One of the biggest names in global corporate law has only been around in its current form for a little over 13 years 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.
And speaking of mergers; the outfit briefly flirted with the idea of merging with fellow US-founded player Shearman & Sterling, but talks were abandoned in the early part of 2023. Shearman, of course, went on to strike a tie-up with Magic Circle player Allen & Overy.
Hogan Lovells’ latest financial results are somewhat flat in comparison to its record breaking 2021-22, as firms across the City – and beyond – continue to grapple with a slowing in demand in some areas and rising inflation. Global revenues dipped 7% to $2.43 billion (£1.9 billion) while profit per equity partner (PEP) fell 8% to $2.28 million (£1.8 million) following a whopping rise of 26% in the previous year.
Closer to home, UK revenue sits at £365 million, down 13% on last year. Of this, £354 million came from its London office while Birmingham generated roughly £12 million. The UK accounted for 19% of the firm’s total revenue, a drop of two percentage points on last year. But the mood in the HL camp remains upbeat, with chief exec Miguel Zaldivar noting that the fresh figures still mark the firm’s second-best year ever.
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 40% 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 32% 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. Indeed, we’re told that it is a requirement for all trainees to do at least one seat in each of the firm’s corporate, litigation and finance practices, which rookies cite as giving them “a holistic experience of commercial law and takes the pressure off having to specialise too early”.
Typically, there is also 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. Client secondments are always up for grabs, at the likes of Ford, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Vodafone, MSD, M&G 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. Other efforts include a pro bono clinic led by the firm focusing on helping people with the cost of living crisis, as well as joining forces with other firms to found the Domestic Abuse Response Alliance. And they are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact too. As one insider told us: “The travel policy was recently updated to ban short-haul flying where there is an appropriate train option available.”
And whilst not every trainee will complete a secondment or undertake extensive pro bono work, they all get to experience “top drawer” training. Upon starting at the firm, rookies undergo a two-week induction which is said to be a “strong introduction to the firm and its processes”. Another source offers this glowing assessment: “Second to none and expertly balanced between hands-off, real-world experience coupled with a supporting, patient atmosphere bolstered by broad formal training sessions both internal and external.” Seat-specific training is also given at the start of each seat, “to ensure you are comfortable with the initial tasks expected of a trainee” – although we’re told by one spy that this can vary in quality depending on “how busy your team is, and how engaged your supervisor is.” Trainees also tout the optional master’s training that can be taken alongside their four-seat training contact.
Junior fee-earning work “varies from seat to seat”, “but generally, you are given a really broad range of work tasks, which keeps things consistently interesting”. Another rookie tells us that in their finance seat they “had quite a substantial amount of client contact and felt integral to the transaction.” That being said, a certain degree of paper pushing is “to be expected in a litigation seat”, and you don’t spend all your time making up bundles — you also get a good amount of “practice drafting and preparing client updates”. Overall, the rookies are pleased with the level of work afforded to them: “I am regularly given particular sections of transactions and asked to manage these areas myself, which offers trainees substantial responsibility,” one content insider tells us. “I’m very pleased with the level and type of work I receive as a trainee.” Another adds: “I have been given work that pretty much no other firm would give trainees”.
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 hit £120,000 in April 2023. 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. And the firm does also offer a handful of training contracts in their Birmingham office, too — and sticking around to become an NQ there will now net you a hefty £75,000.
But you have to work hard to get there. Trainees say their work/life balance is “very team specific”, but confess that they can be particularly “challenging” at times. That said, juniors recognise that this is still “pretty good for corporate law” and colleagues are always on hand for support. One respondent tells us this: “Workloads are very well-managed and evenly spread across the teams. I don’t even feel I cannot say when I have reached capacity and people are very reasonable and flexible with deadlines and re-allocation of work to make sure no-one is overwhelmed or sacrificing their personal life. If you are ever in the office slightly later it is common that someone will pop in as they leave to check you are OK; a really nice supportive feeling.”
Despite the occasional late night, morale seems high among the firm’s rookie ranks. Several individuals told us that they had formed lifelong friendships with members of their cohort: “Trainees in all intakes are very supportive, and in my experience, there hasn’t been any sort of competitiveness among peers,” one insider tells us. “We all very much focus on our own training experience and qualification prospects, rather than comparing against each other.” Another tells us the “lovely Lovells reputation holds true; everyone at the firm (specifically in the tax team) is impressive and at the top of their game but without being pretentious, aloof or unfriendly. It really is a lovely place to work.”
The firm announced in early 2022 that its London office would be moving in 2026 just across the road to a new “bespoke” space which, whilst smaller than its current digs, will be more eco-friendly. “The new office looks impressive and lawyers (including trainees) have been asked to feedback on our preferences,” one HL spy tells us. But until the move, trainees are far from getting itchy feet at their current home: “Atlantic House is still a very nice place to work, bright, airy and spacious with well-kept offices and plenty of facilities,” we are told. “The enormous water feature in the atrium is a nice touch!”
Slightly less exciting than a new office is the tech initiative — but it is seemingly exciting enough for several of the juniors to mention in their responses. “The firm invests well in legal tech and a new initiative (ELTEMATE) has just been launched to bring all the legal tech offerings together under one core global team,” one insider tells us. The firm does have some great tech at its disposal, namely its Libor Tool, a system which tracks the latest regulatory developments across the major currency benchmarks, and Kira, an AI-powered document review platform.
And we can’t complete this review without mentioning the perks. Not only do the trainees enthuse about the “excellent” in-house gym and “Kulan Kitchen” — the firm’s canteen, where the food is “genuinely excellent and fairly cheap”, as well as being completely free one day a week — but there’s private medical insurance and a ‘passport’ scheme where juniors can work in one of the firm’s international offices for a period of time.