A magic multi-specialist approach gives these trainees the chance “to become an expert in several different disciplines” under the corporate and finance umbrellas.
Slaughter and May training contract review 2024
In today’s uncertain world, social media dating tips are as sure a source of wisdom as any. Among the top-tier is the not-so-old adage ‘find yourself someone who can do both’. Enter magic circle heartbreaker, Slaughter and May. “The multi-specialist approach really appealed to me,” one right-swiper commented. “As someone who was interested in various different areas in law, I didn’t like the idea of being tied down to one niche area.” This multi-specialist approach is designed with the idea that lawyers should be equipped to handle a broader range of matters than if they were to specialise from the off, making it more feasible for a client to have a single point of contact at the firm. “But more than that,” another admirer elaborated, “the idea of working to become an expert in several different disciplines under a broad umbrella was exactly the style of learning that I was used to during my degree.”
“Having a UK-headquartered firm means that, as a London trainee, you are at the centre of things.”
The firm’s bread and butter is its work in corporate and finance. Slaughter and May collects top-tier Chambers UK rankings in London for its banking & finance (borrowers), competition, corporate/M&A, financial crime, and tax. There’s also a top-tier ranking in non-contentious insurance nationwide to boot. Unlike some of its magic circle counterparts, Slaughter and May has relatively few overseas offices, with their international spread limited to Brussels, Hong Kong and Beijing. For the current crop of trainees, however, this was part of the draw: “Having a UK-headquartered firm means that, as a London trainee, you are at the centre of things. I didn’t want to be a part of a satellite office of a US firm.” That's not to say the firm's work isn't international either, the firm has a 'relationship network' of overseas firms to enable them to work cross-border.
The current cohort had the option to rank the seats that interested them before starting, “then halfway through your first seat, you’ll have a sit-down with HR and discuss what you’d like your training contract to look like. Shortly after that they’ll send through your seats fully allocated for the full two years.” Everyone must do at least three months in a contentious seat, and all trainees will be allocated a six-month seat in both corporate and finance, “because the majority of work that we do for clients is corporate-focused. Corporate is really broad, with three sub-groups based around senior partners, and finance is the same.” There’s also the caveat with the corporate and finance groups that if trainees have spent six months in at least one of them, they’re able to go on secondment during the subsequent seat.
“Post-Covid, it has taken a while for the firm to put out the same number of secondment options that it had pre-pandemic,” one trainee told us, “but they are increasing. Only recently they opened up a Japan secondment, and there are options in New York, Spain and Hong Kong.” Previous options have included Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and Sydney, though it changes year on year. There are client options too, to the likes of Rolls-Royce, ASOS, Diageo and Booking.com.
There are three teams that fall under Slaughter and May’s corporate umbrella, each novelly named after the head of each team. Trainees in a corporate sub-team will spend three months with two different supervisors over the course of the six months. “My day-to-day goes right back to the multi-specialist approach,” one source explained. “I could be doing insurance one day, due diligence the next, and M&A right after.” As another outlined, “there’s a lot of your bog-standard M&A, but there was also a lot of corporate governance and advisory work, things like updating the guidelines in terms of new ESG requirements and disclosures.” Typical trainee tasks included the likes of drafting board minutes and fee proposals, as well as corporate data room tasks as part of the due diligence process. “Come February/March time, there’s also plenty of annual reports and AGM notices when that season comes around.” There’s a host of household names and major businesses among the firm’s corporate client base too, with Vodafone, Legal & General, Aviva and GSK all making an appearance. In one recent matter, the firm advised Vodafone on the possible combination of Vodafone UK and Three UK.
The finance department at Slaughter and May was previously split into two sub-departments covering project finance and “more pure finance, but it has since been merged into one group.” Trainees here will come across the full spectrum of finance work, from capital markets and leveraged finance to projects and securitisation. The firm’s finance clients include names such as JPMorgan Chase, Santander and Virgin Money. In one recent deal, the firm advised online payment services provider Stripe on the regulatory aspects of its UK and EU expansion. “They try to give you plenty of responsibility, but you are often drawing on existing materials, so it was a good first seat in that sense,” one trainee explained, “and there’s a lot of good training as well.” Task-wise, “there hasn’t been much of a difference between finance and corporate. I’ve been drafting board minutes, reviewing ancillary documents (the one’s that aren’t too advanced) and managing the signing process.”
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of the group.”
“We had something like 70 fee earners last year, and we are now coming up to 120,” one insider revealed, “so it’s an exciting time to be a part of the group.” The group in question is the disputes & investigations practice at Slaughter and May, which specialises in major class actions and group litigation, banking disputes and competition damages actions for corporate companies and financial institutions. “Because of the multi-specialist approach, I did everything from competition litigation to arbitration work and regular High Court litigation stuff, so it’s a real mix,” one trainee commented. One recent case saw the firm advise Credit Suisse in the High Court litigation surrounding the ‘tuna bond scandal’ – allegations of bribery and corruption around the $2 billion financing of state tuna fishery and maritime security projects in the Republic of Mozambique. Trainees in the seat can be brought on to draft some of the core documents and attend hearings around some quite complex disputes, but the current crop were quick to emphasise that the challenge is part of the appeal. “Once you get involved in a problem, and you are trying to find a solution, something you thought you’d find boring tends to become much more interesting,” one explained. “People like solving problems, and they like finding answers, and the more technical and difficult it is to understand, the more quickly time ticks by.” Spoken like a true lawyer.
Another of the departments on an upward trajectory iscompetition: “It’s grown tremendously over the last couple of years. The department is frenetic, but you have a good range of work,” a trainee remarked. Once again, the multi-specialist approach brings plenty of variety: “The groups are all very broad. Competition encompasses everything competition-related, so things like merger control, antitrust and cartel agreements will all come under that bracket.” There is plenty of research into EU and UK case law in the department, from drafting parts of merger notices to the Competition Markets Authority in the UK, to work for large American clients on ongoing EU investigations. In fact, trainees in the seat have the option to do three of the six months on secondment to the firm’s office in Brussels. Trainees told us that with such a heavy international element, being able to speak another language is particularly helpful too. “At a trainee level you are 100% a multi-specialist,” one commented. “There’s quite a lot of admin work on the trainee front, managing data files, preparing submissions and proofreading. But then there’s also competition-specific elements like product research and multi-jurisdictional analysis.” At the time of writing, the department is advising Google on a number of ongoing matters, including its obligations under the Digital Markets Act.
In both corporate and finance, “the teams are really built around partners’ specialities, which makes things feel much more organic.” Of course, the work surrounding more specialist areas means trainees need to spend time familiarising themselves with particular concepts, systems and jargon, “which can mean you miss out on some of the more substantive tasks. But we do have a lot of paralegals who can help ease our workload on the admin side, which frees us up to focus on some of the more interesting stuff.” There’s room too, for trainees to be bold: “It’s up to the trainee herself to put her hand up for more substantive work.”
How helpful supervisors were was a little bit luck-of-the-draw for the current cohort: “Some supervisors are very stretched, so won’t have the time to engage very much,” one lamented, “but if that’s the case you’ll end up doing more work for the associates you’re around.” This was balanced too with the fact that come the end of a seat rotation, all trainees will have a sit-down with their supervisor, which includes more formal feedback and a score. Structured training includes “departmentally-scheduled legal substance sessions” run by partners and associates. “Some are more like a lecture,” whereas “some of them involve role-play and exercises to do with other trainees, which can be quite fun.”
Trainees at Slaughter and May are expected to be in the office in Moorgate four days a week, with one day working from home. “Once you’ve been an associate for six months, that then switches to two days from home.” While there will inevitably be periods when the hours are more demanding, “there is the general expectation that what goes around comes around, so in quieter periods, enjoy your time off and get ready for the intense periods!” One estimated, “I think on quieter days I probably finish at around 6.30/7pm, and then on busier days maybe 10.30/11pm. But there is the flexibility to go home at 7.30pm, have dinner, and then log back on from home.”
The £50,000 first-year trainee salary and end-of-year bonus was well received too: “The salary may be higher elsewhere, but I think there is a culture that comes with that,” ie,a culture “with no excuse to work anything less than all the time.” Slaughter & May operates a ‘no target hours’ policy, which “really does help to create this culture of people working together. It’s very much of a teamwork approach.”
“It’s more nerdy here, but the people are nice.”
There was more of that to be found in the firm’s D&I efforts. “We’ve got something called a network of networks,” which includes a social mobility network, and LGBTQ+ network, and a Christian network, among others. “In the first two weeks, the group I’m in had a curry night with the new trainees and associates, and that was a really lovely warm welcome.” Firm-wide, Slaughters has brought back its annual party around November time at the Grosvenor, “which was really good fun.” There are also celebrations for Christmas and Eid. “A lot of the social events do focus on pubs,” one reckoned, “and there are a lot of us that would prefer to do something else.” But don’t get the wrong idea: “You hear stories from other vac schemes, and they sound like party firms! It’s more nerdy here, but the people are nice.”
Shortly before qualification, trainees are enrolled in a business skills training programme, which includes training on things like confidence, effective communication and leadership styles. “Towards the end of the training contract, you have a conversation with HR about what you did and didn’t enjoy, and what kind of law you see yourself doing,” one trainee explained. “Once you’ve sent them through a preference, there isn’t an interview process or anything like that; it’s simply a case of waiting to hear about where they are going to put you.” In 2023, the firm retained 84 of 87 qualifiers.
Just like magic: “We have an overnight docs team, so if you have a basic formatting task, you can send it to them and they’ll work on it overnight – it’s so helpful.”
How to get a Slaughter and May training contract
See firm's website for application deadlines
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.”
Slaughter and May starts receiving applications for its summer work experience schemes in autumn, and it's worth getting in there early as the firm schedules interviews on a rolling basis. The summer schemes are 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.
Summer 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).
The firm also runs a week-long spring scheme for first-year law students and second year law students on a four-year degree students, three spring open days for law and non-law students in their first year or second year of a four-year degree, and a two-day winter workshop in December for non-law finalists and graduates.
There are usually around 25 students on each of the work experience schemes. All students sit in a single department for the duration of their visit, and take part in various workshops and case studies.
Training contract applications
The firm typically receives around 2,000 applications each year for up to 95 training contracts. In 2022 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,
One Bunhill Row,
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 on average we work with more than 200 law firms across 100 countries annually. 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.
Shortly after joining the firm you will be allocated a continuity partner. The partner will be someone from a group outside of the seats you are due to sit in during your training contract, who will support you during your time as a trainee solicitor. Continuity partners are helpful in providing guidance and promoting your training contract 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), France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands. Spain, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. We also offer some exciting opportunities for client secondments in and around London that eligible trainees can apply for. Secondments are a great opportunity to further understand the ways in which law firms operate and how we support clients.
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 250 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
Business Services Academy 2024
The Slaughter and May Business Services Academy is our new graduate scheme launching in September 2024. This is a two-year programme designed to give a thorough understanding of the breadth of career opportunities available within the Business Services teams supporting our law firm, and to gain experience in different operational business disciplines, helping you to decide which avenue you would like to focus on wherever your career takes you next.
Training will be provided throughout the programme to help support your development into a well-rounded professional with a broad business skillset. Over a two-year period, you will work with our talented teams from across the business specialisms of People, Technology, and Clients, with the programme structured to provide you with a fantastically broad experience.
You will learn how each specialism works and more importantly, how they all fit together, developing technical skills and people skills along the way.
For more information and details to apply please visit https://www.slaughterandmay.com/careers/business-services/graduates/business-services-academy/
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 and an interest in and commitment to commercial law
• energy, spark and commitment
• the ability to relate to others
• common sense and judgement
• 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 95 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. 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 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.
University visits and virtual presentations: Autumn 2023
We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting in-person events at a number of UK universities and running a variety of virtual presentations from September to December to provide an insight into the firm. To find out more and to register your place please visit our website.
Please click here to sign up to our mailing list for updates on events and vacancies.
SQE and route to qualification
All of our future trainee solicitors now take the SQE path to qualification. We have collaborated with BPP Law School and 5 other global law firms (the City Consortium) to create the City Consortium Solicitor Training Programme (‘CCP’). The CCP is a 12-month course which includes SQE1 and SQE2 preparation as well the bespoke Plus Programme which focuses on key areas for our practice, as well as the additional knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours necessary to ensure that you are well prepared to undertake your training contract with us. You can read more about our route to qualification here.
Instagram account @slaughterandmaycareers
grad website link: http://www.slaughterandmay.com/careers/trainee-solicitors.aspx
Application form link: https://www.slaughterandmay.com/careers/trainee-solicitors/apply
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 2)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Construction: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £800 million and above (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 5)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 1)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 5)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 5)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
- Tax (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 Contracts (Band 4)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 2)
- 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)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 1)
- International Arbitration: Highly Regarded Spotlight
- Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
- Tax: Contentious (Band 2)
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...
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