Shoosmiths’ wide national network and unique practice mix set it apart from its rivals. Noted for its property work, the firm's best known clients rank amongst the biggest names in retail, automotive and finance, and include major players such as McDonald's, Volkswagen and Zurich.
Friendly with quality work and clients.
- Good amount of responsibility and client interaction – you can be the primary client contact by your third or fourth seat
- Open, approachable offices where everyone is treated fairly
- Good work/life balance
- Excellent supervision for trainees
- Can be little client contact in some seats
- Limited socialising due to locations - some are on business parks
- No international seats or London training contracts
Shoosmiths is the original national UK law firm. And though it had a nationwide network and successful lines in debt recovery and personal injury by the beginning of the 21st century, Shoosmiths’ real steps into the big league came with the opening of a new site in the primary business centre of Birmingham, in 2003. Outposts followed in Nottingham in 2007 and Manchester and London in 2008, adding to its offices in Milton Keynes, Basingstoke, Reading, Solent and Northampton HQ. The firm most recently completed a merger with Archibald, Campbell & Harley in Edinburgh.
Shoosmiths has since grown steadily, building on a fairly unique practice mix that sets it apart from its rivals. The increase in personnel provides a solid indication of Shoosmiths’ growth since the turn of the millennium, with the number of partners almost doubling to over 100 and the staff swelling to more than 1,300.
In 2002, Shoosmiths started bagging contracts with blue-chip companies. Despite being relatively unglamorous work, these deals demonstrated to the industry Shoosmiths’ proficiency in dealing with complex legal matters. Building on this reputation, Shoosmiths has since become known for property work, dealing with PI for clients of insurance companies and, most recently, its corporate deals – where it boasts successful mid-market M&A and AIM practices.
There are a number of factors that set Shoosmiths apart from other leading law firms. As well as opening its partnership ranks to non-lawyers, Shoosmiths has an unusual practice mix. Today, Shoosmiths’ operations are broken into five ostensibly standard legal areas: commercial property, real estate, corporate/commercial, employment, and dispute resolution. However, few firms have such sizeable commercial teams, property expertise and practices in debt recovery, marine law, personal injury, private client and mortgages. As such, the majority of Shoosmiths’ clients use the firm for specific areas rather than as a one-stop legal shop. The firm’s client roster includes a broad range of household names, such as McDonalds, Next, Volkswagen, Nissan, HBOS, ING Direct, Zurich and the Open University.
Shoosmiths devotes considerable resources to making sure there is diversity within its workforce, and was subsequently ranked number one in the Diversity League Table compiled by the Black Solicitors’ Network for two consecutive years. Ethnic minority and gender diversity are considered across partners, trainees and paralegals. The recruitment of women is positive, as one trainee notes that ‘every year of trainees has a larger number of females’.Read all 322 employee quotes
Shoosmiths may not be an international law firm, but it certainly is a big national player. With ten offices scattered across the country, Shoosmiths has over 100 partners on board and can boast an overall personnel of more than 1,300. If you fancy becoming part of the Shoosmiths family, you can expect an intake of up to 20 trainees – which of course means it won’t be easy to land a training contract unless you fulfil some of the basics.
Like most law firms, Shoosmiths is after candidates with good communications skills on both a written and verbal level. ‘The firm doesn't really look for a type of candidate’ says one trainee, but applicants should ‘be keen to learn, reliable and hardworking’. A 2:1 is desired and although Shoosmiths doesn't recruit from specific universities, the firm is eager to hire ‘people with local connections’ – so if you’ve gone to a uni in the area, make it work to your advantage. Also remember to show off your organisational qualities as Shoosmiths wants candidates who can work independently and under minimal supervision.
Trainees do four six-month seats in various departments. There’s a standard of five departments available ‘in most of the offices’, including real estate, commercial, litigation, employment and corporate. However, you can also pick some niche areas such as ‘marine litigation, lender services, regulation and IP’. International opportunities don’t currently exist, but we’re told ‘there are always client secondments on offer for trainees’. Although there are no compulsory seats, trainees will have to sit in three separate areas, which include contentious and non-contentious work.
If this sounds good to you, then begin by completing the firm’s online application form. If you make the cut you can look forward to being invited to the national assessment day – which usually consists of a group discussion, role play activities, a written exercise, and an interview with up to two people. One successful applicant described the interview as ‘quite relaxed’ with ‘a lot of competency-based questions, in addition to the usual questions about why law, and why Shoosmiths in particular’. So ensure you come armed with a host of answers to the typical competency questions. You’ll probably be pleased to hear there won’t be any psychometric tests to take, which means you can concentrate on all the other areas of the assessment. For the group exercise in particular, it’s important to be seen – so don’t be shy and speak up. If you’re successful with your application, you will be invited back for a number of informal ‘meet the team’ events, which should put you at ease before you embark on your training contract.
If you’re after a career with Shoosmiths, keep in mind that ‘vacation schemes provide for potentially easier access to a training contract’. The firm offers a two-week vacation scheme, which runs during the summer from June to August. It’s definitely a good way to get your foot in the door so don’t miss the opportunity. Law students in their penultimate year and non-law students in their final year or above can apply for the summer scheme. You are likely to spend your time in one or two of Shoosmiths’ departments working next to partners, lawyers and current trainees who are said to ‘really make the effort to get you involved’ during your time there.
Shoosmiths Graduate Recruitment Info
Samantha Hope, Graduate Recruitment Manager
Training Contracts: 31st July 2013
Vacation Scheme: 28th February 2013
No. of legal advisers firm-wide: 550
No. of partners: 130
Trainee intake: 20 per year
Trainees retained: 100% (2012)
Approx. no. of applications per year: 1,600
SHOOSMITHS: 2013 LAW RANKINGS
# 1 (Tie) in Career Prospects for Solicitors (8.00/10)
# 3 in Satisfaction with Work (8.43/10)
# 4 in Diversity (8.90/10)
# 4 in Solicitor Training (8.67/10)
# 4 in Partner & Solicitor Relations (8.67/10)
# 4 in Trainee Retention (8.14/10)
# 6 (Tie) in Overall Satisfaction (8.50/10)
# 7 in Green Initiatives (7.90/10)
# 8 in Selectivity (8.40/10
# 9 (Tie) in Culture (8.33/10)
# 9 (Tie) in Formal Training (8.29/10)
# 11 in Hours (7.75/10)
# 12 in Offices (7.80/10)
# 13 in Pro Bono (5.33/10)
1st year trainee: £24,000
2nd year trainee: £25,000
Newly qualified: £38,500
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Wills, Family & Wealth
The firm looks to hire commercially aware, confident individuals. My tip would be to be yourself. To prepare don't just spend time reading the FT, etc. Think carefully about the skills you have and experience you have gained and be able to talk confidently about them.First year trainee, SouthamptonHelpful?
CommuniCare pro bono legal advice clinic. Everyone is encouraged to get involved in CommuniCare which is attended by everyone from trainees to senior partners.Second year trainee, ReadingHelpful?
Last year the retention rate was 100% which will hopefully continue this year.Second year trainee, SouthamptonHelpful?
Depends on work loads.Newly qualified solicitor, BirminghamHelpful?
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1 Ropemaker Street
Tel: 03700 86 3000
Fax: 03700 86 3001
No. of UK offices: 10
Please note Training Contracts are not offered in the Basingstoke or London office. Only those with a qualifying LLB in Scotland can apply for a training contract in Edinburgh.