Mayer Brown LLP - The Inside View

Chicago’s Mayer Brown is a global brand with a triple thread of leading finance, corporate and litigation practices. 

There can be many reasons for joining a law firm. You might choose Mayer Brown, for instance, because you grew up in Chicago and like the firm’s “Midwestern feel” and brand of camaraderie. Or, as this associate explained, you might be “drawn by the intellectual curiosity of the firm’s attorneys and how they support research, thought leadership, and new areas of law.” Or, as managing partner Jeremy Clay notes, you may be looking for a firm that is “positioned as a high-quality major global law firm, with significant scale in revenue and reach.” 

Whatever your reasons, here’s what you need to know, courtesy of Clay, who explains: “We have big finance, corporate, and litigation practices. We have a significant global real estate practice, and our restructuring capabilities are increasingly important. Our product and industry focus includes capital markets, funds, insurance and energy, and this approach allows us to provide clients with substantial expertise.” An examination of Chambers USA reveals that MB’s strong suits on a nationwide scale are tech, projects, privacy, consumer finance regulation, tax, and capital markets work.  

"They like to keep people for a while, which means they don’t do lay-offs when times get tough.” 

MB’s global reach extends across the Americas, Asia, and Europe, but in the US most of the associates in our sample were in the Chicago, New York, DC, and Charlotte offices. Many of our sources cited MB’s finance prowess as a significant pull factor, while others felt they were in safe hands: “It’s a strategically conservative firm that doesn’t hire huge classes. They like to keep people for a while, which means they don’t do lay-offs when times get tough.”

Mayer Brown is a Top 25 firm for Associate Satisfaction in our 2023 survey.

Strategy & Future 

“We grew significantly in 2022,” Clay tells us. “We opened our 27th office in Salt Lake City, which is focused on EC/VC, and we’ve just completed a joint venture in Singapore with a law firm that will give us local law capabilities and so further access to a big market.” In addition, “we’ve just developed an ESG product team that brings together lawyers globally to present our ESG capabilities to clients in a joined-up way.”  

The firm’s focus will remain on industry sectors and products, all while trying to navigate the choppy waters of global developments. “There are downturns and inflationary pressures around the world,” Clay notes. “We are helping our clients to deal with these in ways that meet their needs and respond to uncertainty. We are impacted by geopolitical events, such as the invasion of Ukraine. The really tragic events there have of course had a significant economic effect, including impacting the energy market and supply chain. Tensions between China and the US are also affecting business in Asia.” 

Closer to home, “we’re still working on the development of the right hybrid model,” says Clay. “We have a flexible model. We’re also looking at improving our management of work allocation – not just in terms of volume but also quality using work allocation managers. This is important for improved lawyer development.” 

The Work 

So, what tea did the associates give us on this new approach? A source confirmed that “we are working on a new assignment system that looks at associates’ skills, availability, and interests, while allowing for more equity.” However, at the time of our calls most associates indicated that work allocation was still predominantly free-market. “I like liaising with partners and being in contact with the person I am working for,” said one interviewee. Others highlighted that if they were ever short on work, help was close by: “The practice leaders can help you get back on board. I spoke with one and the next day I had three partners reaching out to me,” an associate recalled. The finance practice absorbed the largest chunk of associates on our list, followed closely by corporate, litigation, and real estate. Groups like tax, IP, and restructuring took on a handful each.  

"As you get more senior, you start getting involved in the merger agreements and taking the first cut at drafting issues lists."

The finance practice covers “a pretty diverse group of assets and loans that fall under project finance, general lending, and fund formation work.”On the project finance side, “we work with any type of renewable energy you can think of – offshore, onshore, solar etc... Our clients include banks, developers, and tax equity investors, who we represent regarding the capital needed to make things happen.” When it comes to acting for developers, “we help them get through the regulatory processes, we review documents, and draft proposals and responses.” The deals “usually take longer here, as they are long-term investments.” The pros of this type of work are that “you get to see the whole range of documents required to create a renewable energy project, plus I find it more appealing to work in one deal team with the same client.” Other sources had spent their time prepping ancillary documents; overseeing deal flow; coordinating with opposing counsel; and managing more junior members of the team. 

Finance clients: HSBC Ventures USA, BNP Paribas Securities Corp., BMO Harris Bank. Represented Morgan Stanley as the tax equity investor in a battery storage system project in Riverside, California. 

The corporate & securities practice “mostly falls into three buckets: M&A, fund formation, and capital markets, which covers both debt and equity work.” Fresh-faced juniors can sample work from all three areas in their first year, before settling into a specific strand in their second year. M&A deals give juniors the chance to “draft due diligence reports and ancillary documents like escrow agreements, but as you get more senior, you start getting involved in the merger agreements and taking the first cut at drafting issues lists. You’ll also get to conduct deal status calls with opposing counsel and the clients. The partners give you constructive feedback to help you develop the substantive skills you’ll need as a mid-level.” 

Corporate & securities clients: ArcelorMittal, TC Energy Corporation, the Dow Chemical Company. Represented Cummins during its $3.7 billion acquisition of Meritor. 

“We have a number of partners who are generalists,” said one litigator, which “allows us to work in different areas, including white-collar crime and investigations; employment; antitrust; product liability; securities; environmental torts; and major commercial contract disputes.” In terms of trends, an interviewee felt that MB “is trying to fortify itself in the antitrust space,” before adding that a mainstay for the firm was disputes that occur in the finance sector: “The large banks use us for a variety of matters, large and small.” As can be expected, “there’s a good chunk of doc review, but you do get more responsibility and ownership later on – you move into deposition prep, sitting in on depositions, and drafting motions. There’s space for junior associates to get meaningfully involved in a way that goes beyond just looking at documents!” This associate broke it down for us: “It’s one-third doc review (thoughtful doc review with analysis), one-third research, and one-third writing.” Highlights for another source included being able to “give my analysis to the partners and having some communication with clients and external counsel.” 

Litigation clients: Simmons Bank, Meta, AT&T. Representing 3M Company in over 2,500 suits that have been filed by a mix of individuals, water suppliers, and strands of state and local governments.  

Hours & Compensation 

Billable hours: 2,000 requirement

Reaching 1,800 hours overall is required to be in good standing and to move up a class year in terms of base salary, but the firm notes 2,000 hours as the number to shoot for -- 200 of these can come from pro bono, DE&I, business development, and thought leadership work. While sources generally agreed that the “bonus requirements are fair,” a few felt that the policy could be clearer and communicated earlier in the financial year. “Our bonus policy is based on the hours you put in,” one source concluded, while on a broader scale “the firm will always match the market” when it comes to compensation: “It’s a good system and they want to retain their employees.”  

“I raise my hand when I’m busy and it’s well received.” 

On the transactional side of practice, it’s common to not have “a standard week: you start learning how to predict and prepare accordingly. When there are no deals opening or closing it's a 40-hour week, but when it’s busy that can go up to 60.” Litigators also acknowledged that “the hours can be tough and they depend on the intensity of the matter: there will be a week when I’m not busy and then two weeks where I’m crazy busy.” Praise was bestowed upon the new work allocation teams: “That has made a difference for me. I took on too much in my first year, but there has been better regulation with the allocation system.” Interviewees also felt that returning to the office has made a difference, too: “It’s easier for us to be supported. I haven’t felt burnt out because I raise my hand when I’m busy and it’s well received.” 

Career Development 

We were told about many avenues of career support at MB. Firstly, all juniors are allocated a partner mentor and an associate mentor, who both volunteer to take on the role and work within their mentee’s practice group. However, mentorship extends far beyond formal structures, as this source attested: “If someone were to ask me who my mentors are, I would say, ‘It’s these ten people.’ They want as many connections as possible to be fostered.”

“I was able to act as a judge on a call with two partners who were going through their oral arguments.” 

The frequency of formal training does vary by practice group, but we heard of plenty of opportunities regardless. In corporate & securities, “we have bi-weekly meetings where partners share their thoughts, but we can also ask questions and gain exposure to educational opportunities.” Finance associates, meanwhile, told us that “we do lunch meetings twice a month with the team across our US offices.” Overall, partners were praised for “really seeing the associates they work with and believing that good ideas can come from whoever is involved in the matter – I was able to act as a judge on a call with two partners who were going through their oral arguments.” To top it off, associates also have access to a dedicated career development coach who they can have one-on-one sessions with. Coaching by an external organization is also available.


Picture this: it’s Halloween and there is a pumpkin decorating contest on every floor. “Our pumpkin had a cigar sticking out of its mouth,” an associate told us. Yes, some lawyers know how to let their hair down (cue Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus). “Jokes are allowed,” said one relieved Chicago office resident. “People do have a sense of humor. We have a monthly ‘wine down’ event with food and drink, which is very informal and fun – you just have to show up!” We heard that MB’s leadership plays a key role in fostering the atmosphere at the firm: “People who have been promoted to the partnership recently have been focusing on equity. They take the work culture seriously, set the tone, and create budgets for us to interact more,” an associate pointed out. “They plan big and small events, from a boat cruise [we’re jealous] to casual after-work get-togethers where we watch the Bears play the Patriots.” 

“...a culture that cares, which attracts good people who are serious about pro bono and diversity.” 

Boundaries were also a topic that came up in the associate interviews. “If we have to work at night, senior associates make it clear that they will only get back online after putting their children to sleep, which sets a good example for us and enables us to set boundaries,” a junior reflected. Another commented that they never saw themselves working at “a BigLaw firm in New York – I assumed they would work us to the bone with no culture of support! But here everyone is supportive and helpful.” This source concluded that MB has “a culture that cares, which attracts good people who are serious about pro bono and diversity. We get the smartest, brightest and kindest.” 

Pro Bono 

“We have a pro bono team and its director will send out emails with available matters,” an interviewee explained. “We also have a portal on our intranet that allows us to see all the opportunities alongside their time commitment and background – it's all there in a centralized source.” Associates were pleased that “they make it convenient for us to participate in pro bono” and that “the hours are taken seriously – the partners also take your input seriously and can let you talk to the clients.” 

“ was meaningful to see the firm take that case extremely seriously.” 

“The firm has taken more interest in racial and gender equity issues,” another source noted. One survey respondent informed us that “Mayer Brown is being named one of the City Bar Justice Center's ‘Firms of the Year’ this coming April, in large part due to the firm's commitment to the CBJC's Homeowner Stability Project, which helps poor families of color retain their homes and generational wealth from predatory investors.” Other sources also spoke of this project, while many highlighted their experience on asylum matters that were focused on individuals from Afghanistan: “We worked on evacuating a number of female students at a university in the country.” Interviewees also cited work on a matter with the ACLU of North Carolina, which focused on police brutality against participants in the ‘I am Change March to the Polls’ demonstration during the November 2020 general election: “We were representing a number of plaintiffs and it was meaningful to see the firm take that case extremely seriously.” 

Pro bono hours 

  • For all (US) attorneys: 49,913
  • Average per (US) attorney: 48 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Interviewees spoke highly of the firm’s efforts to boost the representation of women, with one declaring the visibility as “awesome – there are many women partners and the Women’s Leadership Committee is great. We just had an event where we got together to socialize and wrap presents for charity, and in Chicago around eight women partners sat down with us to talk about business development and to share their experiences.”    

“We know when to call a spade a spade and when something needs to be improved.” 

However, there was consensus that the representation of minorities at all levels could be improved. Sources did agree that the firm is taking a serious and open approach to address this: “We had a meeting with the firm’s leaders and they were honest about it and told us their action plan. We know when to call a spade a spade and when something needs to be improved.” This junior agreed that “it’s an open discussion. This past class was very diverse because the firm works hard to find exceptional people who would not otherwise get attention.” They added that MB recruits from the Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair as part of its efforts to find diverse candidates. Clay emphasizes that “we go to schools and provide scholarships, and we have set goals for increasing women and diverse lawyers in our partnership and leadership that we believe will help drive the creation of a truly diverse law firm.” MBhas also joined the Mansfield Certification Programs to shift the dial on diverse representation at the higher levels. “Since a lot of our hours go into recruitment and DE&I efforts, we asked the management to count those hours as billable if they are truly committed, and the firm accepted,” a junior enthused. 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus   

OCI applicants interviewed: 1,223  

Mayer Brown takes a national approach to hiring, with dedicated teams focusing on key pipeline schools including, among many others, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, NYU, University of Michigan, and Duke. 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 practices 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, asset managers, 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 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 practice law at 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.”   

Summer program   

Mayer Brown has a ten-week program across the US.  Each of our 8 US offices develop a summer calendar filled with social events. The social events are designed to help the summer associate build relationships with each other and firm lawyers. 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.  

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 typically know who their interviewers are in advance, so take the time to read up on their practice and role in the firm.   

Mayer Brown LLP

71 South Wacker Drive,
IL 60606-4637

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, and private clients, trusts, and estates.


Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2022:
American University, Berkeley, BYU, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, DePaul, Duke, Fordham, Georgetown, George Washington, Harvard, UC Hastings, Houston, Howard, Illinois, Indiana, Chicago-Kent, Loyola-Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina, NYU, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington & Lee, Wisconsin, 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:
Our summer programs are specially designed to aid summer associates in shaping the future direction of their careers in the practice of law by exposing them to day-to-day activities of practicing lawyers. We don’t use a rotation system or assign interns to particular lawyers. Instead, they receive assignments based on their preferences—by selecting projects from our online database or by approaching an attorney with whom they’d like to work as part of our free-market system. Summer projects involve actual client matters, which provide invaluable hands-on experience, and there are plenty of opportunities to observe or participate in closings, document drafting, client conferences and negotiation sessions. This multi-faceted approach leaves room for summer associates to explore different areas, as well as to work with a variety of lawyers. Summer associates are paired with attorney advisors who provide one-on-one guidance and help navigate the ins and outs of law firm life.

For more information please visit:

Social media

Recruitment website:
Linkedin: mayer-brown

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Technology: Transactions (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • 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 3)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
    • Communications (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 5)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent (Band 5)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Tax: State & Local (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Antitrust: Cartel (Band 3)
    • Appellate Law (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 5)
    • Capital Markets: Investment Grade Debt: Manager Counsel (Band 3)
    • 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)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • 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: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • International Trade: Trade Remedies & Trade Policy (Band 4)
    • Offshore Energy (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Political Law (Band 5)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Product Liability: Toxic Torts (Band 1)
    • Projects: Power & Renewables: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Projects: PPP (Band 1)
    • Projects: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 1)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
    • Technology (Band 1)
    • Transportation: Road (Automotive) (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)