We spoke to Seán Lavin (Training Principal) and Catherine Morgan-Guest (Graduate Recruitment Manager) at Macfarlanes to gain some key insights and top tips on how you can stand out to this leading law firm.
What makes Macfarlanes stand out and why do you think members should launch their career at the firm?
Macfarlanes is a unique, independent major city firm and a fantastic place to launch a long-term, successful career. Our single office approach enables us to work without conflict of interest with the biggest and best firms across the world. For our trainees, this means you’ll be building your skills on the highest quality international work.
As both a top rated Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) practice and a private client practice Macfarlanes offers trainees a fascinating mix of work. The team based structure and the small trainee intake also ensures that you will take on significant responsibility early on. You will be working closely with a partner and associate and, from the start, will access the same work as a final seat trainee or even a junior lawyer. Our culture is one that places an emphasis on kindness and respect – making Macfarlanes a really rewarding place to work.
What core qualities do you look for in a stand out applicant?
We look for candidates who want to build a long-term career at the firm and who have the skills to thrive under the responsibility we will give them. While we don’t have a set list, we look for candidates who have the core skills below, which are tested through the assessment day and interview stages:
- Well rounded candidates who will make the most of our really varied seat rotations
- Great teamwork skills, which include being kind and considerate
- Leadership skills
- Strong academics
- Commercial awareness
- Resilience – that is a grit and ambition to take on real responsibility
- Brain power – clever people who can think on their feet
We really see our trainees as the future of our firm and are proud to have a 91% retention rate.
What can members do while at university to build essential skills?
There is a great deal that students can be doing while at university to position themselves as candidates that are serious about a career in law:
Joining the law societies – These societies have access to all the top city firms and will often host events that enable you to meet the firms in person and gain essential insights into the sector.
Attend in-house events – We have a real range of events that will allow you to meet our team, gain key insights into our work and build essential skills. These include two talks by our senior partner discussing our current biggest deals, dinners with two of our partners for 12 – 15 carefully chosen candidates and a Practice Area Fair in which each area is represented by trainees. Our open days also offer you the chance to take on mock negotiation exercises; a really great way to demonstrate that you have exactly what it takes to make a great trainee.
Call the graduate recruitment team – That’s what our team is there for, we can answer your questions and give you guidance with your application.
Join Bright Network and Aspiring Solicitors – Make sure you are aware of our opportunities and on-top of all the deadlines by joining these careers service organisations. Make the most of their events and skills building workshops.
Read the Financial Times and The Economist – An excellent way to develop your commercial awareness - be sure to consider how these major events may have a practical, commercial impact in the legal sector.
Do you have any top tips for the application process?
For the online form it’s essential that you have really researched our firm – consider why you want to build your long-term career at Macfarlanes specifically. It’s really important that your application isn’t just generic if you want to make it through to the interview stage.
The interview stage is comprised of two interviews (one with a partner who knows your CV and a second CV blind interview that includes a scenario to test your problem solving skills) as well as a group task and a written exercise (both CV blind). Ask around for advice and support and practice for the interview stages as much as possible. When discussing your CV do not just repeat your experience but really consider what you have learnt and the skills you have developed. Do not feel pressured to respond too quickly, but take time to give considered answers.