Cover letter tips for Mayer Brown training contract applications

Whatever your example, it’s best if you can quantify your achievements.

Mayer Brown’s training contract application form bucks the trend by not asking you to respond to a set list of motivational questions – instead, it asks for a covering letter. It’s up to you to pick out the most relevant aspects of your skills and experience and to produce a compelling argument for why you would make a good trainee solicitor.

The most important thing to be aware of when writing your covering letter is that it must be clearly tailored to Mayer Brown – copying and pasting the same letter you have used to apply to other firms will likely mean your application heads straight to the bottom of the pile. The graduate recruitment manager at Mayer Brown told TARGETjobs: ‘We receive lots of generic applications from applicants who have sent blanket applications to, say, 40 City law firms, whereas I’m looking for evidence that the applicant has gone the extra mile to find out about the firm and what we do.’ Take time to research the firm and get a feel for what they are looking for, then begin writing your cover letter. We’ve laid out a step-by-step guide below.

The opening

This should be only a couple of short sentences explaining who you are and what you are applying for. You should mention your university, the year of study you are in and your predicted grade.

The first paragraph

The first paragraph should be used to explain why you want to be a trainee at Mayer Brown. This is not solely about flattering the firm – it’s about making it clear that you understand who they are and what the training contract involves.

You might want to mention what you know about the culture at Mayer Brown. If you’ve met recruiters or current trainees at the firm during open days, law fairs or workshops, be sure to mention this and explain why that meeting convinced you that Mayer Brown is a good fit for you – name drop if you feel confident enough about your past conversations with Mayer Brown trainees or recruiters to be remembered.

Mayer Brown has become a big player in banking and corporate law, but has a host of areas of practice that it offers. Try to utilise their areas of practice and explain how they relate to your interests, experience and career plans. What is it about the firm’s work that appeals to you? Have you a particular passion for commercial law? Think about how you can back that up – have you been involved in pro bono work at university? Did you achieve something unusual in your academic study of corporate law, or do you have your own extracurricular or personal reasons?

Perhaps it’s the global aspect of the firm that interests you? Remember Mayer Brown pitches itself as an international firm, not a US firm, and has a large stake in the emerging markets. Why would this benefit you? If you speak a second language and are looking for an opportunity to combine this with legal practice, say so. Mayer Brown is known to look highly on candidates with international experience. You could also think about Mayer Brown’s partnerships with organisations such as Stonewall and Race for Opportunity – did this have an impact on your impression of the firm?

The second paragraph

This is your chance to explain why you would make an ideal trainee solicitor at Mayer Brown. The best approach is to refer directly to the ‘Who are we looking for?’ section of the firm’s graduate recruitment website. This clearly outlines the skills and qualities Mayer Brown’s recruiters are looking for – the next step is to provide evidence of each of those skills.

For example, the firm wants to see candidates ‘who can demonstrate a drive for results’. Refer to any extracurricular activities or jobs in which you have been set a challenge and have achieved or surpassed targets – maybe you organised a charity event in your student common room and reached your fundraising target, or perhaps you started a petition and gathered enough signatures to effect change. Whatever your example, it’s best if you can quantify your achievements by specifically stating what the result was eg ‘I raised £500 for charity, surpassing our target of £400’.

Mayer Brown also emphasises its customer focus and states that it looks for ‘an understanding of client relationships and excellent interpersonal skills’. Mayer Brown is a commercial law firm and their recruiters need to know that you are capable of giving business advice to the likes of their FTSE100 clients. They won’t expect students to have much experience of dealing directly with clients, but if you have had any sort of professional interaction that involved striking up a rapport and maintaining a relationship – such as serving regulars in a bar or recruiting contributors for a student magazine – mention this in your covering letter. What is it about your personality that enabled you to build these relationships?

Finally, Mayer Brown is keen to promote its international ties with Tauil & Chequer Advogados in Brazil and Mayer Brown JSM expanding in Asia. Past trainees have advised that candidates highlight their international interests and experiences in their application, as it’s said that the firm’s recruiters are keen to hear about this. If you’ve lived outside the UK, speak another language or have strong knowledge of another culture, make reference to this and explain that you think it would be of benefit to the firm when working with international clients.

The closer

Close with a couple of sentences that reaffirm your interest in the position and summarise your suitability for the role. If you have any more legal or commercial work experience you are likely to undertake before interview (such as attending a law fair or a day of shadowing), you can mention this briefly in one sentence too. State your availability for interview and sign off in the appropriate way – by using ‘Yours sincerely’, since the recruiter’s name is mentioned on the application forms you will be able to address your letter to a specific recruiter.

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