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Who we are: Slaughter and May

Book open Reading time: 6 mins

What to expect

Slaughter and May is one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. We advise on high-profile and often landmark international transactions. Our excellent and 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 practice 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.

During the two-year training contract, trainees turn their hand to a broad range of work, taking an active role in four, five or six legal groups while sharing an office with a partner or experienced associate. All trainees spend at least two six-month seats in our market leading corporate, commercial and financing groups. Subject to gaining some contentious experience, they choose how to spend the remaining time. 

Our view on time

How do you create an atmosphere in which people share their expertise and time willingly with one another? How do you make it collaborative, not counter-productively competitive? How do you create an environment in which the quality of the work takes precedence over how long it takes?

The answer to these questions is to leave the clocks outside. Although we record time, we have no billing or time targets. This means our lawyers are not forced to compete with each other to find the jobs or clients that bill the most hours. Equally, we are not forced to live under the stress of finding someone to bill for a set number of hours a day. This way, people have everything to gain from being selfless.

We don't necessarily bill our clients by the hour either – we're flexible on that too, which allows us to bill for the value we bring if it is appropriate. Some ideas take a matter of seconds but are capable of saving companies millions of pounds a year. The type of work we do is not always measurable in minutes.

This is not done for an easier life, it's done to achieve better results. We believe our system provides greater emphasis on quality, greater efficiency and engenders a firm-wide ethos of sharing expertise. It means people have time to offer advice, which for a trainee is exceptionally good news.

The 'open-door' policy is more than management-speak here, it genuinely exists. You will find that even senior people are happy to help you.

While talking about clocks, it's worth mentioning that, as at all City law firms, now and then there are periods of intense effort – that's the nature of the job. Most trainees experience this at least once in their first year: long hours, long nights, maybe even a long weekend. The positive side is that we have no 'face-time' culture. If you've no work to do at the end of the day, you go home. We don't keep people hanging around twiddling their thumbs.

Our way of working

Our multi-specialist approach

Many people believe that, at the highest end of law, you can only be an expert in one very specific area. We disagree. There are many benefits to broadening your horizons.

At Slaughter and May we don't pigeonhole our lawyers — all are trained to be multi-specialists across a broad range of legal matters. This is in sharp contrast to the experience that you might have at other City firms where, as a trainee in, say, a finance group, you may well work in a very narrow area of finance.

As a trainee in one of our groups, you will work on a full range of transactions on which the group advises over a three- or six-month period. In a corporate group, for example, one month you could help guide a client through the defence of a hostile takeover and the next you could be advising that same client on a bond issue. In Disputes and Investigations, you could attend a court hearing on a complex civil litigation matter in the morning, then meet a client to prepare for a mediation that afternoon. In the short term, this will enable you to make a more informed decision about which practice group you should join on qualification. In the long term, it makes for a far more fulfilling career.

We give our lawyers a challenging, varied and interesting workload, which is exactly what great minds need. The key point, however, is the resulting depth of knowledge of your client. Instead of repeating the same type of transaction many times over, you will develop profound relationships with clients that are enriched over time as you get to know their businesses better. It is the quality of these relationships that defines the way we do business around the world. This level of insight can make the world of difference for both parties: you'll play a guiding role in changing commercial and legal times.

Is there a downside? Of course. It's hard work. You have to cover more ground. But with our collegiate approach, the support is always there to make it possible. And the freedom to choose your own direction, the opportunity to have a more stimulating working life and the autonomy this flexibility brings all more than make up for it.

Our people 

Strength from diversity

We can talk about philosophies, systems and differences, but only one thing truly makes us who we are, and that's our people. We value diversity and individuality very highly – different perspectives are crucial when it comes to providing innovative advice. You will find graduates from over 92 different degree courses, 84 different universities and 32 different nationalities at Slaughter and May. But there are shared qualities that help bind us together.

When selecting trainees we certainly look beyond their academics. This is a people business and we work together in teams, sometimes under considerable pressure for lengthy periods. We need individuals with energy and spark who can relate to those around them. We like common sense, integrity and drive. We like people who have an interesting take on things and who have a range of interests outside of the law. We like people with resolve who are able to show grit under pressure. We also like an awareness of the business world and backdrop, because this is key for our clients.

Best of all for helping clients, confounding the opposition and managing the pressure? A sense of humour. Try surviving without one.

We aim to employ the brightest minds regardless of what or where they studied. We benefit from talented people who think differently and we strive to ensure that people feel comfortable about being themselves at work.

You don't need to have studied law to join us. About half of the trainee solicitors we recruit studied law as undergraduates. Among us you will find historians, biologists, linguists, psychologists, chemists, musicians and many others.

Diversity of thought, perspective and experience is invaluable in providing creative and cutting-edge advice to our clients, and it also fosters an open-minded and varied work environment. We believe that it is our ability to build collaborative and diverse teams that helps us to succeed. That inclusivity enhances our business performance.

International approach

The vast majority of our transactions are international and cross-border in nature. Our lawyers service international clients worldwide, which means they travel extensively. But our international work is driven by the fundamental principle that complex transactions require first-class legal expertise rooted in a deep knowledge of local practice, procedures and culture.

We have offices in the major financial centres of London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Beijing. In other jurisdictions, we prefer to remain agile by leading unified, hand-picked teams of lawyers from market-leading law firms.

All the firms we work with across the world (including our European 'Best Friends' have a reputation for excellence and independence that matches our own. We have made long-term investments to help foster connections at all levels between our lawyers and those at our partner firms across the world: the level of communication and understanding runs deep.

Many of our trainees and associates have the opportunity to work abroad, either in our offices or in one of the firms we work closely with overseas. We believe that our secondments are especially beneficial because they give our lawyers the chance to experience a working culture very different from our own. Recent secondments have included Australia, Brussels, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and the USA (mainly New York).

If you'd like to check out Slaughter and May's current opportunities, visit their profile page here.