What does a commercial law firm do?

Lucy Mair gets a guide to the work Mayer Brown does from three trainees at the firm
Types of work

Mayer Brown is a leading international law firm with integrated offices across the Americas, Europe and Asia. The firm's London office has 11 specialist practice areas, and we caught up with three trainees on Mayer Brown's two-year training contract to find out more about the teams they've completed rotations in, known as "seats".

Adam Allegri

Adam studied Civil and Architectural Engineering at the University of Bath and qualified as a chartered engineer while studying for the GDL and LPC. He joined Mayer Brown in March 2011 and has completed seats in Construction & Engineering, FSRE and IP. He did a client secondment at insurance broker Marsh & McLennan, and will join the Commercial Dispute Resolution group when he qualifies in March 2013.

Lauren Phillips

Lauren studied Law at the University of Oxford. She secured her training contract with Mayer Brown in her second year at university and joined the firm in March 2012. Having completed seats in Real Estate and Insurance, she will go on a client secondment this March.

Tom Jackson

Tom studied Government at LSE. He did a vacation scheme at Mayer Brown in spring 2009 and started his training contract at the firm in September 2011. He has completed seats in Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Insolvency, and Banking & Finance. Tom is currently working in Mayer Brown's Hong Kong office, where he is part of the Shipping and Aviation team.

Why Mayer Brown?

Lauren: The intake of trainees is smaller than at other firms, making it easier to get to know everyone and you have a more personal experience.

Adam: I did some work experience with Mayer Brown before I applied and it was very enjoyable - everyone was approachable, relaxed and professional.

Transactional teams

Work on large, fast-paced deals that are worth a lot of money and are international in scope.

Banking & Finance

Tom says...

Tell us about the practice. The Banking & Finance group is multi-disciplinary and includes asset finance, leveraged finance and project finance. I focused on leveraged finance and worked with banks lending to small corporates to allow them to buy another company.

How would you describe the work? The hours are long but the work is fun and it's not hard to get caught up in the thrill of the deal you're working on!

Who are the clients? Financial institutions.

*Did you work with any other teams? *Yes, mostly Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Insolvency and Real Estate.

What can trainees do? You'll be drafting subsidiary documents on the transaction, such as directors' certificates and third-party documents, and reviewing the more important documents to check cross-references between documents and definitions.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I worked with Mayer Brown's New York office on financing an American credit card deal. I performed a lot of research and worked on the documentation of the deal.

What did you enjoy? I liked getting to know the team and working with them to achieve a common purpose. The work was enjoyable, too.

What did you find challenging? I don't have a background in finance, so understanding the structure of deals and why certain documents are needed was difficult at first, but I found that my colleagues were always willing to help me.

Real Estate

Lauren says...

Tell us about the practice. Real Estate handles large corporate transactions involving the sale of properties or portfolios of properties.

How would you describe the work? It's very international and it's interesting because physical property assets play a significant part in many transactions, so you can get involved in a wide range of different deals.

Who are the clients? Large property developers and multinational corporations with premises in different countries.

Did you work with any other teams? Corporate & Securities and Banking & Finance - property nearly always forms part of the transactions handled by those teams.

What can trainees do? On smaller cases, you can take the lead in drafting leases or licence alterations under the supervision of a senior lawyer. On bigger deals, you'll be managing the collection of documentation and the satisfaction of the conditions that need to be met for a transaction to complete.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I managed a file of lower-value properties, including industrial units, which involved dealing with the Land Registry and drafting licences for the properties.

What did you enjoy? I enjoyed running my own files as I could take the lead on projects from start to finish and handle queries myself instead of having to refer clients to someone else. It gave me a great sense of achievement.

*What did you find challenging? *Dealing directly with clients was daunting at first, but I quickly got used to it.

Contentious teams

Handle disputes, provide advice to companies experiencing problems, and work on large-scale, long-running trials.

Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Insolvency

Tom says...

Tell us about the practice. Restructuring, Bankruptcy & Insolvency helps companies to restructure or enter an insolvency process and provides advice to clients on handling difficult times for their business.

How would you describe the work? Very international, high-profile and exciting.

Who are the clients? A range of big businesses and financial institutions.

*Did you work with any other teams? *Banking & Finance, IP, Insurance and Real Estate - whenever there's an insolvency dispute involving companies in any sector, the team will also be involved.

What can trainees do? There's a real variety, from preparing court bundles to correspondence with the opposing side. You also have the opportunity to run smaller cases yourself, under supervision.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I worked on the litigation process for the insolvency of investment bank Lehman Brothers in my first three weeks at the firm. It was a complicated litigation but I learnt a lot from my involvement.

What did you enjoy? I sat with the co-head of the insolvency department, Devi Shah, and she was an excellent supervisor. I also enjoyed the litigious nature of the work.

*What did you find challenging? *The work is complex and involves lots of technical terms, which I didn't understand at first. But being thrown in at the deep end is a great way to develop.


Lauren says...

Tell us about the practice. Insurance involves lots of contentious work: the team often acts for insurers to defend an insured party when a claim is being brought against them. It also advises insurers on whether or not a claim falls within an insurance policy.

*How would you describe the work? *The work is interesting - London is the insurance capital of the world, so you're at the heart of everything you're working on.

Who are the clients? Large insurance companies are the main clients.

Did you work with any other teams? Commercial Dispute Resolution and the Banking & Finance group on general insurance litigation and claims specific to financial insurance.

*What can trainees do? *If a query comes in from a client, you would research the topic and produce a memo to send back to the client. You also prepare documentation in advance of arbitration or mediation proceedings.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I was involved in a number of professional negligence claims, which involved reviewing insurance policies and preparing documentation to defend the insured party.

What did you enjoy? I was given a lot of responsibility and I found that I gained a broad range of experience in the seat.

What did you find challenging? The work is quite research-heavy and intellectually challenging because you're dealing with areas of the law where there isn't necessarily a clear precedent.

Advisory teams

Provide specialist advice to other practice areas within Mayer Brown and their own clients.

Financial Services Regulatory & Enforcement (FSRE)

Adam says...

Tell us about the practice. FSRE advises financial institutions on how to comply with regulation from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and other financial services regulators. It also deals with bribery, corruption, fraud and other aspects of finance-based disputes.

How would you describe the work? It's complex, very technical and fast-paced. FSRE is one of the fastest-growing service lines in the business.

*Who are the clients? *The world's largest financial institutions, hedge funds and large scale investors.

Did you work with any other teams? Corporate & Securities, Finance, Commercial Dispute Resolution and Insurance on matters relating to regulation.

What can trainees do? The work involves preparing letters of advice, evidence collation and reporting and supporting the partners and associates in the team.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I worked on a detailed document review for a hedge fund involved in allegations of bribery and corruption. I reviewed its data and prepared a report about issues within the data relevant to the claims that had been made against them.

*What did you enjoy? *It's a very technical and complex seat with a lot of client contact, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping up to speed with regulation, which is constantly changing.

What did you find challenging? It was daunting at first because the LPC doesn't provide in-depth training in this area, but the supervisors are very supportive.

Intellectual Property & Information Technology (IPIT)

Adam says...

Tell us about the practice. IPIT drafts licences for copyrights, trademarks and patents, and also handles disputes related to those, to enable businesses to deal with IPIT as they would with more tangible assets. The department advises on matters of data privacy and handles both contentious and transactional work.

How would you describe the work? It's very commercial and exciting and the clients tend to be well known.

*Who are the clients? *They are from a wide spectrum of industries and include multinational companies, artists and record labels.

Did you work with any other teams? IPIT advises teams such as Corporate & Securities, Banking & Finance and Commercial Dispute Resolution on the IPIT aspects of their deals or disputes.

What can trainees do? The work involves drafting licence agreements, responding to queries and providing ad-hoc advice to clients, and research for the rest of the team.

Tell us about a project you worked on. I've been advising one of Europe's largest luxury chocolatiers on issues surrounding how they advertise their products to children.

What did you enjoy? It's quite artistic - the work is technical, but some of the lawyers have backgrounds in the arts which makes for a creative and fun atmosphere within the team.

What did you find challenging? I had to adapt to the slightly different environment in IPIT. This is definitely one of the more technical areas of practice and I've had to get to grips with a new area of law and help apply it in very practical situations.

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