Slaughter and May
Somewhat of an anomaly, this Magic Circle firm has a smaller headcount and fewer international offices than most. However, Slaughter and May has secured domestic domination as the most profitable firm in the City and has never lost a partner directly to another firm. How’s that for a little Magic?
Full of quality.
- Biggest and best work around
- Excellent informal training from supervisors and associates
- The name to have on your CV
- High degree of responsibility from the start
- Hierarchical structure and rigid ‘up or out’ policy
- High pressure and expectations
- Lack of transparency on firm decisions
- Very difficult to make partner
Salary: Starting salary for trainee solicitors is £39,000, rising to £44,000 in the second year of training.
Vacancies: We recruit 75-80 trainee solicitors each year.
Work Experience: We run a one-week scheme at Easter and 3, three-week schemes during the summer for law and non-law students in the penultimate year of their degree course (i.e. those in the second year of a three-year course or the third year of a four-year course). Each scheme takes place in our London office. During these schemes you will share an office with an associate in one of our legal groups. The associate will involve you as much as possible in their work. There will also be a trainee solicitor assigned to you. The trainee will help you to settle in and will also be available throughout your stay to answer any questions and assist with any tasks you may be given. As well as getting involved in legal work and conducting hands-on legal research, you will take part in training, workshops and interactive case studies. There will also be social activities arranged to give you opportunities to talk with partners and trainees outside the office.
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Slaughter and May has secured domestic domination as the most profitable law firm in the City – quite a feat given it has a much smaller head count than its Magic Circle rivals and a relatively small international footprint. In fact, Slaughter and May competes successfully with just a fraction of its competitors’ workforce – a meagre 711 lawyers worldwide, spread over just four offices.
At the heart of the firm is a strong corporate practice advising clients on M&A and finance. No other UK firm has advised more FTSE 100 companies or garnered as many clients on the London Stock Exchange. The corporate practice is a major contributing factor to the firm’s success, with the bulk of revenue coming from acquisitions, capital markets, private equity deals and demergers. Slaughter and May is also a leading expert on competition and tax matters.
The London partners all hold equity in the firm and are paid according to total firm profit, rather than by individual performance or contribution over the year. The partnership is actually somewhat sacred: Slaughter and May has the distinction of never having hired a lateral partner from another law firm (they’re all home-grown) and never having lost a partner to a rival. How’s that for a little Magic?
Ever since its inception in 1889 – by founding members William Slaughter and William May – the firm has had high-profile clients. The firm can even count household names, Alfred Nobel and Joseph Pulitzer, amongst its enviable early roster. These prestigious names, combined with a client list including more merchant banks than any other firm, led to a period of prosperity in the early 20th century, thus creating strong foundations that withstood both World Wars. By the 1980s, Slaughter and May had cemented its position as the UK’s leading law firm, advising Thatcher’s Conservative Government on the privatisations of British Aerospace, British Airways, British Gas, British Petroleum, British Steel and British Telecom.
After opening offices in Hong Kong and Brussels – in 1974 and 1989 respectively – Slaughter and May concertedly eschewed the rapid international expansion tactic of its competitors, and closed its offices in New York and Singapore. However, this certainly doesn’t mean the firm limits its business to just the UK. Through a network of 'best friends', Slaughter and May uses referrals – firms independent from them in other regions – to service its international deals. These relationships, with firms such as Hengeler Mueller in Germany, and Bredin Prat in France, are strengthened through joint training programmes and exchanges of personnel.
Slaughter and May may be at the top of its field, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have time for the community or the environment. The firm provides pro bono advice to the Islington Law Centre, Battersea Law Centre, LawWorks for Community Groups, and Royal Courts of Justice Advice Bureau, amongst others. Complementing this free legal support and advice, Slaughter and May solicitors also volunteer in non-legal scenarios, offering mentoring and financial support to local schools and their students.
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As one of the industry’s most prestigious players, Slaughter and May has the luxury of choosing only the very best from the hoards of applicants vying for a coveted trainee spot at the firm. This means that top grades, a variety of extracurricular activities, and a minimum of a high 2:1 are essential. Out of the 1,800 applicants Slaughter and May receives each year, about a quarter will make it to the interview stage. The firm has two annual intakes – March and September – and hires approximately 75-80 trainees across the course of the year. Around half of the graduate/trainee intake is made up of non-law grads who have converted to law by studying the GDL/CPE.
The firm is consistently listed in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and solicitors tell us that the ‘high degree of responsibility’, ‘the big deals that get newspaper headlines’, as well as the fact that ‘trainees (by and large) are treated as equals’ help to make Slaughter and May a popular choice. Applicants are expected to be confident, articulate, and display ‘excellent attention to detail’, while ‘demonstrating a certain amount of analytical thinking and common sense’. Though ‘flawless’ academic credentials are a prerequisite, the firm looks beyond just Oxbridge candidates and ‘is actively recruiting from a wider range of universities’.
Successful applicants will spend time in four or five seats, with all doing at least two in corporate and finance departments. And for those with a wanderlust, yes, there are opportunities for seats abroad; however, they are pretty competitive. Those that do manage to secure a foreign secondment may be posted to the firm's Hong Kong office or to best friend firms in enviable European locations such as Paris or Milan, or perhaps as far afield as Tokyo or Sydney.
In contrast to many of its rivals, Slaughter and May’s hiring process is relatively simple and straightforward. Candidates are required to complete a brief online form and submit a covering letter and CV. If successful, applicants are simply invited to complete a brief written exercise and then have an interview with two partners; there's no HR preliminary, no assessment days, no role plays, and no psychometric testing. The interview itself is described by many as a relaxed, informal – though sometimes challenging – chat, where the partners try to get to know you. With interviews lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, expect to talk about anything and everything on your CV: from A-Levels and module choices, to hobbies and interests.
Current trainees say there are two parts to the interview: first, a discussion of your CV, reasons for choosing law, and your motivation behind applying to Slaughter and May specifically. Then candidates are given a newspaper article to discuss. Issues discussed in actual interviews have ranged from linguistics to the role of the NHS in drug prices to Dante’s Inferno. What the partners really want to learn from the interview is that you can argue a point well whilst also displaying humour and common sense. One trainee adds that the firm wants candidates that can ‘think on your feet, speak confidently and think independently’.
Slaughter and May runs work experience schemes at Easter and in the summer. Both law and non-law students can apply for these schemes, as long as you are in your penultimate year of study. Successful applicants can expect to be involved in some proper work, do a bit of research and participate in some workshops and training. Furthermore, the firm also holds two-day workshops over Christmas, open only to final year students and graduates. In addition Slaughter and May runs an open day at Easter for first year law students.
You can find out even more about the firm and the opportunities it offers graduates on the "Slaughter and May Trainee Careers" Facebook page.
Slaughter and May Graduate Recruitment Info
Trainee Recruitment Team
Tel: +44 (0)20 7600 1200
Training Contracts: 31st July 2014 (Law)
Non-Law applicants should apply from October onwards. Places are filled on a rolling basis.
Easter: Applications open 4th November 2013 – 13th December 2013
Summer: Applications open 4th November 2013 – 10th January 2014
Christmas workshops: Applications open 2nd September 2013 - 19th October 2013
1st Year Law Open Day: Applications open 1st October 2012 - 10th January 2014
No. of lawyers firm-wide: Approx. 711
London partners: 103
London associates: 400+
London trainee intake: 75-80
London trainees retained: Around 90%
Approx. no. of applications per year: 1,800
SLAUGHTER AND MAY: 2014 LAW RANKINGS
# 1 in Top 50 Law Firms (8.79/10)
# 2 in Green Initiatives (8.07/10)
# 2 in Trainee Retention (8.33/10)
# 3 in Formal Training (8.82/10)
# 6 in Level of Stress (5.92/10)
# 9 in Salary (7.89/10)
# 10 in Hours (7.44/10)
# 10 in Overall Satisfaction (8.32/10)
# 11 in Partner & Solicitor Relations (6.67/10)
# 12 in Career Prospects (5.33/10)
# 12 in Interview Process (7.58/10)
# 13 in Offices & Dress (8.19/10)
# 14 in Pro Bono (7.74/10)
1st year trainee: £39,000
2nd year trainee: £44,000
Newly qualified: £63,000
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Clever people with lots of extra curricular activitiesSecond year trainee, LondonHelpful?
The people. It was the most impressive in terms of how efficiently the interviews were conducted and everyone I met was polite and professional.Second year trainee, LondonHelpful?
I'm not particularly stressed as a trainee but I get the impression it gets more stressful as you progress.First year trainee, LondonHelpful?
Had a well-versed view on law firms and the City (long hours, hard work etc.) before starting work, so few surprises.Newly qualified solicitor, LondonHelpful?