With less than 300 lawyers and only one office, this modest sized firm can make the very immodest boast of being one of the most profitable practices in the City. Macfarlanes has clients based all over the world thanks to its global referral network.
- Partners are very hands on
- Lots of client contact from the beginning
- There are many social activities amongst trainees and departments
- No culture of face time
- The firm promotes from within so career prospects are good
- A fairly old-fashioned and conservative firm
- The firm doesn’t offer much in terms of flexible working options
- Low bonuses – unrelated to hours
- No foreign offices so not ideal if you want to work overseas
Macfarlanes has admirably come to the aid of male egos everywhere; with less than 300 lawyers and only one office, this modest sized firm can make the immodest boast of being the most profitable firm in the City – thus proving beyond all reasonable doubt that size isn’t everything. Joking aside, Macfarlanes has achieved this irrefutable position without a single office overseas or formal international network of alliance partners. Most of its business must therefore be domestic, right? Wrong! Macfarlanes has clients based all over the globe – dealing with its international clientele by informally teaming up with the best firms based in the relevant region and market.
Macfarlanes was founded in Victorian London, in 1875, by George Watson Neish. He was joined in partnership by the eponymous John Embleton Macfarlane, in 1894. The firm was subsequently run by his sons and grandsons before adopting its current moniker in 1962. To this day, the firm has never merged.
Although remaining a relatively small, independent practice, Macfarlanes’ client roster is ogled with green eyes by many a larger firm. The Royal Mail, ING, Umbro, Royal Bank of Scotland, Red Bull, Barclays, Virgin, Mizuho Bank and Pernod Ricard have all entrusted Macfarlanes to represent them. In addition to its corporate work, the firm is equally dedicated to its private client practice – another characteristic of Macfarlanes that bucks the industry trend. The firm services wealthy individuals through trusts and estates work, private banking, immigration, wills and probate work.
Macfarlanes also has a real estate practice that’s not to be scoffed, and a formidable fund formation service that not only feeds private equity, but generates work setting up property investment vehicles. The firm's litigation practice is also well known – working on construction disputes, intellectual property and competition.
Falling in line with its family roots, this monolith has an ethos of loyalty and collegiality to match. More than half of the firm's partners joined as trainees, laterally hired partners are rare, and the firm instead prefers to promote from within, allowing its solicitors a greater chance to work their way to the top.
Macfarlanes believes in its wider responsibility to the communities and environment in which it operates. The firm ‘aims to have a positive impact through five main themes of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity’: pro bono legal advice, diversity, community action, sustainability and charitable giving. Macfarlanes’ CSR activities are developed and co-ordinated by a committee, consisting of staff from across the firm. Macfarlanes encourages all members of staff to support the various initiatives and each year it picks a charity to be the focus of fundraising efforts.
A 2:1 is the minimum prerequisite for those seeking to work at Macfarlanes, though the firm welcomes applicants from all universities and degree subjects. With approximately 30 trainee places available each year, obtaining one of Macfarlanes’ training contracts is about more than just brains though – candidates must demonstrate great drive, ambition and an ability to correctly judge the tone of any given situation and respond with confidence to even the most demanding clients.
As an applicant you will need to know the firm, its latest news and marquee deals, and have a clear but substantial answer to why you applied to Macfarlanes in particular. Above all, applicants are advised to be themselves, as they will be judged by trainees as well as partners. The firm’s current trainees will be on the look-out for individuals they think would make good colleagues, so it’s no good just schmoozing the partners.
After completing an online application form, any successful candidates will have to go through an assessment day, comprised of written, oral and team exercises, all culminating in a formal interview with partners. Applicants shouldn’t be too intimidated though as, while the day may be challenging, the atmosphere is friendly and encouraging. Just be sure to thoroughly read up on the firm as a lack of knowledge will quickly become apparent and will sit you in poor stead regardless of how impressive you are elsewhere.
Macfarlanes also runs vacation schemes in the summer and at Easter for those in their penultimate year of uni. You’ll spend two weeks at the firm in different departments, working with a partner, solicitor or trainee. It’s a chance to learn about the culture, gain some real hands-on experience and decide if the firm is the right fit for you.
Graduate Recruitment Info
Graduate Recruitment Manager
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
Vacation Schemes: 31st January 2013
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 300
Trainee intake: 30
Trainees retained: 40% (March 2012)
1st year trainee: £38,000
2nd year trainee: £43,000
Newly qualified: £60,000
1 year PQE: £66,000
2 years PQE: £72,000
3 years PQE: £77,000 - £84,000
Banking and Finance
Corporate and M&A
Financial Services Regulation
IP and IT
Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Pensions and Benefits
Restructuring and Insolvency