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Mayer Brown 1st Year Insight Event – 11 April 2019

Mayer Brown Event

This month, we held a fantastic open day with our Affiliate Partner Mayer Brown – a firm that has long supported Aspiring Solicitors’ goal in increasing diversity in the legal profession. The firm kindly invited our members to find out more about the firm’s training opportunities, CSR initiatives and practice groups in what was an insightful and interactive event.

An introduction to Mayer Brown

Litigation & Dispute Resolution Partner Will Glassey opened the event by sharing Mayer Brown’s position on diversity and inclusion: “We believe very firmly in diversity and inclusion within the firm and Aspiring Solicitors is one of the most real manifestations of that commitment.” The firm has hired multiple candidates who have come through Aspiring Solicitors, including around six current trainees. Will described this as being a source of great pride for Mayer Brown.

Diversity is important to the firm for a number of reasons. In what is a highly competitive legal market, Will noted that the firm won’t maintain its competitive edge if it continues to do things in the same way that they have for the last 100 years. Diversity also allows the firm to better serve its international client base, with whom they want to establish a cultural connection. Will also highlighted the importance of avoiding groupthink and making people feel part of the community, which he hopes can be achieved by building a workforce that more closely represents the world in which we live and work.

Whilst highlighting the undeniable benefits of diversity and inclusion, Will also acknowledged that it can be difficult to achieve in practice. Academic grades, for example, don’t reflect an individual’s innate talent – and yet they form a key part of the recruitment process in the legal profession. This means that law firms need to think more creatively about how they recruit the best talent from an array of talent pools. One of the ways that Mayer Brown do this, for example, is through blind CV interviews as part of their vacation scheme application process.

Will also gave an overview of the firm. Mayer Brown prides itself on being a distinctively global legal services provider, uniquely positioned to advise the world’s leading companies and financial institutions on their most complex deals and disputes. Some of the firm’s top clients include General Electric, JP Morgan and LVMH, as well as a number of law firms, accountancy firms and barristers. Their clients are serviced across a diverse range of practice areas in the firm’s main markets of Asia, Europe and the Americas.

The attendees were also curious to hear Will’s perspective on Mayer Brown’s USP. For Will, it come downs to the firm’s unique structure as a single, global organisation. Whilst other firm’s expand through what is essentially an international franchise operation, Mayer Brown’s network of offices pool their revenue into a single financial pot. This creates a collective incentive for everyone to work as a team to further the interests of the firm as a whole – which Will believes has a great impact on the firm’s culture.

From vacation scheme to training contract

Next up was the trainee panel with trainees Beth Stanbridge, Ese Overo-Tarimo and Erica Arcudi. The trainees kicked off the session with a short introduction about their journey to the firm. Beth trained at a dance college and worked as a professional dancer before changing careers to study law at King’s College London. After completing five vacation schemes during her second year of university, Beth chose to accept a training contract offer at Mayer Brown, noting that the biggest differentiator between each vacation scheme was the people at each firm. Now in her first seat, Beth is sitting in the real estate team.

Like Beth, Ese had a creative start to her journey into law after studying drama as her undergraduate degree – proving that there is no right or wrong way to pursue a legal career. Ese went on to study a master’s in public policy and completed two vacation schemes before choosing Mayer Brown. Erica, who is also a first seat trainee, studied public economy at university before studying her GDL and LPC. Erica was drawn to Mayer Brown because, despite the fact that the work can be intense at times, it is a firm where you will always feel supported. The firm’s vast international network of offices was also a big plus.

The attendees wanted to hear about the trainees’ experience of the recruitment process and how they made themselves stand out. Beth attended as many open days as she could to try and speak to people and get a sense for what type of firm she might be interested in. As an ex-professional dancer, Beth also emphasised the importance of being well rounded and not focusing too heavily on your academic degree alone. Beth frequently cited her part-time jobs and interest in dance during the application process, which she thinks helped to set her apart from the competition.

Something which helped Ese when she was applying was speaking to more junior people at the firms that she was interested in. Someone like a trainee, who isn’t too far ahead of you in their career journey, is someone that you will likely be able to build a rapport with. They may even act as an unofficial mentor to give you an insight into their day-to-day role at the firm. Ese also pointed out that it’s important to believe in yourself throughout what can be a difficult and demoralising process, saying: “when you see your differences as your strengths, that really helps.” 

For Erica, she made sure that she justified and backed up everything she mentioned on her application form. If you continuously think about the ‘why’ behind any statement you make, you will be able to explain why you made specific choices when it’s brought up in an interview. Why, for example, are you the captain of your university’s netball team? Is it develop a skill like leadership or teamwork, or is there a different reason?

To finish the panel session, the trainees thought about what advice they’d give to their younger self. Beth shared that she would tell herself to “relax, show your personality and be yourself.” This is great advice for students going through the application process, who may feel a pressure to not be themselves. Beth reasoned that if you are simply yourself, and you are still rejected, then that isn’t the right firm for you, and you wouldn’t have been happy there.

On a similar note, Ese would tell herself to figure out who you are and stay true to yourself. Coming from her drama degree, Ese had worried that she wouldn’t match up against candidates from top universities with academic degrees – when in fact it’s been her biggest strength so far. Studying drama has helped Ese to absorb information, communicate well and build relationships – all of which are essential for a lawyer. Ese also reminded the attendees to trust that they are good enough and the right firm will grab them with both hands.

Whilst feeling nervous or stressed is unpleasant, this isn’t something Erika would change for her younger self. These feelings showed that she cared and was working towards something that really mattered to her. She would, however, tell herself that it’s normal to not like the ‘popular’ firms that your peers may like. Don’t underestimate how important your research into firms is, too – you’re ultimately choosing a firm that you’re going to commit 2+ years of your life to, so that needs to be with a firm that you’re going to enjoy being part of.

Graduate recruitment: ‘ask us anything’ workshop

After a networking lunch with trainees, Recruitment and Development Coordinator Rebecca Player gave the attendees an opportunity to find out more about Mayer Brown’s recruitment process. The firm hosts three vacation schemes a year, all of which are 2 weeks long. Whilst the firm does accept direct training contract applications, around 70% of their trainee intake comes from their vacation schemes – so it’s strongly recommended that students apply to the firm through this route.

The first stage of the application process is the online application form, which requires applicants to submit their personal details, academic history, work experience and a short cover letter. This only needs to be 2-3 paragraphs long, and should include a personal introduction, why you’re applying to Mayer Brown and why commercial law. Rebecca suggested applicants get their forms in as early as possible and ensure that there is a strong focus on Mayer Brown specifically. This might be demonstrated by signposting benefits such as the firm’s small trainee intake or its international reach.

Stage two involves online tests: a verbal reasoning test and a situational judgement test. These are bespoke to Mayer Brown and are centred around what the firm thinks a good trainee looks like. Rebecca’s top tip for this stage of the application process is to practice as much as possible. Successful applicants next undertake a 20-minute strengths-based phone interview with the graduate recruitment team. Whilst such interviews are difficult to prepare for, Rebecca recommended thinking about your motivations, strengths and reasons for pursuing a career in law.

The final stage is the assessment centre, which involves a competency interview, a group exercise, a written exercise and a fact-finding task. Each element tests different skills – from communication skills and attention to detail to your commercial knowledge of Mayer Brown and its clients – giving the graduate recruitment team a well-rounded view of whether you are the right candidate for them. Those who make it onto the firm’s vacation scheme would also take part in a 20-minute training contract interview with two Partners at the end of their placement.

CSR and Pro Bono at Mayer Brown

Heidi Newbigging, Mayer Brown’s CSR and Pro Bono manager, led the next session of the day. Mayer Brown has a long-held commitment to both CSR and Pro Bono and has a number of initiatives underway to further its aims in both areas. Heidi highlighted the firm’s five main areas of focus for CSR: Charitable Giving, Community Service, Diversity & Inclusion, Pro Bono and Sustainability. Top line examples of the firm’s work in these areas include reducing single use plastic in the office and working in partnership with charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society and Solace.

Heidi also made the session interactive, asking the students to work in small groups to think about what a responsible business looks like to them. The students came back with some great ideas. Some thought that offices should prioritise breakout rooms, gyms and showers, whilst others wanted to see office pets, more natural light and childcare support. It was also deemed important that offices are energy efficient and can cater to individual working styles – with a mix of open plan desks and more private areas. This was a great exercise to get the attendees thinking about what they may like or expect from an employer in the future – and it is certainly something that Mayer Brown prioritises for its people.

Speed networking

To find out more about Mayer Brown’s practice areas and diversity networks, the students were joined by five representatives from the firm during the final speed networking session of the day. Mayer Brown’s Chen Yang Sia, Joseph Otoo, Clare Shears, James Harrison and Tim Baines work in various teams and have had different journeys to law, enabling them to share their individual insights as they rotated around each table in the room. This was an interactive and informative way to end the event, giving students the opportunity to ask any remaining questions in a smaller group setting.

We would like to thank Rebecca Player and Danielle White for their support in organising and hosting an insightful day for our members. If you would like to learn more about Mayer Brown, you can contact one of their Aspiring Solicitors Professional Ambassadors and ask them about their experiences of applying to and working for the firm.

To find out more about the opportunities available at Mayer Brown, please click here, and we look forward to helping more AS members join the firm in the future.