The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Macfarlanes in an independent UK firm and its size ensures high-value work but without compromising on the quality of its people. The firm excels in M&A, private client and private equity with much of the work international in scope; it advises both overseas-based and UK clients on multijurisdictional projects. Macfarlanes' Charles Martin won the Legal Business Award for Management Partner of the Year in 2017.
The star performers
Agriculture and estates; Acquisition finance; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Construction; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate tax; Employment: senior executives; EU and competition; Equity capital markets; Financial services; Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud: civil; Investment funds; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Private equity: transactions: Large-cap deal capability; Property finance; Tax litigation and investigations.
Acted for Lyceum Capital Partners and a number of management shareholders in the £136m sale of the Adapt cloud hosting and managed services group to Datapipe; advised the family who owns the 1,000 acre estate surrounding Pitchford Hall to reunite the Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house with the estate; representing ICAP on all aspects of the multi-jurisdictional investigations by civil and criminal agencies into Yen LIBOR; advised Visa on its acquisition of Visa Europe, which included a preferred stock issue of €5.3bn; assisted Intu Properties with its acquisition of the remaining 50% stake in Merry Hill shopping centre from QIC.
3i Group; Better Capital; British Bankers' Association; DFN Charitable Foundation; Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity; Longshot Kids Limited; Omnicom Group; Partners Group; Schroder Investment Management; Verizon Communications.
With its 'excellent reputation in both private client and corporate M&A', Macfarlanes has carved out a unique identity for a City firm. Another differentiating attribute is the 'single office strategy', something which has helped to engender an 'intimate feel'. The 'excellent training' warrants near-universal praise; we hear that there is a 'supportive work culture' in which 'the partners take a genuine interest in trainees and their performance'. The 'emphasis on practical learning for trainees and junior lawyers' means that new recruits 'mature quickly', and it is appreciated that 'you get a lot of responsibility as a trainee at Macfarlanes'. Work highlights have included 'contributing to a very important restructuring with lawyers from across the firm', 'successfully negotiating a NDA alone' and 'being given the first opportunity to analyse a case'. There are mixed views on the firm's rather traditional image. One respondent considers the firm to have a 'slightly quirky, endearing English character', while another likes the fact that 'it has retained its values' in a rapidly changing industry. Yet others point to its 'overly hierarchical structure' and a perceived reluctance to embrace the latest technology. The firm also 'needs to improve its diversity' as, despite progress, it 'still isn't as inclusive as it should be'. Colleagues are 'friendly and inspiring', and within such a 'genuinely collegiate atmosphere' there is 'very little sense of unhealthy competition'. One trainee cited the vacation scheme as 'really enjoyable', while another respondent was won over by the 'friendly and positive colleagues'. Macfarlanes is a Lex 100 Winner in the confidence in being kept on category. To work in 'small teams' representing 'outstanding private clients' at a firm with a 'strong reputation in the City', remember Macfarlanes.
A day in the life of...
Amelia Walsh trainee, Macfarlanes LLP
Departments to date: Litigation, banking and finance
University:Somerville College, Oxford
Degree:English Language and Literature, 2(1)
8.45am: I arrive at work and catch up on emails that arrived from US counsel on a fund financing transaction overnight. I then prepare a notice of assignment of a property insurance policy, so that it can be transferred into a bank's name once it has lent funds to our client. Once the associate I am working with has reviewed this, I circulate it to the client and the bank's lawyers.
11.00am: A partner I have been assisting on a leveraged finance deal asks me to proofread his mark-up of a facility agreement, a lengthy document, and amend any errors before it is sent to the client. I need to check that the right financial covenant definitions are in use throughout the document, which requires close concentration. Once I have finished, I go to our firm's café for a quick coffee and catch up with some other trainees.
1.00pm: I attend a lunchtime training session with my fellow banking and finance trainees, paralegals and junior associates. This is part of a foundational banking and finance training programme set up by our team's professional support lawyer, who uses the session to explain key drafting considerations for borrowers under loan agreements.
2.00pm: Earlier this week, I contacted a law firm in Bermuda, as one of our lending clients needs advice on a financing structure involving a Bermudan company. They email to tell me they are happy to accept our instructions, so I make sure they have all the relevant documentation and ask for a fee quote to pass on to our client.
4.00pm: One of the key roles of a banking and finance trainee is managing conditions precedent - keeping track of a checklist of documentary requirements that need to be satisfied before a company can borrow money. I am working on a real estate financing transaction to fund the purchase of a hotel, and ask my colleagues in the commercial real estate department for updates on their side of the documentation. I then lead a call with an associate and the Bank's lawyers, running through the checklist to ensure we are on track for completion in a couple of weeks. I send an email to our client afterwards to update them, and reply to other emails that came through whilst I was on the call.
7.45pm: I head down to dinner in the firm's café with a group from the banking and finance team. We sit together to eat and talk about our day so far.
8.15pm: Another real estate transaction I am working on is completing tomorrow, so I prepare an email of signing instructions for our client to send with execution versions of the documents my senior colleagues have been negotiating for the past few weeks. This needs to follow a specific formula so all the documents are entered into correctly. After writing a to-do list for tomorrow, I leave the office at around 9pm.
About the firm
Address:20 Cursitor Street, London, EC4A 1LT
Telephone: 020 7831 9222
Fax:020 7831 9607
Senior partner: Charles Martin
Managing partner: Julian Howard
Total partners: 87
Other fee-earners: 691
Total trainees: 60
Who we are: Macfarlanes is a leading City law firm with a straightforward, independently minded approach. The driving force behind the firm is an absolute commitment to delivering the right advice in the right way to our clients.
What we do: We are recognised for the quality of our work and people, not just in dealing with the full range of corporate and commercial matters, but in advising our clients on their private affairs.
What we are looking for: We look for a rare combination of character, drive and intellectual curiosity, along with strong interpersonal skills, an ambitious and commercial approach, drive, motivation and resilience.
What you'll do: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, private healthcare, in addition to a discretionary performance-related bonus scheme, subsidised restaurant, season ticket loan and gym membership.
Sponsorship:LPC and CPE/GDL course fees, maintenance allowance for LPC students (£7,000) and GDL students (£7,000 in London, Guildford and Oxford, and £6,250 elsewhere).
Facts and figures
Training contracts available for 2020: up to 30
Applications received pa: 800
Percentage interviewed: 15%
First year: £44,000
Second year: £49,000
Newly qualified: £75,000
Turnover in 2016: £167.572m Profits per equity partner: £1.38m
Apply to:Catherine Morgan-Guest, graduate recruitment manager.
How: Online application.
What's involved:Case study, group exercise and presentation, interview and written exercise.
When to Apply:
Training Contract beginning in 2020: By 31 July 2018.
Spring Vacation Scheme: By 31 January 2018.
Summer Vacation Scheme: By 31 January 2018.
First-Year Insight Day: By 28 February 2018.
Training partner interview
Please explain your role as graduate recruitment/training partner.
I lead the search for new trainees and look after our existing trainees during their training contracts. Because trainees are the future of the firm, we want partners to be actively involved in their recruitment. A large team of partners therefore supports me by visiting universities, interviewing candidates and acting as individual mentors to trainees during the training contract. There is no attrition built into our model – we want every trainee to have a long career here after qualifying. Much of our time is therefore spent in ensuring that our trainees are well trained and supported during their training contract so that they succeed.
What work do your trainees get involved in?
Our trainees are expected to contribute right from the start. They are tested in challenging situations working with some of the world’s most successful businesses and individuals. Our size means that trainees are closer to the frontline, making a valuable and valued contribution. Normal everyday work for a trainee will include legal research, drafting legal documents, negotiating, executing transactions and seeking client instructions. Trainees will work either directly with partners or in small teams with partners and solicitors. This means that trainees are given responsibility early on and expected to have direct dealings with clients and qualified lawyers at other firms.
How does your training contract differ from other firms?
From a trainee perspective it’s the level of responsibility that is given to them along with the quality of the training they will receive. Because we recruit for the long term and expect our trainees to contribute from the word go, it is important that our trainees are well trained in a supportive environment during their training contracts. Our trainees can find themselves opposite a senior associate or a partner at another firm and they need to have the support and training to be able to do that work. Training is one of the most important things that we do.
What does a strong application look like?
We are looking for the partners of the future when we select our trainees and the selection process is necessarily rigorous. Applicants must have the academic ability to be able to deal with complex legal work. They must also be commercially aware and able to work well in a team. Because we hire trainees for the long term, we want to see a commitment to a career in law and an understanding of the type of work we do at this firm. Life as a lawyer in the City can be demanding and so candidates should also demonstrate resilience and ambition with reference to their extra-curricular activities and day to day life skills.
What impresses you about students when you meet them at fairs?
I am impressed how much students know about the legal profession and business. They are usually also very well informed about the work we do at this firm and ask all the right questions about us. We are looking for intelligence and an enthusiasm for a career in law and this is exactly what we tend to see. Our business is fundamentally about our clients and building strong client relationships. To do this, we need people who have drive and enthusiasm, and a sense of humour too! If we see all these qualities in students on campus then we can be pretty sure that they will impress our clients as well.