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? ‘”Scownership” profit sharing for all staff’; ‘the firm cares about its people’; ‘competitive pay’; ‘focus on the south west’; ‘commercial firm which retains a local focus and purpose’; ’employees seem to have a great level of job satisfaction’; ‘you get a day off on your birthday’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Everyone is friendly and approachable’; ‘inclusiveness’; ‘regular social events which make you feel part of the firm’; ‘good-quality work’; ‘level of responsibility’; ‘colleagues’ openness and willingness to give people a chance to prove themselves’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Lack of clarity about the qualification process’; ‘there is a lot of competition for NQ jobs’; ‘the firm is quite top heavy which means that sometimes in a team there isn’t necessarily a more junior member of staff than your supervisor to ask for help’

Best moment? ‘A fellow trainee and I proactively proposed a new way to foster engagement with graduates and prospective trainees online which was accepted’; ‘successfully defending my first client in the small claims court’; ‘sitting behind a QC at court’; ‘completing on a multi-million pound leisure and tourism deal’; ‘the feedback after my first major piece of work’

Worst moment? ‘Being given an urgent piece of work at the end of the day and being told it needed to be finished by the next day’; ‘spending a lot of time on a time-pressured document where the system failed and the document was corrupted’; ‘when my supervising solicitor was on annual leave and the team was very busy’

The Lex 100 verdict on Stephens Scown LLP

The firm: “We’re a law firm with a regional focus, but all the benefits of a big city rival. Our values (Commercial, Dynamic, Friendly, Integrity, Reliable, and Supportive) are at the core of everything we do. We take great pride in our client services, corporate responsibility and commitment to the local communities in which we work.”

The deals: Represented a daughter who brought a claim against her mother in proprietary estoppel over the inheritance of the family farm (Habberfield v Habberfield); advised on a transaction for CORSERV, which involved the sale of its highways joint venture company; advised on a national deal in the postal sector, which has seen The Delivery Group acquire 100% of the share capital of ONEPOST bringing its turnover to £250M; advising Ixora Energy on planning and environmental issues relating to twenty anaerobic digestion plant sites throughout the south west.

The clients: Cavanna Homes (Devon Ltd); Charitable Giving; Hastoe Housing Association; Pendennis Shipyard; RSPCA; Surfers Against Sewage; St Austell Brewery; Thatchers Cider; The Imerys Group; Wolf Minerals Group.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Agriculture and estates; Charities and not-for-profit; Commercial litigation; Commercial property; Contentious trusts and probate; Corporate and commercial; Employment; Energy; Environment; Family; Health; Insolvency and corporate recovery; Intellectual property; It and telecoms; Mining and minerals; Personal tax, trusts and probate; Planning; Professional negligence; Property litigation; Social housing

The verdict

Stephens Scown ‘is a strong player in the south west’ attracting applicants through its ’employee ownership scheme’ which means that all employees have a share in the firm’s profits. ‘The emphasis on work/life balance’ and ‘the firm’s devotion to its clients’ is also impressive. Stephens Scown enticed applicants thanks to its ‘excellent client portfolio across the country’. Unlike most other firms, the Exeter, Truro and St Austell-based outfit offers three eight-month seats, allowing individuals to ‘feel fully involved in the team and have a greater understanding of the area of law you are working in’. The ‘people and culture’ bring a ‘community feel’ to the firm as ‘everyone from secretaries to partners are equally valued’. Furthermore, the ‘social aspect is really good’ with regular team socials and an all-staff away day each year. It is little wonder that Stephens Scown is a Lex 100 Winner for social life and job satisfaction. Trainees here have the opportunity to ‘take part in business development and host their own marketing events’ and are ‘encouraged to have a lot of client contact’. There were some grumbles about the ‘slow IT systems’ and ‘lack of client secondments’. But ‘completing a £4.2m refinancing matter in real estate’, ‘winning my first hearing’ and ‘conducting my own advocacy in court’ outweighed these frustrations. While there were some instances of ‘staying late to finish tasks against deadlines’, trainees note that they were ‘still home by 8.30pm and it definitely isn’t the norm’. If an ‘innovative firm which strives to do things differently’ appeals to you, research Stephen Scown.

A day in the life of… Amy Ralston, second year trainee, Stephens Scown LLP

Amy Ralston, Stephens Scown LLP

Departments to date: Family, IP and IT

University: University of Exeter; University of Law

Degree: Law LLB 2(1), LPC

8.40am: I arrive at the office after a 15-minute walk, most of which is through the beautiful Exeter Quay. I am in the first month of my second seat in Intellectual Property and IT (IP and IT). I check mine and my supervisor’s calendars for the day and look through any unread emails, making a note of those which require action – alongside any matters that need chasing up.

9.30am: Time for the daily team huddle – everyone says what their work capacity is for the day (from a scale of 1-5, 1 being totally available and 5 being exceptionally busy) and discusses what they’re working on and whether anyone needs any help or guidance.

10.00am: It is time to attend a client’s office with my supervisor and a member of the corporate team for a joint meeting – I take along the key documents, including any registered trade mark certificates needed during the meeting. I also take the attendance note for the meeting.

11.30am: I prepare an IP MOT – a free service offered by the IP and IT team, which provides an overview of a company or sole trader’s IP assets and assesses the current level of protection. I prepare this over a slice of homemade cake made by one of my colleagues in the team!

12.30pm: I undertake some research on overseas trademark registrations for an international export client by using the WIPO website to search for the client’s brands. I then summarise my findings in an email to my supervisor, making a note of any gaps in the client’s trade mark registrations.

1.00pm: Lunchtime. I am co-chairing the Exeter charity committee meeting. The charity committee is a firm-wide group, made up of employees of the firm. The committee fundraises and supports three charities for two years at a time. There is a firm-wide charity and two region-specific charities, one for Devon and one for Cornwall. During the meeting, we review recent fundraising and plan our next few months over lunch.

2.00pm: Back downstairs to my desk. I review my to-do list and plan my tasks for that afternoon in order of priority.

2.15pm: I conduct research for my supervisor on social media influencer contracts as I am to brief my supervisor on the current trends and guidance – it is interesting to see what happens, in terms of the law, behind the scenes of my Instagram feed! This is in preparation for a client meeting in Cornwall early next week.

3.00pm: I have been asked to sit in on the trade mark attorney’s telephone call with an Intellectual Property Office examiner and take the attendance note. The call is regarding the examiner’s trade mark application refusal. The refusal is based on the mark being too descriptive but there may be grounds for filing submissions, in an attempt to overcome the refusal.

4.00pm: It is the IP and IT team’s turn to organise ‘last Friday drinks’ for the office and it is my task, alongside a few of my fellow team members, to prepare the food and drinks. Each month a different department delivers drinks to the teams in the office on the last Friday of the month – it is a firm-wide initiative to get to know your colleagues better in a relaxed and fun environment and it is always a great end to the month!

5.15pm: I return to my desk and ensure that I have e-filed all emails into the correct e-folders and check that all matters are up to date before logging off. Tonight I am heading to the Quay with other junior professionals from the firm to attend a kayaking event organised by Exeter Professionals.

About the firm

Managing partner: Richard Baker

Other offices: Truro, St Austell

Who we are: Passionate about the South West, we specialise in industries common throughout the region – green energy, food and drink, tourism, mining and more. But we also help businesses with a whole range of corporate and commercial affairs, as well as having a major private client and family law practice. No wonder legal industry bible Chambers describes us as a ‘dominant force’ in the marketplace, and we feature in The Lawyer magazine’s prestigious Top 200 rankings.

What we’re looking for: We are passionate about what we do, so we look for individuals who share that passion, and can demonstrate the drive, enthusiasm and ambition to be our future lawyers and partners. Applications are encouraged from both law and non-law graduates with a strong commercial and business awareness. You’ll also need great personal and communication skills, as well as creativity and a sense of fun. There’s huge potential for the right people!

What you’ll do: Your training contract with us will be fulfilling, challenging and rewarding. Undertaking three seats in a variety of contentious and non-contentious areas, you will be able to discuss your preferred choices and be actively involved in your development and progression. High-profile and challenging work, extensive client exposure and important responsibilities will all come your way. You will be positively encouraged to think outside the box, be creative and come up with ideas that the firm can take forward.

Perks: Private medical insurance, group life assurance scheme, auto-enrolment pension scheme, employee assistance programme, 25 days holiday, plus bank and public holidays, day off for your birthday, unique shared ownership bonus scheme, performance related bonus scheme, flexible working and family friendly policies, childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, opportunity to join a number of social clubs, enhanced maternity and paternity pay

Sponsorship: Full funding provided where the LPC has not already been undertaken.