I interviewed for a position at Stephens Scown in May 2017, and was offered a training contract for Autumn 2018. Trainees at the firm are afforded the opportunity to put forward their preferred seat options for their training contract at an early stage, and Corporate was my preferred choice. I have always been interested in how business operates since I started a company with my father in 2012, and so the department felt like a natural fit for me. 

Trainees joining the firm work as paralegals for their first three months. This is so we can meet our new colleagues, become familiar with the firm’s processes and generally become comfortable in our new roles before having the pressure of being a trainee. Once these three months are up, we then complete eight months in the same seat as a trainee. This meant I was in the Corporate department for just under a year. 

Good Quality Work

As you would expect from a firm like Stephens Scown, the Corporate team work on a wide range of transactions. These typically involve owner-managed businesses, with transactions in the region of £1 million to £5 million (though the team also works on more high profile transactions, such as The Delivery Group’s acquisition of ONEPOST, and the sale of Apple’s brand partner Premium Reseller Group).

The firm having good quality work is one thing, but the fact trainees are able to have input on key documents, such as share purchase agreements, business transfer agreements and shareholder agreements, means they are able to make constructive contributions to the deals.

As part of this work, trainees have contact with clients on a daily basis. This involves regular emails and calls with clients to keep them updated on the progress of their transaction, gather information to help draft documentation, and to answer any queries they may have. Interpersonal skills are just as important for a Corporate trainee as a technical understanding of the Companies Act. It’s therefore super important to get work experience in any business or law firm before applying for your training contract to make sure you are prepared for this.

Independence

Once I had been in the seat for a few months, I was given the opportunity to work on projects with more autonomy. Although all of my drafting was still supervised, I was given the opportunity to structure certain transactions in the way I thought was most appropriate. 

For those already familiar with corporate transactions from the Business Law and Practice module on the LPC, examples of work I was allowed to do independently included amending companies’ articles of association, allotting shares to equity investors and structuring a multi-completion share buyback. 

Of course my supervisors would review all of the documentation before it was sent to the client, Companies House or HMRC, but allowing me the independence to structure the deals and draft the documents in the first instance really helped develop my knowledge, skills and confidence. I really felt like a valued part of the team.

Atmosphere

Soon after starting in the department, I was pleased to see there was a great atmosphere in the team. When you read about corporate lawyers, you see horror stories of cutthroat trainees and solicitors whose only goal is to progress their own career at the expense of everyone else. This is certainly not the case at Stephen Scown. During my time in the Corporate department there was a great team spirit, with everybody working together to push forward our client’s objectives. As the firm’s aim is to retain every single trainee it takes on, there is never any competition between trainees. I therefore forged great relationships with the other trainees and paralegals in the department.

My two supervisors, one the Team Leader and the other a Senior Associate, both completed their training contracts at the firm and have spent their entire careers at Stephens Scown. Not only did this mean I felt they understood the pressures I was facing as a trainee, but it also gave me confidence that the firm was willing to truly invest in its trainees and help them to develop. As a result, I felt encouraged to work even harder because I had faith that my dedication to the department and the firm would be rewarded.

A Fantastic Experience

For anyone interested in the commercial world, I would highly recommend asking to do a seat in Corporate. I came with high expectations, but working in the team exceeded all of them.