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Meet the lawyer

Melanie Shone

Melanie Shone

University: Queen Mary, University of London
Degree: LLB 
Year of qualification: 2016
Position: Senior associate
Department: Corporate tax and incentives
Pronouns: she/her

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

As a member of the corporate tax and incentives team, I work on a variety of tasks – for example, I could be marking up a share purchase agreement, working with our corporate or employment teams on different matters or advising on a difficult tax query that involves looking at legislation and doing legal research – a bit of traditional law problem solving. I might also help a client to structure and implement share incentive awards to its employees.

I often do some non-chargeable work, such as being involved in one of our internal sector group meetings where we chat to colleagues, other specialists and share knowledge and experience.

Can you tell us about a recent deal you were involved in and what your role was?

We recently acted for a non-UK acquirer on its acquisition of a UK tech company. The timescale for the deal was incredibly tight since the client was keen to get the deal done quickly. There was quite a lot involved in negotiating the terms of the merger and acquisition (M&A) deal, and I was working specifically on the tax and incentives provisions in the share purchase agreement.

One complication that arose related to employees who were entitled to acquire shares of the company, which meant they were then able to sell those shares as part of the transaction. The mechanics of getting the shares into the employees’ hands and bringing them into the transaction involved a lot of consideration, documentation and discussion with the client and the other side. On top of that, there was a need to manage client expectations of the relatively unfamiliar UK M&A deal process and explain some technical UK-specific tax issues in an understandable and commercial way, which is sometimes incredibly challenging. Most importantly, the deal completed on time and our client was very pleased with the outcome.

What do you enjoy most about the career and why?

I appreciate the variety of work, particularly in corporate tax. Aside from the work though, I enjoy the people – my colleagues are fabulous and the firm’s atmosphere and culture is incredibly supportive. Partners always have time to answer questions and properly explain the work needed.

Would you say that’s what makes Stevens & Bolton stand out?

There are lots of things that make the firm stand out, but the friendliness and collaborative culture is one of the key factors. People are genuinely nice and down to earth. They have real lives outside of work, which is important – it’s good for junior lawyers to see their seniors achieve a work-life balance.

Another aspect that makes the firm stand out is the high-quality work. Stevens & Bolton is like a City firm but is located just 40 minutes from the City in the Surrey Hills – the work we do is high quality for a diverse range of both national and international clients, often involving cross-border work.

A key standout point is that people can work in a beautiful part of the country close to the City and do top-level work for big-name clients while still having a work/life balance. I think it combines the best of both worlds.

What skills do you need to be a successful solicitor?

You must be a good listener and have excellent attention to detail. It’s also important to have an excellent eye for research and an inquisitive nature that makes you want to get to the bottom of things and find solutions. Ideally, you need to be able to build rapport with people, as the business of law is heavily relationship driven. Delivering great client experience is a big part of the job – clients want advisers who they can have an easy conversation with, who they trust and who also understand their business.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors?

I’d encourage budding solicitors to get as much varied legal and non-legal experience as they possibly can. They should try to visit different law firms and try out various areas of law, even if it’s an area they don’t think they’re interested in pursuing. For instance, when I was doing my law degree, I did some experience in an immigration law firm and family law firm – these were great experiences but I knew at the end that those weren’t areas I wanted to go into.

Aspiring lawyers could also visit the Royal Courts of Justice or a magistrates’ court to see the law in action if you think advocacy or litigation might be for you. Sitting in the public gallery of a court doesn’t cost anything and you get a great window into the role of barristers and solicitors working in litigation. Don’t be afraid to contact people on LinkedIn to have an informal chat and get an insight into what working as a solicitor is like. Not all solicitors’ roles are the same so do your research.

Describe the firm in three words?

Friendly, collaborative and – although not really a description – ‘excellence’ in the sense that we have a real focus on excellence for our clients and quality of work, it’s one of our key values.

What is the work/life balance like at your firm? How often do you have late nights/work at weekends?

It can be really varied, but on the whole I’d describe the work/life balance as very good. You can have weeks where days are very steady – particularly in corporate tax where you’re doing a mixture of transactional and advisory work – but then you can have a spike where the work gets a bit manic. I personally don’t have to work late nights that often and in the three years I’ve been here I’ve only worked a very small handful of weekends. Usually, the spike in work is matched with quieter downtimes right afterwards, so there’s balance.

What is the wider culture like – eg, are there sports teams/trips out? Is there an LGBT group, women’s group etc?

It’s a fun and friendly firm to work in. For the sporty individuals, we have cricket, netball and football teams. We also have more informal sports meetups with tennis and softball. There’s a choir for the more musically inclined, which is led by an experienced choir leader who we’re lucky to have – we perform once or twice a year. We have a diversity and inclusion forum that involves celebrating Pride and Black History Month, as well as a women in law group and a parenting group.

Another key part of the firm is the charitable work and fundraising that we do. This usually involves physical challenges – I’ve completed a 50-kilometre walk and also the virtual London Marathon before. We have a nominated firm charity that we support, usually for a period of two years, with the goal to raise roughly £20,000 for them over that time. Despite being a single office firm with only 250 people, we pack a big punch when it comes to our extracurricular interests. There’s a lot to get involved with if you want to!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

It’s probably beer (the warmer, flat stuff)! I do enjoy beer and live music, so festival season is my favourite.