Mayer Brown LLP - The Inside View

This Chi-Town go-getter offers an international reach that will suit those who are up for a challenge. 

VISIT Mayer Brown’s homepage and you’re immediately confronted by a triptych of skyscrapers representing the world’s key financial centers. The marketing message is clear, even without the taglines promoting global perspectives: MB’s the kind of firm that’s got border-crossing legal advice down to a tee. It wasn’t lost on our junior sources, as one representative interviewee recalled when discussing what convinced them to join the firm: “I was looking for an international experience, and Mayer Brown has an international network. It also has a vast Latin America team, and I was looking to work in that jurisdiction.” This presence is mostly enabled by an association with the Brazilian firm Tauil & Chequer Advogados, but MB’s legal tendrils evidently spread further than the Americas: its 27 bases (including its associated offices) also cover locations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The firm picks up a whole host of Chambers Global rankings, with high global-wide nods going to its projects & energy, capital markets, construction, immigration and outsourcing work. Outside of the US, MB’s expertise in the UK and China pulls in the most Chambers Global acclaim.

But many firms are international, right? What clenched the deal further for our sources? “It was the opportunity to learn from the best,” one remembered, pointing to the “premier group” they now work in. Indeed, MB is showered in Chambers USA praise for its home soil handling of many a legal matter. On a nationwide scale, highlights include appellate law, capital markets, consumer finance regulation, outsourcing, projects, tax and transportation work. Its birth state of Illinois is still the place where MB performs best, but the firm’s recognized in various areas across New York, North Carolina, California, Texas and DC. The last two locations have experienced growth of late: the former recently benefited from a lateral Locke Lord partner who’s boosted MB’s oil and gas practice, while in the latter the hire of a white-collar Paul Hastings partner has augmented the firm’s strategy to develop its practice in this area in recent years. As we know, there’s more to life than mere prestige: culture’s just as important, and for our interviewees, MB was a place that combined the best of both worlds. “It’s competitive but collegial,” one summarized, while another highlighted the chance for “a good experience where you also feel challenged.”

The Work 

The juniors on our list were fairly evenly spread across MB’s corporate, litigation and finance practices. Location-wise, a large portion were based in the Chicago HQ and New York offices, but there were also juniors in Charlotte, Houston, LA, Palo Alto and DC. During the summer, “newcomers choose if they’d rather be transactional or litigation-focused” and generally receive work from three preferred practice areas.  Once at the firm full-time, work assignment can vary between practices. For instance, a litigator told us that “in the beginning people are farmed out to different projects, but after a while associates build up a reputation with certain partners, who take them under their wing.” In corporate, an “open-market system” has traditionally been in place, but “a more structured program” has been implemented of late: “There’s an online scheduling system so you can indicate your availability and whether you have specific interests or different types of deals that you’d like to work on.” 

Junior litigators work on anything that falls under the practice’s umbrella: “You become more specialized around your sixth year. Each partner in litigation has their own specialty and newbies work with them all.”LA sources had encountered a fair amount of labor and employment work, whereas those in New York had taken on quite a lot of white-collar cases. Across the board litigators reported getting substantive assignments: “You get responsibility quickly as a junior associate – matters are leanly staffed US-wide.” As one litigator lamb detailed: “I’ve interacted with clients and the opposing counsel, presented in depositions, helped draft pitches, attended hearings, and written briefs, dispositive motions and motions to compel.” Plenty of client contact is up for grabs “if you prove you are responsible and dependable.”

Litigation clients: Spotify, Facebook and HSBC. Represented Facebook throughout two putative class actions involving claims that the company violated an Illinois privacy law by using facial recognition technology as part of its ‘tag suggestions’ feature. 

MB’s corporate attorneys are split between four subgroups: M&A, capital markets, fund formation and technology transactions. As one New Yorker explained, “the first two years are open, but then you end up picking a specialty." Newbies largely spoke of “signing checklists, organizing schedules, taking notes on calls, fixing presentations and doing due diligence.” Once in the second year, however, some had graduated to “running transactions and taking a more in-depth role.” On the M&A side, a junior told us that they’d “worked directly alongside the partner on a solar development project – I drafted the agreements and was the point of contact for the counterparty.” Regarding fund formation matters, an associate noted: “We do a lot of fund formation for high net worth individuals – we typically work for mid-sized sponsors such as private equity firms, hedge funds or other investors.” Technology & transaction newbies explained that “a lot of what we do is outsourcing tech - we’ll draft all the contracts and underlying appendices that make the deal happen.” There were no complaints about lack of client contact here either, with this source beaming: “I’m usually the lead person on client calls.”

Corporate clients: The Dow Chemical Company, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Yum! Brands. Represented Nestlé during its $7.15 billion global alliance deal with Starbucks. 

Pro Bono

In the US, MB is a signatory of the Pro Bono Institute’s ‘Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge’ – the challenge commits firms to devote 3% of total billable time to pro bono work. “The firm is accommodating,”associates generally felt, with one saying that PB is “very encouraged” and another noting that “they are more than happy to approve any expenses on the cases.” MB grants associates 200 hours of pro bono work toward billable credit; the first 100 is guaranteed, but beyond that hours need to be approved by a practice leader, a junior clarified. Fortunately, we heard that “people are always allowed extra hours.” All pro bono hours count toward ‘good standing’. Matters are distributed by the pro bono director via email, and associates volunteer if they have the time. 

“Given the current political climate, we do a lot of immigration work,” a Houstonian told us. On immigration matters, we heard of juniors playing “a very active role – I went to the immigration court, wrote all the briefs and interviewed the client.” Another source explained how these cases can often involve assisting “a minor from overseas if their parents are abusive or have died – we then work to give them ‘Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.’” Beyond immigration, MB attorneys devote their time to matters spanning education, death penalty, adoptions, indigent criminal defense, and anti-poverty causes.

Pro bono hours

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 52,970
  • Average per US attorney: 58

Career Development 

“It’s not about the training programs, what it comes down to is: do you have partners who are invested in building associates up? Here, we do,” a source revealed, mirroring other positive feedback we’d received. The Chicago office houses the career development team, which devises and circulates webinars that “give guidance on best practices and how to market yourself. The team also visits each office and has discussions with associates on business planning and time management.” Beyond this team, a source commented that the “partners are very thoughtful in that they ensure associates get good practice and strong training development programs.” Another agreed and added that “partners do a good job of both throwing you in at the deep end and holding your hand while you’re there.” For first-years, MB puts on lunch seminars that provide an overview of what work life will be like for newbies, discussing the likes of ethics and professionalism in the process. In addition, MB has an internal associate panel of fourth to sixth-years, which educates lower years on making the transition from junior to mid-level associate: “The panel teaches you how to go from being the task-orientated person on matters to being more managerial.” Practice area-wise, corporate associates spoke of having educational lunches every few weeks: “One of us takes a topic – such as service level agreements – and presents to the group.”

“Partners do a good job of both throwing you in at the deep end and holding your hand while you’re there.”

The path to partnership is somewhat of a black box for attorneys, with many communicating that there could be more transparency over what is required. The firm is reportedly trying to resolve this issue: in recent discussions at a town hall meeting in New York, “there was talk about adding information to the associates’ annual review to indicate where they stand within the path to partnership,” a source disclosed. 

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 2,000 target

In most offices, juniors must hit a minimum of 1,900 client billable hours and complete 100 additional ‘client equivalent’ hours (in the form of pro bono or other activities, like participation in “thought leadership” initiatives) to qualify for a bonus. Bonuses increase in 100-hour increments up until 2,300 hours, and additional hours can consist of both client billable and client equivalent work. The New York program differs slightly to be more in line with the local market. Some said that “they’d had no difficulties” reaching bonus eligibility, while others were quite resigned: “I don’t think I’m going to hit it...” Differences in practice area and location can impact associates’ ability to reach the target. With or without the bonus, attorneys alike delighted over their salary: “We get a great salary and have much better schedules and autonomy than other BigLaw firms.”

Diversity & Inclusion

“The representation of women is great at Mayer Brown – ethnic minorities are a work in progress,” was a common refrain from interviewees. Smaller offices were said to be particularly lacking in diversity due to their dimensions: “Chicago is the hub – it’s much more diverse.” Yet we heard the LA office is also doing its bit to increase representation: “Associates are now able to go to certain events to scout potential associates and have an input on who comes back to interview.”MB maintains women’s initiatives, affinity groups, and a diversity advisory committee. The latter works on the US Diversity Scholars Program: the program provides (annually) four scholarships worth $25,000 each to academically strong law students. A source told us of the firm’s plans for 2020: “Next year, the summer associate program will be 50% diverse.” The firm also hosts a diversity retreat program (recently held in Chicago): “Outside consultants do exercises with the group on topics like unconscious bias – it brings us all together.” Mental health training is also available to attorneys: “Throughout the training we talk about suicide prevention, alcoholism and steps you can take to elevate stress.”


One Houston-based source was quick to pick up on MB’s ‘one firm culture’ and commented that “in my experience, cross-office matters and working together has been pretty seamless – I've worked with all offices.” However, there are still differences between locations, as our interviewees made clear. Chicago was said to be both “more formal” and “more dynamic” than other locations, due to its size and status: “It has more events, more diversity and pro bono initiatives, but it’s also more structured; in Chicago it’s more difficult to work one-on-one with a partner because there are more senior attorneys, so the traditional workflow is followed.” This was viewed as less of an issue in smaller offices like Houston, where “everybody knows each other – it's collaborative and relaxed in that while you certainly have to do your job, no one is monitoring you.”LA is equally “tight-knit” with partner/associate relations described as “not too formal; it’s a welcoming and inclusive space, and at 3pm every day a group of us get coffee and talk about our days.” In New York, meanwhile, “it’s a culture of ‘do your work but live your life.’” 

“They want associates who aren't necessarily robotic!”

As for the summer associates, the firm puts on an array of events to attract potential attorneys: “We go to baseball games, sushi restaurants etc... It’s good fun.” When it comes to recruitment time, MB concentrates on retaining its culture: “In particular, they pick people who have emotional intelligence – they are looking for associates who are warm and personable. They want associates who aren't necessarily robotic!”

Strategy & Future 

Managing partner Jeremy Clay gives us the legal lowdown on the firm: “2019 was a year of winning clients in the marketplace. We saw significant growth in the corporate and private equity departments – our corporate group in New York more than doubled in size in the previous year, increasing from 30 to 63 lawyers."

Clay notes that MB's lawyers are developing to become well-rounded “hybrids rather than specialists. Clients look to buy legal services from firms that have a cross-practice industry focus. Firms have got to develop lawyers who understand industries or sectors like technology and energy – it’s not enough to just know about the law.” With the current politics surrounding technology, data privacy is an increasing concern for MB’s clients: “We are focusing on the tech industry – for example, all of our clients are facing many challenges in data privacy; this area has been strong in Europe but is also a global story.”

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,092

Interviewees outside OCI: 50

Mayer Brown takes a national approach to hiring, with dedicated teams focusing on key pipeline schools including Harvard, University of Michigan, Northwestern and University of Chicago. The firm also recruits from regional schools. 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. 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.”


Applicants invited to second stage interview: 364

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 return for additional introductions over lunches and dinners.

Culture is key at callbacks: Mayer Brown wants to hear thoughtful reasons behind the motivation 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,” 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.”

Summer program

Offers: 169

Acceptances: 44

Mayer's summer experience differs by office: in Chicago, New York, DC, Houston, Palo Alto and LA, 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 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 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.

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.”

And finally...

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.


Hours at Mayer Brown

Both litigators and corporate attorneys (on average) arrived at the office at 9am and left by 6.30pm to typically work another one to two hours from home in the evening. Busier days warranted an 8.30pm finish for litigators and 9.30pm for corporate. Across departments, attorneys reportedly worked from home once a week as “this is not a face time culture firm – as long as you get the work done partners are pleased.” Like many BigLaw firms, MB grants attorneys ‘unlimited’ vacation in theory. In reality, there are certain understandings about how to take vacation: “All we have to do is hit the billables – if you hit the time you take the time.” One of those who had hit the time joked: “I always book international cruises – there’s no signal out at sea so no one can talk to me!” 

Mayer Brown LLP

71 South Wacker Drive,
IL 60606-4637

  • Number of domestic offices: 8
  • Number of international offices: 18
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.389 billion
  • Partners (US): 422
  • Counsel (US): 93
  • Associates (US): 425
  • Contacts  
  • Main recruitment contacts: See for office specific contacts
  • Hiring partner: J Bradley (Brad) Keck
  • Diversity officer: Jeremiah DeBerry, Partner Diversity & Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 50
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020:1Ls: 9, 2Ls: 43, 3Ls: 0, Pre-Clerks: 0
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Palo Alto: 5, New York: 15, Washington DC: 5, Houston: 4, Charlotte: 5, Chicago:14, Los Angeles: 4
  • Summer salary 2020: 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

Firm profile

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.


 Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
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:

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This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Immigration (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • 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 3)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 5)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Appellate Law (Band 2)
    • 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) (Band 1)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Government Contracts (Band 3)
    • Immigration (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • 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)