The FT helps us as lawyers to understand the commercial, economic and political significance to events, meaning we can better see things from our clients’ perspectives.Partner, Stephenson Harwood
A global firm built on expertise
The work of international law firm Stephenson Harwood is global by nature, as its team of over 1100 people worldwide advises a diverse mix of listed and private companies, institutions and individuals, whose operations and interests often span multiple jurisdictions. Headquartered in London, the firm also has offices in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
As trusted advisers, it’s crucial that lawyers have quality, up-to-the-minute information on the whole gambit of matters that can impact clients, their businesses, and wider industry sectors. Opportunities and risks can often appear from the periphery, and clients look to Stephenson Harwood for its expertise in identifying and advising on them as part of their wide range of legal advisory services. It’s important that the firm is fully joined-up in its approach to helping its clients navigate these issues, with knowledge flowing seamlessly between teams, offices and across borders.
Through its FT Group Subscription, Stephenson Harwood makes Financial Times content and tools available to all of its people. Whether it’s for trainees who need to feel more confident in talking about current business issues with key executives, or the firm’s partners who want to provide advice that takes into account their client’s commercial position, FT.com offers "gold standard" updates, commentary and analysis. The flexibility of a group subscription enables FT content to be shared, curated and delivered across devices, and in multiple formats including via email and podcasts.
High-quality information, neatly packaged
The availability of information - and more specifically, news - digitally means that while a never-ending stream of content from all parts of the world is available at most people’s fingertips, it can be difficult for professionals burdened with the usual time constraints to ever really feel as though they’re fully across all the topical developments and issues that could impact their, or their clients', businesses.
Emma Skakle is a partner in Stephenson Harwood’s Marine & International Trade team. She specialises in advising producers, suppliers, traders, refiners and end-users of physical commodities, with a focus predominantly on their disputes. With clients in Europe, Singapore, UAE, Africa, India and elsewhere, it’s crucial that Emma starts her day feeling well-informed on the key stories impacting the commodities markets globally.
“I receive the myFT daily digest, which gives me a tailored package of information every day around the topics I have chosen as relevant to our team and, by extension, our clients,” Emma explains. “It includes news updates on the energy and natural resources sectors, as well as market insights on specific commodities such as grains and metals. I really like that I can drill down into those specialised topics, and have in-depth news and analysis packaged up and notified to me as soon as it's released.”
David Dowding, a partner and corporate finance specialist who advises listed corporates, investment banks and brokers on equity capital markets transactions and public takeovers, also starts his mornings by looking out for key talking points and topics that could come up in conversation that day.
FirstFT has the auspicious honour of being near-enough my first read out of the inbox every day of the working week.
“FirstFT has the auspicious honour of being near-enough my first read out of the inbox every day of the working week,” David says. “I'm not a coffee drinker, so FirstFT serves as my double espresso shot of news every morning with its wide but highly relevant array of current affairs news pieces, discussion and analysis, all in an easily digestible format.”
Understanding the commercial environment
“The commercial context of everything that we do is key,” Emma reflects when asked about the specific benefits of the FT in her role. Working in an international practice with clients that are moving goods around the world 24/7, means that understanding the geopolitical sensitivities plays a hugely important role in Emma being able to work effectively with clients to find workable solutions to complex issues.
“While being experts on the black letter of the law is an absolute necessity, it is only the starting point. Where we show value is in applying the law to the commercial context by understanding our clients' businesses, drivers and market realities,” she explains. “For example, the political context might determine the likelihood of judgments or awards being enforced by courts in certain jurisdictions, or it could inform our strategy when seeking to trace and freeze a counterparty's assets to secure a client's claim. So I use the FT as part of our investigation into these cross-border disputes.”
The ability of FT journalists to make connections between macro events and their potential impacts across regions and industries has been especially valuable to David in keeping appraised of the longer term developments following Brexit. As a capital markets lawyer, David has a vested interest in London remaining one of the world's leading financial centres, and the FT’s analysis helps him and his clients evaluate the possible implications of proposed and implemented measures.
“There is a great deal of time and thought being put into the question of how London can take advantage of its regulatory decoupling from the European Union, with a view to remaining attractive and innovative to investors and perhaps trying to find that competitive edge over other financial markets,” he explains. “FT’s Britain after Brexit newsletter has been a hugely helpful resource in tracking the ways in which the government- commissioning Lord Hill’s review, for example- and London's regulators and stock exchanges have been consulting on and implementing regulatory changes to help to achieve some of these longer term aims.”
Go beyond your own expertise
The emergence of new trends, as well as developments in other markets or adjacent sectors can often blindside organisations and their boards. It’s therefore important that their legal advisers have a sufficiently broad understanding of areas extending beyond their usual areas of expertise.
“As a largely sector-agnostic corporate lawyer, I often support specialists around my firm wherever corporate advice is required,” David says. “In those circumstances, the FT enables me to delve into the key trends and talking points for those industries or sectors where I may be on less familiar ground, so that I can provide corporate advice alongside my colleagues with a better understanding of their advisory environment.”
ESG is extremely important to our firm, both in terms of the firm's own commitments but also helping our clients to navigate their ESG requirements.
Emma adds that it’s essential to “go into a meeting with a client and be able to speak their language”, and in the example of ESG, it’s important that lawyers can effectively communicate a client’s ESG obligations, while demonstrating a wider understanding of their business and industry. “ESG is extremely important to our firm, both in terms of the firm's own commitments but also helping our clients to navigate their ESG requirements.”
“The FT also helps me to feel the pulse of the market and identify growth areas," Emma continues. "In the context of the energy transition, we're at the forefront of decarbonisation initiatives such as carbon trading and clean shipping. We're also thought leaders in the digitalisation of international trade, including the operation of blockchain platforms.”
The benefits of an FT Group Subscription
For fee earners like Emma and David, the value of accessing FT content is clear. Without it, they’d be less well-equipped to provide client advice that extends beyond the purely transactional or technical. But why does Stephenson Harwood make the FT available to everyone across the firm?
Being able to share information seamlessly with colleagues both in the UK and other offices helps to ensure that everyone is able to stay on the same page when it comes to key topics. Knowing that anyone can access the FT through the firm’s group subscription helps Emma to “spark conversations between team members and build communication, both on a personal and professional level.”
David adds that “providing simple, free access to FT journalism ensures that we all feel the confidence to speak with key executives and company officers knowing we have high-quality information and opinion at our fingertips.”
Making the FT available helps us to show that we are invested in them and to build our firm for a successful future.
Stephenson Harwood’s FT Group Subscription is also a statement that the firm invests in its people and their development. “We are building expertise in our five focus areas and we want our people to feel included in that strategy,” Emma concludes. “Making the FT available helps us to show that we are invested in them and to build our firm for a successful future.”
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