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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.   All has been well with the financials on board the good ship SH over the last few years, with the firm managing six successive years of growth.  In the 2013 – 2014 financial year, revenue rose by 8% to £121.  PEP also took a massive leap in that period, increasing 19% to £537,000.     

SH gets it fair share of high profile stuff and litigation at the firm is extremely highly rated.  Notable large litigation cases in recent years include SH lawyers acting for property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz in a £2.2bn claim and also The Fiona Trust litigation - where SH represented Russian client Dmitry Skarga against Sovcomflot in a huge shipping fraud matter.   There’s a lot of fraud work that comes through the door, with SH also getting instructions related to the Libor litigation matters.  

As far as shipping goes, it’s not all battling it out in the court, with a fair amount of transactional work too, poring over the details of contracts to make sure they are water tight.  The firm also has carved out a good reputation in other Transport areas – with aviation being particularly strong as the firm has acted for clients such as AirAsia and Vietjet Air.  SH also can boast substantial rail expertise with the firm working on major rolling stock transactions in the UK, including on Crossrail, Thameslink and Voyager fleets.  One trainee sums up by saying “there are opportunities to get involved in some interesting work”.

There is a mixed response as to what it is like working at SH, with many positive comments on the friendly nature of the firm – one associate says “people you work with are generally friendly and get along well” and that “Work life balance is generally good”.   However, there were some grumblings that “good people leave because there is no opportunity for advancement.”   Another source commented that they felt amongst the partnership it was still very “hierarchical” with “lots of the old guard who think the firm is much bigger than it actually is”.   The firm also didn’t do that well in RollOnFriday’s Firm of the Year Survey finishing in the bottom section of the table.

On the money side, one associate comments that “Salary is generally good” with another source telling us that “Bonuses were double recently – now 10% of gross salary for hitting 1550 hours and additional money if you exceed the target”.

Whilst not having as large a global presence as some of the larger firms, SH has a solid international network, and there are good opportunities for trainees to do a seat abroad.  A particularly strong set of offices in Asia distinguishes the firm, with five out of his nine offices based in the region (Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore).  The other offices are London, Hong Kong, Paris and Piraeus (the latter particularly important for shipping work).

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, litigation and property).

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 10% 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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