Stephens Scown LLP - True Picture

This South West star gives trainees the chance to sample three different practices while living a stone’s throw from the coast.

Stephens Scown training contract review 2022

The Firm

First thing’s first: let’s make sure we’re getting the name right. Here’s an easy way to remember how to pronounce Stephens Scown – it rhymes with ‘ice cream cone’. And you know where’s excellent for ice cream? Devon and Cornwall. Incidentally, these counties are home to Stephens Scown. “The firm is connected to where it’s based, which was quite appealing,” interviewees admitted. The firm has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell, giving it a solid presence in the South West. “It’s committed to the area wholeheartedly – it felt principled,” trainees added.

"The firm is connected to where it’s based."

Chambers UK also praises the firm’s expertise in the South West, where it receives impressive rankings for areas such as corporateM&A, employment, IP, litigation, planning, professional negligence, and real estatelitigation (among others). Stephens Scown also ranks well in Chambers High Net Worth for its private wealth law practice. Although the firm does dabble in some more specialised areas of law (like mining and minerals, for example), trainees appreciated that “they weren’t too niche – they offered a bit more of a full-service as well.” Beyond the work itself, sources were also drawn to “the way the culture seemed more than skin deep,” but more on that later…

The Seats

The seat structure at Stephens Scown is, rather unusually, three seats of eight months each. The firm sometimes asks trainees for their seat preferences while they’re still on the LPC, though most reckoned “your first seat is allocated on business need.” For the following seats, the process is quite flexible: “You let graduate recruitment know where you want to go, and they try to accommodate that.” Sources also highlighted that “we operate a one-firm policy, so even if you’re based in Truro, you can work for Exeter-based partners,” which has become more of a frequent occurrence since remote working began.

The family team is quite well renowned in the South West. The work itself is split largely into two teams: children and finance, but there’s also another sub-team that deals with pre-nups and post-nups. Across the three, the team covers “anything you could want to do with family.” Normally, trainees will sit on the finance side – “it’s rare to have a trainee in the children team because it’s quite complex stuff” – which typically deals with “finances surrounding divorces.” During their time in the seat, trainees got stuck into “straightforward applications to court, drafting emails to clients, and drafting briefs to counsel.” Sources found there’s “a nice natural progression through the seat” in that “as you pick things up, they give you more and more responsibility.” Typically, trainees were able to “do the first draft of pretty much whatever – it might come back covered in red pen, but it’s nice to have that first crack.” Interviewees also appreciated the chance to see “entire cases from start to finish” in this area.

“Helping with succession planning for farmers when retiring.”

The real estate/property team is particularly large in the Truro office so “pretty much everyone in Truro will do a seat in real estate.” The practice covers residential property, commercial property, social housing, and rural work, as well as some specialised bits to do with real estate and leases for mines and minerals work. The team recently represented developer LiveWest on matter concerning the redevelopment of a site to provide a library building and residential accommodation. The team also worked on Coastline Housing’s partnership with Legal and General Homes on the delivery of 600 homes per year in Cornwall. On the rural side of the work, trainees mentioned “helping buy farms” and “helping with succession planning for farmers when retiring.” When things picked up on the commercial front, sources also “helped general commercial landlords with buying and selling rental properties,” among other work. Trainees were able to run their own files in this seat, typically being charged with “pushing the transactions on.” Others highlighted drafting various real estate documents, as well as “negotiating with the other side and keeping in touch with the client.” One source emphasised that “everyone wants to support and give you as interesting an experience as possible.”

Dispute resolution covers areas including construction, property, business owners and commercial litigation. Recently, on the construction side, litigators acted for Lantoom Quarry in a dispute with Barratt Homes over alleged defective stone provided by the Quarry, which was used in the construction of 100 houses in Looe, in Cornwall. The team also acted for S D Plastering, a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, with regards to its general cooperation with the inquiry. Trainees came across “lots of contractual-based disputes, like debt recovery and breach of contract matters” as well as “construction trials” and “disputes with landowners on boundaries or restrictive covenant disputes.” Sources reported “drafting witness statements, letters of claim, and settlement agreements” as well as “sitting in on client meetings” and inevitable bundling. One interviewee also mentioned going “to the Royal Courts of Justice to sit with counsel for an in-person hearing.”

“Lots of M&A work with SMEs.”

Trainees in the firm’s corporate team flagged “lots of M&A work with SMEs” – one elaborated “we wouldn’t really do much above £20 million.” For example, the team recently acted for the shareholders of Montane on its sale to Inverleith for £11 million. The team also acted for the high-tech start-up on a £1 million secondary financing. The corporate team also includes a small restructuring arm. Trainees mentioned “working for the entire team, as opposed to just one partner,” which meant getting quite a broad range of tasks. Some were more administrative in nature, like drafting board minutes and share certificates, but there were also chances to be “fairly integral to the transactions, mainly when on smaller ones.” One source recalled doing the sale of a chip shop: “The partner said, ‘Can you just do this?’ so I did that whole transaction from drafting the asset purchase agreement to completion. It was nice to have that level of responsibility even if it was on a smaller matter.”

Trainee Life

In terms of the firm's culture, trainees said, “It’s industrious, but also very light-hearted.” One source elaborated that “everyone’s willing to have a chat, there’s always laughter going on, but everyone is serious about getting the job done and doing it well.” Even in a remote environment, interviewees emphasised the pervasive “‘everyone in it together’ attitude – the general consensus is that everyone is on the same team, which is pleasant.” This links to the firm’s ‘one firm’ strategy where “the ethos is to operate as one firm – we don’t try to separate work between the offices,” which trainees felt also positively impacted the culture. “We’re one big team – no one thinks they’re above anyone else.”

“There’s no point living here if you’re working 6am until 9pm. We’re encouraged to stop working and go to the beach!”

Balance also extended to the firm’s typical hours. “It’s flexible in the sense that if work needs to get done, you’ll stay later, but if my partner sees me on Teams beyond 5.30pm, unless it’s something critical they’ll say to do it in the morning.” Of course, like any law firm, sometimes there’ll be “a Court of Appeal deadline in two days’ time and you just go for it,” but more often than not, most agreed there isn’t “any hours pressure at all.” Many put this attitude down to the firm’s West Country location: “We live in such a nice place! There’s no point living here if you’re working 6am until 9pm. We’re encouraged to stop working and go to the beach!” 

The only possible downside to this dreamy coastal location was renumeration: “Firms outside of London are just not as well compensated, especially in the South West,” one admitted. That said, Stephens Scown operates under a shared ownership model, meaning “all profits over a certain minimum threshold will go into a pool, with half being retained by the firm and half being shared equally among all participating members of staff.” Sources felt this was in line with the overall attitude of being all in it together at the firm.

The process is relatively informal when it comes to qualification. “If you are veering towards a certain seat for qualification, you let the team leader know you’re interested in it, so they’ll have it on their radar.” Teams typically don’t require interviews for positions (unless several applicants go for the same area). Some found the lack of formal definition to be “a bit of a frustration” but in spite of that, most reckoned “they definitely try to keep trainees” and as such “quite a lot of people stay.” In 2021, the firm retained two of four qualifiers.

How to get into Stephens Scown

Coming soon.

Stephens Scown LLP

Curzon House,
Southernhay West,

  • Partners 55+
  • Associates 100+
  • Total trainees 18+
  • UK offices Exeter, Truro, St Austell 
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiter Rachael Smith 01392 210700
  • Training partner Hilary Pitts 
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 8
  • Applications pa: 300
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 320
  • Vacation scheme places pa: Variable
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: Rolling recruitment
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: August
  • Vacation scheme applications open: January
  • Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: March 
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £28,000
  • Second-year salary: £30,000
  • Post-qualification salary: Competitive
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: No
  • Maintenance grant pa: No

Firm profile

We tend to smile a lot at Stephens Scown. Our values (commercial, dynamic, friendly, integrity, reliable, and supportive) are at the core of everything we do. We take great pride in our corporate responsibility and our commitment to the local communities guides our approach. We are proud to be ranked for the seventh year running as one of the UK’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For and ranked 8th in the Top 20 Best Law Firms to Work For in the UK. Based in the South West but with a client base that stretches across the UK, our flexible and innovative way of working enables us to bring the very best professional legal expertise to our clients wherever they are. We have band 1 Chambers rankings in a number of practice areas.

Main areas of work

Corporate, Family, Dispute Resolution, Real Estate, IP & IT, Planning, Employment & Private Client

Training opportunitites

Your training contract with us will be fulfilling, challenging and rewarding. Undertaking three seats in a variety of contentious and non-contentious areas, you will be able to discuss your preferred choices and be actively involved in your development and progression. High-profile and challenging work, extensive client exposure and important responsibilities will all come your way. You will be positively encouraged to think outside the box, be creative and come up with ideas that the firm can take forward. You will also be part of our Professional Marketing Group where you will share ideas, learn new skills and be part of the firm’s marketing & business development plan.

Visit our website and have a look at some of our current trainees which will give you a great insight into what is on offer.

Vacation scheme

We offer work experience opportunities for Pathway to Law students and students in their 2nd or 3rd year at university.

Other benefits

Private medical insurance, group life assurance scheme, auto-enrolment pension scheme, employee assistance programme, 25 days holiday, plus bank and public holidays, day off for your birthday, unique shared ownership and bonus scheme, performance related bonus scheme, flexible working and family friendly policies, childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, opportunity to join a number of social clubs, enhanced maternity and paternity pay.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing 

We are continuously committed to eliminating discrimination in all its forms, and to promoting equality and diversity. Our aim is to create a culture of inclusivity and tolerance, to celebrate and embrace our differences and the contributions we all make. We treat everyone equally – and with the same courtesy, dignity and respect.

All our people receive equality and diversity training when they join the firm, and at regular intervals during their employment with us. This helps to ensure we don’t discriminate in the services we offer, or in the way we run our business. We treat complaints of discrimination very seriously, and have sound procedures in place to deal with any undesired conduct in this area.

The health and wellbeing of our people is paramount to us and our business. We are a Mindful Employer – We believe a happy team gives great client service. Our initiatives are all designed to break down barriers between teams and roles. To support wellbeing of our people, we run a series of initiatives from wellbeing surveys and check-in calls, to team and firm-wide socials and clubs such as choirs, crafts and sports clubs. Our flexible working and family friendly policies ensure our people can enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, those who are in need of additional support can benefit from access to our Employee Assistance Programme and Counselling Sessions.

Social media

Twitter @StephensScown

Facebook StephensScown

Instagram: Stephens_Scown

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 2)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: SME/Owner-managed Businesses (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Social Housing (Band 2)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)