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UK City Firms

Stephenson Harwood (London)

Our view...

Stephenson Harwood has always had a strong reputation for middle tier corporate work, shipping and litigation. This reputation took a battering in the mid-Noughties when the firm went through a bit of a wobble, but things seem to be back on track. SH had a small increase in turnover in 2011-12 of £110.2m from £107m in the previous financial year. PEP, however, has fallen quite dramatically: down 17% from £610,000 to £505,000.

As everyone knows, it's been a tough time for certain departments - and the well-regarded real estate team at the firm has been doing some extensive wound licking. Still, they've worked on high profile stuff recently and would surely hope the litigation is extremely highly rated. And quite apart from the increase in work there is much that is good about SH. One advantage, in contrast to many other City firms, is that whilst the corporate department is undoubtedly important, it is not king, with other departments being highly regarded in their own right. And the firm has acted on some properly big deals and cases recently, with some high-profile clients in the locker - including Banco Santander, Britsh Arab Commercial Bank, Lone Star Funds and Vedanta.

SH has a strong Litigation department, bringing in a whooping 45% of its turnover in 2011-12. Its Finance department is also strong and brought in 25%; Corporate steady at 18%. The UK is particularly disputes focused: 52 per cent of income in London came from that area. Being a firm with a strong shipping department, you'd also expect it to have some interesting overseas offices, which it does: Paris, Piraeus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and recently opening up shop in Beijing in May 2013. The firm was rated highly on the good overseas opportunities available in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey.

In essence, SH is a capable mid-sized firm. It's more than capable of doing good quality work for good clients  and would continue to do so if only its partners would stop disappearing to do it for other firms. Now it's finally decided to specialise in the areas in which its strengths lie (banking and asset finance, maritime services and property) it's reversed the trend, and has nicked more laterals from other firms than it has lost, increasing headcount to about 316 lawyers. Hiring generally looks to have picked up, too - although presumably mainly to replace those staffers who were made redundant in the bad times. Ambition runs deep here, all the same. So a firm to watch.

SH did moderately well in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey, coming just outside the top ten. Insiders rated the firm for its new plush offices in Finsbury Circus and for some "Excellent opportunities for overseas secondments at our offices or with clients". The firm was praised for its friendly atmosphere, with one insider commenting, "SH is not a charged, high octane environment. It's a place where people still act and behave like people and have regarded for each other whilst getting a decent job done. I rate the firm highly."  However grumblings were felt about the number of laterals. One insider says that "the persona of the firm has changed a lot with the move to Moorgate and influx of lateral hire partners - it seems to be trying to emulate Ashursts and losing its reputation as a great place to work."

For more information on Stephenson Harwood click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £37,000
Salary (NQ): £60,000
Salary (1PQE): £65,000
Salary (2PQE): £68,000
Salary (3PQE): £70,000
Salary (Salaried partner): ££1

Bonus Scheme

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


Grant for GDL: £6,000
Grant for LPC: £6,000
Training places per year: 16
% of trainees retained: 69%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 75%
Development: 79%
Work/Life: 73%
Openness: 52%
Biscuits: 67%
Toilets: 85%
Social: 69%
Firm of the year overall score: 72%


Holiday allowance: 25
Flexi holiday: Yes
Pension: Contributory (details not known)
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Enhanced
Target hours: 1550
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes
Other: Automatic bonus of 5% if target hours reached. A bonus of up to a further 15% available on top of this depending on overall performance and contribution


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LJ Jackson delivers bruising comments after firm submits ridiculously long documents in court ... read more > (7 comments)
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