Shearman & Sterling Training Contracts & Interview Questions

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Law Training Contract: Application Dates and Information

Shearman & Sterling recruits up to two years ahead for its training contracts. Candidates should apply in their penultimate year of a law degree (or beyond) or final year of a non-law degree. Graduates are also welcome to apply. All training contracts are recruited exclusively from the Vacation Schemes. You therefore need to apply to a Vacation Scheme to gain a place as a trainee at Shearman & Sterling.

Firm Overview

Shearman & Sterling is a multinational law firm headquartered in New York. The firm’s lawyers come from more than 80 countries, speak more than 60 languages, and practice US, English, EU, French, Spanish, German, Hong KOng, OHADA, and Saudi Law. Around half of the firm’s lawyers practice outside the US. The firm has 23 offices in total. Its revenue in 2018-2019 was $955m, and its profit per equity partner was $2.43m in 2018. The firm was founded in 1873 in New York. 

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Law Training Contract: Firm Specialisms & Training Contract Seats

During the two year training contract, you will do four seats, each of which will take six months. At least two of the seats must be completed in the core practice areas. These are M&A, Finance and Project Development & Finance. The remaining seats will be allocated based on a combination of trainee preference and business need – so you can decide on which areas you want to experience. The firm recommends that trainees try out a range of different seats, to make the most of being in a law firm that provides such a range of services. The firm has leading teams in advisory and contentious groups, as well as transactional groups, so you should bear this in mind and consider seats that complement each other well. You will be able to take a secondment as one of your four seats – suggested locations include New York, Abu Dhabi, Singapore or Brussels. If you go abroad you will receive a serviced apartment, relocation leave, a trained local supervisor, and the social network provided by the other trainees in the region. You will receive reviews during the course of each seat – in the middle of the seat, and at the end.

Law Training Contract: Past Interview Format & Questions

You will need to attend an assessment centre. This will include a group exercise, a written exercise, a case study, and an individual interview.


The interview is described by previous applicants as including competency questions as well as commercial questions, and being heavily focused on the firm itself. One applicant describes the firm as being ‘religiously obsessed’ with themselves, and keen that they are seen as being better than the Magic Circle firms. You will therefore need to make it clear why you prefer the firm to Magic Circle firms. You should expect two partners to interview you. Previous questions and focuses include:

– A news story which you will need to discuss in detail with the partners
– A detailed discussion and technical questions focusing on one of the main practice areas of Shearman & Sterling
– How can you cope with the high workload that will be expected of you?
– Why you?
– Why Shearman?
– Why are you interested in commercial law?
– Describe a time when you’ve worked in a team.
– Have you ever provided a service to a client?
– What are your strengths and weaknesses?
– Tell us about a recent commercial that you’ve been following. Can you justify why it’s important and/or relevant?
– What book, film and album would you recommend to us?

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Group Exercise

This is described by previous applicants as having a significant amount of weight placed on it. They were given a business scenario to read that they then had to advise the client on. It was an M&A scenario.

Written Exercise

The written exercise is described by previous applicants as being similar to the group exercise, with a significant amount of weight placed on it. It also focused on a commercial situation that fell comfortably into Shearman & Sterling’s main practice areas.

Case Study

This involves reading a news entry which is commerce-focused. You then need to discuss it with two associates (newly-qualified according to the applicant who provided this information). The associates are briefed to make their questions more intense and difficult over the course of the session.

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