Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Stephenson Harwood

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

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Positive experience from my placement scheme’; ‘friendly/collegiate ethos’; ‘felt comfortable throughout the interview process’; ‘personal development and professional progression’; ‘well-balanced selection of practice areas’; ‘great exposure to high-quality clients’; ‘specialisation in art law’; ‘I did a vac scheme at the firm and really enjoyed the two weeks’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Trainees are respected and given the opportunity to work as part of a team’; ‘ambitious and growing firm’; ‘people are friendly and take an interest in you as an individual’; ‘lack of hierarchy; ‘monthly lottery for Royal Albert Hall tickets’; ‘small intake allows you to build a good network of friends’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘You often don’t find out your next seat until two weeks before’; ‘limited choice of client secondment opportunities’; ‘the coffee’; ‘there are not many department social events’; ‘IT, reprographics and administrative support needs to match up to the level of work and time spent by fee earners in the office’; ‘the sandwiches’

Best moment? ‘Noticing my progression and increase in responsibility within a few months of starting my training contract; ‘receiving really good feedback and support from supervisors’; ‘taking instruction from a client on my own in order to draft a disclosure letter’; ‘interacting with clients’; ‘introducing a new client to the firm’; ‘an away day to Sri Lanka’; ‘obtaining qualification offers from two teams’

Worst moment? ‘Three weeks of late night/early morning finishes due to a deal closing and the partner being away’; ‘one 4am finish’; ‘late night printing’; ‘missing something on a deal and having to do a deed of amendment’; ‘putting together large bundles for court’; ‘realising I had misspelt a client’s name in an email to them’

The Lex 100 verdict on Stephenson Harwood

The firm: “We pride ourselves on delivering ground-breaking deals across the globe. Our headquarters are in London, and we have ten offices across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. This diverse mix of expertise and culture provides deep, local insight and the capability to provide a seamless international service to our clients. The clients we work with are hugely varied. Whether they’re corporations, institutions or individuals, we assemble teams of bold thinkers to match our clients’ needs and ensure they receive the right advice, from the right person, at the right time. Our experience encompasses corporate, commercial litigation and arbitration, employment and pensions, finance, marine and international trade, and real estate.”

The deals: Advised Minsheng Financial Leasing on JOLCO financing; secured Supreme Court clarification for trustees of Barnardo’s staff pension scheme; advised Trustees in Bankruptcy of Boris Becker; advised on largest UK healthcare REITs merger; advised CAF on transformational Welsh project.

The clients: Abellio; Acadia Healthcare; Bowmark Capital; Duff & Phelps; ENGIE; Lavendon Group plc; Myanmar Investments International Limited; Royal Bank of Scotland; Schroder European Real Estate Investment; Trust plc; Tristan Capital.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see for more details) Art and cultural property; Asset finance and leasing; Aviation; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial property: hotels and leisure; Commercial litigation; Commodities: physicals; Financial services (contentious); Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud: civil; Fraud: white-collar crime; Listed funds; M&A lower mid-market deals, £50m-£250m; Pensions; Private equity: transactions – mid-market deals; Professional negligence; Rail; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime; Shipping; Trade finance

The verdict

The ‘promise of early responsibility’ and ‘international secondment opportunities’ motivated candidates to apply to Stephenson Harwood. With a small cohort, recruits ‘are likely to be the only trainee on a deal and so get great exposure to interesting work’. This is received positively; they enjoy autonomy over ‘high-level work in a supportive environment’, which gives them ‘a chance to grow early on in their career’. Indeed, one respondent’s experience was ‘constantly dealing with associates and partners at other firms in my correspondence and never a trainee’. The quality of work impressed respondents and gave them the opportunity to ‘lead and complete a multi-million pound refinancing’ and ‘attend the Supreme Court’. Best moments include ‘being acknowledged by the client for my work’, ‘running small cases alone’ and ‘being treated like an associate’. Prospective recruits can look forward to ‘approachable team members’ in a firm where ‘people are invested in your learning and career progression and try to involve trainees wherever possible’. Stephenson Hardwood is a Lex 100 Winner for international secondments and salary, and offers ‘unrivalled overseas opportunities’, including ‘incredible secondments to the Singapore office’. ‘Terrible IT systems’, ‘the opaque nature of seat rotation system’, and ‘the canteen closing at 4pm’ frustrated some trainees. Along with high responsibility may come the unpopular task of ‘staying late to do due diligence’ and ‘working into the early morning’ but, trainees note, ‘you do get used to it’. If a ‘good work/life balance’ in a workplace where ‘strong friendships are easily formed among trainees’ suits you, apply to Stephenson Harwood.

A day in the life of… Charlotte Napthine, trainee solicitor, Stephenson Harwood LLP

Charlotte Napthine, Stephenson Harwood

Departments to date: Commercial litigation; corporate (Hong Kong); marine and international trade

University: University of Kent

Degree: English and American Literature and History and Philosophy of Art

7.45am: It’s Thursday and I arrive at the office in Moorgate, having run in from South East London. I head to the lockers in the basement of the building and get showered and ready for the day!

8.10am: I head up to the 4th floor to our café, Refresh, and grab a granola and yoghurt honey pot to fuel myself for the day ahead.

8.20am: I eat my breakfast at my desk while replying to a couple of emails and clarifying my to-do list. There are a few meetings and calls to prepare for and a couple of clients who need progress updates.

9.00am: I have my regular catch up with my supervisor, Alan. He shares feedback about my work, we discuss what tasks I need to complete today and in which order I should prioritise them. This is really helpful; it’s a great opportunity to ask for more responsibility and ensure I am developing throughout my time in this team.

9.30am: By this time my other roommate, an associate, will have arrived and I check if he needs help with anything. His team has a large case on – involving a foreign regulator – which requires some bundling. I check on the other matters I am assisting with; these all involve individuals who are under investigation by regulators. I begin some research on the process of submitting a complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority, as well as a potential claim under the European Convention on Human Rights. I know that my supervisor will want an update later today so I put together some clear notes that we can discuss.

11.30am: Alan and I have a meeting with a new client. I take a note of the meeting and scan through the client’s proof of identity as part of our ‘know your client’ procedure. After the meeting, Alan and I discuss strategy and an action plan – it’s great to be able to come up with some ideas.

12.45pm: As it’s sunny outside, I head with a few of the other trainees to have a bite to eat in the park in Finsbury Circus.

2.00pm: I talk through the results of my morning’s research with Alan and draft a note of advice which he will review before sending to the client. Once I am back at my desk, I respond to some urgent emails and start drafting an attendance note to make a record of the discussion from the client meeting we had earlier. I like to make sure we have an accurate record that we can reflect on.

3.30pm: We have a diary appointment for a conference call. I grab my notebook and a herbal tea before the call. My role will be to take an attendance note. The call is with lawyers from other law firms, whom we are working with under a common interest privilege agreement.

5.00pm: I circulate the attendance note of our call, and Alan and I catch up with the partner on the matter to update him. It’s important to also maintain a high level of communication with the client, so I draft an email to follow up.

6.30pm: The other trainees and I are going to attend our Young Professional Networking event this evening. Events are held regularly at the firm and it’s a great way to practise business development skills and learn something new. I have a couple of canapés to tide me over until dinner and get stuck in chatting to people.

About the firm

Senior partner: Roland Foord

Managing partner: Eifion Morris (from 1 October 2019)

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

Who we are: We have ten offices worldwide, a variety of sectors to explore and unlimited opportunities for you to develop an incredible career. Here, 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 pride ourselves on delivering ground-breaking deals across the globe. Our experience encompasses corporate, commercial litigation and arbitration, employment and pensions, finance, marine and international trade, and real estate.

What we’re 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: Although every seat is a different journey, each is designed to give you a broad balance of commercial awareness and practical legal experience, plus the flexibility to move between projects and pick up new skills. There will be plenty of challenges along the way, but also lots of support. At every stage you’ll be coached and mentored by a partner or senior solicitor who’ll give you regular feedback, advice and guidance on everything from your day-to-day responsibilities to your long-term career decisions.

Perks: We’ll pay your fees for the Graduate Diploma in Law and the LPC at BPP London and offer maintenance awards of up to £6,000 if you’re still studying. We offer a range of flexible benefits including: critical illness cover, cycle2work loan, dental health scheme, give as you earn (GAYE), online gym membership, 25 days’ paid holiday a year, private health insurance and screening, life assurance, pension, private GP services, retail vouchers, subsidised café and travel to work loan.