Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Stephens Scown LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Stephens Scown LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘I have worked at the firm for over six years and immediately knew I’d eventually like to train here. It really is the calibre of work and approachability of my colleagues that made my decision to train with the firm easy’, ‘SS actively encourages its trainees to think about their work/life balance, whilst also giving us the opportunity to develop our legal skills’, ‘its overall reputation in the South West’, ‘range of sectors and the opportunity to be involved in large transactions/matters from the outset’

Best thing about the firm? ‘It offers client contact from day one’, ‘the people – everyone is so approachable and willing to give up their time to help’, ‘everyone at all ranks is incredibly approachable and understanding of the challenges of starting a training contract in lockdown’, ‘collegiate atmosphere and the sense of being part of a family’, ‘the firm has some really top-quality lawyers who are experts in their field but also dedicate time to training other people and sharing their knowledge’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The rolling recruitment process can mean there is a little uncertainty during the application process – you don’t have specific dates to focus on, such as a deadline to apply or a date when you’ll find out if you’ve been successful’, ‘probably the IT system when it has meltdown days. These are rarer now than in the first lockdown but there could still be improvements’, ‘salary’, ‘lack of secondment opportunities’, ‘IT niggles’,

Best moment? ‘Being told by my supervisor that I had thought about something he hadn’t and that is why every day is a school day for everyone’, ‘attending a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice’, ‘working on a lengthy Tomlin Order and being praised by both the supervising partner and counsel on pointing out a technical issue’, ‘having a top barrister compliment my brief’

Worst moment? ‘Working until past midnight indexing documents for a trial bundle’, ‘sending an email to the wrong person with lots of personal financial information’, ‘the first week, meeting the team virtually and feeling a bit out on a limb’, ‘being in lockdown and feeling like I haven’t had the benefit of hearing conversations around the office that I can learn from’, ‘making mistakes in emails to clients and the other side’s solicitors’

The Lex 100 verdict on Stephens Scown LLP

With a ‘range of sectors and the opportunity to be involved in large transactions/matters from the outset’, the south west’s Stephens Scown is well known for its quality training and culture. A Lex 100 Winner for work/life balance and confidence in being kept on, the firm ‘offers high-quality work and training, recognising that employees have a life outside the office’. As one trainee adds, ‘Stephens Scown actively encourages you to think about work/life balance, whilst also giving the opportunity to really develop legal skills’. A mid-sized firm that works across multiple sectors, trainees praise the quality of clients, saying ‘the calibre of work and approachability of colleagues made the decision to train here easy. The type of clients we have for a South West firm of this size is really something to be proud of’. In terms of the training, ‘the firm offers client contact from day one’ and ‘I have had the opportunity to speak with high-profile clients and really get involved in technical areas of the law’. Negatives include salary and the IT system, common complaints across many firms. However, highlights include ‘attending a hearing at the RCJ’, ‘working on a lengthy Tomlin Order and being praised by both the supervising partner and counsel on pointing out a technical issue’ and ‘having a top barrister compliment my brief’. If you are looking for interesting work in the South West within a supportive culture, then Stephens Scown should be high on your list.

The firm: From SMEs, owner-managed businesses and high-net-worth individuals in the South West, to national and international firms in its chosen sectors, Stephens Scown LLP helps clients solve problems and seize opportunities.

With offices in Cornwall, Devon and London, the firm prides itself on always putting the client first, and has evolved from a traditional law practice to become the UK’s first large employee-owned law firm. It has been included in the prestigious Top 100 UK Best Companies list to work for for the seventh consecutive year, ranking 8th in Top Law Firms and 28th in the Top 50 Best Companies in the South West.

Stephens Scown considers itself a trusted advisor to all its clients, and looks to give back to its people, its clients, community and the environment. In an exciting new development, it is currently being considered for a B Corps accreditation, a fantastic achievement for the firm, and a recognition its ethos, culture and values.

The clients: Imerys Minerals Ltd; Live West; St Austell Brewery; CORSERV; Age UK Ltd; Hastoe Housing Association; Applegreen plc/Welcome Break; Holland & Barrett Retail Limited.

The deals: Please visit www.stephens-scown.co.uk/stephens-scown-llp-news/our-top-deals-from-2020.

A day in the life of… Christopher Wells, trainee, Stephens Scown LLP

Christopher Wells, Stephens Scown LLP

Departments to date: Family, Corporate, Commercial dispute resolution

University: University of Exeter Oxford Brookes University of Law

Degree: International Relations and French, 2(1); GDL, Distinction; LLM, Distinction

8.30am: With coffee brewed, and usually toast in hand, at my kitchen table I grab my laptop and see what emails have come in overnight. I prioritise and plan my day. Some completion documents need amending and dating by hand, so I plan to work from the office in the afternoon.

9.00am: Each morning the commercial dispute resolution team have a virtual meeting to catch up and set the tone for the day. Today we’re discussing business development strategies. I share the outcome of a recent conversation I had with a property developer. We agree measurable actions for the week to come.

9.30am: My supervisor calls me on MS Teams to check my workload for the rest of the week. We discuss whether I’ve got enough work or too much. I think I could take on a bit more. My supervisor knows my tendency is to rush work, so she doesn’t give me any more, telling me to focus on the quality of the work that I do have.

9.45am: A claim we are defending has a technical construction aspect which will need to be resolved with case law, and so my supervisor asks me to instruct a barrister to advise our client in conference. I call counsel’s clerks to book him and agree a fee, then start work on the bundle of documents and correspondence counsel will need to consider.

10.30am: Having gathered and organised all relevant documents from the four open files we have with our client, I build an e-bundle in PDF format. Covid-19 has led to most lawyers working paperlessly: a great advance.

11.00am: Bundle complete I draft the instructions to the barrister, setting out the history of the claim, and a number of factual, legal and tactical questions we would like him to consider. The quality of the answer counsel will give is to some extent dependent on the quality of the question asked, so carefully drafting the brief is a satisfying exercise.

1.00pm: Lunchtime. I take two training contract applicants out for coffee. They are at the firm completing their written assessments for their training contract application. It’s an opportunity for them to ask a current trainee about what life is like working at the firm.

2.00pm: I deal with completion documents, inserting agreed last-minute amendments by hand and dating. I scan these in and circulate to all parties.

2.30pm: A partner in the team has arranged to give a specialist training session on the role of insolvency proceedings in debt recovery. Some colleagues join virtually, while some gather physically. The meeting rooms have had a technology upgrade to make blended physical/virtual meetings easy.

3.30pm: I join another meeting, this time remotely. The Business Owners Disputes and Exit Strategies group is a cross-team working group to attract and serve clients who don’t neatly fit into the usual contentious and non-contentious categories. It’s great to work with members of other teams and get exposure to a broader range of work. Much is delegated to me, and I’m given a fair bit of responsibility in driving the actions of the group.

4.30pm: A partner in the team asks me to join a quick call with a client who has received notice of a claim against them. The supplier is claiming £2.2m in damages. The initial call is relatively brief; I take a note, and plan and diarise the action points arising, including liaising with the company’s accountants and visiting the site to assess the situation.

5.00pm: I spend the last portion of the day undertaking tasks involving less brain power. I update my training log, check that I missed nothing in the emails that came into my inbox during the day, assess what preparation is needed for tomorrow’s meetings, and deal with any bits of admin that arose from today’s work.

5.30pm: I head home, and grab some dinner before heading out to meet another trainee for a driving range session.

About the firm

Senior partners: Hilary Pitts, Brian Dolan

Managing partner: Richard Baker

Other offices: Truro, St Austell

Who we are: A regional law firm with a difference. Our employee-owned business model is reflected in our firm culture, with every employee working together to ensure the needs and interests in our clients come first, while giving the very best professional legal advice.

What we do: Every day, we carry out high-profile and challenging work for clients ranging from FTSE 250 companies to dynamic local businesses and individuals.

What we’re looking for: We’re always on the lookout for people who can demonstrate the drive, enthusiasm and ambition to be our future lawyers and partners. We encourage applications from law and non-law graduates with strong commercial and business awareness, and strong personal and communication skills. Creativity and a sense of fun will also go a long way to a successful career with us.

What you’ll do: At Stephens Scown, you can expect extensive client exposure and important responsibilities to come your way. You’ll also be part of our professionals group, in which you’ll share ideas, learn new skills, and build strong networks with the local business community.

Perks: We have a fantastic benefits package, including the following: annual profit share payment as part of our employee ownership scheme; 25 days’ annual leave per year, plus the option to buy additional annual leave; an additional day off for your birthday; BUPA private medical insurance; life assurance from day one of employment; pension; cycle scheme; three days’ volunteer leave per year; a range of clubs and activities to get involved with such as our choir, yoga and Pilates sessions and Giving Back scheme.

Sponsorship: Stephens Scown will fully fund the cost of the LPC for all successful applicants who choose to study at the University of Law in Exeter or Bristol.

Diversity and inclusion

Our equality and diversity policy is central to everything we do. It underpins all our other policies, practices and procedures. We’re continuously committed to eliminating discrimination in all its forms, and to promoting equality and diversity.

Our aim is to create a culture of inclusivity and tolerance, and to celebrate and embrace our differences, and the contributions we all make to Stephens Scown and the wider world. That means treating everyone equally – and with the same courtesy, dignity and respect. It also means we don’t tolerate rude, discourteous or disrespectful behaviour.

All our people receive equality and diversity training when they join the firm, and at regular intervals during their employment with us. This helps to ensure we don’t discriminate in the services we offer, or in the way we run our business.