Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) was formed in 2014 from the merger between two American outfits, Ohio-based Squire Sanders and Washington DC-based law firm and political lobbying specialist Patton Boggs. It’s this latter part of the business that has made headlines outside the legal world: advising political consultancy Cambridge Analytica and firing former US senator Trent Lott.
The firm also has deep roots in the UK, although here it is known for practising law rather than any political machinations. Squire Sanders took over Hammonds, a once big name in British legal circles, back in 2011. Hammonds was an international law firm headquartered in Leeds, with a significant presence in Manchester and also a London office, that grew big in the nineties and noughties — hence SPB’s continuing strength in these parts of the country and the fact that it offers around 25 training contracts annually. With global revenue over the billion-dollar mark and profit per equity partner (PEP) of $1.1 million (£802,000), according to the latest figures available, SPB combines scale and profitability in a similar way to a UK-based silver circle firm. Alongside an extensive network of US and European offices, it has a substantial — and growing — presence in the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Recent developments include a Milan office, the expansion of its Sydney and Perth teams and the launch of a global commodities and shipping group based out of Singapore.
The firm’s results in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021–22 suggest a happy UK ship, where the training experience seems to be very much in the old Hammonds’ mould of a steady and trusted big corporate law firm. There’s a three-week induction at the beginning followed by six seats rather than the usual four. Trainees also attend department training sessions throughout their seats while “supervisors and associates in departments also provide excellent ad hoc ‘on the job’ training throughout”, one junior explains. That said, one insider warns “the quality of training and supervision varies significantly from practice group to practice group”. By and large, though, newbies are more likely to give us feedback like “training has been great — the partner I currently sit with involves me in his calls, briefs me on things I may not understand and is always willing to answer questions”.
Partner approachability is a particular strong point. One trainee describes them as “proper down to earth” and “always happy to help”, with the firm’s well-followed open-door policy making it “incredibly easy” to approach partners and associates alike. This year’s survey featured no negative comments about partners at all, with the vast majority of trainees scoring their superiors a nine or above — superb stuff.
The trainees themselves are said to be “extremely supportive”, “super friendly” and always on hand to help out. Another source offers this more detailed insight: “Throughout each seat you remain in contact with the trainee who previously was in that seat and they will provide a lot of support about the work the team does, how to perform certain tasks and who to ask in a team for specific inquiries. I have found my contact with trainees who have done the same seats as me incredibly helpful as a way to filter what questions I should be asking of my supervisor and what I can work out for myself (or with other trainees’ help). There is not a competitive environment in the firm at all and we are always very open with each other about which seats we want to go to next and where we may be interested in qualifying. The openness is very helpful as it enables you to speak to current trainees in a seat about what it is like to help inform your opinion about where you want to go.”
The friendly vibe spills over into an active social scene outside the office. Apparently “there’s drinks events pretty much every single week, on top of extracurricular activities like the footy team or the charity committee pro-bono events.” Even with lockdown, the social scene migrated online with “weekly social calls with virtual quizzes or drinks”.
Also appreciated is a ‘Grow Your Network’ initiative, which holds events where SPB junior lawyers invite their contacts across various industries. For those keen to display their budding leadership skills, there’s a ‘head trainee’ position available at each UK office to act as liaison with HR, which trainees are interviewed for.
Another major plus of the six-seat rotation is that one of the seats will likely be a client secondment. There are some great destinations, including FTSE 100 companies, luxury retailers, and fast-growing start-ups. Meanwhile, around a third of trainees do an international secondment during normal times. The opportunity to spend time in the US is rare, with legacy Hammonds’ offices in Brussels and Paris the most common destinations. But Legal Cheek understands that a few future rookies have made it to Sydney in recent years, working as paralegals before starting their TC proper.
With SPB having opted not to follow the MoneyLaw route in the UK, there remain grumbles about salaries (see figures below) in the junior ranks. But there is a broad recognition that work/life balance is reasonable for corporate law, with most people reporting being out the door (or away from the kitchen table) by 7pm or even 6pm. Within this average though hours can vary quite widely. One insider describes it like this: “Some seats (like litigation) I was just consistently busy and tended not to leave before 7–8pm, on average. Other seats like corporate are much more variable where, I have left before at 5:30pm when it’s quiet but could be here until 2am in the midst of a deal.”
The firm doesn’t score particularly highly for perks, which are said to be “pretty standard”. Among other things there is free private healthcare, subsidised gym membership, free food after 7pm and a one-off “Covid bonus”. Nothing to turn your nose up at, but “could be improved in comparison to other US firms of our size”.
More warmly received is the firm’s new “stylish” office in London which boasts “great views of the City”. The “modern” hubs in Manchester and Leeds also prompt positive responses, with one rookie describing them as “very Suits”. Highlights include the “nice open-plan sitting areas with bean-to-cup coffee machines” and shared offices with “excellent sound-proofing”. The canteens are also apparently really good, with the food “easily comparable with the stuff one can get at Planet Organic or similar lunch spots, except that it’s a third of the price”. If you can’t be bothered to leave your desk, “cold foods and snacks are brought round the offices on a trolley twice a day”. By contrast, Birmingham “is not particularly impressive”.
Another area where the firm seems to have excelled is in home-working support. “It’s been great”, one spy enthuses. “SPB provided all necessary equipment”. Another quips: “I’ve kitted out my home office with free furniture Squires sent me. Much better quality than John Lewis — thanks Squires!”
It helps that the firm’s technology gets the job done. OK, you’re not exactly getting to grips with cutting-edge AI or even the latest time recording software, but the actual IT equipment is said to be of “high standard”. The tech support team, having played a blinder during lockdown, was already well-regarded as it’s genuinely 24 hours: “If you ring after around 3pm you’ll get the US IT support”, while “being able to do things like email our Sydney office research team at 1am when you’re doing an Australia deal and need a quick search is very handy”.