Squire inspires trainees with international work balanced by a reassuring UK feel.
Patt-on the back
Squire Patton Boggs is a merger maestro, as several name changes over the last decade attest. Formed by the 2014 union between Ohio-based Squire Sanders and Washington, DC-based Patton Boggs, each side brought its own set of global office offspring. The bulk of the UK operation joined the fold when Leeds legal legend Hammonds merged with Squire Sanders back in 2011, a marriage which also brought hubs in Madrid, Berlin, Paris and Frankfurt. Today's firm has no fewer than 46 offices in 21 countries.
So far, so like your typical American mega firm, right? Wrong. Manchester-based training principal Giles Chesher, who joined Hammonds in 2001, tells us that “SPBblends its regional heritage with international reach and our culture and work ethic are in line with what we are: entrepreneurial, but personable.” Don't assume that SPB's UK arm isn't as driven as its US counterpart though: “We have made considerable progress in building our reputation in key industry sectors [chemicals, healthcare, global infrastructure and automotive]," says Chesher. "With the merger of Carroll, Burdick & McDonough in 2016, we have strengthened our automotive and manufacturing capability."
Chambers UK rains down rankings upon the firm's four UK offices: London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Yorkshire lawyers nab top spots in tax, planning and employment, and do a lot of corporate/M&A dealmaking. In the North West, pensions, corporate and banking are particular strengths. Midlands Chambers accolades go to practices including environment, litigation, construction, and insolvency. London is noted for its real estate, mid-market M&A, and immigration work, among other things. In fact, SPB refreshingly takes the view that while London is important, it's not the be all and end all: “Our regional offices are strong in their markets and are not reliant on work coming from London," emphasises Chesher. "In the first three months of 2017, Leeds did £1.7 billion worth of deals and Manchester continues to lead our chemicals expertise.”
You schmooze, you lose
A training contract here gets off to a novel start. Most whizz through a fast-track LPC at BPP so they have time to squeeze in a three-month client secondment before starting at the firm (around 50% of the firm's incoming trainee cohort do this). Trainees have done stints at global recruitment companies, City Councils and banks, “doing mostly contract work. The biggest benefit is that it gives you so much legal experience before you go into the firm. It's so useful when you're not a lawyer yet.” Most new recruits, however, come in “with some practical experience.” Many of our sources had either previously paralegalled, worked in-house, or taken a few years out after uni.At the time of our calls there were 17 trainees in London, 12 in Leeds, and nine in each of Birmingham and Manchester. Each location houses seats in the core departments of corporate, real estate, property litigation, employment, banking/financial services, pensions, IP, tax and litigation. More specialist areas like international dispute resolution, competition and sports law can be found in London.
Trainees undertake six seats, with a repeat stint a possibility but not common. Seat allocation in all locations goes like this: first seats are assigned by HR, “then every mid-seat review you get to rank three preferences.” Like most firms, second-years get priority, but no one was complaining: “You normally get at least one of your choices.” Come qualification, “the job list comes round and you can apply for a job in another office. You have a week to let HR know which ones you’re going for, HR tells the departments and then the departments schedule the interviews.” We were told London is a lot more formal: “You have to submit CVs – it's like going to an external interview which I think is fairer. It's not about who schmoozes the partners, it's about who's qualified.” In 2017, 15 out of 23 were retained.
“Working out time-zones was interesting!”
The corporate practice operates firmly in the mid-market, and in London covers the media, energy, sports and financial services sectors. In Manchester, while there are specialist partners who are big on chemicals, “it's also a lot of private equity and corporate finance. I did ten completions in four months from start to finish, drafting ancillaries and dealing directly with the clients.” Leeds newbies had dabbled in “a few M&As and AIM listings. Our clients range from big private equity houses to individual home-grown companies.” Notable wins have included helping ale group Marston's gulp down Thwaites' beer brewing division for a refreshing £25 million. We also heard of trainees in London “dealing with an acquisition of a tech company, researching insurance issues, drafting sale and purchase agreements, prepping signing documents, and managing all parts of the document check-lists. Plus bibling – obviously.”
Banking trainees explained that part of the seat involves corporate support work, “running CP check-lists, corporate authorisations, notice drafting and company search reports.” However, each office has a more niche finance side as well. Leeds is closely linked to corporate, while Birmingham banking solicitors “work primarily in real estate finance for both borrowers and lenders.” This roughly translates into doing all the numbers for property transactions, so that when it's crunch time and deals are closing, the money is available. “It's a lot of refinancing and drafting ancillary documents – it's mechanical tasks, not technical research.” Others had “worked for a huge pension scheme that had a massive property portfolio all over the world – working out time-zones was interesting!” Londoners get even more finance-y: “Over here banking is split with restructuring and insolvency too.” It's also fair to say that those in the capital get a touch more responsibility: “One matter I saw start to finish and I liaised with the client. Obviously there was bibiling, but also a good amount of drafting ancillaries.” Departmental highlights include helping PNC Business Credit lend £70 million to machine hire company AFI-Uplift (you know – scissor lifts and the like).
“The software was completely over my head.”
Ligation is a vast expanse of different specialist areas which, to make matters more complicated, then break down further depending on what office you're in. So let's take it a step at a time. First up, as well as a seat in general commercial litigation, trainees can undertake stints in property litigation and (in London) international dispute resolution or sports litigation. Beyond that, traditionally the MCR lot handle a lot of chemicals, manufacturing, IT and financial services disputes, whereas Brummies have an influx of pensions, financial services and property matters on the docket. Helpfully, insiders told us what they'd been up to. Leeds locals had “worked on an IP litigation matter, where software had been infringed – the software was completely over my head, but the counsel and experts were so good at explaining what's going on. I reviewed the statement of case, helped draft the particulars of claim and met with clients – it was great.” Commercial litigation “is a lot of professional negligence matters, and mis-rep/fraud. I actually got to go and witness the mis-rep trial I was working on at the RCJ.” However, a lot of com lit is taken up by contractual breach issues, some of which are far from run-of-the-mill: “Our client bought a yacht and was complaining because they didn’t think it was of satisfactory quality. It was for an arbitration overseas, so I had to pull together all the documents and get the witness statements ready to go.”
Arbitrations featured across locations, but we were told that if you're hoping to actually attend an arbitration hearing, then you might need to think again as “however many billion pound arbitrations are going on at the time, the actual hearings only come around once every three years.” Yet, that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of other things to sink your legal gnashers into. Oil and gas work in London was pretty full-on when we spoke to trainees. Clients include oil field owners: “There's a formula in the documents that specifies after how many years the price can be reviewed. We have to review a lot of expert opinions.” Insiders revealed that “because it's so document heavy, we had to bring the whole trainee cohort out of other departments to help sift. That's one of the bones of contention actually.” However, they can't complain about the quality of clients, who include Tesco and the European Commission.
Red Hot deals
Funding arrangements, pension scheme closures and structuring discussions all crop up in the pensions department. Sources explained that “as trainees, you take more of an assisting role because the law is so complex. There's a lot of trustees work, dealing with enquiries from members of the trust about pension schemes.” While some had been exposed to more practical tasks like “drafting deeds of amendment plus deeds of appointment and approval,” others had been commissioned to research. “It's really technical – it's normally things like how divorce or death will affect the pension.” For example, the team acted for the trustee of the Allianz Retirement and Death Benefits Fund, dealing with historical benefit issues that included a Pensions Ombudsman dispute over an ill-health early retirement case. The fund has a total of over £900 million assets.
The firm runs overseas seats (in Paris and Brussels) and client secondments at every rotation. These are advertised on a national basis, and the application process runs once a year, at which point shortlisted candidates are interviewed and positions confirmed. There's a good selection, with most offering commercial work. Some insiders had done stints at ITV, where they'd “reviewed content distribution and licence agreements. I also worked on interactive elements to programmes, like voting and T&Cs for I'm a Celeb.” Another popular one was with Live Nation, "who own the rights to festivals throughout the UK. There's a lot of M&A/corporate work, but you mainly work on artist contracts. I got to do the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s contract, and then I went to their show the next week.”
“To our core we have a UK vibe – we're not heavily Americanised or anything. We're not really an American firm, we're an international firm with a strong American presence.” Other trainees went even further: “If anything we're very proud of our regional roots – we're a northern powerhouse and proud of it.” This partly explains the expensive revamps up north recently. Leeds upped sticks last year and moved into new digs: “It's great, now you see people every day, whereas before you wouldn't have seen them for a week. Plus everything is modern and bright and we've got beautiful views of the canal. We also have a kitchen upstairs where you can call up and ask for whatever breakfast you want and it's made to order!” Mancunians will have to wait until 2018 before they get to relocate to their new purpose built offices at One Spinningfields: “It's prime location – it's like a mini Canary Wharf – there's going to be a roof top bar, and an Oyster & Champagne bar in there too.”
Everyone we polled said that they're the type of people who are “very down-to-earth and really friendly, which I didn't expect it to be.” Others described it as “a human firm, everyone is really good fun and they do what they can to make sure you feel welcome.” A Londoner explained that “when I was in my litigation seat, I knew the trainee who had done litigation before in Manchester, and so we'd call each other up and swap tips and ask questions.” It's understandable why the only real bugbear was the lack of company-wide gatherings. “We need more firm socials! I mean, we work across offices all the time, but socials specifically aimed at trainees would be good.”
However, the three-week induction in Leeds is a concerted effort to bring the whole cohort together, as do department-wide training sessions at the start of each seat. “It's stuff on what you'll be doing day-to-day, what to avoid, and there’s a handover with the current trainees in that seat where they give you helpful hints and tips.” This is usually combined with some form of drinks event. Other socials throughout the training contract are done on an office-to-office basis and include “a sweets trolley that goes down a treat on billing day,” monthly drinks, themed summer and Xmas dos, and charity events like “the London MoonWalk, which is a full marathon at night raising money for breast cancer.” In Birmingham, last year's winter shindig “was 50s themed, so there were loads dressed up like Grease characters.”
Do well by the end of first-year and you could be appointed either head or deputy trainee. Each office has a pair and they help “as a link between HR, the partnership and trainees.” They also have a hand in the social scene too.
How to get a Squire Patton Boggs training contract
Open day deadline (2018): 20 February 2018 (opens 25 September 2017)
Training contract deadline (2020): 1 November 2017 & 9 January 2018 (via vac scheme) (opens 25 September 2017)
Open evenings and open days
Squire Patton Boggs runs four open evenings in November every year in its London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds offices. They’re open to all students looking to get to know the firm. The firm also runs open days at each of these offices during the Easter break which are open to first-year law and second year non-law students.
Applications and assessment
Squire Patton Boggs only recruits trainees through its winter and summer vacation schemes which are hosted at each of the firm's UK offices. Winter schemes are one week in length, while those in the summer last for a fortnight.
You'll need a minimum of 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree in any subject to be considered by the firm. Those who haven't graduated yet should be on track to attain a 2:1. Applications start with a short online form. Those who impress on the form are then invited to complete an online assessment. A select number of candidates will then be invited to attend a half-day assessment centre at one of Squire Patton Boggs’ offices, which involves an interview and a presentation. Vacation scheme offers are made from here.
The vacation scheme
During the vac scheme, students spend time in a department and attend regular presentations. There are social events too, such as dinners, bowling excursions and quiz nights. As with vac schemes anywhere, don't forget that you'll be on show at all times. There’s no need to worry about this, just simply show yourself off at your best whenever you can. All vac schemers are automatically considered for a training contract and have a final interview on their penultimate day of the scheme.
How to wow
Training principal Giles Chesher tells us: “We're looking for character and individuality. Roughly half of our trainees got Firsts, but that's not the be-all and end-all. We want to see your personality shining off the page of your application.”
During the interview, you're likely to be asked why you want to join Squire Patton Boggs. Chesher cautions against falling back on saying “'because I want to join a big international firm,' as that tells us nothing.” He goes on to say: “Everyone always says we're friendly and open, but one of the things that attracts trainees to us is the personal way in which we recruit. Candidates aren't just numbers. I personally call people to tell them if they've got a job or haven't. I attend universities. We do take an interest." Indeed, Chesher says that following the summer vac scheme he “called students personally, then texted them, then asked a trainee to get in touch, saying: 'Call us if you have any questions'. That reflects the culture of our firm. We want to provide support and answer any questions applicants may have as they're going through university."
Interview with training principal Giles Chesher
Chambers Student: What were the highlights of 2016/17 at Squire Patton Boggs?
Giles Chesher: We've always focused on developing homegrown talent and of the seven people we promoted to partner in the UK and Europe in 2016/17, two trained and qualified with the firm and a further three joined us as junior lawyers over ten years ago. It's also worth pointing out that Jane Haxby, who was appointed European managing partner this year, also trained and qualified with the firm. This is the type of firm we are – we invest in the best people early on. At the same time we've made a number of senior level lateral hires into the energy team in London. Energy is important because it links into other areas of focus for the firm like chemicals and infrastructure, so we're playing to our strengths.
Our regional offices are strong in their markets and are not reliant on work coming from London. In the first three months of this year, Leeds did £1.7 billion worth of deals and Manchester continues to lead our chemicals expertise and we are continuing to invest in our infrastructure capabilities. We are shortly going to be moving into a new office building in Manchester. It's right in the city centre at One Spinningfields. It's purpose built and we're going to be sharing the building with companies like PwC.
We moved to new premises in Leeds in 2016 which has been an absolute success because we've been able to bring everyone together and make sure that everyone's on one floor. It's not an open-plan set-up – everyone's in offices, but it really does foster team work. Plus we're right in the heart of the business district.
We are well-established in Birmingham. Our office is situated in a prime location in the city centre, and we have a strong reputation for our work within the automotive and manufacturing sector.
CS: What should our readers know about the firm's strategy for the future?
GC: We have a very strong mid-market corporate practice and and we will continue to build on our existing corporate profile. We have also made considerable progress in building our reputation in key industry sectors. As a firm we focus on the following four key sectors: chemicals, healthcare, global infrastructure and automotive. With the merger of [California firm] Carroll, Burdick & McDonough in 2016, we have strengthened our automotive and manufacturing capability. In terms of expansion, we are looking to recruit into our three offices in Germany as that is a massive business centre, plus with Brexit it could become more of a prominent player.
CS: Speaking of Brexit, how do you think it will affect the firm?
GC: I think Brexit will create more opportunities. We're well placed to help clients because we have offices across Europe. We have a growing public policy team in Brussels, and we have a long-established public policy group in the US [see below] and have a great opportunity to expand that offering for clients within Europe.
CS: Culturally speaking, is there a strong American flavour at the firm?
GC: The firm blends its regional heritage with international reach and our culture and work ethic are in line with what: we are entrepreneurial, but personable.
CS: Finally, what are you looking for in candidates?
GC: What I'm looking for is some demonstration of personality. Academics are obviously important and I expect to see good A levels, a good degree etc. But what I want to see is really what makes an applicant an individual and what demonstrates to me that they are driven, determined, entrepreneurial and personable. We're not looking for people who have spent their entire life entirely focused on the law. An applications is far more interesting to us if someone is more well rounded. This can be shown through anything. We want to connect with you. So be friendly, personable and professional. If you can do that, the hardest part of the battle is won.
So who exactly is (or rather was) Patton Boggs?
In a nutshell, Patton Boggs was one of America's biggest and most prestigious law firms, known especially for its top-notch Washington, DC political lobbying practice (and lots of other government-related work). It also cultivated a strong Middle East practice, and did a wide range of other transactional and litigation work besides.
The firm's movers and shakers on the DC political scene included the late Tommy Boggs himself (who passed away in September 2014), Nick Allard (who since 2012 has also been Dean of Brooklyn Law School) and Ben Ginsberg, a stalwart of the Republican movement who was presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign lawyer. You can read our personal 'Five Minutes With' interview with him here. However, Ginsberg was one of several prominent partners who left the firm around the time of the merger with Squire Sanders.
In the months before the merger was announced, Patton Boggs' future was the subject of much speculation in the legal press. It had experienced a tricky 2013, with two large rounds of redundancies in that year alone. The firm had also been embroiled in long-running, costly litigation with oil giant Chevron over pollution in Ecuador (Patton Boggs was playing David to Chevron's Goliath, on the side of indigenous tribes whose lives were wrecked by the mighty corporation). This troublesome case finally settled in May 2014 – read about it here. With this obstacle finally out of the way, the path was clear for the merger.
Speaking with us soon after the 2014 tie-up, UK-based partner Richard Morton told us that the "importance of the merger with Patton Boggs is immeasurable." He highlighted exciting additions to Squire Sanders' business including a "much bigger platform in Washington DC," increased access to Texas through Patton Boggs' offices there ("we're now incredibly powerful in oil and gas"), and a much-strengthened presence in the Middle East, where there is obviously oil money galore and "lots of work for sovereign funds." So, he concluded, "from the US perspective, it's a real game-changer."
UK lawyers can expect a slice of the action too whenever they're needed to advise on the UK aspects of international deals (or contentious issues, for that matter). This cross-border work is not just available for those based in the capital: "Lots of international work is done from UK offices outside London."
Three years on, how accurate were Richard Morton's post-merger predictions? Well, the firm shifted its attention away from Washington, DC after most of Patton Boggs' leadership committee and lobbying group exited the firm in the wake of the union. Yet Morton was spot on when it came to predicting increased international opportunities. During 2015 the firm turned its attention to its global network. “We’ve had good growth throughout the [international] platform, particularly in the US, the Middle East and Central Europe,” global managing partner Stephen Mahon told our sister publication Chambers Associate.
Depending on which seat they're in, trainees are also able to get in on a bit of international action. Though seats like pensions and employment predominantly concern themselves with domestic matters, others like competition, international arbitration and numerous transactional options can connect trainees with their foreign colleagues. “The financial services team has a huge international element to it,” one source confirmed by way of example. “The clients there are often global or multinational, so if you have to reorganise their financial agreements you'll be doing so across multiple jurisdictions.”
Squire Patton Boggs
148 Edmund Street,
7 Devonshire Square,
6 Wellington Place,
16 John Dalton Street,
- Total trainees 46
- UK offices Birmingham, London, Leeds, Manchester
- Overseas offices 46 offices across 21 countries
- Graduate recruiter: Victoria Pickworth Booth [email protected]
- Training partner: Giles Chesher
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 20
- Applications pa: 1,500
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 300 UCAS points or equivalent
- Dates and deadlines
- Vacation scheme applications open: 25 September 2017
- Vacation scheme 2018 deadline: 1 November 2017 (winter), 9 January 2018 (summer)
- Open day deadline: 20 February 2018
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £37,000
- Second-year salary: £42,000
- Post-qualification salary: £62,000
- Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester:
- First-year salary: £26,000
- Second-year salary: £28,000
- Post-qualification salary: £40,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester
- Overseas seats: Paris and Brussels
- Client secondments: Yes
We support private and public sector clients across extensive global practice areas. Our teams have wellestablished local and regional positions across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America. Collectively, we cover 140 jurisdictions and speak over 40 languages.
In the UK, we operate from offices in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester, working with a diverse mix of global clients. Many of these are among the biggest names and brands in the world, and include FTSE and Fortune 100 companies, emerging and fast-growth businesses, financial institutions, and regional and national governments.
Choose from any of our UK offices. With six seats and a variety of practice areas available, you can effectively create your own individual training programme. Prior to starting, some trainees have the opportunity to take part in a three month pre-training contract secondment, an element that really sets us apart from other law firms. This opportunity helps develop a trainee’s understanding of how businesses work and what is expected of legal advisors. Supervision consists of a two-tier system, with a partner supervisor in your department as well as a daily supervisor. You’ll have meetings with your trainee manager and appraisals with your supervisor in each seat. A dedicated trainee mentor is also available for you. You’ll be guaranteed first-rate work and a high level of involvement with our clients – we believe in offering challenges, responsibility and opportunities.
• 29 November 2017 - Manchester office open evening
• 30 November 2017 - Birmingham office opening evening
• 5 December 2017 - Leeds office open evening