One of the biggest names in global corporate law has only been around in its current form for a little over a decade now — London’s Lovells having merged with Washington DC’s Hogan Hartson in 2010. At the time of the merger there was much speculation over what the new name would be, with Love Harts and HogLove the most memorable suggestions, but the firm sensibly settled on Hogan Lovells. The combined megafirm now has 51 offices in nearly 30 different countries, including a substantial presence in South America and Asia as well as Europe and the US.
Offering one of the best combinations of scale and quality outside the magic circle — with global revenue this year growing to $2.6 billion (£1.92 billion) and global profit per equity partner (PEP) soaring 26% to just over $2.48 million (£1.83 million). Hogan Lovells specialises in just about every practice area you can imagine. Though it is slightly more corporate and finance heavy, with these departments accounting for 41% of the firm’s total billings, the rest of the firm’s practice areas are well balanced. Intellectual property, media and technology (IPMT) and global regulatory make up 31% of Hogan Lovells’ billings, whilst litigation, arbitration and employment generate 28%. This all-roundedness is particularly attractive to students in that it allows them to keep their options open while training and then qualify into a first rate team.
Typically, there are a wide range of opportunities for international secondments with past trainees enjoying spells in far-flung locations such as New York, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Johannesburg, among others. About 18 trainees go on either an international or client secondment at each seat change. Although the pandemic has temporarily paused international secondments (which are expected to return soon) trainees have managed to take on client secondments at the likes of Ford, Citibank, ExxonMobil, Lloyds Banking Group, Merck and Standard Chartered Bank.
In addition, Hogan Lovells has one of the leading pro bono and corporate social responsibility operations in the City, with a wide variety of clients including the British Paralympic Association. In fact, during the pandemic Hogan Lovells backed a crowdfunding campaign supporting Covid-19 ‘airway boxes’ — special screens which protect NHS staff against the dangerous droplets produced by virus sufferers during airway procedures — developed by the firm’s very own senior scientist. And they are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact too. As one trainee told us: “they even recently stopped producing HL rubber ducks because of the environment!”.
Junior fee-earning work “varies massively”, one insider reports, “from the most tedious of proof-reading tasks” to “taking your first stab at drafting agreements”. The more stimulating work can apparently be found in the firm’s advisory and finance teams, where one rookies tells us, “I have made a real difference and my work was inserted straight into documents for the court or clients”. Trainees tell us it is up to you to really take some initiative in order to get more stimulating work.
The standard of training was very highly rated by those who Legal Cheek spoke to. Newbies attend various “practice group specific, sector specific and trainee specific” sessions at the start of each seat, which are “generally highly relevant and useful” and provide a lot of “practical information”. The firm’s “very nurturing environment” received special praise, with broad consensus that it is “very supportive” and that “people take an interest in your development”. Trainees also tout the additional MBA-style training they are put through as part of HL BaSE, Hogan Lovells’ business and social enterprise foundation, as part of which trainees are allocated social enterprise clients.
Trainees’ confidence that Hogan Lovells is “willing to keep up with the competition” has proven to be well-placed. Levels of responsibility increase sharply in the associate ranks, where its London NQ base rates have recently risen to £100,000 matching their magic circle rivals. Having made it to NQ, you have a decent chance of reaching the top of the firm, with Hogan Lovells boasting a good reputation for promoting its own to partner level.
But you have to work hard to get there. Trainees say their work/life balance varies from seat to seat, but confess that “the hours have been quite bad at times — a few 100-hour weeks and a number of all-nighters”. That said, juniors admit that it is what they signed up for and “if you set boundaries, people generally respect them”.
Morale is especially high among the firm’s rookie ranks. Several individuals told us that they had formed lifelong friendships with members of their cohort. This also applies to the firm as a whole. “Peers within the team, the trainee cohort, the broader department and business services are all very supportive,” a spy tells us. “They [associates] understand what it’s like to be a trainee and are very helpful in giving instructions, assisting and providing feedback.” Bonds are further solidified during regular get-togethers, including “online trainee quizzes” and “(socially distanced) meet-ups”. As one newbie pithily remarked: “the people make the firm”.
HL took lockdown in its stride, trainees inform us, with a fairly smooth shift from office life to home-working. This featured a trainee buddy scheme and an allowance given to everyone in the firm to purchase remote-working kit. But their legal tech gets mixed reviews with the document management system being a particular bugbear. Apart from that, “most legal tech is stable and well-embedded”. One junior summarises the situation: “The hardware is good quality (such as the phones and laptops). The software, like so many firms, is outdated regarding document management. It is not always clear what legal tech is available on a daily basis and bridging the gap between trainees and the legal tech people could really help drive uptake of new ways of doing things”. In the spirit of this WFH success, the firm has stated that, post-pandemic, lawyers will only be expected to be in the office 60% of the time.
As for the firm’s partners, “the vast majority are extremely friendly and approachable” and “are genuinely happy to answer questions or spend some time talking about an area of interest”. But, as one rookie explains, “there will always be the odd person who refers to you as ‘the trainee’ but in my experience at HL they’re very unusual”.
Another focus has been the renovation of the firm’s grand Holborn offices, which consistently score well in our survey thanks in part to that much-desired feature: an in-house gym. Some, however, remain to be won over by the open-plan office layout. £30 Deliveroo allowances after nine and an “excellent canteen” boasting a ‘Pad Thai bar’ and ‘Pasta bar’ also get a big thumbs up, as does the “scrambled eggs and salmon at breakfast”. And don’t forget the firm’s “delicious” cookies.