Stephenson Harwood

Stephenson Harwood

Address: 1 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7SH




Survey results


The lowdown (in their own words...)

Why did you choose this firm over any others? 
 '‘Small intake’; ‘sustained growth without merger’; ‘I wanted to work for a mid-sized firm that still did a lot of high-level and international work’; ‘the seemingly ethical nature of the firm’; ‘the full-service practice list’; ‘its reputation in the shipping industry’; ‘really enjoyed the vacation scheme – everyone was friendly’; ‘reputation in litigation’
Best thing about the firm? 
 '‘The expertise and knowledge held by the partners who are real experts in their respective fields’; ‘its respect towards trainees’; ‘international and client secondments’; ‘the meritocratic culture where you are recognised for your ability to add value and work hard’; ‘senior colleagues are very invested in your development’; ‘it is ambitious and growing’; ‘the people and the work’
Worst thing about the firm? 
 '‘Lack of transparency regarding the qualification process’; ‘the document management software is a pain’; ‘we could be paid more’; ‘the canteen is slow and isn’t that cheap’; ‘slightly limited seat choice’; ‘some partners can be difficult to work for’; ‘the hours can be long’; ‘there could be more organised inter-trainee socials’; ‘the communal coffee machines are awful’
Best moment? 
 '‘Working on a really high-profile and controversial case involving a government body’; ‘the excitement of numerous freezing order hearings’; ‘taking the lead on a multi-million pound refinancing within a few months of joining’; ‘closing a deal for a client I brought in myself’; ‘I have been entrusted with drafting some big, intellectually tricky documents’; ‘my international secondment’
Worst moment?
 '‘Having to put together a detailed costs review over the weekend’; ‘a few late nights on work that was eventually written off’; ‘long hours’; ‘registering a charge incorrectly and having to inform the client’; ‘being on two different deals that got very busy at the same time and managing expectations from both teams’; ‘dealing with a difficult supervisor’'

If the firm were a fictional character it would be...

Velma (Scooby-Doo) – confident in our own ability without needing to be flashy to prove it. The brains behind the operation!

The verdict

The firm

Stephenson Harwood employs over 1,000 people worldwide, including more than 170 partners based in offices across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The client base comprises listed and private companies, institutions and individuals. The firm is recognised for its strengths in asset finance, commercial litigation and arbitration, corporate finance, marine and international trade and real estate. 

The star performers

Art and cultural property; Asset finance and leasing; Aviation; Banking litigation: investment and retail; Commercial property: hotels and leisure; Commercial litigation; Commodities: physicals; Financial services (contentious); Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud: civil; Fraud: white-collar crime; Listed funds; M&A lower mid-market deals, £50m-£250m; Pensions; Private equity: transactions – mid-market deals; Professional negligence; Rail; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime; Shipping; Trade finance

The deals

Advised Acadia Healthcare on its £1.3bn acquisition of Priory Group; acted for the successful shipowners in a Supreme Court decision arising out of the seizure of the vessel MV Longchamp by Somali pirates; advised Bowmark Capital LLP and the other shareholders of Law Business Research (LBR) on the sale of LBR to Levine Leichtman Capital Partners; represented former UBS and Citigroup trader Tom Hayes accused of LIBOR manipulation; representing Mark Weiss Limited and Mark Weiss in a $10.8m case against Sotheby’s relating to the sale of a painting which is now alleged to be a forgery

The clients

Arriva UK Trains; BTG; Charles Stanley Group; Commerzbank; ENGIE; Generator Developments; Infinite Intelligence Technologies; Inspired Education; National House Building Council; Natixis

The verdict

Stephenson Harwood is ‘renowned for its expertise and reputation in commercial litigation and marine and international trade’. Trainees appreciate working for a firm which has a ‘sense of humility’ and is ‘extremely settled with its strategy and where it wants to go’. As part of a small trainee intake, recruits can look forward to high levels of responsibility, ‘usually finding yourself leading on matters opposite more senior individuals at other firms’. Similarly, there is good exposure to clients: ‘as a first-seat trainee I was trusted to have daily independent contact with the global company secretary of a listed company’. Recruits still had their fair share of worst moments though, including ‘being thrown around like a tennis ball during my corporate seat’ and ‘realising that I had uploaded a document to a data room which should have been redacted’. But ‘flying to Kuala Lumpur for a 12-hour final negotiation whilst on secondment in Singapore’ is a highlight worth mentioning, especially as the firm is a Lex 100 Winner for its international secondments. The main complaints centred on the IT systems, which were described as ‘behind the curve’ and the firm’s canteen, which is ‘outdated and small’ and ‘shuts too early’. Nevertheless, the people are ‘less intense and stuffy’ than at some comparable firms. Indeed, thanks to ‘a relatively invisible hierarchy’, trainees always feel ‘involved, able to ask questions and that our contribution is valued’. It is therefore clear that ‘the firm respects its trainees and values their importance’. To work at a firm which ‘focuses on shipping and litigation’ which boasts ‘an open and friendly culture combined with high-profile work’, apply to Stephenson Harwood.

 A day in the life of...

nick morgan

Nick Morgan third-seat trainee, Stephenson Harwood LLP 

Departments to date:  Commercial litigation (international arbitration); marine and international trade; corporate finance and next seat secondment to Seoul.

University:University of Bristol  
Degree: Politics 

8.15am:  I arrive at the office in Moorgate, having just completed my daily cycle along the Thames Path from Greenwich. I place my bike in the cycle store room and make my way to the shower facilities, picking up my shirt and suit from my locker on the way.

8.45am:  I pop to our café, Refresh, with my ‘keep cup’ (which has been provided to all staff to reduce the use of disposable cups) to collect my Americano.

8.55am:  I tuck into my weetabix while I read my latest emails. I am working in the private equity team and with another deal closing at the end of the week there is sure to be lots to keep me busy. I begin to assemble a list of areas that I think require my attention; in particular one of the non-disclosure agreements (NDA) I have been negotiating has come back with further comments from an investor’s legal team.

9.20am:  With my to-do list in hand I begin working on the NDA. NDAs are a formality in private equity deals since there is a need to protect the confidential information of the target company from those outside the transaction. The target, by entering into negotiations to sell itself, is essentially sending a signal to its employees, customers and creditors that it is going to be under new management – which may prompt its employees, directors and key stakeholders to start making an exit. This could affect the company’s value and in turn cripple its ambitions to merge or be bought. Therefore, the NDA is crucial in protecting the target.

11.00am:  I have completed a full mark-up of the NDA and I pass my suggestions to the associate I am assisting. We agree that the NDA will require some further negotiation before it is in final form. She suggests that I organise a call with the investor’s legal team to discuss the final few points. I email the other lawyers and arrange a call for 3.30pm.

11.30am:  It is time for a meeting I had arranged with the head of marine and international trade, Mike Phillips, to discuss my secondment application for Seoul in September. I ask Mike for some insights into being a lawyer in Seoul since he had been seconded there as an associate earlier in his career. It sounds like an exciting opportunity!

12.30pm:  Following the meeting I check my emails and assess my workload before making the decision to pop to lunch with the students who are visiting the firm for the day. The students are applying for our Dubai training contract, so I am quizzed on life as a trainee.

1.20pm:  I head back to my desk having just received an email from a partner in real estate asking for assistance with some ancillary company documents. I make a start on drafting board minutes and a written resolution to appoint a new director.

3.15pm:  My diary prompts me that I have 15 minutes until my NDA call. I get copies of the NDA for my team and head to one of our conference call booths. On the call the final few points of the NDA are ironed out and we agree to circulate the execution copy.

5.00pm:  My final appointment of the day is a catch-up with the private equity team. We are meeting to make sure everyone is up-to-date on the deal going into the final three days before completion.

7.00pm:  After checking with my team that there isn’t anything else to do for the day, I dash off to Shoreditch for a game of tag rugby for the firm’s mixed team, ‘Guten Tag’, for a 7.30pm KO.

About the firm

Address:1 Finsbury Circus, London, EC2M 7SH

Telephone: 020 7809 2150


Senior partner:  Roland Foord

Managing partner:  Sharon White

Other offices: Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, London, Myanmar, Paris, Piraeus, Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore. 

Who we are: We have ten offices worldwide, a variety of sectors to explore and unlimited opportunities for you to develop an incredible career. Here, you can expect to work in tight, focused teams alongside associates and partners, where you’ll always be right at the heart of the action.

What we do: We pride ourselves on delivering ground-breaking deals across the globe. Our experience encompasses corporate, commercial litigation and arbitration, employment and pensions, finance, marine and international trade, and real estate.

What we are looking for: As well as at least a 2(1) in any subject area plus 320 UCAS points or equivalent, you’ll need strong analytical skills, sound judgement, imagination and meticulous attention to detail. Also vital are the communication skills to be persuasive and build rapport, plenty of drive and determination, plus a keen interest in business.

What you'll do:Although every seat is a different journey, each is designed to give you a broad balance of commercial awareness and practical legal experience, plus the flexibility to move between projects and pick up new skills. There will be plenty of challenges along the way, but also lots of support. At every stage you’ll be coached and mentored by a partner or senior solicitor who’ll give you regular feedback, advice and guidance on everything from your day-to-day responsibilities to your long-term career decisions.

Perks: We want you to feel valued so we’ll offer you a trainee solicitor salary of £40,000 in year one and £44,000 in year two. Our current NQ salary is £66,000. We offer a range of flexible benefits including: child care vouchers, critical illness cover, cycle2work loan, dental health scheme, give as you earn (GAYE), online gym membership, 25 days’ paid holiday a year, private health insurance and screening, life assurance, pension, private GP services, retail vouchers, subsidised café and travel to work loan.


Facts and figures

Total partners: 170+

Other fee-earners: 400+

Total trainees: 40

Turnover in 2017: £176.4m (+12% from 2016). Profits per equity partner: £707,000 (-6%).

Trainee places available for 2021: 20

Applications received pa: 1,300 

Percentage interviewed: 14% 


First year: £43,000

Second year: £47,000

Newly qualified: £75,000

 Application process

Apply to:Sarah Jackson – graduate recruitment, CSR and D&I manager.

How: Online application form via the website:

When to apply:By 31 July 2019.

What's involved:Online application form, online critical reasoning test, face-to-face interview and assessment centre.

 Vacation schemes

Spring:1-12 April 2019 (apply by 31 January 2019).

Summer:10-21 June 2019, 24 June-5 July 2019, 8-19 July 2019 (apply by 31 January 2019).

Winter: 10-14 December 2018 (apply by 11 November 2018).