A recent office opening in Salt Lake City shows Mayer Brown means business when it comes to cementing its status as one of the finest firms for finance and technology work.
“Over the last 12 months growth has really been the firm’s headline story,” declares Mayer Brown’s managing partner, Jeremy Clay, when we catch up with him. “Despite the impact of the pandemic, we’ve significantly expanded the business, both at associate and counsel level, in response to increased client demand.” Indeed: MB has seen its revenue increase by 21.7% over the last year to $1.84 billion.
MB has come a long way from its humble Chicago roots in the late 19th century: today the firm boasts27 offices across the world and has built up a global reputation as a financial services maestro in the legal market. Chambers Global rates MB as one of the best on the planet for banking and finance, capital markets, international trade, and projects work. Closer to home, Chambers USA bestows many an accolade on MB: on a nationwide scale, MB excels when it comes to capital markets, financial services regulation, privacy and data security, projects, tax, and technology work.
In 2022, MB opened a new office in Salt Lake City to gain access to opportunities in key sectors including tech, life sciences, fintech, and insurtech. This latest addition brought MB’s domestic office count up to nine. The firm’s Chicago and New York offices housed the majority of the associates on our list, but juniors could still be found in the Houston, Charlotte, DC, LA, and Palo Alto bases.
Strategy & Future
“Prior to the pandemic, we were very focused on accelerating the growth of the firm, which meant developing our practice areas including our funds; private equity; high-stakes disputes; insurance; life sciences; tech; M&A; and projects & energy teams," Clay tells us. "Our strategy has remained on this path. Geographically, we’ve been looking at the firm as a global business. We’ve witnessed sustained growth across all of our US offices." Clay adds that "our M&A practice in New York has had a particularly strong year."
After a summer of tasting the firm’s array of practices, incoming juniors list their three departmental preferences. MB’s corporate & securities, finance, and litigation departments housed the majority of the juniors on our list. Although the firm has a free-market assignment system, sources assured us that there are some safety nets in place, especially when juniors first start. Newbies tend to get automatically assigned their first few assignments to keep them going until they’ve made good connections at the firm. Most interviewees were satisfied with the free-market set-up, with one stating that “the system is interesting to get used to in the beginning, but it does lend itself to developing organic, good working relationships with different partners and associates.” Another chimed in: “The system works because of the people in my office – the partners are open to hearing our preferences and always touch base with me before staffing me on assignments.”
"As a first year, I'm in charge of the day-to-day, like calling the court and writing initial drafts.”
MB’s litigators handle high-stakes disputes that pertain to areas such as product liability, fraud, and commercial arbitrations. The team works for an array of clients, including Fortune 100, FTSE 100, and Nikkei index companies, as well as some of the world’s largest banks. Associates here had been able to get to grips with insurance defense cases (a sector strength for MB) and bankruptcy matters. Our interviewees told us that they’d received good levels of responsibility due to lean staffing on teams: “A couple of months into my first year I was attending an arbitration. I helped to prepare the witness statements, came up with deposition outlines and drafted the opening and closing pleadings. It was a great experience to be so junior but still have a seat at the table.” There are the more everyday tasks to tackle too, of course: “Senior associates do the heavy strategic lifting and case management. As a first year, I'm in charge of the day-to-day, like calling the court and writing initial drafts.”
Litigation clients: Facebook, Google and Twitter. The team represents Twitter in a Ninth Circuit appeal relating to security matters with the FBI.
The corporate & securitiesoffering is at the core of the firm's practice and is divided into four subgroups: M&A and private equity, capital markets, fund formation, and technology transactions. Attorneys here represent banks, private equity and leveraged buy-out firms, Fortune 100 companies and DAX-listed corporations. Once in the group, associates can split their time between the subgroups as they please: “I spend 50% of my time on M&A work and the other 50 on capital markets. I'm still undecided on where exactly I want to specialize, so I’m keeping my work evenly spread for now.” In the M&A corner of the practice, associates work on a broad range of private and public acquisitions for clients in the chemical, tech and financial sectors. On the capital markets side, associates picked up a lot of debt offerings and venture capital work with emerging companies. A typical day in the life of a C&S associate involves juggling many balls at once: “Most of my days are split between different deals, which means a lot of drafting contracts, negotiating contracts, a lot of project management, directing work streams and managing deadlines.” Although the department is very busy, a helping hand is never too far away: “The work can get pretty crazy, but I’ve got a good support network I can reach out to and let them know if I’m getting a bit jammed up on one deal.”
Corporate clients: Argo Infrastructure Partners, MeMed Diagnostics and Nestlé. The firm represented Nestlé in the $4.3 billion sale of its North American bottled water business to private equity firm One Rock.
Over in finance, the team serves some of the world’s largest banks on their structured finance, credit facilities and asset management issues. A junior summarized: “I take on a lot of cross-border securitization, capital markets and project finance work!” Juniors enjoy a more hands-on role on smaller deals, where they often work alongside a partner. On these matters, newbies will be entrusted with drafting transaction documents and answering any client questions. An associate based in Chicago enthused: “We have a fairly unique practice in the finance area as we focus on a lot of fund finance work. It’s really exciting to be a young associate in an area that is growing.”
Banking & finance clients: YUM!, BNP Paribas and J.P. Morgan. Mayer Brown represented YUM! Brands and its subsidiaries on a $3.5 billion secured credit facilities.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 2,000 target
It’s fair to say that working in BigLaw requires a little more attention than your typical 9am–5pm job. Although schedules differed between offices and practice areas, the consensus was that “of course, we have to put in the hours, but the firm is very respectful of our lives outside of work and ensures we have a good work-life balance.” Litigators’ schedules were sometimes “all over the place” when approaching trial, with many working late into the night. In New York, associates tend to start at around 10am and bill a couple more hours than other offices. Palo Alto associates, meanwhile, stay on the grind from 8am to 5pm, but can start as early as 6:30am if they’re working with clients on the East Coast. “I need to be awake and working when my clients are,” an associate explained.Given its global remit, many associates work on matters alongside other offices, meaning the hours can really fluctuate. Our survey respondents recorded an estimated average of 51 hours worked in the preceding week.
“I’ve worked with people in the LA, DC, Chicago and Hong Kong offices."
MB does boast an unlimited vacation policy, but we heard that associates typically take a couple of modest vacations throughout the year: the average number of vacation days recorded by our survey respondents for the past year was eight, which is not dissimilar to the figure we collect from other participating firms. To be in good standing, associates need to hit 1,800 hours,but bonus eligibility only kicks in when they reach 2,000 hours. It takes billing 2,100 hours to get a market-rate bonus, however.
“The culture of Mayer Brown is unmatched in BigLaw,” one interviewee boldly stated, so we were curious to delve into why associates liked it so much. First, interviewees felt that MB’s Midwestern origins in Chicago had a positive impact on the atmosphere: “I’ve worked with people in the LA, DC, Chicago and Hong Kong offices, and the strongest common denominator is that everyone answers the phone with a smile – everyone takes the time to say, ‘Hey, how are you? How are your kids? How was your weekend?’ In the fast-paced world of BigLaw it’s nice that everyone I’ve worked with has been friendly, calm, and willing to talk to me as a person.”
This doesn’t mean that associates are expected to spend all their time with the friendly faces at MB; our sources tended to feel that their after-work hours were truly theirs. One summarized: “The firm is low-key, has a ‘no drama’ approach, and people are just generally respectful of each other.” Many associates mentioned the flat hierarchy, with the California bases positioned as the flattest of them all: “We have quite a young group out here, even at partner level. I’ve been able to develop close relationships spanning the junior to senior levels – everyone is naturally tight-knit.”
"Most of the time we just show each other our cats."
Despite the pandemic, MB has maintained a bustling social calendar for those who were up for attending. A shout out was given to the litigation group for hosting weekly happy hours via Webex, with one attendee delighting: “Most of the time we just show each other our cats, which is quite a pleasant way to wind down after a long day!” Meow to that. The firm also hosts coffee catch-ups (with doughnuts), holiday parties, and client conferences with lunch provided.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“The firm is continuously improving its diversity statistics,” one associate was proud to tell us, “and in California our demographic is extremely diverse – many of us come from minority groups.” The firm has continued to prioritize DE&I in its strategy, as managing partner Jeremy Clay tells us: “Diversity within the firm has been a big focus. We joined the Mansfield Rule in 2020 and that has been a pivotal step for us as a firm in building a diverse workplace for future generations.”
MB also recently set up ‘Project Equity’ in response to the death of George Floyd – it’s focused on the issues surrounding racial and social injustice. Clay explains: “The project started in the US and has now taken effect across our global offices. The initiative is spearheaded by the firm and the aim is to contribute around 50,000 hours of pro bono to these causes in the coming years.” The firm runs an array of other DE&I initiatives too, including an educational speaker series, a women’s leadership committee, yoga classes for mental wellbeing and mandatory unconscious bias training.
When they first start out at the firm, juniors undertake MB’s bootcamp training. One (pre-pandemic) source explained that “they flew us all out to Chicago for a three-day training course. I got to meet all the other associates in my year for introductions and more practical training sessions, too.” Regular training is provided beyond the bootcamp as well; one of the programs at MB is called ‘Nuts & Bolts’ and gives associates the basic lowdown on topics like “how to prepare for a deposition, how to respond to certain pleadings, and pitfalls you can avoid.”
“I feel that the firm is really invested in me.”
Outside of structured training sessions, interviewees felt that learning on the job was invaluable: “The partners do a great job of teaching us as we go through projects, by giving us feedback on our drafts and letting us sit in on calls.” Another source happily chimed in: “I feel that the firm is really invested in me and I’ve already had tons of client contact and done lots of networking.” For those who have partnership in their plans, we heard that it takes newbies around eight years to make partner. 89% of our survey respondents agreed that MB’s partners are nurturing future leaders and a third intended to make partner at the firm.
Although the firm has a robust pro bono practice across the US, the Houston office was recently recognized as MB’s first annual pro bono office of the year. We heard of associates taking on housing matters for individuals affected by the pandemic; death row appeals; immigration cases; and family work. The firm’s work with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) was highlighted in particular. When it comes to helping a pro bono client apply for immigration status, associates are “running the day-to-day but consulting with partners – we’re drafting all the pleadings and preparing exhibits.”
MB requests all its associate complete 20 hours of pro bono, with the target for first-years being 60 hours. All associates can complete up to 200 hours in total, with 100 pending practice area approval. “I’ve never heard of anyone being denied extra hours, you can request another hundred if needed!” To further encourage associates to get involved, MB hands out goodies once they’ve hit the 25-hour mark. All of our survey respondents agreed that MB is committed to pro bono, while 88% agreed that they had autonomy over the volume of pro bono work they could take on.
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: 47,251
- Average per (US) attorney: 48.59
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, 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: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you would like our readers to know about?
Jeremy Clay: Over the last 12-months growth has really been the firm’s headline story. Despite the impact of the pandemic, we’ve significantly expanded the business, both at associate and counsel level, in response to increased client demand. Our M&A practice in New York has had a particularly strong year.
We’ve also been increasing community work for our lawyers to get involved in. In 2020, we set up ‘Project Equity’ in response to the death of George Floyd, a project that’s been focused on issues surrounding racial and social injustice. Diversity within the firm has also been a big focus. Last year, we obtained Mansfield Rule certification in the US, which has been a pivotal step for us as a firm in building a diverse workspace for future generations. At the start of the pandemic, we all dispersed into our own homes with the common question on all of our minds: how are we going to be able to grow the business? Turns out, we achieved it pretty seamlessly and that’s a real testament to our client demand and our expertise.
CA: What is the firm's strategy and how do you expect the next year to unfold?
JC: Prior to the pandemic, we were very focused on accelerating the growth of the firm which meant developing our practice areas including our funds; private equity; high-stakes disputes; insurance; life sciences; tech; M&A; and projects & energy teams. Our strategy has remained on this path. Geographically, we’ve been looking at the firm as a global business we’re witnessed sustained growth across all of our US offices.
CA: How has the global pandemic affected the firm?
JC: The pandemic has really accelerated some change that, in some cases, needed to happen. One of the main changes, of course, is working from home. Lockdown made us all take a step back and think how we would best operate going forward. For us, this has meant making better use of our technology and a move towards a more flexible working model for our lawyers and operations. Another aspect of the firm we’ve had to adjust is the development of our talent and how we can best do this whilst all in our homes or working more flexibly. We’ve had to provide training, mentoring and feedback virtually.
On the culture side, issues surrounding wellbeing have been heightened by the pandemic and I think it’s fair to say that everyone has been worn down by the last twelve months. In response, we have developed ways to help our staff and support them in establishing a sustainable working model.
CA: What advice do you have for students and junior associates who are just about to embark/have just embarked on their legal career?
JC: The legal industry is of course demanding, particularly BigLaw. To succeed within the industry, legal excellence is critical; this means not only being excellent in your application of the law but also providing top client service. To be successful at Mayer Brown, I encourage students to carefully think about how to best respond to and communicate with clients. I encourage new lawyers to be proactive when opportunities come their way, and focus on finding a good mentor. Lastly, communicate and connect with your colleagues and find a way to sustain and develop these relationships.
Mayer Brown LLP
71 South Wacker Drive,
- Number of domestic offices: 8
- Number of international offices: 18
- Worldwide revenue: $1,840 million
- Partners (US): 464
- Counsel (US): 133
- Associates (US): 496
- Main recruitment contacts: See www.mayerbrown.com/careers for office specific contacts
- Hiring partner: J Bradley (Brad) Keck
- Diversity officer: Jeremiah A. DeBerry, Partner, Director of Diversity & Inclusion
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2022: 73
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022:1Ls: 16, 2Ls: 72, 3Ls: 0, Pre-Clerks: 0
- Summers joining/anticipated 2022 split by office: Northern California: 6, New York: 27, Washington, DC: 14, Houston: 11, Charlotte: 7, Chicago: 18, Los Angeles: 4, Salt Lake City: 3
- Summer salary 2022: 1Ls: $4,134/week 2Ls: $4,134/week Post 3Ls: $4,134/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.
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: www.mayerbrownfutures.com/americas/
Recruitment website: www.mayerbrown.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2022
- Technology: Transactions (Band 4)
- 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 3)
- Tax (Band 5)
- Technology & Outsourcing (Band 1)
- Antitrust (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 4)
- Communications (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- 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)
- 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 2)
- 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 2)
- 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)
- Political Law (Band 5)
- Privacy & Data Security: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 3)
- 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)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)