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 30 training contracts annually. With global revenue over the billion-dollar mark and a profit per equity partner (PEP) of around $1.7 million (£1.3 million), 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 offices in Amsterdam, Dublin and Milan, expanding its pan-European private equity, data privacy and restructuring practices, a new global labour and employment resource hub, and the launch of a global commodities and shipping group based out of Singapore.
Comments from the rookies who spoke to us suggest a happy UK ship (trainees are spread across London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds) 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. A few grumbles aside, by and large newbies are more likely to provide feedback along the lines of this: “Great variety of training. I have been integrated into each team I have sat with and given tasks that are reflective of a task an associate would do. I have had a good amount of client-facing work and partners try to involve you as much as possible.” It’s more common to work directly with partners in smaller departments such as competition, and IP & tech but, in larger departments like corporate, there’s the advantage of having more junior associates to fire questions at throughout the day. It helps that all of the firm’s supervisors are required to go through formal training on how to develop rookies.
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. “Most partners are relaxed and down to earth. It doesn’t feel hierarchical at all here, and in some teams you will regularly go for drinks with senior associates and partners,” reveals one rookie. Despite remote working making it slightly more difficult to ask questions – with higher-ups generally spending less time in the office – trainees across the board have praise for their Squires’ superiors.
In part, this stems from the level of responsibility trainees are entrusted with at the firm, with one reporting that “seniors get you involved in drafting the ancillaries and you get a lot of responsibility in terms of project managing on deals and transactions”. If that wasn’t enough, readers might be interested to learn that these deals are made on behalf of names such as Burberry, BMW, and RBS, the latter of which the firm recently advised on a £150 million receivables finance facility. Sporty students may also be keen to join SPB’s rated Sports & Entertainment team, who have advised on the purchases and sales of football clubs such as Manchester City and Aston Villa, as well as assisting Nantes F.C. on the legal case that followed the tragic death of footballer Emiliano Sala.
For at least one trainee, some of the most stimulating work has come in the form of non-billable “business development or pro bono” work: “Off the back of a blog I wrote on the 4 day working week for the Employment team, I helped set up a Webinar which had over 100 attendees. I also carried out pro bono work for a charity which I previously volunteered at. Generally the firm encourages trainees to get started on BD and it’s a useful way of learning more about the strategies of the various practice areas and the higher relevance of the work you’ve been doing.”
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.” This year’s trainees have even found the time for a group holiday! 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. The opportunity to spend time in the US is rare, with legacy Hammonds’ offices in Brussels, Paris and Milan 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, and one lucky newbie even made it as far as Singapore for six months this year.
Despite being slow off the mark, SPB now offers its London NQs £100k starting salaries, whilst NQs in the regions take home £65,000. There is a broad understanding that work/life balance is reasonable for corporate law; most people reported being out the door (or away from the kitchen table) by 7 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 and free food after 7pm. Nothing to turn your nose up at, but “could be improved in comparison to other US firms of our size”. There’s also some envy from the regions that the London office gets the bonus perk of free snacks.
In addition, SPB has been generous with helping its rookies to feel comfortable working from home: “I’ve kitted out my home office with free furniture Squires sent me. Much better quality than John Lewis — thanks Squires!” The WFH policy appears pretty flexible with everyone said to be “pretty used to working from home a couple of days a week”, but SPB’s new ‘all-in Thursdays’ scheme now means lawyers must be in the office three days a week.
Generally, most seem unphased by the change, with rookies rating the firm’s various office spaces highly. SQB’s new London office at 60 London Wall has been very warmly received: “New offices are excellent. The view of the City from the 8th floor is pretty impressive. The shower facilities are what you might expect in a decent hotel. Huge bike storage area, complete with tools and repair station,” one trainee raves. The “modern” hubs in Manchester and Leeds also prompt positive responses, with one rookie describing them as “very Suits”. The firm’s Birmingham office “needs an update” according to one trainee, but is otherwise “comfortable” (and, don’t tell anyone, but we’re hearing rumours of a new move soon). For now, Brummie rookies must cope without the fancy coffee machines the London office has! Elsewhere, 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 being “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”.
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” with iPhone 13s and the new Lenovo Thinkpads provided for lawyers. The tech support is also held in high-esteem as the firm genuinely provides around the clock support: “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.”