Being an Open Day newbie, I wasn’t sure quite of what to expect from my first ever Open Day. However, Shearman & Sterling did not disappoint!
The Eagle has landed.
All the Eagle has to say is this: whoever designed the downstairs lobby of the London office needs an award…or at least a bonus! The mixture of the coffee brown tones with the luxurious gold accents oozed with class. The receptionists were also incredibly welcoming and greeted everyone with a warm smile. Initial impressions? 10/10.
(Elle Decor, if you are looking for a law firm lobby reviewer, I’m usually free on Fridays).
First impressions aside, the agenda for the day was the following:
- Introduction Presentation: An Overview of Shearman & Sterling;
- Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Presentation;
- Finance Workshop;
- Application/Interview Workshop; and
- Networking Reception.
The Introduction Presentation:
The introduction presentation was led by Graduate Recruitment Partner and ‘Whiteboard Wednesday’ A-lister, James Webber.
James first gave us a general background of the firm. This included explaining the main areas and sectors of law that Shearman & Sterling works in, the structure of the firm, and the history behind it. In other words, we were educated on why the firm does what it does and is the way it is.
What I liked most about the introduction talk was that James was open to questions throughout the presentation. I also noticed that he had made efforts to refer back to questions that the group had asked at previous points in the presentation. I found this to be really engaging.
The Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Presentation:
Diversity is one of the most important factors that I take into consideration when reviewing law firms. Therefore, I loved the fact that Shearman & Sterling had a presentation solely dedicated to this topic!
As tempting as it is to go into detail about Mariyam Hassan’s amazing presentation, I must refrain from doing so. Let’s just say that I may or may not already be working on an article with the firm about their diversity initiatives…
All you need to know for now is that as well as having its own diversity groups, Shearman supports a plethora of other diversity organisations and is making a real change in social mobility!
In the meantime, here are some reports from the firm that I suggest you take a look at:
The Finance Workshop:
The finance workshop was split into two parts. The first half explained the main areas of finance that Shearman & Sterling operates in. These areas are:
- Bank Finance;
- Capital Markets;
- Structured Finance and Derivatives; and
- Restructuring and Insolvency (R&I).
What I also found useful was that in addition to telling us about these areas, our presenters, Michael Poolton and Tom Capper, gave us an insight into how these sectors are currently faring in the business world. For example, when discussing R&I they referred to House of Fraser’s insolvency proceedings. Our presenters also took time to explain legal terms that we may encounter when working in the Finance team. For example, Michael had a brilliant analogy of what a future is! The analogy was this:
For the latter half of the workshop, the room was split in two as we focussed on a case study. In fact, the task was based on a real scenario that the London office had actually worked on! The best part about this task was that when we presented our answers to the questions in bold, we presented them to each other as parties would do in real-life negotiations.
The Applications/Interviews Workshop:
From the get-go, Paul Gascoyne said he will be brutally honest in this presentation. He wasn’t lying.
The graduate recruitment process at Shearman & Sterling is unique in two ways. Firstly, the firm only recruits trainees from their Vacation Schemes. This is not a surprise considering the sheer volume of applications that Shearman receives annually (we were shown!). Therefore, it is crucial for you get a place if you see yourself training at Shearman & Sterling in the future.
Before I get to the second unique factor, I would like you to ask yourself what you think is the most daunting aspect of vacation scheme or training contract applications. Does it happen to be two words that began with ‘p’ and end with ‘s’? If a certain Mr. Watson and Mr. Glaser haunted you in your nightmares, then this application process will be one from your dreams! Another unique, and perhaps, to some students relieving aspect of the firm’s recruitment process is that it does not require any psychometric tests! Shearman & Sterling strongly believes that there is no correlation between these tests and the compatibility of an individual with the firm.
Paul then progressed to the topic of situational questions. Here are some examples:
As you can see, some of these questions can easily put you on the spot. In order to avoid this, I suggest that you think of scenarios before the interview which could be used to answer these questions. Paul also gave some useful advice, reminding us to ask ourselves how relevant our example is to the question. In other words, the closer your example is to what Shearman & Sterling does, the better the example will be. Paul also stressed that the questions that you will be asked at an interview will most likely fall under three categories: you, the profession, and the firm.
Now that we had the basics covered, we finally delved into the nitty gritty… the application form.
The group was given three separate applications. We had a few minutes to skim through each of them and decide whether we would invite any of the applicants for an interview at the firm.
*SPOILER* Applicant One, I hate to break it to you but I don’t think that a career in commercial law is for you honey.
This task was great as Paul showed us how we should approach questions that we may find on our own application schemes. For example, for questions designed to assess our commercial awareness Paul stressed that you should:
- Stay away from the most obvious commercial awareness topics like Brexit and AI. He really meant this.
- Vary your sentences structures. While it may be tempting to go into as much detail as the 250 limit will let you, this runs the risk of unnecessary rambling. Stick to the point, and don’t diverge from it.
- If you are unsure whether the information you are writing is relevant, ask yourself, ‘what is the recruiter meant to do with this information?‘.
- Make sure that the information that you provide is actually true. Blunders of this sort will be spotted instantly.
If you would like further advice about writing applications for vacations schemes or training contracts, then I strongly advise you to take a look at these videos/blogposts:
- Whiteboard Wednesday: Vacation Scheme to Training Contract
- Whiteboard Wednesday: How to Avoid Repeating a Law Firm’s Website in Your Training Contract Applications
- Whiteboard Wednesday: How to Prepare for a Training Contract Interview
- Whiteboard Wednesday: What Counts as Work Experience on Your Training Contract Application
- Whiteboard Wednesday: Training Contract Application Strategies That Work
- Blog: 7 Tips to Succeed in a Vacation Scheme Interview
The Networking Reception:
Most law firm fairs and events that I have attended have shared one thing in common. They wanted you to get to know them. At Shearman & Sterling it was not a one-way street, they also wanted to get to know you.
The impression that I got was that the Shearman & Sterling employees were not just there for the drinks and pretzels, but were actually eager to engage with us. Everyone that I spoke to was happy to share their pearls of commercial wisdom, and gave me a priceless insight as to what it is like to work at the firm. In particular, I found that the advice the trainees gave me was extremely useful as they tailored it to what they had discovered about me as a person during our conversations, rather than churning out generic responses to my questions.
It wasn’t just the trainees that were approachable and welcoming, but also the more senior members of the firm. Several people had proactively asked me about my blog, which showed that they had a genuine interest in what I had to offer rather than bringing it up for the sake of small talk. In fact, some members of the firm agreed to participate in my future blogposts! 10 brownie points for you there, Shearman!
The networking session was meant to finish at 6:30pm yet it overran and at no time did I feel like I was being rushed. When I asked one associate to describe the culture at Shearman & Sterling, the first thing she said was ‘relaxed’. I can see why.
All in all, I had an amazing time, met some wonderful people, and wish the best of luck to anyone applying for the Shearman & Sterling Vacation Scheme!