The Legal Cheek View

Since Shoosmiths was founded in Northampton in 1845, it has gradually conquered the country. Once known for its out-of-town bases in locations such as the Solent and Milton Keynes, the firm is now made up largely of city centre sites, in hubs including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Reading, Nottingham and Edinburgh.

This is a disciplined, focused business, run by a combination of Shoosmiths loyalists and, increasingly, partners brought in from City law firms. Shoosmiths is undergoing somewhat of a transformation; ditching its classic green colour in favour of new sleek, black design – featuring an infinity-style logo – and repositioning its conveyancing arm under the brand ‘Swiitch’ (no, we promise that’s not a typo). The revamp comes as a 7% rise in global revenue takes the firm’s turnover to over £194 million, marking an impressive nine years of consecutive growth. Profit per equity (PEP) remained steady at around £675,000.

Growth has been particularly strong in Leeds and Belfast, with both offices almost doubling their headcounts in recent years, while firmwide Shoosmiths counts around 230 partners in 14 different offices. Internally, the firm has been growing its key practice areas, adding to its litigation and real estate teams, as well as creating a new equity capital markets team in London. Those with a private client interest however may wish to stay clear, as the firm recently sold off its wealth protection group to Rothley Law. In 2019, the firm increased its training contract numbers by over a third, from 22 to 30, and extended its TC programme to London, where it has a swanky office in St Paul’s. Outside of the capital, Shoosmiths has expanded its trainee solicitor scheme to Belfast and, last year, opened its very first international office in Brussels. It now offers around 36 TCs annually.

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Again, Shoosmiths scores well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Trainees are said to get “good quality work and lots of responsibility from day one”, without ever being left feeling unsupported. Although the quality of the training is said to be very dependent on your supervisor and department, “those teams/supervisors who do take the time to train you properly are excellent and will sit down with you to explain the background of a case or deal and feedback on your work and how you can learn and this is very valuable. Such colleagues also genuinely want the best for your career and development and this is really motivating”. The firm is small enough to allow for one trainee per team whilst being “large and reputable enough that you receive high quality, complex work”. There are also some “great” formal training resources such as on-demand e-learning training sessions and monthly team-wide live training sessions.

As can be gleaned from these comments, Shoosmiths partners are generally pretty approachable. One trainee tells us this: “Nearly every supervisor is approachable and I feel comfortable talking to them on a daily basis about work and non-work related things.” Something that the firm’s non-hierarchical structure and open office plan encourages. And trainees had even more praise for their cohort: “My peers are amazing — we are happy to pull together at any moment. I can genuinely say that they are brilliant friends as well as colleagues!” Overall, it seems the firm is doing well at fostering a culture of inclusivity and openness.

Word has it that the quality of work is getting even better as the firm wins more high level corporate and real estate mandates. “I have been given the responsibility to liaise directly with senior management and even general counsel of large US organisations to advise,” one trainee tells us. “On other occasions, however, whilst you may be involved in something big and exciting, you may take a behind the scenes role.” That said, newbies are frequently trusted to run matters and deal with clients directly and, perhaps unusually for a training contract, insiders claim there is “little to no time spent on administrative tasks”.

In terms of the quality of work, rookies can expect to come face-to-face with some big names like the Bank of London, who sought Shoosmiths’ real estate expertise in a £40 million property acquisition in Warrington; and Nissan, who worked closely with the M&A team in a stint of sales last year. IKEA, Boots and Santander form part of a wider list of clients offering deals “you can really sink your teeth into” as a newbie.

The regions in particular stand out for the calibre of its work: “City class work in the regions. Top clients to work with and even better secondments — I’ve spent time on secondment at Volkswagen Group”. Client secondments are a major part of the Shoosmiths training experience. Around half of rookies do one, with destinations including the Mercedes-Benz UK, Hamleys and RBS, as well as Volkswagen. Last year, one trainee was seconded to Tokyo, the firm’s first non-European international client secondment.

But as the high-quality work becomes more commonplace, the firm’s excellent reputation for a good work/life balance ebbs away. “The firm’s work/life balance is not totally what its reputation had once suggested. As the firm moves into a new phase of growth, working hours across many offices and departments are becoming much more closely aligned with City firms all whilst maintaining its substantial national presence”. As one bleary-eyed junior submits, “it’s definitely not the 9-5/9-6, it was once sold as”. That said it’s not “a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ approach to work where you’re left on your own to work things out and expected to be available at all hours”, and trainees are keen to point out that the sway is very seat-dependant. Supervisors have also been known to step in when rookies begin getting overwhelmed.

Perks are ok, with nice touches like sweets and free coffee in the office and a day off on your birthday, alongside discounted rates on leasing a Mercedes (a Shoosmiths client). A new “above and beyond” scheme also encourages lawyers to reward their peers with vouchers for Amazon and John Lewis. But many feel that this does not make up for the growing hours. The pay also rankles among some, although Shoosmiths’ £60,000 regional newly qualified (NQ) rate is pretty standard for large non-London commercial firms. The London NQ salary is a solid £90,000.

The offices win mixed reviews. To some, they’re “fantastic”, to others they’re “overly colourful”. Manchester is reported to be the standout. An insider who has seen them all summarises as follows: “There is not one office that is appalling. There are, however, some absolute jewels in the crown. For example, the Manchester office has won multiple awards for its innovative workspaces and is a true pleasure to work at.” The London digs are said to be “beautiful”, whilst Reading is described as “lacking”. Beyond aesthetics, some bemoan the lack of a café in certain offices.

The IT is apparently “getting there” amid lots of recent investment, although there is apparently some excellent tech in place such as the AI used by the real estate team. Monitors, laptops, keyboards and mice are provided for WFH as well as a £250 budget.

The firm’s efforts to become greener have also ramped-up, with the introduction of a £200 levy on lawyers choosing to travel by plane, which in turn is used to fund a low-carbon initiatives. Staff bonuses are also being tied to environmental metrics such as firmwide travel.

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Legal tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023–24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


First year trainee salary £43,000
Second year trainee salary £45,000
Newly qualified salary £90,000
Profit per equity partner £675,000
PGDL grant £5,000
SQE grant £7,000

The above figures are for London. In Scotland, Shoosmiths pays first year trainees £30,000, second year trainees £32,000 and newly qualified solicitors £55,000. For other regions first year trainees are paid £32,000, second year trainees receive £34,000 and newly qualified solicitors are paid £60,000.


Average start work time 08:47
Average finish time 18:11
Annual target hours No targets
Annual leave 27 days

Average arrive and leave times are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023–24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK. Shoosmiths offers between 25 and 27 days annual leave.


Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 26%

Secondment probabilities are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2023–24 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

General Info

Training contracts 36
Latest trainee retention rate Undisclosed
Offices 14
Countries 4
Minimum A-level requirement CCC
Minimum degree requirement No minimum

Shoosmiths has a network of 13 UK offices with training contracts offered across 10 of these.


UK female associates 65%
UK female partners 37%
UK BME associates 11%
UK BME partners 6%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words