Two Mayer Brown trainees on what happens on the firm's vacation scheme

Two Mayer Brown trainees on how they found their vacation schemes at the firm

At Mayer Brown, the summer vacation scheme is three weeks long and students spend time in two different practice areas to experience what it's like to be a lawyer at the firm.

Here, current Mayer Brown trainees Oliver Lyons and Boin Cheong tell us how they found their vacation schemes at the firm.

Non-law student: Oliver Lyons

Oliver studied English and American literature at the University of Warwick. He did a vacation scheme at Mayer Brown in summer 2010 and joined the firm as a trainee in September 2012.

What interested you about a career in commercial law?

I was considering careers in law, finance and accounting. I spoke to people in those industries and found that the lawyers were the most passionate about their jobs.

I then did some independent research and organised some work experience, and discovered that I was most interested in transactional, business law.

Why did you decide to apply for the vacation scheme at Mayer Brown?

I went to a law fair at university where I spoke to some Mayer Brown trainees. They were all very friendly and enthusiastic about the firm and their work, which convinced me to apply.

The firm also takes on a good number of trainees each year; there aren't too many, but enough that you'll make friends and have a good support network, which was important to me.

What was a typical day like on the scheme?

I spent time in the finance practice, which is a transactional, deal-based seat, and the litigation practice, which is a contentious, dispute-based seat. I sat in an office with my supervisor who would oversee my work, and I had a buddy, who was a trainee, who also gave me work.

My working hours were usually 9am or 9.30am until 6pm, and there were often presentations or networking events organised in the evenings. We also went to Brussels for the day and met the lawyers in the Mayer Brown office there, which was a great trip.

Can you tell us about some of the interesting work you did?

In the finance practice I wrote a relatively complicated memo on securitisation, a complex financing technique. I found it very interesting, and it was satisfying to know that the work I was doing would actually be put to practical use.

When I'd completed it, my supervisor sat down with me to provide some feedback, so I learnt a lot from it. I also assisted the trainees with some administrative tasks and did a lot of research work.

Was coming from a non-law background a challenge?

No, I was never at a disadvantage. My supervisor understood that I wasn't studying law, so my work didn't require any legal knowledge.

I found my English degree useful though, as I could read complex documents quickly and pick out the important points.

What did you enjoy most about the vacation scheme?

I enjoyed getting to know the people at Mayer Brown most of all. Everyone was fantastic, including the other students on the vacation scheme, who I stayed in touch with.

I was inspired by the partners I met as well - they were all so knowledgeable, but didn't take themselves too seriously.

Did it give you an accurate picture of life at the firm?

Yes, as good as I could possibly get in three weeks! My initial impression of Mayer Brown was that it's a friendly firm, and that has definitely been confirmed. It's a supportive working environment, and I feel very well looked after.

My working hours are a bit longer as a trainee than they were on the vacation scheme, but that's something that everyone is honest about and that I was prepared for.

Do you have any advice for students doing a vacation scheme this summer?

Make sure your commercial awareness is up to scratch. I read the FT every day for a few weeks before my vacation scheme to make sure I had a good sense of what was going on in the business world.

Otherwise, don't overprepare – just be yourself.

Law student: Boin Cheong

Boin gained an undergraduate degree in the US, before studying law at the University of Cambridge. She did a vacation scheme at Mayer Brown in summer 2010 and joined the firm as a trainee in September 2012.

What interested you about a career in commercial law?

Initially, I saw myself working as an international human rights lawyer and had done some work experience in this field.

But commercial law always appealed to me, so I decided to try a vacation scheme and quickly realised it was the right career path for me.

Why did you decide to apply for the vacation scheme at Mayer Brown?

Mayer Brown has a strong global presence and the work is very international in nature, which really interested me.

This was reinforced during my vacation scheme when we visited the Mayer Brown office in Brussels, and I was also able to do a placement in the firm's Hong Kong office before starting my training contract.

What was a typical day like on the scheme?

I spent time in the corporate practice, which is a transactional, deal-based seat, and on the construction team in the litigation practice, which resolves disputes. In both practice areas, I shared an office with my supervisor, who made sure I had work to do and gave me feedback.

My working hours were typically 9.30am to 5.30pm, although sometimes I stayed a bit later in corporate to help out the team. At lunchtime, the trainees would take us out for lunch or show us around the area. We also had several training sessions and talks over the course of the vacation scheme.

Can you tell us about some of the interesting work you did?

The corporate practice advises clients on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which is the sale and purchase of companies.

I put together a due diligence checklist for a deal involving a multinational wind turbine company with offices in different jurisdictions, which was very interesting. In construction, I put together court bundles and did some research work.

Could you apply what you'd learnt at university to your work on the vacation scheme?

Not really. The work I did on my vacation scheme was far more practical and business-oriented than what I was studying at university, which was academic and theoretical.

But the organisational skills I'd developed through being involved in societies at university were useful to me.

What did you enjoy most about the vacation scheme?

The most enjoyable part of the vacation scheme was meeting everyone at the firm.

The trainees I worked with quickly became my friends, and I also got along very well with the other students on the vacation scheme - many of whom I work with now.

Did it give you an accurate picture of life at the firm?

It did. At first I was nervous because I expected commercial law to be quite competitive and aggressive, but at Mayer Brown that isn't the case at all.

Everyone was down to earth and friendly, so I felt I could just be myself.

Do you have any advice for students doing a vacation scheme this summer?

Lawyers need to be confident talking to people and dealing with clients, so it's important to feel comfortable in your own skin. And don't forget that a vacation scheme is your opportunity to assess a firm.

Lots of firms try to impress vacation scheme students with fancy dinners and events, but make sure you enjoy the work and get on well with the people you're working with - ultimately that's more important.

Comments