Trainees choose Slaughter and May not only for its magic circle status, but for its multi-specialist way of working.
This is not just law – this is Slaughters law
Like your most trusted, go-to department store that has your back whether you’re in need of swimwear or a fancy set of wine glasses, Slaughter and May’s charm lies in its multi-specialist approach. There wasn’t one interviewee who didn’t cite this as one of their top reasons for joining this magic circle firm. “Slaughter and May attracted me specifically because of the way it can turn its hand to anything,” one source cooed. “We’re able to deal with whatever comes through the door.” For trainees, this means “a varied experience, no matter what practice you sit in.” A varied experience, that is, within the world of corporate law, finance and commercial litigation which Slaughters calls home. Graduate recruitment partner Cathy Connolly expands: “For example, we don’t have specific public M&A, private equity or joint venture teams. We have a single corporate team that does a breadth of corporate work.” Now of course it isn't unusual for a law firm to have a single corporate department, but Connolly is right that for a firm this big, and this impressive, it is unusual to lump all things corporate into one basket. Slaughters' approach, believes Connolly, “makes people much better lawyers, as we can bring different skills and ideas together.”
Slaughters is something of an odd one out among its magic circle peers because rather than having international offices by the trolley-load, it relies on a group of ‘best friend’ firms around the world. In addition, the London office does still do plenty of cross-border work as well as domestic stuff, and interviewees were enamoured by “the firm’s reputation, the quality of its clients and the interesting work.” Two recent high-profile matters saw the firm advise Ocado on its joint venture with Marks & Spencer, and advise Whitbread on its £3.9 billion sale of Costa to Coca-Cola. And it’s no wonder these household names seek our Slaughters’ expertise: the firm is top-ranked by Chambers UK for high-end corporate M&A, banking and finance, tax, competition, corporate crime, retail and insurance transactions. It's recognised for a score more areas too, as well as gaining a bunch of rankings in Chambers Global. “Nothing I’ve worked on so far has been straightforward,” proclaimed one trainee, reflecting on the firm's complex dealmaking. “It's all very interesting and that helps keep me interested in the work I do.” The fact the firm recently responded to the NQ pay rises of its magic circle competition was also sure to have helped keep trainees' interest.
During the LPC, trainees submit a preference list for their seats. At this time the firm usually holds an event at which “people from each department give a short presentation on the type of work you can expect in that department,” so trainees don’t go in completely blind. Trainees must complete a seat in corporate and one in finance. About three months into the first seat, trainees have a catch up with HR to “go over any updates or changes to your preference list” and they then hear the remainder of their seat plan – sources appreciated the “predictability” of knowing al your seats in advance.
Under the broad corporate umbrella, there are three general groups (based on different partners’ practices): “The groups do roughly the same kind of work, with slight differences. One group has more of an insurance focus, for example.” Trainees are likely to encounter the whole spectrum of corporate work though, including “high-end large-scale corporate transactions, IPOs, joint ventures, private equity and capital markets.” Clients include big names like Vodafone, Walmart, GlaxoSmithKline, Rolls-Royce, Shell and Disney. Lawyers advised the latter on some English law aspects of its $85 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox. The firm also advised Walmart on its part in the proposed merger between Asda and Sainsbury's, and represented Cineworld during its $3.6 billion acquisition of America's Regal Cinemas. “Since being here,” one trainee reflected, “I've come to understand our multi-specialist approach means getting to try lots of things rather than doing one particular type of deal.” For instance, one source mentioned “working on an acquisition advising the seller, a listed company, on the disposal of a subsidiary to a private equity house,” while another focused more on equity capital markets. Speaking of which: the firm recently advised Aston Martin on its £4.3 billion IPO, and helped Cineworld with a £1.7 billion rights issue to help it buy Regal in the deal mentioned above. On big deals trainee tasks are typically related to “process management” – due diligence, verification (“which isn’t great…”), drafting board minutes and research. We heard “you can also get involved in conference calls and client meetings.”
“When our matters are made public they are big, front-page news stories.”
Like corporate, the finance department has a a broad remit, covering leveraged finance, acquisition finance, securitisation, debt capital markets and restructuring/insolvency work. The team recently advised Tata Steel on a €4.5 billion refinancing of existing bank debt to finance a joint venture with Germany's thyssenkrupp. On this deal London lawyers worked with lawyers from Slaughters' best friends Bredin Prat (in France), De Brauw (in the Netherlands) and Hengeler Mueller (in Germany). In another international finance deal, the firm advised Switzerland's CEVA Logistics on a $1.4 billion refinancing following its Swiss IPO. Trainees working on such big transactions involving multiple jurisdictions are usually tasked with project management – for example, “taking a leading role on the conditions precedent process” – though “depending on the transaction, you can get to draft ancillary documents.” There are other tasks on offer too: one source recalled being told to research a topic before speaking to the client about it on the phone,while another was able to “take the first crack at drafting a facility agreement.”
Every little helps
Interviewees found competition to be “a very international practice,” and trainees have the option of spending three months of their seat in the Brussels office to get up close and personal with EU competition work. That said, interviewees also highlighted that “the competition department is treated as one in terms of staffing – it’s not like something is a Brussels matter or London matter.” The team works on both merger control and competition investigations. The presence of the latter type of work means this can often count as a contentious seat and interviewees had seen some “big-name disputes” and “appeals in court.” The firm recently defended Google against an abuse of dominance claim brought by Australian tech startup Unlockd in the High Court. Lawyers also advised truck maker MAN on various court and tribunal cases after an EU cartel investigation. And on the transactional side, the team advised Vodafone on the merger control aspects of its proposed €18.4 billion acquisition of Liberty Global’s telecoms business in Germany, Czechia, Hungary and Romania. One source observed: “The clients are massive, and when our matters are made public they are big, front-page news stories – that’s the fun aspect of this job.” In terms of tasks, sources said, “competition is a more admin-heavy seat – actual drafting of documents is reserved for more senior people.” Instead, trainees reported doing “market research” and “a lot of document review and proofreading.”
"Matters can run for ten to 15 years so it’s hard to get someone involved deeply."
The disputes seat covers “a mix of investigations, High Court litigation and arbitration.” Investigations were most commonly encountered by our interviewees, who had worked on matters related to the FCA and SFO. The team recently advised British American Tobacco during an SFO corruption investigation, and counselled Deutsche Bank on a regulatory investigation into the setting of interbank benchmark rates, including Libor. Trainees conduct research, due diligence and doc review. Sources said that “there’s less responsibility because matters can run for ten to 15 years so it’s hard to get someone involved deeply in six months.”
Slaughters' other (smaller) practices include pensions and employment, financial regulation, tax and real estate. After taking into account the compulsory corporate, finance and contentious seat, trainees have one seat left to fill, which can be one of these or an overseas seat. The most common overseas stint is the three months in Brussels during the competition seat. Beyond that, trainees can also spend six months in one of Slaughters' offices abroad or sometimes with a ‘best friend’ firm. The application process for overseas seats is slightly different to regular seat allocation: during end-of-seat reviews, trainees can tick a box saying whether they are interested in a secondment. Trainees have to have done their compulsory corporate or finance seat before going abroad. After that, “the next stage is an online application where you say which jurisdictions you’d like to go to and upload your CV,” we heard. “The process is then a bit vague – HR speak to the relevant partners and then we find out.”
That's Slaughter's price
When we asked interviewees what defines Slaughters they said: “Expectations are very high – things like typos in emails are frowned upon, especially if something is being sent out of the building. People want everything to be tip-top.” Interviewees found that “everyone is fiercely driven in their own way, but they haven’t lost the human touch.” Rookies were pleased to be able to speak to senior colleagues about everything from “women’s rights to crap TV!” And work, of course: “My supervisor can be busy, but every time I ask to go through something they generally make time for me.” Trainees could see that “there is a hierarchy when it comes to work, but not socially.”
On the social front sources reported there's “a fair bit” going on. The highlight in the social calendar is the firm’s annual ball in November. “It’s black tie and very fancy,” we heard. “In 2018 it was at the Grosvenor and you could bring a plus one.” There are also various networks and clubs that hold (non-black tie) events every now and then. Departmental drinks do happen but usually depend on how busy the practice is. “Trainee-specific events are usually more well-attended,” sources said, plus “every so often someone will say ‘pub?’ at the end of the day.”
“People want everything to be tip-top.”
Whether there's time to head down to the pub depends on trainees’ hours and workload, and we heard from interviewees those are likely to be unpredictable. “My corporate seat had the biggest variation in hours,” one reflected, “On average, I probably stayed in the office for dinner about once a week.” Another added: “Competition had shallower peaks and troughs.” We heard a couple of instances of finishes in the wee hours (1am onwards), which usually occurs when “there's a tight timetable for a deal.” Trainees said they were more usually out the door between 7.30 and 8.30pm. Interviewees praised the lack of a billable hours target, which means “people will help with a question and it doesn’t matter whether the time is chargeable or not.” Overall, Slaughters trainees described their long hours as “pretty tolerable," but these are individuals who chose a life of long hours willingly and knowingly. Spend some time considering if it's what you want before applying.
Pro bono at Slaughters is “not compulsory, but is definitely encouraged,” and the vast majority of our sources had done some in one form or another, whether as part of a seat or of their own volition. Several trainees mentioned volunteering at Islington Law Centre, while others had “helped change the structure of a charity” and “worked with Amicus for people facing the death penalty in the US.” On the CSR front, trainees also mentioned “mentoring A-level students at a local school by helping with UCAS applications and things like that.”
The NQ process is “quite informal and flexible – you have a meeting with HR about how your training contract went, and submit a form with two or more preferences as to where you want to qualify.” Others also added that “there’s an expectation that you’ll speak to groups you’re interested in to check whether you have a chance to qualify there.” One source joked: “The process feels a bit like Tinder – you put down your preference, the departments put down theirs, then it’s matched up. If you don’t get matched, HR will talk to you and try to find you a spot.” In 2019 the firm retained 72 out of 75 qualifiers.
After two years at Slaughter and May you'll have a traineeship under your belt from one of the most recognisable names in the legal profession.
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How to get a Slaughter and May training contract
Vacation scheme deadline (2020): 13 December 2020
Training contract deadline (2022): 3 January 2020 (non-law students); 31 January 2020 (law students)
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.
Slaughter and May starts receiving applications for its work experience schemes in October, 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.
Unusually, approximately half of the 250 summer work experience interviews usually take place on campus. The interview takes place 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 2017 around 550 students were invited to an interview day, which includes a written exercise, an interview with two partners, a tour of the office 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*
- Associates 425*
- Total trainees 163*
- *Worldwide figures
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices London, Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong plus relationship firms in all the major jurisdictions.
- Contacts The trainee recruitment team, [email protected] com, 020 7090 4454
- Application criteria
- Training contract pa: 80
- 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: Approx 150
- Dates and deadlines:
- Please visit firm website for all deadlines.
- Salary and benefits
- First year salary: £45,000
- Second year salary: £51,000
- Post qualification salary: £100,000 (total remuneration)
- Holiday entitlement: 30 days
- LPC and GDL: Fees plus maintenance grant
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Overseas seats: Recent trainee secondment destinations include: Australia, Brussels, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and the USA (mainly New York).
Vacation scheme, open days and first-year opportunities
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
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