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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, and that rose to £112.3m in 2013. PEP fell dramatically in 2011/12, down 17% from £610,000 to £505,000, but recovered a bit to £537k in 2013/14. Profits in the same period were £37.5m, up from £37.1 the year before.

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, 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. 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, Dubai, Beijing and, in 2014, Seoul. 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. Having decided to specialise in the areas in which its strengths lie (banking and asset finance, maritime services and property) it's been nicking more lawyers from other firms than it has lost, increasing headcount to about 120 partners and 300 other 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 not to fantastically well in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2014 survey, coming just outside the bottom ten. Insiders rated the firm for its "impressive" plush offices in Finsbury Circus which are "still nice" (and have "nifty strips of LED lights under the shelves above the desk"). They also praised some "Excellent opportunities for overseas secondments at our offices or with clients". And there were plaudits for the firm's 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 regard for each other whilst getting a decent job done. I rate the firm highly." However there were grumbles about the number of laterals. One insider says "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): £70,000
Salary (3PQE): £75,000
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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