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 focus on training’; ‘the reputation of the clients’; ‘I loved the culture of the firm on the vacation scheme’; ‘opportunity for both private client and corporate seats’; ‘lovely people, small intake, great breadth of work’; ‘prestige’; ‘the investment in trainees and the percentage of partners who qualified here’; ‘not too big and not too small’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The friendly culture. Everyone works unbelievably hard but they treat everyone really well’; ‘the sense of community’; ‘my trainee intake – they are all good people’; ‘the friendly and caring atmosphere’; ‘the people’; ‘that trainees are treated much more like humans than robots’; ‘the collegiate environment’; ‘the culture and the people’; ‘the responsibility given to trainees’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Lack of international secondment opportunities, with none at trainee level’; ‘limited diversity’; ‘some teams and fee-earners aren’t so friendly’; ‘the gender imbalance at partnership level’; ‘the occasional late hours’; ‘the quality of the dinners’; ‘it has a reputation for stuffiness’; ‘the furniture’; ‘occasional late hours’; ‘the work/life balance in some departments’

Best moment? ‘Being trusted to take a leading role in an advice note for a big-name international client’; ‘being personally praised by a partner when giving a departmental presentation on a niche area of law’; ‘the completion of a number of transactions during my time in the tax and financial services departments’; ‘attending the Court of Appeal and running my own Employment Tribunal case’

Worst moment? ‘Having to miss the firm Christmas party due to work’; ‘three separate senior solicitors telling me to hurry up on their respective tasks, each being equally as urgent’; ‘a day of completions after a heavy night out’; ‘the gruelling hours in November and December when my practice area was particularly busy’

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 JD Wetherspoon plc on £141m equity raise; advised Legal & General on sale of £47.4m portfolio of seven properties to Urban Logistics REIT plc; advised Smith & Williamson on restructuring of Tilney merger and Warburg Pincus investment; advised on the acquisition of The Ritz London; advised Buzz Bingo on CVA process and restructuring.

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

The verdict

‘Fantastic training, excellent quality of work and lovely people’ seems to sum up London’s Macfarlanes. Indeed, the ‘strong emphasis on trainee development’ is manifested in training which is ‘consistent, structured and delivered by specialists’. What’s more, the ‘small-ish intake and size of the firm provide trainees with the opportunity to get real responsibility from day one’. This high level of responsibility translates into best moments such as ‘arranging a major fund closing as a first seat trainee’, ‘leading a conference call’ and ‘attending court as the sole representative solicitor’. This certainly makes recruits feel like ‘valued members of the team’. Macfarlanes is a deserved winner of Lex 100 Winner awards for quality of work and confidence of being kept on post qualification. A few trainees raised concerns about the lack of diversity, something which they feel Macfarlanes ‘has taken a long time to engage with’, although it was acknowledged that the firm is ‘working hard to deal with this’. The ‘quality of dinner in the canteen’ and the work/life balance in certain departments were also criticised. Encouragingly, though, ‘most people tend not to take themselves too seriously, but at the same time take pride in their work’. Moreover, ‘working alongside such nice and bright people makes being at work much more enjoyable’, an example of which is when ‘a partner emailed me to say thank you for sending out some emails while on annual leave’. Late nights were of course lamented, with recruits definitely not enjoying ‘long hours and pressure’, the odd ‘all-nighter’ and stressful days leading up to deal completion’. But for thorough training, a friendly and open culture and a ‘great breadth of work’, consider Macfarlanes.

A day in the life of… Bryony Foley, trainee, Macfarlanes LLP

Bryony Foley, Macfarlanes LLP

Departments to date: Litigation and dispute resolution; private client

University: Langwith College University of York

Degree: Law, 2(1)

9.30am: I have a call with one of the lawyers in the private client team regarding some research he would like me to do into the taxation of cryptocurrency, based on its situs. One of the great things about private client is the ability to get involved with very technical research into niche areas of law.

10.00am: I catch up on and reply to emails that have come in and write up my daily to-do list. This is important because as a private client trainee you are often involved in a number of matters working with lots of different people across the practice area so it is important to have a handle on what needs doing.

10.30am: I have my daily catch-up with my supervisor. This is something we have implemented in lockdown and is normally a general check-in chat and an opportunity for me to raise anything I want to discuss. Usually in the office, this is something that would happen organically throughout the day. While working from home this is invaluable to ensure my supervisor has visibility of my workload, but also to help build up a rapport even though we no longer share an office!

11.00am: I help on a matter where two of the partners are trustees. One of my tasks is drafting a fortnightly update letter to the beneficiaries of the trust. I proofread an update letter I wrote yesterday before sending it on to the partners for their comments.

11.30am: Another matter I work on involves four trust structures. The person who currently fulfils the roles of ‘protector’ and ‘investment manager’ of the trusts is retiring so I draft various trust deeds recording his retirement and the appointments of his replacements.

1.00pm: I have lunch via Zoom with one of the trainees, who has returned to Cyprus during lockdown. In the office, trainees tend to go for lunch and congregate in ‘The Kitchen’, the firm’s café, so it is nice to use lunch as a time to catch up with other trainees, even if we are in different countries!

2.00pm: One of the rewarding things about private client is being able to attend client meetings with partners, which are invaluable from a learning perspective. Thankfully, this has still been happening in lockdown, albeit via Zoom. I attend a call with a partner, the client and Bermudan counsel in order to discuss the restructuring of an existing trust structure from both a UK and US tax perspective.

4.00pm: Our CSR team are running several initiatives in lockdown. One that I have volunteered to help with is a call with students who are part of the ‘Rare’ programme. Alongside our existing initiatives to tackle social mobility, we are now offering students virtual support. This is more of an informal coffee where we chat about my route to being a trainee at Macfarlanes and the firm generally.

4.45pm: I draft a cover email to go with the trust deeds I drafted this morning and send to the associate for comments.

5.00pm: I draft a skeleton note of the call I attended this afternoon. I will need to format and proofread it next week (the notes of calls tend to take at least as long as the call takes!) These notes are always easier to write up while fresh in the mind.

6.00pm: The firm’s charity of the year is New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC). NHYC works with young homeless people and provides a range of ‘one-stop shop’ services through its day centre. There are normally many events to raise funds while we are in the office, from Burns Night dinners to virtual triathlons. As a way of trying to keep the fundraising efforts going while working from home, the private client trainees organised a quiz for the team. This, courtesy of some generous donations, was able to raise over £1,000.

About the firm

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: 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.