Squires' global reach stretches from San Fran to Shanghai, but its UK lawyers are still fiercely proud of the firm's local roots.
Jenny from the block
Don't be fooled by the network it's got; just like J-Lo, Squire Patton Boggs is still really just 'Jenny from the block'. Well, 'Hammonds from the block' – because that was the national UK firm which merged with a US suitor in 2011 to form the firm that is now Squire Patton Boggs. Scratch the surface and that UK firm is still there – all that's changed is that it's now closely tied to a global network of 45 offices. Manchester-based training principal Giles Chesher tells us: “The firm has invested in its UK offices by moving to new flagship offices in Leeds, and taking on space in what’s going to be one of the most impressive office buildings in Manchester. The UK offices are core to the firm’s network and collaborate with other offices around the world on cross-border matters for global clients.”
The transition from Hammonds to Squire Patton Boggs may not have had quite the same amount of media attention as that of 'Jenny' to J-Lo but both evolutions have resulted in an impressive global reach. Squires now employs around 1,500 lawyers across the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Global managing partner Steve Mahon told our US sister publication Chambers Associate that the next few years at Squires will see the firm “filling out our global footprint. You will see us continuing to augment our global disputes and transactional practices.” This emphasis on global co-operation has meant some trainees have become “increasingly aware there's a massive firm out there with so many people available to help you on cross-border mattes.” Another told us: “The scope of the firm is changing; it's exciting to listen to a departmental conference call that starts in Australia and then moves around the world to each country we inhabit.” Before you get too hyped up about international work though, there are still several practices, such as pensions, which tend to operate solely on a UK basis.
In Blighty, Squires has offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. All pick up Chambers UK rankings. London's real estate and IP teams are highly regarded, while it's the real estate, corporate and pensions departments which score highest in the North West and the Midlands. In Yorkshire, meanwhile, top-tier Chambers UK rankings are bestowed on Squires' litigation, planning and tax practices.
In for £150 mil, in for a pound
A training contract at Squires gets off to a novel start. After a fast-track LPC at BPP, new recruits may embark on a three-month client secondment before starting at the firm. Recently trainees have spent time at banks, financial services firms, telecoms companies and travel retailers. Sources raved about the arrangement, telling us: “It's definitely one of the firm's big pull factors. It's a brilliant experience that allows you to hit the ground running when you start the training contract.”
At the time of our calls there were 16 trainees in London, 11 in Leeds, nine in Birmingham and six in Manchester. Each location houses seats in the firm's 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.
Squires' trainees undertake six seats, with repeat stints a common feature in most bases (London's the exception). The overall seat allocation process is the same across the firm: HR assigns first seats, and from there on trainees get a mid-seat sit-down to discuss where they want to go next. When it came to qualification in 2015 we heard there were a few delays in the NQ process, but in 2016 everything was wrapped up by mid-March and 18 of 20 qualifiers were retained.
The corporate practice operates firmly in the mid-market, and in London covers the media, energy, sports and financial services sectors. Clients include Airvolution Energy, builders' merchants Grafton and Shred-It (a company which, you guessed it, shreds documents). The team also recently advised UK Football Investments on its sale of Sheffield Wednesday to Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri for an undisclosed sum. The Manchester team is big in the chemicals sector, with global chemical companies Innospec and INEOS on the books, while Leeds serves clients as diverse as Kellogg, private equity group ECI Partners and industrial company Vp. Recently the firm's Yorkshire office advised Poundworld as private equity firm TPG acquired a £150 million majority stake in the company. Conducting due diligence and drafting initial reports played a major part in the experience of our corporate sources. “Nearly all the matters I worked on were at the diligence stage,” one trainee recalled. Others had encountered more drafting opportunities, with one telling us: “I drafted ancillary documents on every single matter I worked on, but I also managed the data room and the completion checklist; it's essential to have good organisational skills as people rely on you to keep track of everything.”
"I take notes and get to write up a first draft"
The Leeds real estate team specialises in retail, banking, student accommodation and public sector regenerations. For example, the team recently advised Calderdale Borough Council on a £62 million mixed-use development as part of a regeneration scheme in the Upper Calder Valley near Halifax. Birmingham also handles regeneration projects and lately assisted the Walsall Housing Group with the regeneration of land at Goscote in Walsall. Meanwhile in London the team acts for a slew of Chinese and Middle Eastern high net worth individuals keen to snap up prime residential property in the capital. A source told us: "While assisting partners on big commercial transactions, trainees do a lot of the initial tasks like reviewing title and producing first drafts of documents before the partners amend them.” Another interviewee enthused: “One of the highlights was being asked to complete a transaction all by myself.” Smaller matters see trainees “take responsibility for the initial drafting of licences to underlet or assign on redevelopments or large estates; because these don't take up that much time you can see them through from start to finish.”
Most of the work handled by Manchester's litigation team revolves around the chemicals, manufacturing, IT and financial services sectors, while Birmingham sees a high proportion of pensions and financial services disputes. “The bulk of work I've done has been research, combined with a bit of bundling and drafting witness statements," one London trainee outlined. "While my supervisor is the one interviewing the witnesses, I take notes and get to write up a first draft.” 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. City lawyers recently acted for the Lotus Formula One team in successfully defending winding-up petitions and an application by HMRC for an administration order, enabling the team to be sold to a Renault Group company.
Leeds' employment team has strong ties with local clients like Greggs, as well as national outfits like T.M. Lewin and Tesco and multinationals like Rolex. Recruitment, manufacturing, retail and higher education clients call upon the Manchester office, while in Birmingham the group is big in the sports and financial services sectors. The Brum team recently advised Marex Financial on two unfair dismissal claims brought by the CEO and head of risk of the broker's Pro Trader division. Sources told us that despite an overall drop-off in Employment Tribunal cases being brought since fees for claims were introduced, “there's been a steady stream of tribunal work.” That's good news for employment trainees as it's these matters which make the seat “so popular and so hands-on." Trainees prepare claim forms, grounds of resistance, witness statements and bundles. One said: "It's great to be sat in a tribunal taking notes and hear the judge reading the witness statements you drafted.” Interviewees had also been pretty active on the non-contentious side undertaking employment due diligence, advising clients on an ongoing basis, and even planning and taking part in client training workshops.
"Even when we're working late, spirits tend to be high."
Funding arrangements, pension scheme closures and structuring discussions all crop up in the pensions department. The Manchester team recently advised a member of the WW Group Pension Scheme on a dispute concerning an amendment to the agreement which would have considerably reduced the pensions payable to scheme members. “It's a very specialist area of law so you start off by doing a lot of research tasks to build up your knowledge,” sources told us. “If you like getting down into the details of the law then it's a really interesting seat. But it's also quite human too – I thought it would be dry and faceless, but it isn't.” There are plenty of networking events and trustee meetings to tag along to. “I must have gone to eight or ten meetings in my first couple of months,” one interviewee recalled. Our sources had also put pen to paper for deeds of amendment, appointments of trustees and legal updates for clients. Sources did note though: “It's a complex area of law and the risks involved if you make a mistake are great, so your work is always checked before it's sent out.”
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. Interviewees were happy with the selection available, though we heard stints with clients are “less readily on offer in Manchester than elsewhere.” Trainees also tended to nab secondments with clients that were closest to their home office.
A special relationship
“I know we have American ties but the firm doesn't have an American feel to it,” sources agreed. One commented: “Sure, you need to pull your weight, but no one takes themselves too seriously – one day I might do the tea round for everyone and the next a partner will.” The firm's Leeds base has just moved into new digs and condensed the whole office onto just two floors, which “has done an enormous amount for the atmosphere. Before everyone was friendly but separated into individual groups; now everyone's come together it's really enhanced relationships between the departments.” Mancunians were also looking forward to a similar effect when they move into One Spinningfields in late 2017, telling us: “It's a small office so everyone knows each other but it will become a lot easier to interact when we're on fewer floors.” Mancs trainees singled out the support staff in particular for creating a welcoming atmosphere. "It doesn't matter who you speak to in the firm: no one is stuffy.” Birmingham trainees likewise reckoned their office is full of “down-to-earth people,” while in London, “people generally look at the team's achievements, not their own glory. Even when we're working late, spirits tend to be high and people don't get too snappy.”
“The firm's hosted several events on the roof so far."
Young lawyers across the firm don't have heaps of interaction with their trainee counterparts in other offices, but the three-week induction in Leeds brings the whole cohort together, as do department-wide training sessions at the start of each seat. These get-togethers usually result in a cohort catch-up over lunch or drinks. But most socialising takes place on an office-by-office basis. In Manchester trainees, NQs and paralegals head out every few months for activities like crazy golf or ping pong. Leeds trainees are making the most of their new roof terrace for shindigs like the 'Next Generation' networking drinks. “The firm's hosted several events on the roof so far and the only one where the sun came out was trainee-focused, so we're feeling pretty smug about that.” Birmingham trainees are encouraged to get involved in numerous business development events, while in London twice-yearly office quiz nights are supplemented by informal department drinks every few months.
Trainees reckoned working hours were “not bad at all,” though sources across the network were often pulling 11-hour days.
How to get a Squire Patton Boggs training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 9 November 2016 (winter scheme: final year or grad law and non-law students) 15 January 2017 (summer scheme: penultimate year or above law students; final year or grad non-law students)
Open day deadline: 28 February 2017
SPB runs four open days over the Easter break every year – one each at its London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds offices. They're open to first-year law and second year non-law students, and provide a good opportunity to get to know the firm better before applying for a vacation scheme.
Applications and assessment
SPB 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. Applicants kick things off by completing a short online form. Those who impress on the form are then invited to complete an online assessment. Candidates who wow at this stage will be invited to attend a half-day assessment centre at one of SPB's 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. No need to get paranoid, but remember to 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
According to training principal Giles Chesher, "we're looking for character and individuality. Everyone's very bright. 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." That said, he's quick to add that you shouldn't come across as "wacky or anything ludicrous like that."
During the interview you're likely to be asked why you want to join SPB. Chesher cautions against falling back on "'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 they've got a job or haven't. I attend universities. We do take an interest." Indeed, following the summer vac scheme, "I called students personally, then texted them, then asked a trainee to get in touch saying 'call us if you have any questions'," he says. "No other firm is doing this. We want to provide support and answer any questions they may have as they're going through university."
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 '5 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, London-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."
Two 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. (You can read the rest of Mahon's comments on SPB's international reach here. ) 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.”
Interview with training partner Giles Chesher
Student Guide: What role does the UK play in Squire Patton Boggs' vast global network?
Giles Chesher: The UK offices are core to the firm’s network and collaborate with other offices around the world on cross-border matters for global clients. The firm has invested in its UK offices by moving to new flagship offices in Leeds, and taking space in what’s going to be one of the most impressive office buildings in Manchester.
SG: Are there any new opportunities when it comes to overseas seats?
GC: There are certainly opportunities in the Middle East for the right people and we are seeing demand for lawyers there. We continue to operate rolling secondments to Paris and Brussels but elsewhere we're limited by jurisdictional issues. In order for our trainees to have a beneficial experience abroad they need to be in an office which operates in a quasi-English legal system.
SG: Which practice areas in the UK have been doing particularly well over the last year?
GC: Our corporate, banking, real estate and tax teams have been particularly active over 2016. This is continuing a trend we saw emerge last year but since January it's been the busiest I've seen it in years. In addition litigation continues apace, particularly in the regulatory and compliance arena but also in our top-ranked international arbitration team.
SG: What's the firm's strategy for the future?
GC: We are always looking at opportunities to grow our firm. Our goal has long been to create a platform that allows our lawyers to serve clients no matter where their business needs take them. As the world becomes more interconnected and regulatory environments become more complicated to navigate, it is increasingly important to be able to offer advice across many locations. The recent mergers with Patton Boggs and Carroll Burdick & McDonough are significant milestones that have helped us to become more competitive in an increasingly global market where clients require specialist expertise.
SG: Since the Patton Boggs merger the firm's been trying to boost its brand recognition. Is awareness at the level you'd like it to be?
GC: I think Squire Patton Boggs is a memorable name. We recognize the importance of building our brand which is driven by our clients’ experience of dealing with us – client service is at the heart of what we do. Through the recruitment of the best lawyers, high standards of training and the premium we place on understanding our clients and their businesses, we are committed to delivering a world class service, and we are consistently recognised by clients and the legal media as one of the best firms for doing that.
SG: Talking of raising profiles, many trainees told us that meeting Squires lawyers at on-campus events initially attracted them to the firm. What kind of campus events do you attend?
GC: Alongside law fairs, we attend National Law LIVE, which was launched last year. We also attend various specific events occurring near our offices. For example, we have ties with many universities across the UK including Leeds, Manchester, Durham and Sheffield in the North; Warwick, Birmingham and Nottingham in the Midlands; UCL and KCL in London; and Exeter in the South. Trainees always attend these events to try and give students a realistic idea of the type of people who work in the firm.
SG: Will future trainees be able to extend their three-month client secondment before they begin their training contract?
GC: The client secondments are designed for students undertaking the intensive LPC and happen immediately prior to the start of the training contract. If we come across future trainees who have already completed the LPC by the time we offer them a job, we can find them roles for as long a period as they want. We're very flexible and we have clients prepared to take people on for indefinite periods of time, right up until the start of the training contract.
Squire Patton Boggs
148 Edmund Street,
7 Devonshire Square,
6 Wellington Place,
16 John Dalton Street,
- Assistant solicitors 1,500
- Total trainees 40
- Contact Graduate recruitment team
- Method of application Online application form
- Selection procedure Assessment and interview
- Closing date Various
- Training contracts pa 20
- Applications pa 1,500
- % interviewed pa 10%
- Required degree grade 2:1
- First year: £37,000
- Second year: £42,000
- Post-quaification: £62,000
- Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester:
- First year: £26,000
- Second year: £28,000
- Post-quaification: £40,000
- Overseas offices 45 offices in 21 countries
We support private and public sector clients across extensive global practice areas. Our teams have well-established 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.