A decent financial year, in which revenue has jumped by 11% to £176 million, has seen Stephenson Harwood award pay rises to trainees and newly qualified solicitors. Bucking the fat cat stereotype, the firm’s partners took an 8.5% hit on their earnings this year (to a still rather hefty £708,000 profit per equity partner (PEP)) while rookies got raises (albeit of just 2-4%, leaving trainee to NQ remuneration in the £40,000-£66,000 range).
Before you get too excited, bear in mind that Stephenson Harwood’s PEP soared by around 50% in the preceding couple of years. Even so, the restraint shown this year is emblematic of a prudence that has seen the firm through nearly 150 years of very profitable existence since it was founded as Harwood & Stephenson in 1875. No one seems quite sure when or why the order of the names was swapped around, by the way.
Stephenson Harwood specialises in litigation, mid-tier corporate work and shipping, and has a string of Asian offices with unusually deep roots. They date back to co-founder William Harwood’s time in Hong Kong, where he built close ties with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (which would later become HSBC). Harwood would surely be delighted to know that around half of the firm’s annual intake of 18 trainees each year spend time on secondment in locations including Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul.
Rookies report decent levels of training and quality of work. One tells us: “It has varied between departments but the exposure to high-octane litigation work has been the best experience of my training contract. I don’t think you can obtain the same level of responsibility and exposure without compromising the quality and level of work in any other top City firm.”
A friendly culture prevails, albeit with the odd grouchy partner, and work/life balance isn’t too bad for corporate law. According to data gathered in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, Stephenson Harwood has an average arrive time of 9:01am and leave time of 7:24 pm. But the fortunes of trainees can vary. One tells us: “In all honesty [work/life balance] is not as great as I was lead to believe. Some trainees appear to have coasted through their TCs, but I’ve had several stretches where I haven’t seen my housemates for weeks on end.”
Console yourself, millennials, with the perks. Stephenson Harwood offers pretty good ones. They include “a huge discount on gym membership”, a subsidised dental plan and sporadic free tickets to the Royal Albert Hall is a fantastic perk. “Now that work has quietened down a bit I’m looking forward to rinsing the Proms for all they’re worth,” one rookie quips.
The office is also quite nice, with “gorgeous Lutyens architecture and pretty decent facilities”. Be wary of the machine coffee, though, and the canteen’s “adventurous menu”.