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Slaughter and May People Profiles

Alison Peyton is Trainee Recruitment Marketing Manager at Slaughter and May. Here, she discusses helpful tips when applying to the firm…

What really stands out in an application?

Our application process is very straightforward – we just ask for a CV and a cover letter, submitted through an online form. 

In a good cover letter, the candidate has clearly and succinctly explained why they are interested in law and commercial law, and why they are applying to Slaughter and May. It’s also personal to them – they have provided context to the factual information provided on the CV, and have expanded on different experiences and/or skills to explain their clear reasons for wanting to apply to us. 

A good CV is clear and concise. The academics are in chronological order, with most recent first, and the CV is divided into different sections, so it’s easy to for the recruiter to find out all the relevant information on academic achievements, work experience, other responsibilities and extra-curricular activities. 

We also recommend including both legal and non-legal work experience on your CV, as both can be used to demonstrate your interest and skills for a career in law, and keep the work experience sections factual – tell us about the role and your responsibilities, but you don’t need to explain the skills you gained.

A good CV is also ideally two sides of A4 maximum. 

What key skills do you look for in candidates when they apply?

Excellent analytical ability makes up a big part of the key skills we look for in candidates. It’s also important for them to be able to think on their feet and persuasively discuss their ideas and arguments.

We want candidates to demonstrate that they would work well in a team because Slaughter and May has a very collaborative culture. There is no room for competitive personalities. Interpersonal skills are essential – we want to feel confident that we can put our lawyers in front of our clients. This is incredibly important because the clients are essentially our business.

In terms of attitude, we look for resilience, drive and a sense of humour.

How can candidates get across their commercial awareness in an application?

Candidates must show that they have an interest in the commercial world because they will be working with businesses as a commercial lawyer. Candidates can demonstrate their commercial awareness in their cover letter by talking about a deal they found interesting and why that was.

At interview stage, candidates are given a news article 20 minutes prior to the interview and are required to discuss this article with the partners during the interview. Having a general awareness of what is going on in the world and how businesses work is important to demonstrate during the interview.

Vacation schemes and other work experience

How do you assess vacation scheme students?

A key aim of our work experience schemes is to give candidates the opportunity to get a taste of life as a lawyer at the firm and use their time with us to find out as much as they can about working here – without feeling the pressure of assessments throughout - so our work experience schemes are not formally assessed by the Trainee Recruitment Team. 

During our three week summer schemes, candidates share an office with an associate in one of our legal groups. The associate involves them as much as possible in their work, so the candidate is able to get involved in real legal work and hands-on legal research. We also want the candidates to have many opportunities to talk with partners, associates and trainees from across the firm, so we organise a range of workshops, interactive case studies and different social activities. 

At the end of the summer schemes, all candidates are offered the chance to interview for a training contract.

How can people make up for the fact that they haven’t done any work experience at a law firm?

Legal work experience is not a requirement to apply for a training contract with us. Candidates do need to demonstrate an interest in a career in commercial law and an understanding of what this involves, but there are many ways that they can demonstrate this on an application. 

Many firms, including us, now offer free virtual internships, which are open to all candidates and can be completed in their own time. Our internship is designed to give candidates an insight into some of the types of work our lawyers and trainees do on a daily basis, so it’s very useful in building up an understanding of what lawyers do.

We also run a series of virtual presentations throughout the year, which focus on a number of different topics from CV and interview skills to case studies on recent deals the firm has worked on. Attending virtual events is also a good way for candidates to demonstrate their interest in law and a firm, particularly if they mention the event on their application.  

Law fairs

How can somebody make the right impression at a law fair or in-person university event?

We are really looking forward to hosting and attending in-person events at a number of universities in the autumn. For us, it’s important that candidates have the opportunity to get a good sense of what it’s like to work at the firm at these events by hearing from different representatives and asking any questions they may have. 

It’s not about a candidate making the right impression – what’s more important for us is that candidates come away from our events feeling that they have a more detailed understanding of what working at Slaughter and May is like, and have felt comfortable to ask our representatives any questions they had. 

Assessment days and interviews

What skills and competencies do you look for candidates to demonstrate during training contract interviews?

We place great value on individuality and diversity at Slaughter and May, and our application process echoes this approach - we want to get to know the candidate and the qualities they can bring to the role.

Our training contract interviews consist of a written exercise, interview with two partners, and a HR interview with a member of the trainee recruitment team. 

For the written exercise, we are looking at a candidate’s written communication, ability to persuade, judgement and problem analysis, and innovative ideas and commercial knowledge. 

For the partner interview, candidates are given a short current affairs article to read in advance. During the interview, the partners will discuss the article with the candidate and they will be testing whether they can assimilate information quickly, identify the relevant issues and articulate and defend their point of view. 

During this interview and the HR interview, we are also looking for candidates to be able to clearly explain their motivations for law and for the firm. 

Daniel Lee, Trainee Solicitor

Why commercial law and why Slaughter and May?

At school, I focused on humanities subjects and then chose to study History at university. During my degree, I enjoyed continuing to build on my written and analytical skills and wanted a career where I could use these. I also had a broad idea at university that I wanted to start my career in the City; so I was drawn to commercial law as I thought it might combine both of these desires!  

I started attending recruitment events in my second year at the University of Bristol, and I had the opportunity to meet lawyers from Slaughter and May. I was impressed by the calibre of the clients and the complex legal questions that trainees not much older than I had the opportunity to work on. I also liked how the role of the solicitor was framed as that of a “trusted advisor.” Slaughter and May seemed like an exciting and challenging place to work, and one where I might be able to apply my skillset.

How did you find the application process?

As an applicant, I found Slaughter and May’s approach to recruitment refreshingly different to other law firms. The process centres on submitting a covering letter and a CV. I found less to be more, because with fewer ‘hoops’ to jump through, I had to really focus on every word of my application. 

I was initially unsuccessful in applying for the firm’s summer work experience scheme. I then happened to meet the partner that interviewed me at a careers fair in Bristol, and the feedback given was invaluable. I successfully applied for the firm’s Winter Workshop at the beginning of my third year, and then applied directly for the training contract. The interview day consisted of a (fairly time-pressured!) written exercise, an interview with two of the firm’s partners – which included a discussion on a news article - and then a short HR interview.

The interview was, of course, nerve-wracking, but I genuinely enjoyed the experience. It’s not a box-ticking assessment centre-type exercise - it was a genuine discussion focussed on my reflections on my legal and non-legal experiences and my views on various issues; you are challenged to see how you think under pressure.

What’s a typical day like as a trainee solicitor in your current seat?

I have recently started the third seat of my training contract, in Finance. Slaughter and May lawyers are ‘multi-specialist’, which means that there is a huge variety in the work we do, and there isn’t a ‘typical day.’ A lot of the matters I am working on are in the Energy sector; given the turbulence in the sector, clients need our advice, particularly with respect to project financing.

I always start at around 9.30am and normally leave at around 7pm, but there are no set hours and this can be earlier or later depending on how busy I am. At the moment, I am writing a memorandum for an energy client on the benefits and risks of altering certain contractual arrangements, carrying out research on green energy levies and working out what documentation underpins an unconventional type of derivative product. There are also several smaller ad-hoc requests throughout the day. These might include Companies House searches, taking notes on calls or carrying out a conflicts of interest check for a new matter.

What has been a highlight of your training contract so far?

It was actually the very first transaction I worked on - I am a Formula One fan, so to be told on my first day in the Mergers & Acquisitions department that I’d be working on the potential acquisition of an F1 team seemed too good to be true. Even though the deal eventually fell through, it was incredibly interesting to work on. The jump from law school to being trainee is a big learning curve, and the prior understanding I had of the industry enabled me to offer a valuable contribution early on and informed the commercial angle of my legal work. 

Mo Suksaisakulsakdi, Trainee Solicitor

Why did you apply to Slaughter and May?

I enjoyed studying law at university and was always interested in how law affects businesses and vice versa. I attended an open day at the firm in my first year to find out more about City law, and then a case study presentation which the firm hosted at my university. These events, combined with other legal work experience, convinced me that becoming a commercial law solicitor was the career path for me. Slaughter and May also stood out from other City law firms both because of the firm’s exceptional legal work for a range of prestigious clients, and its multi-specialist approach which would enable me to get involved in a wide variety of work for these clients (both of which have proved to be true!)

How did you find the application process?

I found the application process at Slaughter and May more straightforward compared to the other firms I applied to. 

Starting with the written application, only a CV and a cover letter were required. Instead of having to answer set questions on an application form, I felt that I was able to explain why I was interested in commercial law, and specifically why Slaughter and May, much more clearly in my cover letter. 

I also found the interview process more straightforward than at other firms. The interview itself included discussing my CV, why I wanted to study law in the UK, and a debate on a point of commercial law. I was nervous, but both partners were friendly and made efforts to make me feel comfortable. This enabled me to get over my nerves and focus on doing my best to answer their, at times, challenging questions. 

What’s a typical day like as a trainee solicitor in your current seat?

I’m currently sitting in Finance, where I have been given huge responsibilities in terms of drafting ancillary document such as board minutes and notices, overseeing transactional processes such as signing and conditions precedent, and liaising directly with clients. I have also undertaken research tasks, both into legal points as well as into the client’s businesses. 

A typical day for me starts off with checking over my emails and writing up my to-do list and a list of any meetings or trainings I might have during the course of the day. The rest of the day then consists of engaging in tasks mentioned above, chatting with the associates about updates on a transaction and asking any questions I may have about the tasks, and attending any meetings and training. There are often also social and recruitment events to attend both at the end of the day and/or during lunchtime.  

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy being given responsibility to carry out tasks, while also having support and supervision both from the team I work with as well as from the group generally. On a transaction, I have been trusted with negotiating legal points and liaising directly with the clients. I highly value how, despite being busy, everyone in the team is willing to answer questions and provide support I need to carry out my tasks. Because of this, I have learned a lot from these experiences, from understanding how to negotiate legal points taking into account the client’s commercial interests to understanding how different clients operate at an organisational level. 

What has been a highlight of your training contract so far?

Following from the theme of being given a lot of responsibility above, the highlight of my training contract so far is probably being put on a management call with a client to run through a legal document, without the partner and associate on the matter due to availability issues. Although another partner joined the call as a cover, I was the only person on the Slaughter and May team with knowledge on the document. The call included senior people from the client side who asked some technical legal questions. To my surprise, I was able to answer the questions relating to the document, as I had worked on the matter and had seen various changes made to the document from the start. The partner answered the technical questions relating to the law generally, which I could probably not have answered as well without having done the research into the topic beforehand. This experience reinforced how Slaughter and May trusts trainees with a lot of responsibility, enabling you to learn and develop professionally, whilst always offering support and supervision. 

Sara Kachwalla, Trainee Solicitor

Why did you apply to Slaughter and May?

I read Land Economy at University and my interest in the legal side of the course prompted me to consider a career in law. I was drawn to Slaughter and May after attending an event where I was able to engage with alumni about their experience at the firm. I remember being struck by their warmth and sincerity, and the evening also helped to flesh out what the firm's distinctive traits - such as its multi specialist approach and non-billable hours - meant in practice. It would only really be after I started my training contract though that I would truly appreciate the difference multi-specialism makes to a budding lawyer's growth and development. The ability to work on a range of matters across a department rather than being pigeon holed, especially during the early stages of your career, is really invaluable. 

How did you find the application process?

I found the process straightforward yet rigorous, particularly in comparison to the other firms I was applying to at the same time. I was invited to an interview with two partners after submitting my CV and a short cover letter. In the interview, I was first asked some questions about my academics, extracurricular activities and why I was interested in pursuing commercial law before we discussed an article exploring whether social media should be regulated. I could sense the partners were not only trying to draw out my opinions on a variety of issues, but also trying to test the logic and strength of my arguments. The spontaneity of the interview was refreshing, and I came away feeling stimulated, finding the process efficient yet strikingly thoughtful. I felt that the partners had been genuinely interested in who I was and what I had to say, and that made the offer I received all the more meaningful. 

What are typical trainee tasks?

 I am currently in my second seat in the firm's corporate department and typical trainee tasks vary considerably depending on the week at hand. My tasks have involved researching legal updates to advise a client on its annual corporate governance matters, searching for answers to more nebulous areas of the law, drafting documents and reviewing contracts to raise potential issues to a client. I also regularly attend training sessions and carve out time every week to work on a pro bono project aimed at helping a community centre based in Islington increase its revenue and social media presence.  

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Definitely the people. I have learnt so much from everyone at the firm and feel lucky to be surrounded by so many interesting and intelligent individuals who are always so genuinely willing to help. It's those late night laughs and that feeling of camaraderie, even when things are really busy, that remind me why I chose the firm. 

What has been your most memorable experience so far during your training contract? 

My most memorable experience so far has been attending a three-hour meeting with a very high profile client accompanied only by the main partner on the matter. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the strategy that should be adopted to address a tricky juncture in the matter- I was therefore quite mortified when the client asked me for my personal opinion on some very complicated issues (the case at hand is set to determine EU law). The partner, giving me a knowing yet encouraging smile, leaned back as I quickly tried to gather my thoughts (apparently they weren't all that foolish as I am still here to tell the tale). I was only in my first seat at the time and so that direct client contact and insight into the kinds of complex and nuanced discussions that take place at such a senior level was great exposure.