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UK City Firms

Slaughter and May (London)

Our view...

One Slaughters lawyer says, "people at the firm love it. People outside it seem to think it's a fate worse than death. It just goes to show what a lot of nonsense you hear". So is the unfortunate image simply a result of sour grapes? Or is this really the most terrifying law firm in the world?

You don't get to be the most profitable firm in the City without having something to say for yourself. The firm has the highest number of listed clients in the City, acting for the likes of BOC Group, Boots, 3i, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and DKW. Skadden Arps, the most profitable firm in the world, turned to Slaughters for advice on Prudential's £17.4 billion bid for American General. Its reputation is such that even in 2003, when the M&A market was at rock bottom, senior partners still made more than £1million. In 2009, regardless of the downturn, that figure more than doubled. At the top of equity, in 2012/13, a Slaughters partner will be pulling in a cool £1.8m. Unsurprisingly - given the money and the deals - it has never lost a partner to another firm.

Slaughters has traditionally prided itself on breeding all-round, black letter lawyers - give a partner a pen and he'll draft you anything from a loan note agreement to some particulars of claim. More store is set on serious intellect here than anywhere else in the City, so don't even think of applying unless you have a first class academic background (in most cases literally).    And if you do apply, don't make the mistake of substituting the 'and' in their name for a common '&'.

Of course, when you've got that kind of image you can afford to play hard ball. Slaughters considers marketing to be beneath it. It can't really be bothered with foreign offices, preferring to rely on a "best friend" alliance with local firms. Much though it denies it, Slaughters looks down on everyone, and dealing with the firm on a transaction is a different experience to dealing with anyone else. With a handful of exceptions, Slaughters lawyers tend to be a rather smug, bookish bunch. Though one counters that "the firm has an unfair reputation for being overly traditional and conservative. It isn't". It's true that it's not snobbish; just have a big brain. You will be "surrounded by some of the brightest legal minds" according to one NQ.

The firm is also famously stingy with its equity, generally only appointing a maximum of half a dozen partners a year. Think Hunger Games with more paperwork. As one junior associate warns, "One small mistake is usually the end of your career in the firm". So accept that your chances of making it to the top are somewhere between zero and sod all. Still, you go straight in on about £800,000 a year if you do make it, so it's little wonder that there's never much of a clamour to leave.

Much though competitors like to claim that Slaughters' star is waning, there seems to be no sign of this. In the recession Slaughters did indeed work on smaller deals - because they could - and it was prepared to do deals on fees in order to attract top clients (poaching Taylor Woodrow from Norton Rose as a result). It is also beginning to realise that a best friends relationship isn't the same thing as a merger - as it found to its cost when Davis Polk turned to Ashurst on a recent instruction. Still, the firm is trying hard to get more referral work from Wall Street, it used the collapse in the M&A market as an opportunity to spend time attracting smaller clients, and profits are rising.

The work is as good as it gets, and recent pay rises mean that rewards are pretty much as good as it gets, for UK firms at least. Bonuses are paid at a flat percentage across the firm - the only concession to anything other than free-market liberalism. And whilst partnership prospects are negligible, those who don't make it can take comfort in the fact that the rest of the City will be waiting in line to offer them equity - just look at the number of ex-Slaughters people in partnerships at other top firms.

So a bit of S&M is not for everyone, but for the right sort of person (maybe someone who took a perverse pleasure in comparing his test results with his class mates' and was always the last to be picked for the footie team) there's no denying that it's a class act. A real thoroughbred. And given the TC application process is just a CV and covering letter, there's no reason to be too nervous about sending in your details. And once you're in, you're pretty likely to stick around - trainee retention here seldom waivers from the high-90s, with 97% remaining for September 2014.

For more information on Slaughter and May click here
For more information on Slaughter and May click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £41,000
Salary (NQ): £70,000
Salary (1PQE): £75,500
Salary (2PQE): £87,000
Salary (3PQE): £96,500
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: Yes
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %


Grant for GDL: £7,450
Grant for LPC: £7,450
Training places per year: 85
% of trainees retained: 97%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 72%
Development: 75%
Work/Life: 62%
Openness: 53%
Biscuits: 81%
Toilets: 85%
Social: 64%
Firm of the year overall score: 68%


Holiday allowance: 25
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: Firm contributes to money purchase scheme. Firm will match employees contributions, amount varies with age
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: In excess of statutory minimum
Target hours: No targets
Childcare vouchers: No
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes


Your Views

Feel free to enter your comments on the news story below, subject to our terms and conditions. Please note that comments are subject to moderation and so will not appear immediately.

Please keep it nice. Thanks.

Order By:
General Lee Ho Nee
12/12/2009 20:34
Rate it
Overall, there are many good things to say about working here. However, the continued salary freeze (initiated in May 2008) is trying the patience of many an associate...
anonymous user
19/09/2011 22:18
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Wavers. Not 'waivers'. Otherwise you're about right
anonymous user
31/07/2012 12:55
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Hi, just a quick question. I know Slaughter and May is part of the 'magic circle' but it has a very different strategy from its competitors. In an interview, if asked what other firms you have applied to, what is a sensible answer. Any interview tips regarding this or anything else will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
anonymous user
02/03/2013 07:41
Rate it
Legal politics galore!

Everyone works to a high standard, as standard practice, but the firm has its own political agenda to uphold. Most law firms have this...which is why I left law.

It would be good to see this profession change...rather than being advised that "you need to find a firm where you face fits when applying for a TC" (not stated by any individual at this firm, may I add) rewards and recognition should be given on merit. Granted, I have not been to every law firm in the country, however I have seen that politics, incorrect perceptions and judgements (where they really should not be made) are quite the 'issue swept under the rug' here.

This is my opinion - from a business perspective the firm top notch...just need to work on attitudes (like the whole profession really).

anonymous user
06/04/2015 21:18
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They absolutely have lost partners to other firms one this year alone at least.