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? ‘Commitment to excellent training’; ‘great exposure to meaningful work, direct client contact and ability to take on responsibility’; ‘Macfarlanes has a very welcoming culture where you are treated as a key part of the firm’; ‘everyone’s views are valued irrespective of their seniority’; ‘high retention rates all the way up the firm (over 50% of partners trained here)’

Best thing about the firm? ‘You’re given real responsibility with plenty of support’; ‘the hard-work ethic of the fee-earners combined with a laid-back attitude’; ‘flexible working and a good work/life balance’; ‘members of staff irrespective of their level take the time to explain things and do not take themselves too seriously’; ‘the people are genuinely nice and treat each other well’; ‘inclusiveness’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The IT systems could be improved but the firm is working hard to achieve this’; ‘inconsistent workload’; ‘it’s generally very old school’; ‘the workforce isn’t very diverse’; ‘long hours in certain departments’; ‘work allocation’; ‘the dinners’; ‘the firm could try harder with its social events’; ‘limited international opportunities’

Best moment? ‘Leading a negotiation with three US lawyers with years of experience and getting a better-than-expected outcome’; ‘closing a deal’; ‘being appreciated by partners’; ‘reaching the end of a seat and realising how much I’ve learned’; ‘working one-on-one with a partner’; ‘working on a high-profile case that was in the news’; ‘winning a trial in court’

Worst moment? ‘The odd occasion of staying late when it felt like better organisation would have avoided it’; ‘incredibly late nights on end scanning documents’; ‘missing the Christmas party as I had to work’; ‘waiting up until 2am for the other side to send signatures’; ‘mundane tasks such as bundling’; ‘feeling stressed about a time-pressured workload’

The Lex 100 verdict on Macfarlanes LLP

The firm: Macfarlanes is an independent London-based law firm with a client base from around the world. The firm handles work of the highest quality and complexity for clients that could be anything from corporate, real estate or litigation through to private client advice.

The deals: Advised GAME Digital as Sports Direct increased its stake in the company to 38.49% requiring it to make a mandatory cash offer for all the company’s shares; advised JD Wetherspoon plc on its new £875m revolving credit facility; secured a Court of Appeal win for Grove Developments upholding the landmark decision for construction adjudication; advised Foncière des Murs on the purchase of 14 UK four and five-star hotels for £858m; advised private debt manager Alcentra on its latest €5.5bn European direct lending fund.

The clients: GAME Digital; Hayfin; Improbable; JD Wetherspoon; Legal & General; Realstar Group; Revolution Bars; Superdry; Virgin; Visa.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Agriculture and estates; Acquisition finance; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial contracts; Corporate tax; Debt capital markets; Derivatives and structured products; Dispute resolution; Employers and senior executives; Equity capital markets; EU and competition; Financial services (non-contentious/regulatory); Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud: civil; Human resources; Investment grade debt and syndicated loans; International arbitration; Investment fund formation and management; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Real estate

The verdict

The ‘highly-praised quality of training and focus on education’ drew applicants to Macfarlanes. The strong ’emphasis on development at all levels’ is enhanced by ‘direct education from partners’, meaning ‘everyone has the opportunity to impress’. New recruits feel that ‘the level of responsibility they are given means the learning curve is steep but accelerated’. The ‘small teams’ also pleased many applicants, giving the firm the balance of being ‘big enough to get the upside of quality clients and small enough to avoid the downside of lack of personal training’. This also means that trainees get to know everyone at the firm and are able to reap the benefits of a ‘cohesive culture’. Many also enjoyed ‘the mix of corporate and private client work’ which some feel makes their work more diverse in comparison to most City firms. The ‘lack of diversity in senior positions’ was a cause of concern, yet respondents acknowledged that ‘the firm is actively seeking to improve this’. Other groans related to ‘the lack of international secondment opportunities’ and the long hours ‘to around 3am’, but this does vary between departments. Macfarlanes is a Lex 100 Winner for confidence of being kept on, vacation scheme, job satisfaction, quality of work and living up to expectations. This is echoed in respondents’ best moments such as ‘winning a trial in court’ and ‘carrying out analysis with no amendments’. If you want to work in a ‘collaborative environment’ which ‘focuses on training and career development’, then Macfarlanes may be the firm for you.

A day in the life of… Gina Giglioli, trainee, Macfarlanes LLP

Gina Giglioli, Macfarlanes LLP

Departments to date: Corporate and M&A

University: St. Mary’s College Durham University

Degree: Law, 2(1)

9.00am: I arrive in the office and head straight to the corporate and M&A monitoring meeting which is held fortnightly with the practice area. It’s a forum for partners, associates and trainees to talk about any new or interesting work that has come in and it is incredibly useful when you start your seat to get some visibility over the work the group is doing. I return to my desk and catch up on emails that have come in, write up my to-do list for the day (a very important task because as a corporate and M&A trainee you are often in charge of liaising with lots of different people across practice areas and the day can run away with you!) and have a brief read of the news.

10.00am: I have a catch up meeting with an associate regarding a deal, on which we’re acting for the sellers, that is completing next week. We go over the completion checklist to make sure we’re on top of everything that needs to be done. There are a number of documents that need to be updated to reflect recent changes to the deal. I make the amendments then circulate the documents to the buyer’s solicitors to be agreed, and send an email to our client with some follow-up questions.

1.00pm: I attend a lunchtime training session with all the corporate and M&A trainees. This is part of a foundational mergers and acquisitions training programme set up by our team’s professional support lawyer, who uses the session to explain the basic structure of a typical private equity deal. I find these sessions invaluable as they help me to understand the wider context of my day to day work.

2.00pm: An associate asks me to draft some ancillary documents for our client’s refinancing. These documents include board minutes, investor consents and redemption letters. This is one of my favourite tasks as a corporate and M&A trainee as it is an opportunity to show your knowledge, attention to detail and is a real skill which takes time to hone. I also put through any amendments to the core documents and give all the documents to the associate to review. I then take some Companies House forms down to the company secretarial team to be filed.

4.00pm: No day is complete without a short coffee break with another trainee in ‘The Kitchen’, the firm’s café. I like to take a short walk to help focus my attention when I go back to my desk. I make follow-up calls to commercial, employment and real estate specialists who have been helping with a legal due diligence report for a client who is looking to purchase part of another company. Once I’ve updated the report with their comments I send any requests for more information to the seller’s solicitors and review any new documents uploaded into the data room.

6.30pm: Another deal I am working on is completing next week, so I prepare an email with 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 checking that there is nothing else urgent to be done, I leave the office at 8pm.

About the firm

Senior partner: Charles Martin

Managing partner: Julian Howard

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: 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: 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 GDL course fees and a £10,000 maintenance grant.