A day in the life of an M&A trainee - Jim Fairlie


I'm a first-year trainee, coming towards the end of my second seat in M&A. My first seat was in Construction, which I started in September 2022. 

Internally Howard Kennedy groups each legal practice area team into four larger departments: Real Estate, Disputes, Corporate, and Private Client. Right now, I sit within the Corporate department, which also includes Capital Markets, Employment and Immigration, IP and Commercial.

Mergers and Acquisitions supports buyers, sellers and management teams with their transactions and growth ambitions. Our service extends beyond M&A, we also provide advice to corporates across the business life cycle. 


It's Thursday which means I work at the office. I tend to work Tuesday-Thursday at the office, Monday and Friday at home. This is the same for most people at the firm, though there is no set requirement which allows a lot of flexibility in terms of where you work.

I live in South West London and it takes around 40 minutes to commute in. I start each morning with a cup of coffee before leaving my flat. I generally arrive at the office around 9:30, and grab another cup of coffee before I start. 

9:30-9:40 My first task each day is reviewing emails from last night and early in the morning, and updating my to-do list for the day.  At 10:30 the M&A team has a weekly catch-up meeting; in preparation I also have a think about my capacity levels for the remainder of the week. 

9:40-10:30 I am currently working on an asset purchase transaction with our client, a well-known high-street retail business. The client has in the past few years operated via a franchise model, and they are now looking to transfer all of their franchise stores back in-house and operate these directly. We are in the early stages of such transfer, in the process of conducting due diligence over a single franchise store. This is an important phase during which we aim to get a full picture of the store we are acquiring. The goal is to know the ins and outs of the store so our client - when the store is transferred - can simply pick up where the franchisee left without any surprises. 

We also look for any red flags that might cause our client a problem down the line, and if these are discovered, work with our client and the franchisee to agree a way to manage this risk. The transfer and any arrangements are agreed within the asset purchase agreement. 

I've been given a lot of responsibility in this project, including drafting the transfer agreement, reporting to the client directly, liaising with the franchisee and franchisee's solicitor, and drafting ancillary documents. However, my task this morning is a fairly simple one: contacting the franchisee's solicitor to chase outstanding due diligence and forwarding on some of what we have obtained to our client. Small tasks like this - firing off a few emails to different parties - are great to get out of the way first thing in the morning, so as to free up time to focus on more complex tasks.  

I also have a catch up with the associate who is supervising me on this matter, and we discuss what needs to be done next. 

10:30-11:00 Once finished, it's time for the weekly meeting. I grab a coffee, catch up with the team, and give them an update on what I have on. 

11:00-12:00 We recently completed the restructure of a family-owned group of companies, involving heavy real estate and banking elements. Although completed, there are a number of items following completion which are my responsibility to manage. 

This morning I needed to send hard copy documents to the bank providing our client with a loan, liaise with a separate bank in relation to their completion deliverables to us, and sort out payment to one of our client's agents who assisted in negotiating banking arrangements. Although none of these tasks is very big, together they occupy the rest of the morning.


12:00-12:10 Nip out to grab an iced americano from Pret. It's hot. I need my caffeine. No, I don't have a problem, four coffees a day is fine.

12:10-13:30 Drafting ancillary documents on a different M&A transaction. Our client is the seller in this one, they own a company with some property which they are selling on to the buyer, an overseas company. We're drafting a suite of 'ancillary' documents – these are various documents required to facilitate the smooth transfer of the company to the buyer and include items like: board minutes of the target company authorising the sale; resignation letters from the outgoing directors; letters of consent for the new director; and share transfer forms. My task is to draft these, using a generic template and tailoring these to suit the present circumstances.

13:30-14:15 Lunch! The firm puts on a lunch two to three times a week, however today I go into neighbouring Borough Market with a few colleagues. Since joining Howard Kennedy, I've been slowly working my way through all of the food stalls; my favourite so far is Shuk. We come back to eat at the office's cafeteria, with views across the river. 

14:15-15:00 I continue where I left off on the drafting exercise.

15:00-18:00 A new client emailed us with some outstanding information, and a request to assist them urgently. We met with this client the previous week and they asked for our assistance in amending their Articles of Association (these are, in essence, the rulebook for how any individual company is managed in the UK). The client sought new funding by way of equity investors, however a previous investor had required them to adopt a bespoke set of articles which effectively blocked the client from issuing new shares save to a few specific individuals.

The matter was now urgent as they wanted to issue shares in the next week. I put my other lower priority tasks to one side and focus on drafting a note of advice for the client, a brief plan of action, and a fee quote for our assistance. I had these items signed off by the partner in charge of the matter, and sent the fee quote to our client.


18:00 I clock off for the evening. On Thursday evenings, I go to Underwater Rugby practice at Putney Leisure Centre. This is a full contact ball game played underwater, very intense and a great way to blow off steam!

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