The Legal Cheek View
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. 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 choose 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. About 18 trainees go on either an international or client secondment at each seat change. Although the pandemic temporarily paused international secondments, these are slowly returning with recent destinations including Paris and Brussels. Client secondments are always up for grabs, at the likes of Ford, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Vodafone, 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. Recent efforts include the opening of a new 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 trainee told us: “we even have bees on the rooftop!”.
And whilst not every trainee will complete a secondment or undertake extensive pro bono work, they all get to experience the “very thorough” Hogan Lovells 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”. 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”- though the standard of this training reportedly varies hugely between different departments and their staffing capacities. 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. “The HL BaSE programme is very informative and taught us a lot about working with clients, preparing client-facing work and managing expectations”, one mole reveals.
Junior fee-earning work “varies from seat to seat”, but “most teams make a real conscious effort to give you stimulating work, especially as you start to be trusted a few months into your seat”. We are told that trainees experiencing a litigation seat undertake a “fair amount” of the more “mundane” admin work, whilst the real estate team allows trainees to “work with and connect directly with clients”. 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: “Hogan Lovells gives trainees the chance to take on a fair share of responsibility and make important contributions to matters they are working on”, one spy tells Legal Cheek, whilst 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 have recently risen to £107,500 matching some of 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. 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 £70,000.
But you have to work hard to get there. Trainees say their work/life balance is “very dependent on the team”, 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 recognise that this is still “pretty good for corporate law”, and at least you can “see the busy period coming from down the road” and prepare for it. A number of the rookies also commented on how communication of work/ life balance boundaries is key: “People are also understanding when you communicate plans to them and are very keen to work around your schedule”.
Despite being occasionally bleary-eyed, 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: “My network of friends inside the firm is invaluable. They make my working day a lot better”. This also applies to the firm as a whole. “The culture among trainees (and the firm in general) is very supportive and friendly. No matter what intake or seat you are in, everyone is always very supportive and happy to help with any queries”, a spy tells us. And this culture is felt right up to partner level. This rookie candidly tells Legal Cheek of their experience: “Honestly, the door is literally always open. There’s never a moment where I think, “Oh my god, I have to go and speak to the Partner”, it’s just like speaking to anyone else in the firm. There’s always a seat at the table to offer your thoughts and opinions”.
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. The firm has embraced hybrid working too, and recently updated its policy to enable trainees to work from home up to two days per week. That said, Legal Cheek understands the firm is actively encouraging its young lawyers to come in as much as possible so they’re able to enjoy the benefits of building their networks and interacting with the other members of their team.
Luckily, when inside the office the trainees are more buoyant. The firm recently announced 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. But until the move, trainees are far from getting itchy feet at their current home: “Despite the upcoming office move, I would’ve been happy staying in the current office so really excited to see what the new office is going to look like!”. Us too, but the real question is will the new office also boost a “huge” water fountain in the reception? We’re yet to see…
Slightly less exciting than a new office is a new document review system, but it is seemingly exciting enough for several of the trainees to mention in their responses. This couldn’t come soon enough for the junior lawyers, who report that the old system broke down regularly. But 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 “well equipped” in-house gym and the recently upgraded “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 also private medical insurance, a Deliveroo allowance and a counsellor on-site. However, a couple of trainees note that there are greater perks on offer at rival firms. As the City pay war rumbles on, could perks become the new battleground? We’ll keep you posted!