Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) was formed in 2014 from the merger between two ostensibly 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 made headlines recently for its work advising political consultancy Cambridge Analytica on the US government investigation into its use of Facebook data for President Trump’s election campaign.
In the UK, SPB’s deep roots originate through Hammonds, a once big name in British legal circles, which Squire Sanders took over 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 25 training contracts. An indication of how central the firm views the UK to its current operations is the fact that global managing partner Stephen Mahon has this year relocated from Cincinnati to London.
With global revenue over the billion dollar mark and profit per equity partner of $987,000 (£774,000), 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 the expansion of its Sydney and Perth teams and the acquisition of an intellectual property boutique in Silicon Valley.
The firm’s results in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19 suggest a happy UK ship, where the training experience seems to be very much in Hammonds’ mould of steady and trusted big corporate law firm. One 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 just 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!”
The trainees themselves are a tight bunch: “The only trying period was “NQ interview season” — and even then everyone was very supportive of each other.” And 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.” Also, appreciated is a ‘Grow Your Network’ initiative, which holds events where SPB junior lawyers invite their contacts across various industries.
SPB runs a six rather than four seat rotation, which rookies seem to like, with a major plus being that one of these 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 20% 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 trainees have made it to Sydney this year.
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 an average leave time of just after 7pm. 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.”
Again, in this year’s Legal Cheek Survey the firm has scored a B grade for perks, which are said to be “pretty standard”. Among other things there is free private healthcare, subsidised gym membership, free food after 7pm free and taxis after 9pm.
More warmly received are the firm’s new offices in Manchester and Leeds, both of which are described as “fantastic”. Highlights include the “nice open-plan sitting areas with bean-to-cup coffee machines” and shared offices with “excellent sound-proofing”. In comparison, London is “a bit old school”. 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”.
The office moves have coincided with roll-outs of new tech across the firm, with updated IT systems and laptops and mobile phones for everyone (although note that “trainees don’t really work from home”). The tech support is said to be particularly good as it’s genuinely 24 hour: “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”.