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? 
 '‘International profile’; ‘type of clients’; ‘litigation-heavy’; ‘good reputation’; ‘small intake’; ‘collegiate atmosphere’; ‘well-recognised in the shipping industry’; ‘international secondment opportunities’; ‘reputation of commercial litigation department’; ‘impressive vacation scheme’; ‘reasonable hours’; ‘the level of responsibility and exposure that trainees get’; ‘has a great top-tier reputation in many areas’; ‘good-sized firm where I wouldn’t feel like I was just a part in a big machine’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘It is involved in high-profile cases that can make the headlines sometimes’; ‘you have the correct level of support throughout’; ‘it seems to have got its approach to business and strategy spot on’; ‘high degree of client contact from day one’; ‘there is a genuine friendship between peers rather than any feeling of rivalry’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘Communication between departments’; ‘qualification process is gruelling’; ‘our marketing is not fantastic’; ‘lack of social events’; ‘no complementary dinner if you work late’; ‘the IT systems’; ‘some departments do not have a very good gender balance’; ‘our junior salaries have hardly increased for quite a few years’
Best moment? 
 '‘Being congratulated by a client at the end of the deal was a highlight’; ‘a trip to Trinidad and Tobago for a week’; ‘secondment to Singapore’; ‘participating actively in meetings’; ‘taking my own new instruction direct from a client’; ‘securing a settlement in a small case that I had been working on with just my supervisor’
Worst moment?
 '‘Falling off a yoga ball’; ‘finding myself out of my depth on a deal and getting frustrated’; ‘bibling’; ‘working seven days a week for over a month and having to ask for my birthday off!’; ‘receiving an unreasonably short and stressful deadline on a major piece of document analysis’'

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

Rafiki (The Lion King) – calm, experienced, and ready to guide you onto the right path

The Verdict

The firm

Stephenson Harwood goes from strength to strength. The firm entered into a formal relationship with China’s Wei Tu in March 2016 to effectively practice in China, and then in June announced a 9% rise in revenues for 2015/16. The firm has over 900 staff and more than 140 partners based in ten offices across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Traditional strengths include asset finance, real estate and commercial litigation. 

The star performers

Art and cultural property; Asset finance and leasing; Aviation; Bank lending – investment grade debt and syndicated loans; Commodities: physicals; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate restructuring and insolvency; Employee share schemes; Employment: employers; Infrastructure (including PFI and PPP); Oil and gas; Pensions dispute resolution; Pensions (non-contentious); Personal tax, trusts and probate; Rail; Shipping; Trade finance.

The deals

Assisted North London Waste Authority with the development of an energy recovery facility valued at over £450m; advised Winsway Enterprises on its $350m cross-border bond restructuring; advised AIM-listed client Focusrite on the implementation of a management incentive plan following the client’s IPO; advised Arriva UK Trains on its bid for the concession to operate London Overground services; advised Ryanair on litigation and arbitration in the UK and Europe.

The clients

Abellio Transport Holdings; Christie’s; City of Cape Town; DNB Bank; Deutsche Bank; Hitachi Rail Europe; Interserve; Mercuria Energy Trading; The Royal College of Art; The Society of Art Dealers.

The Verdict

A ‘firm with international offices, and therefore a player on the global stage’, City firm Stephenson Harwood has clear ‘areas of expertise’ that include the shipping and aviation industries. The firm is ‘strong in litigation’ across various sectors, and commands a ‘reputation as a top firm for arbitration’. Trainees speak glowingly of the ‘strong client base’ and ‘good quality of work’. Stand-out trainee moments include ‘completing the financing of six aircraft with little supervision’ and ‘celebrating with clients on a deal for a £90m residential property mortgage which I took the lead role on’. We hear that the ‘seat allocation process is opaque’ and some seats have proven less popular than others, yet the ‘range of departments available was a big attraction’ and the smaller size of teams creates a ‘genuinely collegiate feel’. Respondents say that ‘the people at Stephenson Harwood are its best asset’, and you will receive ‘straightforward feedback from supervisors’ who ‘do not take themselves too seriously’. Such a ‘friendly environment’ is appreciated, particularly as busy periods can involve ‘unreasonably short and stressful deadlines’ and ‘working until the early hours on a deal’. A strength of the Stephenson Harwood training contract is the knowledge that ‘if you express an interest in doing a secondment you are very likely to get it’. Trainees have worked in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, and overseas seats are an ‘exceptional chance to see another side of the firm’ and to ‘get involved in some exciting projects’. The firm is a Lex 100 Winner for international secondments. To train alongside ‘friendly fee-earners’ and undertake ‘high-quality international work’, consider Stephenson Harwood.

 A day in the life of...

Calum Cheyne trainee, Stephenson Harwood LLP 
Departments to date:  Real estate, secondment to Seoul, rail finance, and marine and international trade
Degree:History 2(1) 

7.30am:  I arrive at the (subsidised) gym across the road from the office for a pre-work swim.

9.00am:  When I get to my desk I notice an email which came in overnight from the American lawyers we have been acting with on a recent case. They are looking to amend our pleadings in London in order to add weight to another aspect of the case in America. It’s a tricky matter, requiring a delicate balance, so I crack on with a detailed review.

9.40am:  An email goes around the trainees requesting assistance with an urgent deadline to get documents to court. They are hoping to line up a without notice hearing for a freezing injunction that afternoon, so I grab a jacket and a tie and dive in a taxi to the Strand.

11.10am:  Having returned to the office and finished my review of the American documents, I drop off a mark-up with my comments on my supervisor’s desk for him to review. He’s locked in a heated conference call to a foreign client, so I slip out again quietly and leave it for him to look at.

11.15am:  There’s been a birthday in the group and accordingly a delicious array of cakes are on offer in the kitchen. I sample one of these and grab a coffee.

11.30am:  My supervisor calls me in to discuss the American amendments. There are a few points that I overlooked, but thankfully nothing too fundamental. We discuss his suggested amendments and I head back to my desk to draft a response to American counsel.

12.25pm:  I head up to the seventh floor for a lunchtime training session. Today’s talk is on difficulties with ship-to-ship transfers and has attracted a remarkable turnout; perhaps due to the accompanying buffet lunch.

2.00pm:  An associate forwards me a query relating to ship sales. It appears to be a simple question, and the client has requested a response urgently. A skim of the relevant documents reveals that it may be more complicated than first anticipated, so I negotiate a two-hour window for research.

2.45pm:  Having exhausted the relevant online materials, I move on to the library, convinced that the big red book on sale of ships is hiding the answer. Remarkably, it appears that I was in luck, and I return to discuss my findings with the associate. Thankfully she agrees, so I can begin drafting the note.

3.30pm:  I send a copy of the finished product and await her further comments. There are a few drafting points for me to take on board but fortunately no major problems with the advice. I type up the amendments and send through the final draft. I use my spare 30 minutes to make some arrangements for an upcoming placement scheme drinks evening that I have volunteered to help with.

4.30pm:  I receive a call from a partner for whom I do not usually work. An arbitration hearing is taking place tomorrow and the trainee who usually sits with him is on holiday. He asks if I’d mind stepping in. I look up the pleadings on the system and read them thoroughly to get fully up to speed, and then I start checking the bundles.

6.45pm:  After a productive hour’s prep, I dash down to the print room with the bundles and arrange for copies to be left on my desk in the morning. I’m playing tag rugby with the firm at 7.30pm, so I clear out my inbox, polish off my time-sheets and head for Shoreditch Park.

9.30pm:  Following another famous victory for the Stephenson Harwood tag rugby team, and the beers that tend to follow, I take myself home.

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, London, 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: Our strengths lie across five key practice areas – asset finance, marine and international trade, corporate finance, real estate, and commercial litigation and arbitration. These areas aren’t just high-performing by internal standards, but are recognised as being among the best in the world.

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 judgment, 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, friendly 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

Trainee places available for 2019: 18

Applications received pa: 1,300 

Percentage interviewed: 10% 


First year: £38,500

Second year: £42,500

Newly qualified: £65,000

Total partners: 150

Other fee-earners:400+

Total trainees:36

 Application process

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

How: Online application form via the website:

When to Apply:By 31 July 2017.

 Vacation schemes

27 March-7 April 2017 (apply by 31 January 2017).

12-23 June 2017, 26 June-7 July 2017, 10-21 July 2017 (apply by 31 January 2017).

 12-16 December 2016 (apply by 12 November 2016).