We caught up with William, Oxford University graduate in Physics and now Trainee Solicitor at Slaughter and May to find out what it's like to work at one of the world's most prestigious law firms.
What sets Slaughter and May apart from the other law firms?
This is tough for me to answer as Slaughter and May is my only reference point but I’d have to say the main difference, when compared to the experiences of friends at other firms, is the firm’s multi-specialist approach.
The firm does not place trainees into specialised groups which only focus on certain transactions or sectors. Instead, each group will be involved in a wide range of transactions representing a wide range of clients. For example, my first seat was in one of our financing groups and I worked on a wind farm project, financing a life insurance securitisation, on the sale of a portfolio of residential mortgages and on retail banking structural reform.
This keeps things interesting as you need to be learning new concepts constantly. When I was considering which firms to apply to I didn’t really understand the significance of this breadth of focus but have come to really appreciate it since joining.
Why do you think a graduate should choose to start their career at Slaughter and May?
I think that being a Trainee at Slaughter and May is a great foundation for a career in law (or for any career for that matter) and there are many reasons for this, including:
- The multi-specialist approach which builds a comprehensive knowledge base that can be applied to more specialised areas. You may not know what area of law or what types of transactions you enjoy the most. Being able to work on whatever kind of deal comes through the door, as opposed to shipping it off to a specialist group, means you are better able to identify what sort of lawyer you would like to develop into.
- Due to the nature of the firm’s clients the work is often innovative and high-profile as well as always being interesting. This can be daunting as you’re never really doing the same thing twice but also means there’s never a dull day.
How would you describe the Slaughter and May company culture?
I’d say that, above all, it is a supportive and collaborative environment. I think this comes from the shared commitment to the quality of the service but also the firm’s unique approach to billing. As the value of the service is not purely based on the time recorded there is no ‘face time’ culture whereby you feel obligated to stick around even if there is no work to be done. This is something that you really appreciate as a Trainee.
What qualities does a typical Slaughter and May employee have?
It sounds like a cliché but I’m not sure there is a typical Slaughter and May employee, or at least not a particularly narrow archetype. However, there are broad shared characteristics, such as a general intellectual curiosity, commitment to providing a top quality work product and a focus on the commercial outcome for the client.
Do you have any advice for applicants to the Vacation Schemes or Training Contracts?
You’ve probably heard this a lot but just be genuine. If you’ve got through to the interview your academics are probably strong enough so the two partners interviewing you will be looking to get to know who you are, as opposed to merely your technical or commercial knowledge.
With this in mind, I’d suggest you really think about your motivation and reasoning for wanting to become a city lawyer - canned responses are easy to spot.
Why is diversity important and what have you seen Slaughter and May do to create a diverse workforce?
One of the mantras used in recruitment materials when I was applying to the firm was ‘great minds think differently’. I think this is an important point in a professional services firm as clients wants the best possible advice and this cannot be achieved if expertise remains static or if there is a homogeneity of thought or experience. A good way of achieving a dynamic pool of expertise and experience within the firm is to recruit the best people from all sorts of backgrounds.
One of the ways that the firm develops an inclusive culture is through its ‘Network of Networks’. This is comprised of the Christian network, DIVERSE network (a firm wide network that promotes ethnic and racial diversity), J-Net (where Jewish and general issues are discussed), the Muslim network, the Parent’s network, PRISM (Slaughter and May’s LGBT group) and the Women’s network. Each of these networks organise a range of activities, from large events, such as hosting drinks or arranging speakers to present at the firm, to smaller gestures, such as the Muslim network providing dates in the pods at the end of Ramadan.
Externally the firm works with a number of organisations such as Stonewall, the 30% Club and the Business Disability Forum.
What was the most important thing you learnt in your first week?
How to work the coffee machine.
In terms of the actual work, it was getting to grips with the difference between the commercial application of legal points, compared to the academic treatment that new joiners may be used to, having come from university and the LPC.