Stephenson Harwood

Stephenson Harwood

Address: 1 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7SH




Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 ''Strength in litigation' 'friendly ethos' 'international secondment opportunities' 'continued growth without merger' 'collegiate culture' 'if you want an overseas secondment you are almost guaranteed to get it' 'strong commercial litigation department' 'I was attracted by the international focus' 'mid-size firm' 'its specialty in shipping work'
Best thing about the firm? 
 ''Trainees are given a great deal of personal responsibility' 'client contact from day one' 'everyone is extremely friendly' 'they are excellent lawyers' 'a broad and flexible training experience' 'small trainee intake'
Worst thing about the firm? 
 ''The IT systems' 'not that many social activities compared to other firms' 'the firm could better encourage flexible working' 'it would be good to find out where we are heading for our next seat sooner' 'the firm is poorly decorated'
Best moment? 
 ''Being entrusted to run my own matters' 'closing a £1.5bn deal' 'being thanked by a client personally after working 15 hours a day for two weeks straight' 'advocacy in the Central London County Court on behalf of the firm' 'advocacy in court on behalf of the firm with no-one else from the firm present'
Worst moment?
 ''Closing a very large ship finance deal while being quite unwell but not being able to take time off' 'the seat allocation process can sometimes be hit-and-miss' 'watching over a client's hostile employee for three hours' 'feeling the brunt of a stressed partner who didn't give clear instructions''

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

Tintin - inquisitive, determined and with a firmly international outlook

The Verdict

The firm

Stephenson Harwood employs over 1000 lawyers worldwide, including more than 150 partners based in ten offices across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The firm's client base comprises listed and private companies, institutions and individuals. Stephenson Harwood is recognised for its strengths in asset finance, commercial litigation and arbitration, corporate finance, marine and international trade, and real estate. 

The star performers

Art and cultural property; Asset finance and leasing; Aviation; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Commodities: physicals; Corporate crime (including fraud, bribery and corruption); Fraud: civil; Investment funds: listed funds; Financial services (contentious); Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud: white-collar crime; M&A: mid-market, £50m-£250m; Pensions; Professional negligence; Rail; Shipping; VAT and indirect tax; Trade finance

The deals

Assisted Engie on its £330m purchase of Keepmoat from TDR and Sun Capital; advised Vietnam Enterprise Investments on its transition from the Irish Stock Exchange to the main market of the London Stock Exchange; acted for Mercuria Energy Trading and Mercuria Energy Group in a dispute with Citibank concerning allegedly missing or multiple pledged metals stocks in Qingdao; advised the trustees of the CGG Veritas Pension Scheme on the closure of accruals to the scheme; advised Arriva Rail London on the mobilisation of the new London Overground Concession.

The clients

Chatsworth House Trust; Euro-Asian Oil; Fabricom; Jupiter Growth Investment Trust; Lavendon Group; Mandarin Oriental Hotels Group; Meggitt; Rail for London; SQN; TFL.

The Verdict

Stephenson Harwood has a 'top-tier reputation in many practice areas'. Areas of expertise highlighted by trainees include commercial litigation, asset finance and mid-sized corporate deals, while its 'specialty in shipping work' earns several plaudits. That the firm's 'business model is evenly-balanced between transactional and contentious practice areas' means that trainees 'are able to get a well-rounded training experience'. The theme of an even balance extends to the firm's size, which is 'small enough that people know who you are, but big enough to get involved in interesting work'. Work highlights include 'receiving personal thanks from the GC of a major international bank for a piece of advice I produced', 'closing a £1.5bn deal' and 'being told by a client following a closing I organised on a high-profile transaction that it was the least stressful closing of his career'. The IT system warrants criticism, with one respondent saying it is 'probably the worst that I have seen in any office'. Because of the small trainee intake 'you really feel like an individual at the firm', and this also leads to trainees being 'encouraged to assist on a variety of work-streams within a department'. The firm has 'excellent international secondment opportunities', and is particularly well established in Asia. It is named a Lex 100 Winner in the international secondments category this year. One complaint centres on 'opaque HR processes' regarding qualification and seat rotations. The firm's 'continued growth without a merger' impresses its latest recruits. There is a 'friendly, collegiate atmosphere' in the office, and 'there are a lot of very capable but also very nice people at the firm'. For a 'broad and flexible training experience' at a firm with an 'international focus', remember Stephenson Harwood.

 A day in the life of...

Amir Mahdavi trainee (third seat), Stephenson Harwood LLP 

Departments to date:  Commercial litigation, secondment to Hong Kong, corporate

University:Queen Mary, University of London 
Degree:Law 2(1) 

8.00am:  I arrive into Moorgate for a pre-work gym session at the subsidised gym near the Stephenson Harwood office.

9.00am:  As I come into the office, I grab breakfast at the firm's cafe. The crumpets are too good to refuse...

9.20am:  I arrive at my desk to review the emails that have landed in my inbox overnight. Having assisted with a client pitch to advise on the sale of a UK-based construction company, we receive an email from the prospective client confirming our appointment as lead legal advisers. They inform us that they wish to meet face-to-face later this afternoon to discuss next steps and strategy. I start to prepare for the meeting by drafting our client engagement letter and identifying key issues that may be involved in this particular deal. I also start to prioritise tasks for the day.

10.00am:  I receive a call from a partner who informs me that a deal I have been assisting with has ramped up dramatically and the clients intend to complete tomorrow morning. She has asked me to review the completion checklist and to highlight any outstanding items that may not yet be in 'agreed form'.

10.45am:  Having circulated the completion checklist to the deal team, I receive a request from my supervisor asking me to sit in on a conference call with a client who is in the process of acquiring a multinational manufacturing company. I grab my pen and notepad as we prepare to dial in.

11.30am:  The conference call was a great insight into how to manage various stakeholders in order to secure your clients' interests. My supervisor asks me to summarise the current list of warranties so that he can have a separate call with the sellers' solicitors to discuss the situation.

12.15pm:  I circulate the summary of warranties to my supervisor and turn my attention to a separate matter that I am assisting with, a cross-office deal involving our Hong Kong office. I review the documents uploaded into the virtual data room by the sellers and circulate an update to the London and Hong Kong deal team.

12.25pm:  A seminar is being held on the seventh floor, where colleagues in our regulatory team are discussing the implications of Brexit on cross-border corporate transactions. A delicious buffet lunch is provided, so I try my hand at eating as well as taking notes

1.30pm:  I am informed by the matter partner that the new client has arrived. I make sure I have all the documents needed for the meeting as I will be one of the main points of contact, and I have enough business cards to hand for the clients.

2.45pm:  The meeting went well and the client was happy with the proposed deal strategy and timetable. I draft an email thanking the client for their time, summarising the key stages involved in this type of transaction, and attaching a copy of the signed engagement letter. Bar a few minor tweaks by the matter partner, the email is sent.

3.30pm:  My supervisor asks if I can assist on a time-sensitive verification exercise. I give myself some time to read the materials, familiarise myself with the client and start the first draft of the verification notes. The client has requested a call tomorrow afternoon to discuss our thoughts on the statements. I send the first draft to my supervisor who promises a mark-up by the morning.

7.15pm:  After responding to non-urgent queries, I head to a bar where some of the trainees are having drinks and a friendly game of table tennis, then head home after what has been a busy yet productive day.

About the firm

Address:1 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7SH

Telephone: 020 7809 2812

Senior partner : Roland Foord

Managing partner : Sharon White

Other offices: Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Paris, Piraeus, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore. 

Who we are: Join a firm that's ambitious, growing and delivering ground-breaking international deals. For our size, our global reach and client base are exceptional. That's why with us you can expect to work in tight, focused teams alongside associates and partners, where you'll always be right at the heart of the action.

What we do: We assemble teams of bright thinkers to match our clients' needs and give the right advice from the right person at the right time. Our strengths lie across six key practice areas: asset finance; marine and international trade; corporate finance; real estate; commercial litigation and arbitration; and employment and pensions.

What we are looking for: As well as at least a 2(1) in any subject area plus 320 UCAS points or equivalent, you'll need strong analytical skills, sound judgement, imagination and meticulous attention to detail. Also vital are the communication skills to be persuasive and build rapport, plenty of drive and determination, plus a keen interest in business.

What you'll do:There's a lot to look forward to as a trainee at Stephenson Harwood. Top-quality international work across a range of sectors is just the start. An environment that balances cutting-edge work with a respectful, inclusive culture is also a huge plus, as is the chance to prove yourself on client secondment and make a name for yourself from day one.

Perks: Here's a snapshot of the flexible benefits you can choose from: childcare vouchers, critical illness cover, cycle2work loan, dental health scheme, give as you earn, gym membership subsidy, health screening, holiday (purchase and sale), life assurance, pension, private GP services, private medical insurance, retail vouchers, subsidised staff café, travel to work loan.

Sponsorship:We'll pay for your fees for the GDL and LPC at BPP London and offer maintenance awards of up to £6,000, if you're still studying.


Facts and figures

Training contracts available for 2020: 20

Applications received pa: 1,300 

Percentage interviewed: 10% 


First year: £40,000

Second year: £44,000

Newly qualified: £66,000

Turnover in 2015/16: £176m (+11% from 2014/15) Profits per equity partner: £708,000 (-8.5% from 2014/15)

Total partners: 150

Other fee-earners:400+

Total trainees:39

 Application process

Apply to:Sarah Jackson - graduate recruitment, CSR and D&I manager.

How: Online application form via the website:

What's involved:Online application form, online critical reasoning test, face-to-face interview and assessment centre.

When to Apply:

Training Contract: By 31 July 2018.

Winter Vacation Scheme: By 12 November 2018.

Spring Vacation Scheme: By 31 January 2018.

Summer Vacation Scheme: By 31 January 2018.