Slaughter and May opened its first international office in Hong Kong back in 1974, becoming the first UK law firm to establish a presence in the region. In 2009, the Magic Circle firm extended its presence in China to Beijing. In addition to these offices and its London headquarters, the firm has a base in Brussels.
In Hong Kong Slaughter and May’s primary areas of practice include corporate (M&A, capital markets and financing), disputes, competition and property. In October 2022 the firm appointed one of its top corporate partners, Benita Yu, as senior partner of the Hong Kong office. Yu is the first female to take the helm and leads a team of 55 lawyers, including 14 partners. They practise Hong Kong, English and US securities law, advising clients in a trilingual environment (English, Cantonese, Mandarin) as appropriate on relevant matters.
Trainees, of which there are around eight each year, rotate through four practice areas. Given the relatively small intake trainees can expect higher levels of responsibility than perhaps those in London, where there are more than ten times as many trainees! From Alibaba to Prada, Slaughter and May has advised some of the biggest names in business, which often translates into interesting work for trainees. Plus, we hear that international secondments have resumed as coronavirus and quarantine restrictions fall away. Destinations include London for every trainee and Beijing for most newly-qualified (NQ) associates.
The Hong Kong office is based in Central on 47/F of Jardine House, a building it shares with other big-name law firms in the city. It also occupies half of 46/F. The round-shaped windows (Jardine House is renowned for these in Hong Kong) offering sea views and heavy metal doors make the front-office feel almost submarine-esque! There are two lawyers to an office and trainees will often share a room with a partner.
What’s more, the firm has access to a junk boat which trainees are at liberty to book for cruises through Victoria Harbour or trips to neighbouring islands. They can also tow along the speedboat for a wakeboarding or water-skiing session!
Slaughter and May operates a pure lockstep structure, in which partner pay is based on seniority. It does not disclose financial results nor does it have billing targets. However, the firm states that pay for all lawyers, including trainees, is “at the top end of the current market rates”. The firm reviews trainee salaries at least once a year.
Vacation schemes are held in the Hong Kong office during the summer (June/July) and occasionally during the winter (December/January) and Easter (March/April) vacations. It takes about seven interns on each scheme and interviews overseas students in September and local students from November to February each year.
The firm also has a direct training contract application route but “strongly” recommends prospective applicants apply to the vacation scheme to experience life as a lawyer. Several open days are held throughout the recruitment season too. Slaughter and May requests candidates submit a CV (including the names and addresses of two referees, one of whom should be an academic referee), cover letter as well as all of their academic transcripts.