Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Macfarlanes LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Macfarlanes LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The collegiate and friendly culture’, ‘great work/life balance for the prestige of work you are afforded’, ‘the opportunity to do private client and corporate work during the training contract’, ‘reputation, financial remuneration, culture (learnt via vacation scheme)’, ‘really enjoyed the vacation scheme’, ‘diversity of top-quality work’, ‘a great reputation for top-tier work’, ‘strong private client practice’, ‘the inclusive culture and community feel’ 

What is the best thing about the firm?  ‘The people you work with’, ‘there is a culture of inclusivity and it is supportive’, ‘my supervisors’, ‘levels of responsibility given to trainees’, ‘size – you have more and better-quality contact with your colleagues than you might in larger firms’, ‘the existence of strong private client and corporate practice areas, and the people’, ‘quality of work’, ‘the fact senior lawyers are approachable’, ‘fantastic culture’ 

What is the worst thing about the firm? ‘The lack of diversity’, ‘the free dinner in the office is often inedible’, ‘work/life balance’, ‘the food’, ‘the limited number of minority partners and senior associates’, ‘food choices at dinner!’, ‘inclusiveness’, ‘lack of secondment opportunities’, ‘it is struggling to compete on the corporate front in the M&A rush’, ‘possibly work/life balance, but that is due to the legal industry rather than the firm itself’ 

What has been the best moment of your training to date? ‘Getting a personal thank you from a senior partner for the work I did on a deal’, ‘completing a deal after working 26 hours in a row’, ‘working on a successful mediation and getting great feedback from the client and internally’, ‘being allowed to lead a client call’, ‘signing a big deal in my first month’ 

What has been the worst moment of your training to date? ‘Working with a supervisor who did not provide support or assist with my development’, ‘working 26 hours in a row’, ‘getting to grips with tricky IT systems’, ‘two months of consistent midnight finishes’, ‘feeling overwhelmed’, ’working with some difficult characters’, ‘working the occasional weekend’, ’stressful deadlines’, ‘some of the harsher deadlines and overwhelming amounts of work’, ‘late nights’ 

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Macfarlanes LLP

A ‘strong private client practice and the ability to do corporate work alongside this’ gives Macfarlanes its edge. A ‘reputation for excellence’ drew applicants to the City firm, as did the ‘smaller trainee intake, good workplace culture and social life, and the high quality of work and clients’. For some respondents, their time on the vacation scheme sold Macfarlanes to them, whilst others had already worked at the firm before starting their training contract. Macfarlanes is ‘inclusive and supportive’ there is a ‘collegiate culture’, which ‘really does exist!’ and the firm is ‘small enough to be friendly, yet large enough to offer interesting work’. Trainees consider the training to be ‘superb, both in terms of formal and informal training’, and are grateful that Macfarlanes delivers ‘genuine investment in trainees and its staff, with the aim of progressing the individual as much as the firm’. Something which frustrates recruits – particularly when working in the corporate and M&A departments – is that is that ‘the hours are very similar to those of top-tier US firms but without the same level of remuneration or perks’. It goes without saying that long hours negatively impact work/life balance, but another annoyance for trainees working late nights is that ‘dinner options in the canteen are limited’ and that the firm will not reimburse them if they decide to order a takeaway instead! For ‘excellent training’ in a firm which offers a wide variety of practice areas and is full of ‘approachable, talkative supervisors’, research Macfarlanes.

A day in the life of... Helin Gurel, trainee, Macfarlanes LLP

Helin Gurel, Macfarlanes LLP

Departments to date: Real estate; Corporate and M&A

University: University of Bristol

Degree: Law, 1st

8.40am: I arrive at the office, coffee in hand. As the lockdown measures have started easing, the rules on working from the office have also started to relax. From 6 September, the firm will be implementing its new agile working policy, under which trainees will be permitted to work from home one day a week, with qualified fee-earners able to work from home up to two days a week.

8.45am: I look through my emails and set my to-do list for the day. Many of the matters I work on have an international element, with multiple parties operating from different countries – as a result of differing time zones, there is usually, therefore, something to catch up on in the morning. This exercise also allows me to ensure I am up to date on the progress of the transactions I am working on and can pick up any tasks which arise with greater ease. I then pick up and respond to any emails which are slightly more urgent.

9.30am: One of the matters I am assisting on involves a private client of the firm who is selling his majority stake in the business he started up many years ago to his business partner. The client is due to attend our offices to sign some documents which are in agreed form and which must be signed later today. Macfarlanes firmly believes in giving trainees a large amount of responsibility as early on as possible, while ensuring that they feel fully supported should they require any assistance. Accordingly, as the trainee, I am largely responsible for running the signing process. I therefore start reviewing our documents list to determine the documents which are in agreed form and are to be signed, before giving them a final proof and collating them into a ZIP folder.

11.00am: On the same matter, I am tasked with updating one of the draft documents in light of the new agreed arrangements. I prepare the draft, before discussing with the solicitor on the matter, implementing any changes and sending across to the counterparty’s solicitors for any comments.

12.00pm: I am working on a matter where we act for the management of a business who participate in the management incentive plan set up by a private equity house when they acquired the business. We are currently in the process of admitting further managers to the management incentive plan. As the primary point of contact on the matter, I get daily exposure to liaising with managers from different parts of the world, which has allowed me to substantially develop my communication skills. I respond to emails from the solicitors of the private equity house on the draft admission documents, and to questions raised by managers on the terms and operation of the plan.

12.30pm: I continue preparing the documents for the signing and arrange for them to be printed. I also have a call with the reception team regarding the client’s attendance later today.

1.00pm: I grab some lunch with some trainees who are also in the office today. Now that we can go into the office, it has been great to be able to take much fuller advantage of the more social side of the job, such as going for lunch or for coffee with colleagues.

2.00pm: I am currently covering a matter for one of my fellow trainees who is on annual leave, which involves an offer by our client to acquire the entire issued share capital of an AIM listed company, after which they seek to take the company private. We have been preparing an announcement for the change in the board composition following the offer becoming wholly unconditional. I input comments we have received on the document before giving it a general proof and sending back to the matter partner I am assisting.

2.30pm: On the same matter, the partner has asked me to determine what further information we require for each of the transaction documents before we are able to arrange for them to be signed. I conduct a general review of the documents before setting out my findings to the partner.

3.30pm: While the corporate and M&A team is located at 98 Fetter Lane, our client-facing building is at 20 Cursitor Street around the corner. I conduct a final review of the printed documents which are to be signed by the client before heading over to the room at number 20 where the client is due to attend to set it up.

4.30pm: I greet the client and proceed to walk him through the purpose and nature of the various documents he is to sign before arranging his signature. The process is not only great experience in developing my organisational and management skills, but invaluable in building rapport with clients. When I return to my desk, I arrange for the signed documents to be scanned through to our system.

5.45pm: I have my daily catch-up with my supervisor. This is something we have implemented during lockdown and is normally a general check-in chat. Our catch-ups are intentionally scheduled for later in the day, as my supervisor uses it as an opportunity to help me prioritise my workload for that day, and determine what can be left for tomorrow.

6.00pm: Before heading off, I check through the scanned signed documents from earlier today and update our documents list to ensure we have an up-to-date picture of where we are with each document. The best trainees are the ‘safe pair of hands’ that do not let anything slip through the cracks. I then pick up any further emails which have come in and take a note of any tasks for tomorrow, before submitting my time for the day.

6.45pm: The graduate recruitment team and the firm’s trainee solicitor committee, who are a group of partners responsible for the recruitment and development of trainees at the firm, have organised a social. As Macfarlanes recruits a smaller trainee intake, opportunities like this allow us to get to know our fellow trainees in a more informal context, which bolsters the already strong comradery we have among us trainees. After catching up with everyone it’s time to head off home for the day.

About the firm

The firm: Macfarlanes is a unique firm: an unrivalled blend of expertise, size and culture means it has the flexibility to meet clients’ most challenging demands and adapt to the changing world around us.

Its aims are simple. Macfarlanes wants to form long-lasting relationships with clients and be entrusted with their most difficult and complex problems in the areas where it practises. It also wants to find, recruit and train individuals from all backgrounds, who it hopes will one day shape and lead the firm. In order to achieve these aims, it operates differently to others.

The clients: Derwent London, Improbable, Omnicom Group, Superdry, Virgin.

The deals: Advised Legal & General on securing a £265m debt facility for its build-to-rent fund; advised Burton’s Biscuits management on its sale to a Ferrero-related company; advised Ocado Group on its partnership with Oxbotica; advised the restructuring team of Deloitte on its sale to Teneo; advised Waterland Private Equity Investments on its acquisition of Priory Group.

Senior partner: Sebastian Prichard Jones

Managing partner: Julian Howard

Other offices: Brussels

Who we are: Macfarlanes is a distinctive London-based law firm, focused on its clients and on delivering excellence in the international legal market.

What we do: Corporate and M&A, private client, litigation, tax and reward, and real estate.

What we’re looking for in a trainee: We look for a rare combination of character, drive and intellectual curiosity, along with strong interpersonal skills, an ambitious and commercial approach, motivation and resilience.

What you’ll do: Across your four seats you will receive a combination of hands-on experience with real responsibility and challenge, with a first-class education programme and the support you would expect from a leading firm.

Perks: Flexible benefits package including life assurance, pension scheme and private healthcare, in addition to a discretionary performance-related bonus scheme, subsidised restaurant, season ticket loan and gym membership.

Sponsorship: Full sponsorship for PGDL and SQE preparation course fees at BPP University for successful training programme offer holders. A £10,000 bursary is also provided.

Diversity and inclusion