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? ‘I had previous experience of working at the firm and found the culture particularly welcoming’, ‘its prestigious reputation’, ‘the friendly and collaborative environment’, ‘culture, quality of work, career development’, ‘nice people, good vac scheme’, ‘the small intake and the opportunity to do private client work, which sets it apart in the City’, ‘the chance to do top-end work with a high level of responsibility’, ‘the culture is amazing and the firm is individual’
Best thing about the firm? ‘The people – I enjoy working with people across the firm and the culture is one in which people are encouraged to thrive’, ‘the friendly and sociable culture’, ‘the people are fabulous’, ‘communication is open and you are made to feel like a valued member of the team, contributing to substantive work’, ‘my fellow trainees’, ‘the focus on training’, ‘the acceptance that you are human and have a life outside work’
Worst thing about the firm? ‘The work/life balance’, ‘we could be remunerated more for the hours that everyone works’, ‘the social life at the moment, but this is undoubtedly due to the pandemic’, ‘still lots to do on diversity and inclusion’, ‘the M&A department’, ‘arbitrary deadlines’, ‘there is room to work on diversity and inclusion, but measures are in place and efforts are being made’, ‘not being able to do all the seats you want’, ‘no international or client secondments for trainees’
Best moment? ‘Being responsible for a small corporate matter’, ‘seeing my first news publication for a deal I was on’, ‘Christmas party’, ‘taking the lead on matters’, ‘being able to spend time in the office with the other trainees!’, ‘my first review – it was a positive experience and has motivated me to keep giving the training contract my all’, ‘working on high-profile cases’, ‘closing a fund at over £500m’, ‘being complimented on the quality of my work by my supervisor and the senior partner’
Worst moment? ‘The hours in the banking department and working very late, alone and with tonsillitis during lockdown’, ‘staying until 2am every night one week’, ‘getting negative feedback’, ‘working very long hours in December, including over the Christmas period’, ‘lockdown – meaning we can’t go into the office at all’, ‘crying in an associate’s office because my tasks on an M&A transaction were going wrong and I was getting no support from seniors’, ‘missing the Christmas party because of a deal closing late in the night’
The Lex 100 verdict on Macfarlanes LLP
A firm with ‘a small cohort, high quality of training and a friendly culture’ that is ‘encouraging from the start’ describes Macfarlanes, a stalwart of the London legal market. Known for ‘top-end work’, Macfarlanes’ comparatively small trainee intake allows for ‘trainees to become an important part of the team straight away’, and to be given ‘high-level responsibility and contact with clients’. Trainees comment that the firm’s ‘communication is open, and you are made to feel like a valued member of the team, contributing to substantive work’. Described as ‘a rewarding and collaborative workplace’ with comparatively ‘much better formal training’, Macfarlanes rates highly on supervision and quality of work. Commenting on the work/life balance, some trainees applaud the firm’s approach: ‘we are worked hard, but not silly hours every day. There is a real effort to make sure people have a work/life balance’. Others see this as an area for improvement, along with increasing the firm’s diversity. Macfarlanes is a Lex 100 Winner for confidence in being kept on after the training contract. Most trainees agree that the pandemic’s impact has been mitigated well; many have been ‘so impressed with how the firm has handled lockdown, and how we have been kept up to date and ‘in the loop’. We have been fully integrated into the firm’. They also compliment the firms’ work socials including ‘pizza making’ saying ‘they have really made an effort’. If you are looking for high-quality training and an excellent City firm pedigree with a modern human touch, Macfarlanes is a great bet.
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.
A day in the life of... Helin Gurel, trainee, 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
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: 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.