The Legal Cheek View
One of the larger US firms in London, offering 17 training contracts each year, global finance-focused Shearman & Sterling is often seen by top students as an alternative to the magic circle — or even, dare we say it in these days of soaring US firm salaries, a step up. The firm stands out from its MoneyLaw rivals in that it has deep roots in London, which date back to 1972. Accordingly, the office has a distinct culture and a training framework that is as well developed as most UK firms.
Shearman trainee solicitors report some of the highest satisfaction levels of any rookies in the capital in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, with associates apparently making “make a conscious effort to give trainees more interesting work”. The trade off is higher levels of responsibility than at many firms. Development is furthered by the keenness of the firm to send trainees on international secondments, with over half of the current cohort having done one or spent time on firm business overseas. Popular locations include New York, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Brussels.
Partners — who make mind-boggling sums of money (see below) — are some of the friendliest in the City, but also have high expectations. Trainees need to be able to work in intense bursts when required, but aren’t expected to put in 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 pretty respectable work-life balance scores, achieved in spite of the sometimes very long hours its lawyers are required to work.
The perks are impressive and well targeted: for example, a £30 food allowance for those working after 8pm 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.