The lowdown (in their own words...)
If the firm were a fictional character it would be...
Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May has an excellent reputation for mergers and acquisitions, corporate tax and commercial litigation. The firm’s client case includes governments, entrepreneurs, funds, banks, retailers and entertainment companies. Slaughter and May has additional offices in Brussels, Beijing and Hong Kong.
The star performers
Acquisition finance; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial contracts; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Competition litigation; Corporate crime (including fraud, bribery and corruption); Corporate tax; Derivatives and structured products; EU and competition; Employee share schemes; Equity capital markets; Financial services; Insurance: corporate and regulatory; IT and telecoms; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Pensions; Power (including electricity, nuclear and renewables); Securitisation; Tax litigation and investigations
Acted on Actelion’s $30bn takeover by Johnson & Johnson; handled a global bond liability management exercise for BHP Billiton, which included a $2.5bn debt repurchase plan; handled the principal UK actions and European follow-on litigation for British Airways in a major global multi-party litigation, following on from the air cargo cartel investigation; acted for The Salvation Army in the multijurisdictional procurement and rollout of a cloud-based accounting and ERP platform; assisted Drax with the issuing of $300m senior secured notes
American Express; Arsenal FC; BUPA; Cathay Pacific; Coca-Cola; Google; Ladbrokes Coral; Rolls-Royce; Tata Steel; Walmart
The ‘multi-specialist approach’ of Slaughter and May ‘means consistently varied work’. The Magic Circle firm has a ‘reputation for excellence’ and is considered ‘the best platform for starting a career in law’. An ‘exciting atmosphere’ pervades, with trainees reporting best moments such as ‘having a deal on the front page of the Financial Times after an all-nighter’ and ‘taking the lead with a partner in acquisition negotiations’. Respondents enjoy the ‘stronger focus on intellectual work than ‘churn’ work’. But references to the firm’s ‘hierarchy’ were common, with some trainees feeling as though they are at ‘the bottom of the pile’. Whilst the hours can be long, respondents assured us that they have ‘never been kept late for the sake of it’ and ‘do not feel the need to hang around’ if they don’t have any pressing work. ‘The firm invests more time in trainees and their personal development’, as evidenced by the abundance of training which ‘is carried out by partners and other fee-earners who can speak from actual experience’. Recruits were less positive about ‘getting ten hours’ sleep in six days’ and ‘mundane’ work such as ‘highlighting sections of thousands of chatroom messages’ and document review. Unusually, Slaughters does not have a billable hours target. This helps to ‘foster a team mentality’ and results in a lack of competition between trainees, so much so that the firm is a Lex 100 Winner for confidence of being kept on. There are also some great overseas placements on offer at Slaughters’ partner law firms. For the opportunity to undertake ‘high-end work in an intellectually-stimulating environment’ where ‘everyone is passionate and committed to excellence’, research Slaughter and May.
A day in the life of...
Emily McMorrow trainee solicitor, Slaughter and May
Departments to date: Competition, dispute resolution and real estate
University:University College Dublin
Degree:Bachelor of Civil Law with Economics
7.00am: I start my morning by attending a gym class with a couple of other trainees.
8.30am: We make our way to the staff restaurant, and eat breakfast together.
9.00am: I grab a coffee and head up to my desk in the dispute resolution group. I catch up on client news, read my emails and write a list of tasks to complete over the course of the day (although depending on what comes in, that doesn’t always go to plan!).
9.30am: I’m currently working on a UK competition litigation matter, following a European Commission cartel decision. Overnight our client has been served with a follow-on damages claim. I research the procedural requirements for responding to the claim, and update the rest of the team on our procedural deadlines. I alert one of our ‘Best Friend’ firms to the claim, as they are working with our client on a corresponding European claim.
11.00am: My supervisor organises a team meeting to discuss our strategy and next steps. I take notes during the meeting, and update the action list, before circulating it to the team.
12.30pm: I head to a local primary school, where I volunteer as a reading partner to one of the students. After this, I make my way to the food market on Whitecross Street, which is just behind the office, and grab some lunch to take back to my desk.
1.30pm: My supervisor is also working on an international anti-corruption and bribery investigation. She asks me to draft speaking notes ahead of her meeting with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). I draft the notes and send them to my supervisor.
3.00pm: Training is a core part of any trainee’s working life at Slaughter and May. I head down to a session given by an associate in my group on international arbitrations. She gives first-hand examples of scenarios she’s encountered and practical advice. There are also sessions held at all levels of the firm and by a cross-section of internal and external speakers (one day you’ll attend a strategy talk by a partner about Brexit, and the next it will be a talk from an external speaker to mark International Women’s Day).
4.00pm: Up against a deadline, my next job is to dash to the Commercial Court to serve court documents, before it closes for the day.
4.30pm: When I get back to the office, I see that our client has received a letter from the respondents in its pre-action debt claim. I join a call with our client, in which an associate updates them on the letter and our proposed next steps. The client confirms its instructions for our response. I take a detailed note of the call.
5.30pm: After the call, the associate asks me to draft our letter of response. I am new to this matter, and begin by reading our previous correspondence with the respondents, and researching the points raised in the letter. After drafting our letter of response, I proof read it thoroughly before sending it to the associate.
7.00pm: After checking my emails for a final time and ensuring my time recording is up to date, I check in with my supervisor to see if there is anything else which needs to be done today. The answer is no, so I head to the local pub for a catch up with other trainees from my intake.
Interview with Uzma Hamid-Dizier, Head of Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility
Why is having a diverse workforce important?
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that developing a diverse workforce and creating a culture where people feel able to be themselves is the right thing to do. However, it is much more than that; there is also a strong business case for firms like ours to be prioritising our work in this area. Our people are central to the service we provide and we need to draw upon diverse perspectives and viewpoints in order to provide the very best advice to our clients. Having diverse teams of lawyers from different backgrounds and with different experiences brings different ways of looking at problems and means that we can provide our clients with innovative solutions. As such, we see diversity and inclusion as not just a ‘nice to do’ but a business imperative.
What initiatives does Slaughter and May have in place to ensure it recruits a diverse workforce?
Our focus recently has been to challenge the perception that City law firms are not inclusive places to work. One of the ways we do this is by inviting students to the firm to give them the opportunity to experience our inclusive culture for themselves.
We run regular recruitment events targeted at undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. The aim of these events is to provide students with an insight in to working in the firm and the City more broadly. Attendees hear about the career journeys and experiences of a diverse range of our partners and lawyers and have the opportunity to meet people throughout the firm over the course of the day. These events have proved very popular. The students who attended have told us that they are now seriously considering applying to the firm when they previously felt like it wasn’t an option.
We partner with a number of external organisations to reach out to diverse talent. These include My Plus Students’ Club, an organisation which provides advice and support to disabled graduates as they pursue their chosen career path, and Women in the City Afro Caribbean Network (WCAN). We’re also involved in sector-wide initiatives such as DiversCity, an annual event and mentoring scheme for LGBT students interested in a career in law.
We have also been working hard to ensure our recruitment processes are inclusive. We were the first law firm to engage Rare Recruitment, who specialise in sourcing exceptional people from diverse backgrounds into some of the world’s top organisations.
We also contributed to the development of the Rare Contextual Recruitment system and use it across all our trainee recruitment activity. The system helps us identify candidates with the greatest potential by putting candidates’ grades and achievements in the context of their social and educational background.
How has Slaughter and May been working to improve diversity in senior/leadership positions?
We want to retain and develop a diverse pipeline of talent through to the partnership. To do this we have introduced a range of target development programmes for diverse groups.
We know that mentoring is a highly personalised form of career development and, if it is offered equally, can be one of the most effective ways to improve diversity at all levels of an organisation. We have been participating in the high-profile 30% Club cross-company mentoring scheme for five years, which matches our high-potential women with a senior leader mentor from a FTSE 100 company. We also provide similar cross-company mentoring opportunities to our LGBT employees through our membership with OUTstanding and were the first firm to develop a bespoke cross-company mentoring scheme for our BME employees.
Having a mentor outside of the firm brings with it many benefits. It provides a confidential space to discuss your career with an experienced professional, learn from new perspectives and develop external networks. These schemes are also a great way for our people to meet diverse role models with similar backgrounds and experiences. In addition to the external mentoring, we also offer an internal mentoring scheme which provides our associates with the opportunity to be mentored by a partner outside of their legal group. Our associates can request a mentor from a particular background if they wish.
We’re also celebrating the fifth anniversary of our Female Leadership Development programme for mid to senior level female associates, which we host in partnership with our European Best Friend firms. The six-day programme is run across three European cities and focusses on building leadership skills within the legal sector and relationships across the firms.
How does Slaughter and May avoid diversity becoming a box-ticking exercise?
We approach our work in this area from an inclusion perspective and our definition of diversity goes beyond the protected characteristic under the law. Our aim is to ensure everyone feels valued, included and supported.
Our eight diversity networks are central to this. They play an important role in increasing the visibility of diversity and fostering a spirit of inclusion within the firm and work together as a ‘Network of Networks’.
A key part of the success of our networks is that they genuinely involve people throughout the firm in the discussion. All of our network’s activities are open to everyone in the firm, regardless of whether they identify with a particular group. Everybody is encouraged to attend a network event to learn from different perspectives and meet new people from across the firm.
What assurances would you give to individuals who want to apply for a training contract but feel hesitant to do so because of their gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/background/disability/any other diversity-related reason?
I would encourage anyone who feels hesitant applying to a firm, whether it be to Slaughter and May or others, to experience the culture for themselves. A firm’s website and brochure can provide useful information, but it can be difficult making a decision on where to begin your career based on this alone, so meeting people at the firm in person is crucial. Make the time to attend open days, law fairs or other firm events and ask partners and lawyers questions about the things that matter to you most. Events are also a great way to meet a diverse range of people working at the firm and hear directly about their experiences. Finding out more about the culture and day-to-day life at the firm first-hand should help make your decision a little easier.
About the firm
Address:One Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8YY
Telephone: 020 7090 4454
Senior partner: Steve Cooke
Other offices: Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong plus relationship firms in all the major jurisdictions.
Who we are: Slaughter and May is one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. We advise on high-profile and often landmark international transactions. Our excellent and varied client list ranges from governments to entrepreneurs, from retailers to entertainment companies and from conglomerates to Premier League football clubs.
What we do: We are a full-service law firm to corporate clients and have leading practitioners across a wide range of practice areas including mergers and acquisitions, corporate and commercial, financing, tax, competition, dispute resolution, real estate, pensions and employment, financial regulation, information technology and intellectual property.
What we are looking for: We look for candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds with a high 2:(1) at undergraduate level from any university, and take an equal mix of law and non-law graduates. We take great store in drawing strength from diversity. With 111 different degree courses from 83 different universities and 31 nationalities represented among our lawyers, our culture is extremely broad.
What you'll do:During the two-year training contract, trainees turn their hand to a broad range of work, taking an active role in four, five or six legal groups while sharing an office with a partner or experienced associate. All trainees spend at least two six-month seats in our market-leading corporate, commercial and financing groups. Subject to gaining some contentious experience, they choose how to spend the remaining time.
Perks: Private medical insurance, money purchase pension scheme with life cover, interest-free loan, childcare vouchers, interest-free season ticket loans, personal accident cover, subsidised staff restaurant and coffee bar, special membership terms for health club, corporate entertainment benefits, cycle to work scheme, qualification leave and enhanced family leave pay.
Sponsorship:GDL and LPC course fees and maintenance grant.
Facts and figures
Total partners: 112 worldwide
Other fee-earners: 430 worldwide
Total trainees: 152 worldwide
Trainee places available for 2021: 80-85
First year: £44,000
Second year: £49,000
Newly qualified: £80,000
Apply to:Janine Arnold, senior manager – trainee recruitment.
When to apply:See website for application dates.
What's involved:As part of the application process, you will be asked to complete a short form and attach your covering letter and CV.
We offer open days, workshops and work experience schemes to enable you to gain an insight into life as a commercial lawyer. Full details of these opportunities can be found on our website.