Lawyer Management – Shearman & Sterling

Lois Gordon joined Shearman & Sterling in 2007. She previously held HR roles at Denton Wilde Sapte and Marks & Spencer.

Lois Gordon joined Shearman & Sterling in 2007. She previously held HR roles at Denton Wilde Sapte and Marks & Spencer.


How has your role changed during your time with the firm?

It has changed considerably. I joined Shearman & Sterling six years ago as the HR manager for the London office and I am now HR director for Europe and the Middle East. 

I joined the firm just before the credit crunch and so the focus of my role has changed with the economic climate, which has made it very varied. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the sector from a HR perspective? 

One of the challenges we face is to change the perception that law is inaccessible to people from certain backgrounds. Initiatives such as PRIME, which commit to ensuring fair and equal access to quality work experience in the real world of work, have raised awareness of the issue and now many firms are starting to put programmes in place and review their recruitment strategies to ensure there is wider access to jobs in the sector. That said, there is still a way to go. A continual challenge for all firms, not just my own, is attracting and retaining the top talent in the market.

How do you attract applicants from a wide range of backgrounds?

It all starts at school level where we run a number of internships and mentoring programmes with local schools and academies to inspire younger people to work in law and for law firms. 

At university level we engage with 17 universities across the UK, focusing our attention on both law and non-law disciplines to hire a diverse population of trainees.

We also partner with organisations such as Rare which are dedicated to widening access to the profession by seeking the brightest students and mentoring them through the recruitment process. Traditionally such organisations focused primarily on ethnicity and gender but social mobility is increasingly coming to the fore as a key barrier to be addressed. 

In terms of gender we promote our lean-in initiative, organising women’s networking events for the industry and, new to this year, we are launching our Women in Law
conference, specifically for female students and women who have recently graduated.

How important is diversity in the profession?

I think it is crucial that we have a diverse workforce. Diversity is a key value of our firm. We operate in international markets and therefore need a broad range of people in order to achieve an even better understanding of our clients and their businesses.

If you weren’t doing this what else would like to be doing?

There are other things? 

How often do you decide on remuneration and how does this differ from office to office?

We are continually reviewing the market and our competitors to ensure that we position ourselves in line with our strategic objectives. We review internal and external benchmarks to ensure global consistency of approach.

Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?

Benedict Cumberbatch. Sorry, it’s a bit obvious I know.

What are the biggest preconceptions law graduates have about the profession?

Most law graduates are very knowledgeable about the sector as they have completed a number of vacation schemes and have put a great deal of time into researching their law firm choices. But I think many law graduates are surprised by the cultural differences between firms and also the breadth of the skills we expect them to focus on and develop, such as leadership and business development.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working with an amazing team and calling people to offer them a job they want.

Firm facts

189 partners

30 London partners

1,741 total staff

18 offices


Turnover (global): $752m (£467m)

Average profit per equity partner: $1.52m

 Stars of enterprise

“We have a relatively flat organisational structure at Shearman & Sterling and this means that all our employees – at every level – are given a considerable degree of responsibility when it comes to taking ownership of the areas in which they work,” explains Gordon, when asked about what she looks for in a new recruit. 

“When we are taking on staff, we are looking for people from a diverse range of backgrounds who we hope and believe will thrive in an entrepreneurial environment.”

 IT systems

DTE, Interaction, Elite and MS Office