Slaughter and May - True Picture

Slaughter and May is often known as the more reserved member of the elite magic circle, but the quality of its work tells you everything you need to know. 

Slaughter and May training contract review 2022

The Firm

Differentiating between the magic circle firms is no mean feat. All have a high-profile list of FTSE 100 companies on their books; elite rankings in Chambers UK for their corporate, finance, and disputes capabilities; and very large trainee intakes. However, Slaughter & May comes with a few idiosyncrasies that help to distinguish it from its prestigious pack. One of them is the application process: “It’s just a cover letter and CV. You don’t have to jump through a million and one hoops to get to the assessment centre,” one trainee explained. “I felt I was able to express myself more easily as an individual through the CV and cover letter followed by an interview, rather than attending multiple interviews which felt like you were being pitted against other candidates.” 

Another distinguishing factor is that Slaughter only has a modest number of overseas offices: three. That’s compared to Clifford Chance’s 32 and Linklaters’ 30. That doesn’t mean there’s no international work. On the contrary, “you’re constantly working with EU member states and countries from around the world,” our interviewees emphasised. Instead of having its own outposts that carry the firm’s name, Slaughter relies on a carefully curated network of close working relationships with other leading law firms from across the world.

"The firm eschews the model of having very specialised groups."

The third significant feature that separates Slaughter from the pack is its ‘multi-specialist’ approach to training and development. “It sounds like a recruitment soundbite, but it is hugely significant,” one trainee commented. “What it means is that the firm eschews the model of having very specialised groups. Here, you qualify into a general finance and corporate group and are expected to do a broad range of work.” Let’s take a deeper dive into Slaughter’s practice strengths: Chambers UK places the firm at the top in London for big-ticket banking & finance work on the borrower side, as it does with high-end corporate/M&A, competition, financial crime, tax and mid-market real estate mandates. On a UK-wide basis, Slaughter stands out for its regulatory work in the financial services sector, as well as for its expertise in the insurance and retail industries. Chambers Global also bestows praise on the firm’s tax and competition capabilities, alongside its cross-border prowess when it comes to investigations, disputes and corporate/M&A deals.

The Seats

During their LPC, prospective trainees are invited to a seat selection event which includes presentations from each of the firm’s departments on what to expect. Trainees submit their preferences for their first seat in advance of the training contract and then meet with the trainee development team mid way through their first seat to discuss the remainder of the training contract. Seats in corporate, finance and contentious are mandatory. There's a separate application process for international and client secondments which are typically reserved for trainees in their second year. “They’re not super competitive,” sources were happy to report, adding that “typically they require you to complete an online form with a cover letter detailing your motivations – there’s no interview.” As well as spots in its Brussels office, trainees are also hosted in some of the firm's network of 'best friend' offices.

“Two of the partners have great relationships with the Treasury and other government bodies so you’re often working closely with the civil service, which is fascinating.”

For logistical purposes, departments at Slaughter are subdivided into groups. Each group has a slightly different focus and is led by a key partner. For example, one group “does a lot of insurance-related work,” while another takes on a lot of government work. “Two of the partners have great relationships with the Treasury and other government bodies so you’re often working closely with the civil service, which is fascinating,” one source said. However, in keeping with the firm’s multi-specialist approach, trainees can expect to be exposed to a very broad range of M&A, private equity, and capital markets work in any of the corporate groups.

Our interviewees were keen to highlight their experiences working on high-profile corporate deals. For example, one mentioned William Hill’s cash acquisition by Caesars Entertainment, while another cited Walmart’s proposed sale of Asda. On the private equity side, the firm also recently represented Investindustrial on its acquisition of CSM’s European and international bakery business, which has revenues of around €500 million. We spoke to trainees who had done everything from drafting share purchase agreements and reviewing corporate governance matters to conducting research and working on due diligence. 

Slaughter’s finance department has an equally broad offering that covers leveraged finance, acquisition finance, project finance, debt capital markets, real estate finance, and restructuring matters. As an example of the firm’s ‘best friend’ network in action, Slaughter recently worked with elite New York firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore and German counsel Hengeler Mueller, to advise INEOS Finance on the raising of approximately €141 million by way of a secured loan. On the asset finance side, the team advised Rolls-Royce on a £2 billion loan, which was provided by a syndicate of banks. Trainees here are able to cut their teeth managing conditions precedent checklists, compiling signature pages, and handling the post-completion matters. One trainee told us that “when an associate went on holiday, I was basically running the matter myself and was able to send emails to clients.”

Financial regulation is one of the firm’s smaller departments and does "around 50% advisory work and 50% corporate support work,” one trainee estimated. For example, the team recently advised on the de-merger of M&G from Prudential and advised a venture capital fund, MMC, on the sale of a global aerospace insurance broker to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. On advisory matters, trainees were kept busy conducting and writing up research into advice, while on the corporate side they reviewed key documents and attended client calls. 

“You get two supervisors because there’s so much variety.”

Slaughter’s disputes and investigations group covers a whole host of arbitration matters, corporate and commercial litigation, and white-collar crime cases. “You get two supervisors because there’s so much variety,” a trainee explained. Consistent with feedback we generally receive on litigation seats, trainees explained that “it’s quite hierarchal, so as trainees you’re doing a lot of proof reading, note taking, attending hearings and writing up notes.” One of the firm’s most high-profile cases of late has involved client British American Tobacco, which they represented in relation to a potential claim brought by a number of Malawian tobacco farmers. The firm has also represented Bupa during a wide-ranging dispute concerning its sale of a portfolio of care homes to Advinia Health Care. 

Slaughter’s competition team has a number of household names on its books including British Airways,, Royal Dutch Shell, and Google; the firm acted as lead advisers to the latter during the European Commission’s investigation into the tech giant’s AdSense for Search advertising services. They also recently represented JPMorgan Chase Bank during global investigations into possible attempts to manipulate foreign exchange (FX) rates. Teams here are often made up of lawyers from across the firm’s London, Brussels and Hong Kong offices; they cover competition litigation, antitrust work, merger control issues and state aid matters.

Trainee Life 

Slaughter’s prestigious reputation in the legal community is bolstered by its somewhat tight-lipped approach. For example, the firm famously does not divulge its partner profits and it rarely hires laterals. However, sources felt that “even on the inside you can sometimes feel like an outsider,” citing the firm’s return to the office policy as an example: “It doesn’t feel like the trainees were consulted too much on the decision.” We were told that moving forward, trainees are expected to be in the office four days a week. Some also felt the qualification process could do with being more transparent: “You have a meeting with HR and submit your preferences, after which you’re expected to have coffees with the relevant partners and get a sense of what they want from you – it feels a bit strange.” Still, the firm managed to retain 39 of 41 of its qualifying trainees in 2021 and some felt that “being transparent about everything is not an unqualified good in itself.”

“The firm has recently published ambitious new diverse targets."

Slaughter’s reputation also ensures that it attracts and hires a fair number of trainees from Oxbridge. In fact, around 50% of this year’s survey participants went to Oxbridge. As a result of this, one source noted that “there are a lot of people who arrive at the firm knowing each other.” Overall, sources agreed that the firm is “far friendlier and less stuffy than you might expect.” One interviewee added that “there's a good amount of banter and camaraderie, but everyone is still nerdy enough for it not to feel laddy and unwelcoming.” Still, our interviewees conceded that “visibility remains poor, particularly at the partner level, and particularly when it comes to minority ethnic individuals.” To help boost diversity, the firm has a number of initiatives in place. There’s Prism, the firm’s LGBT+ alliance network, and Diverse, which focuses on race and ethnicity and provides specific mentoring for minority ethnic trainees. One trainee mentioned that “the firm has recently published ambitious new diverse targets something they wouldn't have done ten years ago.” The targets include: a minimum of 40% of the firm’s equity partner promotions globally to be women by 2027, and a minimum of 15% of partner promotions to be from ethnic minority backgrounds until 2025. A number of trainees also mentioned their involvement with the firm’s UpReach programme, which provides mentoring and support to individuals from less privileged backgrounds. 

In a further effort to dispel rumours that Slaughter and May is one of the more conservative firms out there, one source highlighted that “there are no barriers to mental health advocacy at the firm in terms of development and initiatives. We have Thrive, which is the biggest network and has a lot of buy-in from partners across the firm.” They added that “they give it enough funding to run pretty great events.” Another interviewee also highlighted that a lot of trainees have benefited through insurance access to a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) therapist. However, we also spoke to others who felt that actual “examples of people taking time off for mental health are few and far between.” One source reflected that “for all the positive signalling, as with all magic circle law firms, work often needs to be turned around under immense time pressure.”

That pressure means that trainees will be working some fairly long hours, with stints past midnight not uncommon. In our trainee survey, the hours worked by trainees in a given week ranged from 68 at the extreme end to 35 hours during quieter times. One source reflected that “if you’re working above 45 hours a week, they would consider that very busy." The firm doesn’t have a billable hours target at the associate level, which reportedly helps to minimise a facetime culture.

Slaughter and May has increased the salary of its NQs to £100,000.


How to get into Slaughter & May


Virtual presentations deadline (2021): 30 November 2021

Vacation scheme deadline (2022): 15 October 2021 (winter); 10 December 2021 (summer); 17 December (spring open days)

Training contract deadline (2024 and 2025 starts): 30 November 2021

Initial applications 

Applications for both the training contract and work experience schemes at Slaughter and May begin with a straightforward online form, plus a CV and one-page covering letter. “I just wrote why I wanted to join the firm and why I wanted to be a lawyer,” one of the firm's trainees recalled. “Keep it short and sweet, though it does need to be formal of course.” Oh, and make sure you leave out the ampersand: it's Slaughter AND May.

We don’t have set criteria demanding you have three As at A level,” a source in recruitment says (the firm, rather vaguely, asks for 'good' A levels), “but we do look for a strong 2:1 degree.” Our trainee sources agreed that “the Oxbridge influence is undeniable, but no one looks down on someone who hasn't gone to a top-ten uni.” The firm tells us it will be visiting several universities over the course of 2019/20, including Lancaster, Leicester and SOAS. 

Vacation scheme 

Slaughter and May starts receiving applications for its work experience schemes in  autumn, and it's worth getting in there early as the firm schedules interviews on a rolling basis. The scheme is aimed at penultimate-year law and non-law students. 

The interview takes place virtually with a partner and an associate, and includes a discussion about a topical article. 

The firm runs a week-long scheme at Easter, two three-week schemes over June and July for law undergrads, plus another three-week scheme in September for non-law students. There are usually around 25 students on each of the schemes. All students sit in a single department for the duration of their visit, and take part in various workshops and case studies. One major highlight is a day trip to the Brussels office. 

Work experience students have the option of interviewing for a training contract during the last week of their placement. The firm informs us they aren't given special treatment over direct applicants, however, and are also required to do the written exercise direct applicants do as part of their interview process (see below). 

Training contract applications 

The firm typically receives around 2,000 applications each year for up to 85 training contracts. In 2020 around 400 students were invited to an interview day, which included a written exercise, an interview with two partners, a chat with a trainee and a short interview with HR. 

According to the firm's trainees, succeeding at interview involves “showing you can think laterally. They don't want you to repeat verbatim what you learnt at law school; they want new solutions and fresh ideas.” Our grad recruitment sources tell us the firm is particularly interested in those who demonstrate “the ability to show grit under pressure” and have “a range of interests outside the law.” 


Slaughter and May

One Bunhill Row,

  • Partners: 109 worldwide
  • Assistant solicitors: 437 worldwide
  • Total trainees: 190 worldwide
  • UK offices: London
  • Overseas offices: Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong plus relationship firms in all the major jurisdictions.
  • Contacts  
  • Head of Trainee Recruitment: Janine Arnold
  • The Trainee Recruitment Team 020 7090 4454
  • Application criteria  
  • Training contracts pa: 85-90
  • Minimum required degree grade: Good 2:1
  • Minimum UCAS points or A Levels: Good A-Levels
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 100
  • First year scheme places pa: 150
  • Dates and deadlines  
  • Please visit our website for all deadlines.
  • Salary and benefits  
  • First-year salary: £50,000
  • Second-year salary: £55,000
  • Post qualification salary: £115,000
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: yes
  • International and regional  
  • Offices with training contracts: London
  • Overseas seats: Our overseas offices and close working relationships with market-leading law firms in other jurisdictions mean there are opportunities for trainees to apply for a secondment in their second year.
  • Recent trainee secondment destinations include: US (NYC and California), France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands. Spain, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, India, Russia and Hong Kong.

Firm profile

Slaughter and May has a global reputation for providing outstanding legal services. The strength of our practice is reflected in the multi-jurisdictional nature of our work and our international client base. The firm is a trusted adviser to some of the largest companies in the world, advising on complex cross-border deals every single day.

We advise on high-profile and often landmark international transactions. Our varied client list ranges from governments to entrepreneurs, from retailers to entertainment companies and from conglomerates to Premier League football clubs.

We are a full service law firm to corporate clients and have leading practitioners across a wide range of areas including mergers and acquisitions, corporate and commercial, financing, tax, competition, disputes and investigations, real estate, pensions and employment, financial regulation, information technology and intellectual property.

In order to offer the best possible service for our clients, we harness the latest market developments in legal technology and innovation. Our forward thinking, innovative approach to legal services complements the best in class advice on which our reputation is built.

Diversity and Inclusion is an integral part of how we do things as a firm. We believe that a supportive and inclusive workplace drives collaboration and enhances business performance. We are looking to employ the brightest minds regardless of what or where they studied. Traditional approaches to D&I are often skewed towards initiatives helping diverse individuals to “fit in” and succeed; we focus on examining and adjusting the system for greater acceptance of different leadership styles and ways of working.

A world of difference
There are clear differences between Slaughter and May and other global law firms.

We train each of our lawyers to be a multi-specialist, equipped to advise on a broad range of legal matters which at other firms would be handled by a number of different lawyers. This is hard work but our lawyers say it makes for a far more fulfilling career. It provides challenge and interest while allowing lawyers to develop deeper relationships with clients, because they get to know their businesses better. This enables them to deliver innovative solutions to difficult problems by combining experience gained on one type of transaction to solve problems in another.

We think that by broadening your training and experience, you will be a better lawyer. We have built a reputation for delivering pioneering solutions to difficult problems. This reputation has been earned because each of our lawyers advises on broad legal areas, combining experience gained on one type of transaction to solve problems in another. In this way, our lawyers have a varied and interesting workload and ample opportunities to develop close relationships with clients.

Much of our work has an international element and in 2020 we worked with over 230 law firms in more than 100 jurisdictions. Our work is international and cross-border in nature; we go where our clients go. We never compromise on the quality and consistency for which we are widely recognised. Our approach is shaped by the fundamental principle that complex transactions require first-class legal expertise rooted in a deep knowledge of local practice, procedures and culture.

At Slaughter and May we also take a different approach to time; there are no set billing or time targets. Some ideas take a matter of seconds but can save companies millions of pounds a year. The type of work we do is not always measurable in minutes. In this way, our lawyers are free to work collaboratively, sharing expertise and knowledge, so that they can concentrate on what matters most – the quality of the work and client service.

The Training Contract
During the two-year training contract, trainees turn their hand to a broad range of work. In each seat you will share an office with a partner or associate (your ‘supervisor’) who will guide you and ensure that you are actively involved in their work and the work of the group. A partner in your group will regularly meet with you to discuss your progress and your supervisor will give you a full review at the end of each seat. You will also receive regular informal feedback. These opportunities provide a forum for you to discuss your progress and how to develop your legal knowledge, skills and experience.

Our overseas offices and close working relationships with market-leading law firms in other jurisdictions mean there are opportunities for trainees to apply for a secondment in their second year. Recent trainee secondment destinations include: US (NYC and California), France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands. Spain, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, India, Russia and Hong Kong.

Trainees are also encouraged to understand advances in the legal industry, and possibly even help to shape them, by joining our Innovation Network which now has over 200 members. Challenging the way we work through open-mindedness, diversity and creativity can have an enormous impact on results for our clients, our efficiency, and our wellbeing.

Work Experience Opportunities
We offer open days, workshops and work experience schemes to enable you to gain an insight into life as a commercial lawyer. Full details of these opportunities can be found on our website.

What do we look for?
Our trainees come from a range of universities – it is the quality of the candidate, not the university that is important to us. We like people with:
• a sharp intellect
• independent thought and curiosity
• commercial awareness
• energy, spark and commitment
• the ability to relate to others
• common sense and judgement
• integrity
• a range of interests outside of the law
• an interesting take on things
• resolve and resilience
• a good sense of humour
• a willingness to take on responsibility
• a global outlook

We have approximately 85-90 vacancies for trainee solicitors each year. We look for candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds with a good 2:1 at undergraduate level from any university, and take law and non-law graduates. We use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System across all our trainee recruitment activity. The system helps us to identify high potential candidates by putting applicants’ grades and achievements in the context of their social and educational background.

Applications should be submitted using the online form, which can be accessed via the link below: You will be asked to provide some personal details (including a full breakdown of all your examination results) and to attach your cover letter and CV. Your cover letter should tell us about you, why you are interested in a career in law and why you are applying to Slaughter and May. You should also include any other information which you think may be relevant to your application. Please ensure that your cover letter is no longer than one side of A4 and address it to Janine Arnold, Head of Trainee Recruitment.

We encourage candidates to submit their application as early as possible during an application window. Training contract offers will be made on a rolling basis. We are unable to guarantee the availability of places as we progress with these interviews.

Virtual presentations:
October and November 2021 We are pleased to announce that we will be running a variety of virtual presentations and events throughout October and November to provide an insight into the firm. To find out more and to register your place please visit our website. 

Social media

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 3)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Competition Law (Band 1)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 5)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 5)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 5)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 2)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
    • Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 2)
    • Tax: Contentious (Band 2)


undefinedThe Big Interview: Steve Cooke, Slaughter and May's senior partner

The Student Guide's Joel Poultney caught up with Slaughter and May maestro Steve Cooke to discuss how the life of a trainee has changed; what effect the pandemic has had on the industry so far; how the firm is supporting diversity; and much, much more...

More from Slaughter and May:

Visit the firm's graduate recruitment page.

Follow the firm on Facebook.

Check out the firm's virtual experience programme.