Slaughter and May
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?
The firm has the highest number of listed clients in the City, acting for the likes of Boots, Vodafone, British Airways, Royal Mail and American Express. A lot of our sources mentioned the high quality of clients, with one insider confirming what everyone knows - "we work on some of the best and most interesting deals going on". 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 a lot of 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. Although it does have offices in Brussels, Beijing and Hong Kong, as well as its London HQ.
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. 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 - think Hunger Games with more paperwork. As one junior associate warns, "One small mistake is usually the end of your career in the firm". But, while Slaughters used to only make up two partners a year, it has deviated from that formula in recent years, and on several occasions has made up a few more per round.
Much though competitors like to claim that Slaughters' star is waning, there seems to be no sign of this. 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. So 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.
As for the working life at Slaughters, the majority of comments have been positive. A trainee said there was "Clear leadership from partners" and a "superb training programme". An NQ added "you are genuinely made to feel valued". There was a sense of pride in the top quality work - "excellence really is practiced". And most seemed to get a bit of a kick at being viewed as the "elite". That said, there was still a general sense of a "collegiate atmosphere" and "supportive teams".
Some noted that there have been a spate of departures at mid-associate level to US firms. One associate commented, "Why am I doing the same amount of work as I would be at an American firm for half the money?" Another associate complained of 90+ hour weeks.
But, noted others in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey, "the vast majority of people my age don't even make half of what I do". People "shouldn't complain", said a peer. "In my experience we don't work as long hours as people at US firms, or even the other MS firms. Anyone struggling to live off 90K+ a year needs to visit the real world".
And Slaughters does keep up with the rest of the Magic Circle, having bumped up NQ pay to £100k in December 2018.
In the 2019 survey, in which lawyers grade their own firm, Slaughters placed highest for work/life balance among the Magic Circle firms. That doesn't mean it's that great, though. "Making weekday evening plans are impossible" said a "permanently slammed" junior lawyer. "I can't complain too much because this is what I signed up for."
They also emphasised the quality of the place. "Extremely bright colleagues and top quality work", said one. "I'm never bored".
So a bit of S&M is not for everyone, but for the right sort of person, there's no denying that it's a class act. A real thoroughbred.
NB the £100k NQ salary includes a discretionary bonus paid in December - but everyone tend to get it.