Our Way of Working
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, repeating the same type of transaction many times over.
As a trainee in one of our groups, you will work on the full range of transactions on which the group advises. 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 an equity issue. In dispute resolution, you could attend a hearing on a 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. It provides challenge and interest, exactly what great minds need. It also allows you to develop deeper relationships with clients, because you get to know their businesses better. This level of insight can make an enormous difference for both parties and will help you play a guiding role in changing commercial and legal times.
That said, it is hard work. You have to cover more ground. But with our collegiate approach, the support is always there. The freedom to choose your own direction and the autonomy this flexibility brings more than make up for it.
Our International Approach
Slaughter and May is a leading global firm with a worldwide corporate, commercial, disputes and financing practice. The strength of our global practice is reflected both in the multi-jurisdictional nature of our work and our international client base. The firm is trusted adviser to some of the largest global companies in the world, advising on cross-border deals every single day
Our approach is shaped by the fundamental principle that complex transactions, wherever in the world, require first-class legal expertise rooted in a deep knowledge of local practice, procedures and culture; providing clients with a first-class professional service, combining technical excellence with commercial excellence.
We work with the very best law firms across the globe to support our clients, handpicked to meet the needs of each matter, to deliver integrated legal advice. Fundamental to our business model is the ability to work in partnership with other law firms – this is how we have built our successful global practice. In 2020 we worked with over 230 law firms in more than 85 jurisdictions. This frequency of overseas engagement gives our lawyers, including trainees, exposure to many international contacts and local insights that would be not possible in a ‘one stop shop’ equivalent global firm.
Our lawyers advise clients globally, which means they travel extensively. In the US, for example, we advise over 100 of the US Fortune 500 companies and other multinational businesses with significant US interests, working closely with independent Wall Street firms and other major firms across the country. Major US clients include GE, The Walt Disney Company and Credit Karma. Elsewhere, our clients range from SoftBank in Japan, to Sasol in South Africa and Cemex in Mexico.
We also have Country Teams which trainees are invited to join, allowing exposure to country strategy, relationship development and a wider network within the firm.
Many of our trainees and associates also have the opportunity to work abroad, either in our offices or in one of our global relationship firms. 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. We also host an intake of secondees from our overseas relationship firms twice yearly in our London office, giving our own lawyers a chance to meet and work alongside peers from around the world on a day-to-day basis.
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 147 different degree courses, 70 different universities and 45 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 use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System across all our trainee recruitment activity. The system helps us identify high-potential candidates by putting applicants’ grades and achievements in the context of their social and educational background. We benefit from talented people who think differently and we strive to ensure that people feel comfortable being themselves at work. We work with a number of external organisations to ensure we are recruiting the most talented individuals from a broad range of backgrounds.
We are proud to have been recognised in the top 75 UK employers for social mobility 2020 and the top 100 best employers for LGBT people. Two of our partners also feature in the Empower 100 Ethnic Minority Executives lists which identifies senior people of colour who are leading by example and removing barriers on the pathway to success for ethnic minority employees.
Our aim is to ensure that our talent remains diverse throughout the pipeline to partnership. In addition to numerous training programmes for the professional and personal development of our people, we provide targeted opportunities for female, BAME and LGBT employees, including mentoring schemes, development programmes and coaching sessions.
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.
Our View on Time
Great ideas aren't measured by clocks.
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.
We have already mentioned how an unconventional approach to billing can inspire collaboration. But there are many other ways in which we create a strong sense of togetherness and loyalty. We go to great lengths to support one another – we are fair, respectful and supportive.
Many of our people choose to spend their entire career with us. Of the partners in London, a large proportion joined as trainees, others worked as associates here before being elected to our partnership. There have been just two lateral partner hires in London – generally we do not elect anyone from outside the firm directly into partnership. This in itself fosters unity. It is a lockstep partnership: we have never merged with another firm, and we grow together by working for our mutual benefit.
We also support each other by respecting autonomy through trust. We place our emphasis less on how work is done and more on the fact that it is done – on time and to standard. There is no 'face-time' culture, which means that people are better enabled to live a full life outside work, leading to a better life within work too. We encourage all of our people to take personal responsibility to help us achieve our responsible business objectives and commitments.
People remain loyal if they are challenged, rewarded and happy. For some, the important thing will be the interesting nature of the work. For others, it will be the collaborative ethos, friendly atmosphere or the pro bono opportunities to use their legal skills to make a positive social impact.
We think that the loyalty the firm shows its people is an important factor. We believe that's also reflected in the high percentage of trainees who remain with us on qualifying. We do things right, with integrity and with consideration.
People often talk of the sense of belonging at Slaughter and May and, while it is hard to pinpoint exactly where this comes from, one enduring characteristic of the firm is that the people here just do not let each other down. This is a rare and valuable asset.
A network of networks
The firm has eight diversity networks run by employees and supported by partners. Collectively, they form a Network of Networks that work collaboratively with each other and the firm to create a more open-minded and inclusive working environment:
Christian Network, DIVERSE (our network that celebrates and promotes ethnic and racial diversity), J-Net (our Jewish network), Muslim Network, Family Network, PRISM (our LGBT+ network), Thrive (our mental health and wellbeing network) and GEN - Gender Equality Network.