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 48 offices in approaching 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 exceeding $2 billion (£332.6 million courtesy of its London office) and global profit per equity partner (PEP) rising 9% to just over $1.5 million (£1.1 million) — Hogan Lovells specialises in about every practice area you can imagine. This 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.
There are also opportunities for international secondments across a wide range of offices — pandemic permitting, of course. Current trainees report stints in far-flung locations including 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. Trainees on client secondment spend time at the likes of Ford, Citibank, ExxonMobil, Lloyds Banking Group, Merck and Standard Chartered Bank.
In addition, Hogan Lovells also 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. It also recently 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!
Junior fee-earning work “varies massively”, one insider reports, “from the most tedious of proofreading 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”. The standard of training is generally high but can vary between departments, we are told. Newbies attended various “practice group specific, sector specific and trainee specific” sessions, with a “very solid first seat induction” that provides a lot of “practical information”. Trainees also rate 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.
Levels of responsibility increase sharply in the associate ranks — where NQ base rates were trimmed recently to £85,000 in response to the pandemic. Make it that far and if you are good 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.
The mood among the firm’s rookie ranks is said to be good. “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”.
HL took the 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.
Partners, on the whole, are a fairly decent bunch who “are genuinely happy to answer questions or spend some time talking about an area of interest”. The hours — with an average start after 9am and an average leave time just before 7:30pm — are similarly decent, for City law. One insider sums up the work/life balance ethos: “It can be a bit of a lottery. However, I generally know my workload and get home in time for dinner. I’ve had one surprise all-nighter, but the team was so supportive, and I was given a taxi home the next day, which made it much better.”
Recently, Hogan Lovells has been making a big push to make itself more tech-savvy, with investment in IT, experiments with new artificial intelligence technology and cross practice area initiatives to bring about knowledge sharing where a deal has a tech element. Feedback from juniors is mixed, with one telling us: “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.” Another states: “Most legal tech is stable and well embedded.”
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. £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.