Corporate and financial offerings take pride of place alongside Hogan Lovells' revered litigation practice.
Anglo-American amalgamations are often triumphant affairs. Fleetwood Mac, The Police, The Jimi Hendrix Experience – all searing fusions of British and US musical talent that became trailblazing global phenomena. Hogan Lovells is one such transatlantic success story in the world of law. Born of a 2010 merger between Brit heavyweight Lovells and US colossus Hogan & Hartson, the firm very much holds its own on the global stage. HL has around 45 offices worldwide and more than 2,500 lawyers between them. Thanks to the launch of an Australian practice in 2015, when the firm snapped up husband-and-wife team Nicky and Tim Lester from Allens and opened operations in Perth and Sydney, HL now has flags on every continent bar Antarctica. Training principal David Moss tells us the move “has put us in a very strong position to capitalise on the large amount of trade, investment and transactional work going between Australia, Asia and Europe.” The recession produced a few years of mixed results, but 2014 saw the firm's global revenue grow for a second successive year, hitting $1.78 billion.
Litigation, which has long been a cornerstone of HL, forms some 30% of the London office's workload. The practice earns a Chambers UK ranking in the 'elite' litigation category, plus high marks for its contentious regulatory, civil fraud, and pensions litigation work (among several other practices). In the past two years, HL has chalked up twice as many reported High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court appearances as Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy or Slaughter and May. One of these is BTA Bank's $6 billion asset recovery and fraud claim against former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov – the largest case in the English courts at the time of print.
HL's department has expanded significantly since the merger and is now London's largest department; finance rounds out its three core disciplines. “Litigation has always been a key strength of the firm; however, our corporate and finance capabilities have grown considerably over the past five years and are now equally strong,” notes Moss. Like litigation, corporate constitutes around a third of HL's workload, and matters here are no small change: lawyers recently advised Bestway on its £620 million acquisition of the Co-operative Group's pharmacy business. The team receives nods from Chambers UK for its efforts on the capital markets, investment funds and high-end M&A fronts; asset finance, consumer finance, trade finance and banking are just a few of the finance-related practices that come in for rankings too.
Given the growing prominence of corporate, finance and litigation work at HL, “opportunities to sit in smaller departments like employment, IP and public law are increasingly competitive," the firm's trainees noted. In 2015, the firm retained 46 of 61 qualifiers. Associate director of legal resourcing Claire Harris had this to say about the retention rate, which is slightly below the market average: “While we offer a broad training contract with experience in a range of practice areas, the majority of qualification vacancies are in corporate, finance and litigation.” To prevent this from happening again in the future, the firm has now made it compulsory for all trainees to complete seats in both corporate and finance.
Whole lotta Lovells
Trainees get to submit preferences for each seat, including their first. Once they join the firm, newbies meet with grad recruitment to map out a seat plan, including any secondments they want to undertake (these usually take place in a trainee's third or fourth seat). At the time of our interviews, 14 of HL's 58 second-years were doing in-house gigs with clients like BNP Paribas, Ford, John Lewis, SABMiller, Exxon Mobil and British American Tobacco. Another nine were spending a seat in one of HL's overseas offices. Hong Kong, New York and Singapore are the most popular destinations, though Brussels, Dubai, Paris, Johannesburg and Washington DC are also on the menu. Those hoping to land one of these “would be wise to express an interest early on,” trainees advised.
Hogan Lovells' litigation arm handles all kinds of contentious work, from employment and construction disputes to pensions and fraud cases. Some seats here straddle different areas – for example, 'D3' involves fraud, insolvency and corporate litigation. The firm regularly attracts high-profile cases, like the international arbitration team's recent defence of the government of Mongolia during a $300 million case concerning the revocation of licences to mine uranium. A stint in financial services litigation tends to provide exposure to particularly lucrative cases, as cases predominantly involve big banks with multi-jurisdictional disputes. “The matters are usually as fascinating as they are prestigious,” mentioned a source here. One drawback, however, is that "with really high values at stake, clients don't always want trainees getting involved. Trainees do a lot more administrative prep work than attending of hearings.” Still, “maintaining files and bundles isn’t easy, as there’s a lot to keep on top of. And if you can prove yourself on those sorts of tasks, the odd drafting opportunity does usually crop up.”
Corporate trainees are assigned to sub-groups like M&A, private equity, regulatory and pensions. The latter team chalks up a top ranking in Chambers UK, and sources here raved that “the quality of work we cover is excellent. We advise on pension policy for the likes of Kodak and BT, and often handle multibillion-pound revisions." Indeed, lawyers here recently oversaw Kodak's new £1 billion pension plan following the insolvent restructuring of Eastman Kodak, and advised the trustee of the BT pension scheme on £16 billion worth of liabilities. "We resolve individual member complaints too, which means writing to them on behalf of an employer to explain why a certain decision stands.” Interviewees who'd sat with the team told of drafting trust deeds, emailing clients, and attending trustee meetings and High Court depositions. "You have to do a lot of research into company structure, which is very useful going forward."
The tax team has the likes of Prudential, Kodak Alaris and Tate & Lyle on the books, and “primarily focuses on the commercial ramifications of UK and EU-level legislation on multinational corporations.” That means handling the tax aspects of cross-border mergers and joint ventures, and advising on country-specific legislation like FATCA. "There's also a growing litigation side in addition to all the corporate support stuff – they handle things like VAT disputes." Trainees told us: "There's a lot of research to be done" in a tax seat, and also reported bundling, reviewing documents, drafting instructions to counsel, and negotiating with the HMRC on behalf of companies with direct tax complaints. “Tax is a pretty technical and complicated area of law, but after six months of getting stuck in, I felt like my comprehension had improved greatly," said one.
Trainees can undertake finance seats in banking, project finance, capital markets, restructuring and insolvency, or asset finance. The firm's global banking practice is spearheaded in London, and the team earns Chambers UK rankings on both the lender and borrower side. Lender clients include the likes of Lloyds, BNP Paribas and Citibank, and there's a big emphasis on emerging markets as well as unitranche debt work for non-bank lenders like private equity funds. One of the highest-value matters on the docket of late has been advising a syndicate of 11 banks – among them HSBC, Bank of China and Commonwealth Bank of Australia – in relation to a $3.2 billion loan to finance several cross-border acquisitions for Chinese food-processing holding company COFCO. Such matters typically see trainees draft board minutes and legal opinions, and keep conditions precedent lists. “It can be quite a demanding seat, and there's a lot of international work, so you can expect some extended periods of late nights.” Similar tasks can be found in project finance, where lawyers assist lenders with the financing of infrastructure like hospitals, schools and wind farms. The group recently advised a syndicate of investment banks on the financing of the acquisition of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton Airports – a deal worth more than £1 billion.
Sunshine of your Lovells
Our sources earmarked public law and intellectual property as especially popular among HL's more specialist seats. The public law team deals “mainly with judicial review related to government decisions that have affected corporate clients.” The seat has a large advisory component, and is “quite academic, with a lot of research into whether or not clients have grounds enough to issue a claim.” IP, meanwhile, is divided into brands, patent and TMT sub-groups. Brands does a lot of work with food businesses like PepsiCo, SABMiller and Mars (recently advising the latter on how to manage lookalike products), and oversees commercial brand agreements. “We also provide trade mark availability advice to global companies with cross-jurisdictional plans on the table.”
When they're not slaying the commercial dragon, HL trainees can often be found nosing down on pro bono matters. “There are a hell of a lot of opportunities for pro bono here, and they're often a million miles away from your normal corporate tasks. You can find yourself representing a victim of a terrorist attack at a criminal injury compensation tribunal the same week you're drafting a credit agreement for a multimillion-pound loan." The firm recently began requiring all members of staff to complete 25 'citizen' hours (ie pro bono or CSR work) each year. Recent CSR activities include a sponsored bike ride spanning the 460 km route from Vietnam to Cambodia, a Strictly Come Dancing competition, abseiling in aid of the London Air Ambulance, and a sponsored run from London to Birmingham.
Go hard or go Hogans
HL’s social offerings tend to veer towards the extravagant. Take the summer party, which in 2014 was held in Old Billingsgate Market and featured a ferris wheel, rides, fine dining and “lots of leather.” (Don’t worry, we’re not talking 50 Shades here; the theme was rock music, so “some of the partners formed a band. They actually weren’t bad. Everyone was dancing.”) We hear the party is a prime opportunity to try out one of the firm’s sleeping pods. “That’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone use one,” chuckled one source. That's not to say there aren't late nights aplenty. Corporate and litigation are among the worst offenders: “One week you’ll leave at 6pm or 7pm every night; the next it could be 3am. Luckily, the supervisors are there with you. And they're always thankful for your efforts." That said, there are departments where hours are both steadier and more forgiving. In pensions, for example, “you won’t understand the concept of a late night," asserted one source, telling us: "I left at 7pm consistently." In any case, aspiring trainees can take solace from the firm's recently hiked trainee and NQ salaries.
HL's Holborn Viaduct digs come with plenty of perks, including in-house gym classes and regular in-house talks on global social issues. At the time of our calls, the firm was hosting an 'Influential Women in Business' portrait collection on loan from the National Gallery. “With so much going on, it feels a bit like a university. We're a huge firm, but they give us lots of forums for getting to know people." Our interviewees valued this “feeling that someone is working behind the scenes to make life here a little more interesting,” and said the effect on working atmosphere is clear: "It doesn't feel like a faceless, huge corporate environment." It helps that "partners are, by and large, down to earth. Your supervisor is as likely to chat with you about your personal life as your career.”
Whether it’s paycheques, global reach or parties, bigger seems to be better at Hogan Lovells. The office is no exception: it boasts a 12-storey water feature that's the largest of its sort in Europe.
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How to get a Hogan Lovells training contract
Training contract deadline: 31 March 2016 (graduates and non-law students); 31 July 2016 (law students)
Vacation scheme deadline: 6 November 2015 (winter); 15 January 2016 (spring and summer)
Law fairs and events
The firm attends around 27 law fairs each year, but also hosts around 150 on-campus events and 50 internal events. Some of the latter are open to students from school to university age, as part of Hogan Lovells' broader social mobility initiative.
Additionally, there's an annual open day for mature students, supported by the Birkbeck College School of Law, plus three open days for first-year law students. To apply for an open day – or any of Hogan Lovells' vacation schemes or training contract opportunities – candidates complete an online application form, and undergo a critical thinking test and telephone interview.
Applications for Hogan Lovells' training contracts and vacation schemes are considered on a rolling basis, so we suggest applying early to increase your chances of landing a spot.
The firm receives around 1,800 training contract applications each year. There's space for up to 60 trainees, spread across two intakes (August and February).
Hogan Lovells' recruitment team recently revised the initial application form (which is used for both vac scheme and training contract applicants) – it's now shorter and contains questions tailored specifically to the firm. Make sure you've done your research on Hogan Lovells' practices, clients, and recent work; a scatter-gun approach won't make the cut. Advice from the firm on how to fill out the form can be found here.
Those who impress on paper are prompted to complete an online critical thinking test. If that goes down well, it's on to a telephone interview. This is conducted by a third-party organisation, and involves a mix of motivational and competency questions.
Both vac scheme and training contract applicants who pass the telephone interview are invited to attend an assessment day. This kicks off with another critical thinking test. You can get some practice by having a crack at this example online.
The day also includes a partner-led introduction to the firm, lunch with the current trainees and a guided tour of the office. These informalities are accompanied by two interviews: a situational interview with an associate and a member of graduate recruitment, and one with two partners. Those attending an assessment day for a training contract also complete a group exercise.
The situational interview was introduced in 2013 in response to trainee supervisors' concerns that incoming trainees didn't fully understand the demands of the role. “We've created a bank of scenarios based on past situations that trainees have faced. Candidates can't easily prepare for these,” says graduate recruitment manager Natasha Sheehan. “This approach enables candidates to better understand what they will be involved in if they become a trainee here, and it also allows us see how they think through situations, as well as how they will conduct themselves professionally at all levels.”
As for the other interview, trainees described it as “not stuffy,” with one telling us “the interviewers were quite interested in the things I’d done outside academia.”
Demonstrating a decent level of commercial awareness is key to passing these interviews. Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched the type of work the firm does and who makes up its client base, and keep abreast of developments in the legal and financial sectors.
Candidates are told within five working days of the assessment day whether they've secured a vac scheme place or a training contract.
Around 50% of each incoming trainee intake has completed a Hogan Lovells vac scheme. The firm holds two three-week placements for penultimate-year law students each summer. There's also a two-week winter placement reserved for non-law final-year students and grads, as well as a week-long programme during the spring for first-year law students. And there's further good news for penultimate-year law students: in 2015 the firm introduced a two-week spring placement specifically for this group. The firm has space for up to 25 candidates on each placement.
Winter schemers split their time between two practice areas, while summer schemers can expect to sit in on three. Penultimate-year law students – who the firm expects to have a more refined idea of where their interests lie – visit two practice areas during the spring scheme, whereas first-year spring schemers visit four.
Attendees on all schemes shadow a mix of lawyers, and attend presentations, workshops and research training sessions. Penultimate-year law students on the spring and summer schemes also work on a group project that culminates in a presentation – luckily they're given some preparatory presentation skills training to help pack some punch into their delivery.
On the social side, there are drinks receptions, networking dinners, ping pong competitions and dragon boat races.
Candidates need to demonstrate a consistently strong performance throughout university, with a minimum 2:1 degree result.
All about that BaSE: trainees working with start-ups
What do you get when you bring together a useful fish, some neglected veg and 30 fresh-faced trainees? Fear not, you haven't stumbled across Hannibal Lecter's recipe book: at Hogan Lovells, it's all about that BaSE.
As of spring 2015, all of the firm's incoming trainees have been enrolled into the brand-new Business and Social Enterprise programme (BaSE). The programme enables trainees to take the lead and dish out legal support to small companies, whose business plans promote social enterprise. Though still in its infancy, the programme already has a number of exciting projects on the go.
Take The Lucky Iron Fish: a joint enterprise between Canadian and Cambodian innovators, whose nifty cooking aid could help to combat iron deficiency issues in Cambodia and beyond. By just popping the start-up's poisson-shaped lump of iron into the dinner pot, an entire family can be provided with around 75% of their daily iron intake. What's more, it's usable for up to five years. The product itself is manufactured in Cambodia, where the start-up plans to re-invest a share of the profits in order to benefit its employees' communities. So far, it's been up to HL's young guns to help with any legal hurdles that crop up along the way.
There are many other projects to potentially get involved in. One is Rang De – an India-based not-for-profit that aims to alleviate poverty in communities by providing access to affordable crowd-funded loans. Clients can also be found closer to home too: trainees can help London-based chutney maker, Rubies in the Rubble, with any legal pickles it may have. This company tackles food waste by exclusively using fresh surplus collected from fruit n' veg markets.
So where do trainees fit into all of this? Well, during their two-week induction period, newbies are split into groups and briefed on the various types of assistance that clients may require. Soon after, a number of reps are invited to HL's London HQ to explain their respective business plans. Trainees jot down a few preferences, and are then placed into small groups, each of which is allocated a client. After a few days' briefing, “they’re your client to keep indefinitely, so it’s on you to maintain that relationship and help them out with any legal and commercial issues they may have.”
Trainees clearly relished the responsibility, despite being daunted at first: “It takes you a little bit out of your comfort zone,” stated one rookie, “because it can throw up a wide range of issues that you've never dealt with before.” With clients' (usually) very small businesses, “it's really important to get to grips with their business plan, because the more you engage, the more you'll learn.” For aspiring solicitors eager to cut their teeth, such an approach “gives you a far greater insight into the running and requirements of a commercial business than you'd maybe gain working for a large multinational client.” And although the onus is on newbies to step up and serve as their client's main port-of-call, “the firm never leaves you unsupervised, which helps to build up your confidence.”
Hogan Lovells abroad
The result of a 2010 merger between London's Lovells and DC's Hogan & Hartson, Hogan Lovells is a legal giant, employing over 2,500 lawyers in almost 50 offices across the globe. You can get the low-down on life at HL in both the UK and the US on our website, but if you're keen to learn more about HL's global developments, then read on.
Back in November 2013, HL announced its impending combination with South African firm Routledge Modise. It's not the first international firm to formalise a presence in South Africa; White & Case paved the way with an office back in 1995, and within the last five years Norton Rose Fulbright, Linklaters, Baker & McKenzie, Eversheds, Clyde & Co, Dentons, HSF and Allen & Overy have all strategically aligned themselves in the country's small but promising market.
Most of the firms flocking to South Africa have their sights set on energy matters. The South African government recently implemented a plan to cut the country's dependence on coal via a sizeable renewable energy project, and drilling off the coast signifies a potential boom in oil and gas exploration. Alongside this, ongoing international investment, particularly from China, continues to show faith in the country's commercial enterprises, while many anticipate that changes to the law will bring South Africa's status as a regional arbitration centre to the fore.
HL had been active on the continent for 30 years before setting up shop, and has long maintained an Africa practice across its London, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai offices. The majority of the firm's top 200 clients also have business interests and operations in Africa. By 2013, however, HL needed to shift gear. As US partner Emily Yinger explains: “We felt like it was time to have an actual presence in South Africa: our clients were becoming increasingly active in the market, and it's important for us to be strong there.” Enter Routledge Modise. “We had already worked with Routledge Modise on certain projects, and we knew of their reputation as a very well-respected firm in the country.” However, HL's appetite to grow in the region doesn't appear to be sated just yet. As Yinger tells us: “We'll continue to expand our network around the African continent with other local firms.”
Wanted down under
Up until recently, there was a noticeable gap in HL's continental sweep of offices: Australia. It was only a matter of time before a move down under would be announced, with the region's energy and mining work a lucrative draw for ambitious players like HL. Sure enough, in 2015 offices were launched in Perth and Sydney after the firm snapped up partners Nicky and Tim Lester from Aussie outfit Allens. It's a move that training principal David Moss believes “puts us in a very strong position to capitalise on the large amount of trade, investment and transactional work going on between Australia, Asia and Europe.”
The firm's North American presence was further bolstered in the summer of 2014, when HL combined with Mexican shop Siqueiros y Torres Landa. This added two new offices to the firm's already impressive collection, in Mexico City and Monterrey.
Trainees can now experience life in another North American office to boot: a six-month stint in DC has been added to the list of overseas secondment options (which also includes New York, Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong and Dubai). Sources told us that DC is “a massive office, as it was Hogan & Hartson's headquarters back in the day.” Owing to its size, secondees can expect “lots of different types of work. Perhaps 70% is regulatory, but corporate, finance and litigation are all strong practices too.”
Getting there can extend a trainee's to-do list somewhat: those who'd ventured to the Big Apple found applying to work in the US “more difficult than it would be elsewhere, as there's a lot of extra work that goes into securing visas, health insurance and social security numbers.” Fortunately, HL “does a great job of making sure that everything is done correctly, and even provides a fully-furnished apartment in a swish condo.” For those who appreciate a few home comforts, don't fret, as HL “even threw in bedsheets, towels, and most importantly of all: a corkscrew!”
- Partners 800+
- Assistant solicitors 2,500+
- Totalt rainees 130
- Method of application Online application form
- Selection procedure Assessment day
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website www.hoganlovells.com/graduates
- Facebook Hogan Lovells Grads UK
- Twitter @HLGraduatesUK
- Closing date for February & August 2018 Law applications: 31 July 2016. Non-law applications: 31 March 2016
- Training contracts p.a. up to 60
- Applications p.a. 1,500
- % interviewed p.a. 25%
- Required degree grade 2:1
- Training salary
- 1st year £41,000
- 2nd year £46,000
- Holiday entitlement 25 days
- % of trainees with a non-law degree p.a. 50%
- No. of seats available abroad p.a. 25
- Post-qualification salary £70,000
- International offices Alicante, Amsterdam, Baltimore, Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Caracas, Colorado, Denver, Dubai, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Houston, Jakarta, Jeddah, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Madrid, Miami, Milan, Moscow, Munich, New York, Northern Virginia, Paris, Perth, Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, Riyadh, Rome, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Ulaanbaatar, Warsaw, Washington DC, Zagreb
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