Since 2010 revenue in Shearman & Sterling’s London office has grown by a whopping 63% to hit £136 million. So while the New York-headquartered firm has a long track record in London, which dates back to 1972, it’s now a very different proposition to even a decade ago. What’s more, senior partner Creighton Condon has earmarked the UK as a place for further expansion, commenting earlier this year that in spite of Brexit, “We see room for growth in London”.
Condon’s words followed the announcement that Shearman’s most recent profit per equity partner figure had jumped by 18% to a massive $2.165 million (£1.74 million) on the back of a sustained period of global revenue growth. Leading UK firms, few of which can match these numbers, may be looking over the shoulders nervously. Certainly, the top law students in this country are looking ever more to the likes of Shearman, which raised its newly qualified solicitor pay rate this year to a cool £105,000.
A training framework as well developed as most UK firms is, perhaps, just as important as the cash: Shearman is among the highest rated US outfits for training in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
The 15 trainees that the firm takes on each year are given “associate level responsibility” in a culture that encourages you to “figure it out yourself and if OK then to just deal with it” and “if not to find help and advice”. The work is generally high quality, but “as the cheapest fee earners at the firm sometimes efficiency dictates that you do less thrilling tasks”. A few egos aside, peers are very supportive and partners approachable.
Development is furthered by the keenness of the firm to send trainees on international secondments, with over two thirds of the current cohort having done one or spent time on firm business overseas. Popular locations include New York, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brussels.
Needless to say, rookies work hard for their MoneyLaw salaries. We are told that trainees need to be able to work in intense bursts when required, with hours that are sometimes “brutal”, especially in the transactional departments. But there is no expectation of face time when it’s quiet. One reports: “Stamina is a skill you learn quickly, but if there is no work to be done associates will wonder why you are sticking around.”
This philosophy accounts for Shearman’s reasonable average arrive and leave the office times of, respectably, 9:33am and 8:17pm, which equate to an average working day of under 11 hours.
The perks are impressive and well targeted: for example, a £30 food allowance for those working after 8pm and at the weekends is among the most generous in the City, and a smart way to make up for Shearman’s lack of a canteen. To burn off all those Deliveroo meals, the firm offers a high subsidy for Virgin Active membership that reduces the cost by around two thirds.
Shearman lawyers also seem to enjoy the office’s location on the City-Shoreditch borders — even if the office itself is rather average for a City firm — often popping across to the artisan coffee shops when they fancy a break from the firm Nespresso machines.