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Communications (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 2)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 2)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 4)
- Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (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)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 5)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: The Elite (Band 5)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Appellate Law (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: RMBS (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Structured Products (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
- Derivatives (Band 3)
- E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 4)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- Energy: Electricity (Transactional) (Band 4)
- ERISA Litigation (Band 2)
- FCPA (Band 5)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Compliance) (Band 4)
- Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 3)
- Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Compliance) (Band 1)
- Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Enforcement & Investigations) (Band 2)
- Financial Services Regulation: Consumer Finance (Litigation) (Band 3)
- Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
- Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 3)
- Immigration (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
- International Arbitration: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
- International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 4)
- Outsourcing (Band 2)
- Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP (Band 1)
- Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
- Technology (Band 1)
- Transportation: Rail (for Railroads) (Band 3)
- Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)