What you need to know about… CMS

December 1, 2021

4 min read

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An intro to the firm

In 2017, the three law firms Cameron McKenna, Nabarro, and Olswang came together in the largest merger in legal history to create CMS. Cameron McKenna was the biggest of the three and was an established corporate firm. Nabarro and Olswang were smaller but were really strong in specific sectors. Nabarro was known for its real estate work while Olswang was the tech and digital services firm. As well as the sector expertise from each firm, CMS now had access to all of their combined offices… 76 offices across 43 countries to be exact.

CMS, or to give it its full (and much longer) name, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP (yup… it’s a bit of a mouthful) was born out of a merger of three UK firms in 2017. This merger was, and still is, the largest merger in UK legal history!

The mega-merger catapulted the firm (which we’re just going to call CMS) to the top of the charts: it suddenly became the 6th largest law firm in the UK by revenue and 6th largest in the world by number of lawyers – and as it grew in size, so did the number of trainees it needed to recruit to keep driving talent into the firm. CMS now takes on around 95 trainees a year, making it one of biggest trainee intakes for a UK law firm.

The firm describes itself in three words: Future-focused, relationship-driven and truly international.

Its key strengths

As we said before, the two firms it merged with, Nabarro and Olswang, were really well-known for their deep sector expertise in their own practice areas: Nabarro was the real estate powerhouse, and Olswang was the cool tech firm. So, the newly-formed CMS benefited from the abilities of those two firms – and now, this new and improved CMS is often found on the short-list (or the winners’ list) for a fair few awards! This year, its teams won “Competition Team of the Year” and “Pensions Team of the Year” awards – and the firm always goes the extra mile to adapt and support its lawyers, with the firm winning “Best Law Firm for Working From Home 2021” in the Legal Cheek awards. 

It’s also a truly international firm… and, while it doesn’t have offices everywhere on earth (sadly none in North America), CMS’ strength across Europe, Asia, the Middle-East, Africa and South America really sets it apart from other firms. Aside from being able to show off about its global reach, it’s not uncommon for multiple offices of the firm to actually work together on deals. This means the firm can take advantage of local expertise in all these areas of the world and clients can also get multi-jurisdictional advice without having to go to different firms… it’s that easy!

The firm really embraces technology and innovation too… and not just as buzzwords. It really takes the opportunity to integrate tech into its working practices, wherever it might offer a tangible benefit to the client. For example, in 2017 it became the first law firm in Europe to adopt the software “Brainspace”, which is a machine learning and data visualisation technology that speeds up going through documents. It’s really handy in due diligence and disclosure processes because it can save hours and hours of time, which means less of the boring work for lawyers, and potential cost savings for clients. And this sort of decision, being a first-mover on innovative technology, really typifies CMS. 

The firm also launched “CMS equIP”, a sort of “incubator” programme for early stage tech start-ups. equIP helps its members out with reduced fees for three years, after which many former members “graduate” from the programme and become regular clients of CMS. This means the firm can capture a lot of interesting new companies at their early stages and be part of their journey to disrupt different industries by doing innovative things.

Training, training, training...

Trainees at CMS get the benefit of the most important thing they could want: opportunities. 

Because of the size of the firm, it pretty much has every seat option that you might expect from a commercial firm (like corporate, banking and litigation) as well as some you might not have thought of (like real estate planning, employment or even a seat in its innovation team). That’s one of the great things about CMS – the choices of seats mean that you are able to try a wide variety of things during your training years, develop a varied set of skills and find out what you like doing. The real challenge is to be able to pick your favourite four options from the lot!

The firm also has loads of different secondment opportunities. There are international secondments to far-flung exotic destinations like Rio and Dubai, as well as places closer to home. These let you experience working in another country (which can be really fun) as well as building your network with CMS lawyers abroad. The firm has got some awesome client secondment opportunities too, sending trainees to companies like Goldman Sachs, Unilever, Amazon and the BBC. CMS’ client secondments let you experience being in the client’s shoes, which can make you a better lawyer once you cross back over to work in the firm. 

CMS is known for its work culture. Far from the traditional idea of corporate law firms that just focus on work, work, work, CMS puts a lot of emphasis on the mental health of all of its staff, including trainees. Trainees benefit from the firm’s offering of 24/7 counselling and monthly mindfulness sessions. The staff at the firm, including the partners, are genuinely friendly and approachable, which makes CMS the perfect environment for a trainee to be curious, ask questions and develop their skills.

Report written by Idin Sabahipour

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