Mayer Brown (孖士打律師行)

The Legal Cheek View

Mayer Brown is one of the biggest and best-known law firms in Hong Kong. The global ‘White Shoe’ firm’s strong presence in Hong Kong is the result of a 2008 merger with local law firm Johnson Stokes & Master. The combined firm became known as Mayer Brown JSM and later, after a 2018 rebrand, Mayer Brown. Rather ironically, it’s known as ‘Master Law Firm’ (孖士打律師行) in Chinese.

JSM was established in 1863 at a time when Hong Kong had less than a dozen practising lawyers. Since then, the firm’s growth paralleled Hong Kong’s rapid economic development and it further expanded into other major Asian cities, gaining notable clients along the way. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (the Hong Kong subsidiary of HSBC) has been one of the firm’s major clients for more than a century — sharing office space at one point but now based close-by in Central and connected by an ancient corridor that has stained glass windows.

Mayer Brown occupies three floors (16-19/F) in Prince’s Building, an office tower in Central that also houses the Hong Kong offices of Big Four giants PwC and KPMG. The meeting rooms are spacious and named after cities. Mayer Brown has 200 lawyers in Hong Kong, including 66 partners, the highest of any law firm in the city. The full-service firm has a similar number of lawyers in the two other major financial centres, London and New York, and together they advise Fortune 100, FTSE 100 and DAX companies, and more than half of the world’s largest investment banks.

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In Hong Kong we hear the firm has a relatively young partnership but equally, there are some partners who have been at the firm for several decades and considered to be specialists in their field. Robert Lynn is one such “pillar” of the firm; the real estate veteran has amassed more than 40 years of experience both in Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Mayer Brown offers 12 training contracts each year, which is almost on a par with the 15 it offers in London. During the two-year training contract trainees gain experience in corporate finance and real estate — Mayer Brown’s “calling cards”, as per firm chairman Jon Van Gorp — and litigation. For the final six months they can either repeat a seat or go on secondment to the firm’s offices in London, New York, or its inter-office in Singapore. Secondment opportunities have been suspended since 2020 owing to the coronavirus and quarantine restrictions but are expected to resume from September 2022.

The learning & development team arranges for trainees to have frequent workshops on legal and department-specific training. There’s also a five-day induction at the start of the training contract. There are regular performance reviews during the training contract through to qualification as a newly qualified (NQ) lawyer. Mayer Brown trainees are a hardworking bunch — they get along with each other but prefer to spend their down time with their own and HR is happy to maintain the status quo, although they have put on fun events in the past like an escape room or evening drinks.

Mayer Brown takes 24 interns across two summer vacation schemes and six during the winter scheme. Like most law firms in Hong Kong, Mayer Brown expects future joiners to be trilingual in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. To this end, the firm is due to launch a scheme later this year that will enable minority ethnic students in Hong Kong to learn Chinese and engage with the language from an early age. The firm’s lawyers also undertake charitable efforts, recently teaming up with local NGO Plastic Free Seas to clean up a beach on Lantau Island and Sunshine Action Limited to distribute food and other essentials to the homeless.


First year trainee salary Undisclosed
Second year trainee salary Undisclosed
Newly qualified salary Undisclosed
PCLL grant Undisclosed

General Info

Training contracts 12
Offices 27
Countries 13
Minimum language requirement English, Cantonese, Mandarin