Stephanie studied History and Social Science at the University of Birmingham. She started her training contract in September 2012 after completing the GDL and LPC, and qualified into our Dispute Resolution group in September 2014.
Route to law
Knowing I had the option to do a post-graduate law conversion, I studied a non-law degree from which I could develop a set of skills applicable to law, including research, analysis and reporting. To help me decide if law was really the right route for me, I arranged work experience at different types of law firms: City, regional and high street. I enjoyed them all, particularly the commercial law experience at a City firm, and was set on a legal career from that point. I started the GDL straight after finishing my degree.
Choosing a firm
In between my GDL and LPC, I worked for an organisation called the Financial Markets Law Committee. The organisation had a relationship with a number of law firms, one of which was Slaughter and May. Our main contact at the firm was great; I found her so impressive and so approachable that I really wanted to apply here. That was what initially drew me in, and through attending legal careers events, I met more people from the firm, all of whom reinforced this view. The trainees and associates I met not only had great things to say about the spread of work, but most importantly, they weren’t intimidating or speaking in jargon. That helped me to get a sense of the type of people and the working environment here.
I qualified into the Dispute Resolution group. I enjoy the practical nature of the work in the group; even as a trainee there was a lot to sink your teeth into at quite an early stage. As someone quite new to law, I worked on a breach of contract claim between a large insurer and one of its clients; it gave me lots of opportunities and exposure at an early stage of my career.
Day-to-day as an associate
As a result of the firm’s multi-specialist approach, I work on a variety of matters in the Dispute Resolution group. This includes large civil cases, arbitrations and regulatory investigations, as well as providing ad hoc advice to transactional groups’ clients on contentious issues arising in their deals or day-to-day business.
Given the spread of work, there is no “typical” day in my group. However, I start each day by checking my emails and updating my to-do list (prioritising tasks by their deadlines). I will participate in a number of calls and meetings with clients, Counsel and colleagues. I will likely also need to give instructions to external service providers, such as economic consultants or e-discovery vendors, to run analyses or searches over different types of data. In between calls and meetings, I will respond to emails, draft documents and carry out research. Where I get a chance, I’ll meet a friend for a coffee or do a gym class during my lunchbreak; lots of people here are into health and fitness and the corporate gym membership makes this easy and affordable.
Slaughter and May is even more sociable than I had expected. Everyone in my trainee intake would have lunch together, and there was a lot of socialising outside of work. It made for a fun training contract. There’s also lots of scope to get involved with volunteering and fundraising; there is a lot of focus on making the firm a more responsible business. Throughout my time here, I have never had any sense of competition between fee earners. It is an incredibly collaborative environment and one of the reasons I have continued my career here.
Getting the balance
Regardless of the firm, if you’re doing high quality work for big, international corporate clients, there are going to be some long hours. What distinguishes Slaughter and May from other firms is that there’s no “face time” culture. When you’ve done your work, you go home, and even when it’s busy, you are able to prioritise how you want to do your work to fit around other commitments.