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, teaming up with Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and most recently 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 a substantial 24 training contracts. With global revenue over the billion dollar mark and profit per equity partner (PEP) of $1.1 million (£830,000), 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 a new global commodities and shipping group based out of Singapore.
The firm’s results in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2020–21 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 usual four. This, one trainee enthuses, “means a very varied TC working with multiple teams across the firm to build up your internal network”. The flipside is more scope for differences in quality of training from seat to seat — one survey respondent reckons it “varies wildly”. 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.”
Another rookie sums it up like this:
“Good level of responsibility if you demonstrate you are capable and you form good relationships with partners/associates (like any junior in any firm of any industry, frankly). When we move seats, we have a training day where all the trainees going into that department across all the different offices get together in one of the offices (e.g. my latest one was in London) and have a full classroom-style training crash course in that area. The training is good — they don’t expect too much of you given your level but they are equally happy to farm out tasks to you that they could probably do much quicker and more efficiently themselves, but choose to give to you for training. I’ve also been quite surprised at some of the stuff I have been trusted with to handle on my own. Someone is always on hand as a safety net to check my work before it goes out, but the autonomy levels are high in my experience.”
The approachability of partners is a particular strong point. One trainee describes them as “friendly and nurturing, and a hoot to work with”, while another reports: “The open-door policy is very much enforced. And whilst you are fully aware of who the senior partners are, they are as approachable as anyone else. Hierarchy is definitely not played on as much as it could be!” This year’s survey featured no negative comments about partners at all, and the lowest mark anyone gave was 7 out of 10 — stellar stuff.
The trainees themselves are a tight-knit bunch: “The only trying period was NQ interview season — and even then everyone was very supportive of each other.” Another trainee simply says that “the best thing about Squires is the people. By far.” This 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 those seats is almost guaranteed to be a client secondment. There are some great destinations, including FTSE 100 companies, luxury retailers, Live Nation, Chelsea FC and fast-growing start-ups like On the Beach. 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 and Paris the most common destinations. But Legal Cheek understands that a few future trainees have made it to Sydney this year, 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 the work/life balance is reasonable for corporate law, with most people reporting being out the door 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 free taxis after 9pm. Nothing to turn your nose up at, but “could be improved in comparison to other US firms of our size”.
More warmly received are the firm’s newish offices in Manchester and Leeds, both of which are described as “fantastic” and “pretty swish”. They’re nicely located, too: Leeds is “10 minute walk to the train station and close to the canal for lunchtime walks when you’re not too busy”. 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, London and Birmingham “need a face lift”. The good news for trainees in the capital is that a move to a “very impressive” new office in Spitalfields is reportedly imminent. The new digs come with the roof terrace that no self-respecting City firm can do without.
The million dollar question is how much time you’ll get to spend there, with the world still a bit I Am Legend. The good news is that the work from home move seems to have gone smoothly: “I have been sent a screen, cables and everything I need”, reports a chuffed trainee. “I’ve had no issues at all and have felt very comfortable working away from the office”, says another. In some ways it’s an improvement from before lockdown, when “working from home wasn’t really encouraged”.
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 new and very good”.
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.”