Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Stephenson Harwood LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Stephenson Harwood LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The opportunity to go on international secondments as a trainee’; ‘its high rankings in niche areas such as transport and art’; ‘understated mid-sized firm’; ‘the small trainee intake’; ‘a very engaging conversation with one of the trainees at a law fair’; ‘strengths in both contentious and transactional work’; ‘reputation for marine and international trade’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The offices, good café for lunch, great new CEO and the small intake – we get direct training from partners on a daily basis’; ‘the material role that trainees fulfil on any matter or case team – our opinions are taken into consideration, our questions are taken seriously and answered fully’; ‘the culture of ambition and quality, but within a supportive and friendly environment’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘A lot of seats are oversubscribed so you don’t always get your first choice’; ‘it is difficult to do work outside of your subgroup’; ‘the firm is trying to keep up with technology, but this needs to speed up’; ‘it is not as well known as it should be given the quality of its work’; ‘the firm could be more transparent in respect of qualification’

Best moment? ‘Being able to travel abroad several times for client meetings’; ‘working on a high-profile litigation case’; ‘sending out an important letter to a client with no changes from my supervisor’; ‘managing a portfolio of leasehold properties’; ‘being involved in so many deals and being able to celebrate with partners on completion’; ‘closing a multi-billion pound transaction’

Worst moment? ‘At times an overwhelming workload’; ‘working with less approachable supervisors’; ‘throwing away docs that I shouldn’t have’; ‘working a weekend’; ‘any bundling, because it is always stressful and last minute’; ‘a harsh mid-seat review’; ‘printing tasks for associates’; ‘consecutive late nights’; ‘having to pretend I was working due to having nothing to do’

The Lex 100 verdict on Stephenson Harwood LLP

The firm: Stephenson Harwood is a law firm of over 1,100 people worldwide, including more than 180 partners. Its people are committed to achieving the goals of its clients — listed and private companies, institutions and individuals. The firm assembles teams of bright thinkers to match clients’ needs and give the right advice from the right person at the right time. Dedicating the highest calibre of legal talent to overcome the most complex issues, it delivers pragmatic, expert advice that is set squarely in the real world.

The deals: Advised Elysian Capital, and the management team of the company, on the £103m sale of Wellbeing Software to The Citadel Group, a company listed on The Australian Stock Exchange; advised Oxford Biomedica, a gene and cell therapy company, on a clinical and commercial supply agreement on Covid-19 vaccine with AstraZeneca; advised Nordea Bank on a US$533m secured revolving credit facility provided to Teekay Tankers group, in relation to the refinancing of 31 vessels across two flag states; advised Mirae Asset Securities (HK) Limited on a US$450m acquisition and financing of three Boeing 777 aircraft, on lease to China Airlines Limited; advised WatchBox on its joint venture with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and WatchBox, to form WatchBox Middle East.

The clients: Hotel Chocolat Group plc; Duff & Phelps; Royal Bank of Scotland; Arthur J Gallagher & Co; Abellio; City of London Investment Group plc; Acacia Pharma Group; Al Dahra Group; ENGIE; 3i Infrastructure plc.

 

The verdict

Stephenson Harwood offers a combination of ‘great international work and a friendly culture’. The firm’s medium size and modest trainee intake – ‘not too large, not too small’ – ensures that recruits ‘know everyone really well’ and can ‘build genuine friendships’. What’s more, new joiners receive ‘significantly more client exposure’ and will ‘typically be the only trainee on a piece of work’. An ‘attractive office building’, complete with ‘glass lifts which make you feel like Superman when you’re going up multiple floors!’ is a definite sweetener. Nevertheless, the firm was criticised for a ‘reluctance to adopt new technology’ and for an opaque seat change process whereby ‘quite a few trainees do not get their top seat preferences’. Stephenson Harwood has gained a Lex 100 Winner award for quality of work and international secondments. Elaborating on the latter, the firm’s ‘big presence in Asia, particularly when it comes to secondment opportunities’ was lauded. But the work/life balance got mixed reviews; whilst it is ‘good compared with the Magic Circle and American firms’, the hours are ‘longer than those of some comparable London mid-sizers’. Some of the best things about Stephenson Harwood are its ‘fantastic culture’, its ‘intelligent, passionate people’ and the ‘Royal Albert Hall tickets’. ‘Working on a large superyacht financing’ and ‘winning a major arbitration when the odds were stacked against our client’ were just some of many impressive best moments. On the flipside, ‘bundling tasks – always stressful and last minute’ and ‘spending a whole day on a research task with no substantial result’ were not as gratifying. For a firm with a ‘culture of ambition and quality within a supportive and friendly environment’, consider Stephenson Harwood.

A day in the life of… Emily Lau, trainee solicitor, Stephenson Harwood LLP

Emily Lau, Stephenson Harwood LLP

Departments to date: Commercial litigation, marine and international trade

University: King's College London

Degree: Law

9.00am: I begin by checking through my emails to see if anyone has sent me any tasks to do, and then I check my to-do list. Today, I have to liaise with a translation agency to prepare some translations for service on an international company, as well as review the translations to ensure that they are accurate.

10.00am: Our team has a video call to check in and see how everyone is progressing with their work. It’s helpful to understand the wider context of what I’m doing, and also enables me to build relationships with the wider team.

11.30am: One of the associates in the team has sent out a capacity request to the trainees for an urgent piece of work. I’ve agreed to help, so put my other tasks on hold for the time being. We are going to serve a charter party dispute today, so I have been asked to compile the exhibit for the letter of claim. One of the great things about the team is that we get involved in a broad range of work. My supervisor specialises in insurance, so I tend to focus on insurance law; however, I also get the chance to help with different matters when other associates need assistance. Having exposure to different areas of the law helps you to work out what suits you best.

1.00pm: It’s lunchtime. Today I’m going for a quick run and then I’ll grab a bite to eat afterwards. Getting some fresh air helps make me more productive in the afternoon!

2.00pm: Having finished working on the documents for the letter of claim, I need to go back to reviewing the translations I was working on earlier this morning and make amendments as appropriate. In addition, we have a case management conference (CMC) hearing in a couple of days, so I have been asked to prepare the exhibit for the CMC bundle. I have to ensure I’m putting the documents together with a high level of accuracy so that everything is in the right place.

4.00pm: Today I have my mid-seat review with my supervisor to discuss how I am progressing in my current seat. As a trainee, we have a mid-seat review three months into our seat, and an end of seat review towards the end of the six months – I find it really helpful to speak about how I am doing in the team, and what skills I can develop during the rest of my seat, and to set some objectives.

5.00pm: I’ve had some more translations come in to review and I’ve also got some more work on the CMC bundles. This keeps me busy until the end of the day.

7.30pm: I’m done for the day. I check in with a couple of my fellow trainees before logging off for the evening.

About the firm

Senior partner: Roland Foord

Managing partner: Eifion Morris

Other offices: Dubai, Hong Kong, Yangon, Paris, Piraeus, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore

Who we are: The firm’s headquarters are in London, with nine offices worldwide across Asia, Europe and the Middle East The firm has also forged close ties with other high-quality law firms. This diverse mix of expertise and culture results in a combination of deep local insight and the capability to provide a seamless international service.

What we do: We advise a wide range clients, including listed and private companies, institutions and individuals. Our experience encompasses corporate, commercial litigation and arbitration, finance, marine and international trade, real estate and projects, and employment, pensions and private wealth. We pride ourselves on supporting our people to reach their full potential, so as a trainee you can expect to get in on the heart of the action.

What we’re looking for: In addition to a 2(1) in any subject area and 320 UCAS points or equivalent, applicants need to demonstrate strong analytical skills, sound judgement, imagination and meticulous attention to detail as well as excellent communication skills, drive, determination and a keen interest in business.

What you’ll do: Every seat provides a balance of commercial awareness and practical legal experience, and the flexibility to move between projects and matters. At every stage of the training, trainees will be coached and mentored by a partner or senior associate; they will give regular feedback, advice and guidance.

Perks: Flexible benefits including: critical illness cover, cycle to work scheme, dental insurance, give as you earn, gym membership subsidy, 25 days’ paid holiday a year, private medical insurance and health screening, life assurance, group personal pension, private GP services, retail vouchers, subsidised café and season ticket loan.

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

Diversity and inclusion

Our vision is to be known as an inclusive and diverse firm, where all our people feel they can be themselves and thrive at work.

Our people are our biggest asset. We want Stephenson Harwood to be a place where you can do your best work in a team that values who you are and the unique persp​ectives and contributions that you bring. That is how we unlock our entrepreneurial spirit.

Our strategy focuses on culture, leadership and talent management, and recruitment. To deliver our strategy, we work with a range of organisations including Stonewall, The Business Disability Forum, Aspiring Solicitors, Rare Recruitment, City Parents and many more.

Our employee networks are for, and run by, our people. They create a sense of belonging by celebrating diversity, connecting people across the business, and working with the community. Whatever your role, you can contribute to fostering our inclusive and healthy culture by joining our employee networks: SHARED (Stephenson Harwood advancing racial and ethnic diversity), Disability and neurodiversity, Gender equality, Mental health and wellbeing, SHout (LGBT+) and Social mobility.

In addition to hiring a diverse group of employees, we know we need to foster a culture of inclusion, where all of our people can be themselves and thrive at work. It’s about equality and opportunity, making sure that talented people can thrive and progress at Stephenson Harwood. All of our trainees and associates have a dedicated supervisor or development partner, who has responsibility for supporting their development and career progression, with support from other partners in their group. We are focused on fair work allocation for all. We currently have structured work allocation pilots in two of our practice groups, with the aim of ensuring that the distribution of work is equitable; we are looking to extend this programme across our business.