Corporate, litigation and finance expertise, international secondments and pro bono: the choice at this Anglo-American is daunting – but rest assured, “this is not an intimidating place to work.”
Lovells in the time of Collora
With so many paths to choose from in the law, Hogan Lovells provides an excellent antidote to FOMO: a list of seats as long as your arm, and recognised quality in pretty much every team with an available spot. The catch, of course, is that you can only visit four, but trainees were very much drawn to the fact they wouldn't be “shoe-horned into one area” by committing to two years there.
In London, the US and across the globe, Hogan is a highly accomplished firm. Chambers UK showers the firm with rankings: the firm is seen as top-notch in areas including all sorts of litigation, pensions, commercial contracts, trade finance, construction, data protection, insurance, and many facets of public law. The full list of rankings is well worth a look – visit chambersandpartners.com to check them all out. Recent big-ticket work has included advising Uber on its appeal against the refusal to renew its licence to operate in London, helping Adobe in its $1.68 billion acquisition of Magento Commerce and continuing to act in the long-running $6 billion litigation between Kazakhstan's BTA Bank and its former chair Mukhtar Ablyazov.
This leads us neatly to our next point: trainees were equally drawn to the idea that “almost everything the firm does is cross-border and international.” HL has 45 offices stretched far and wide, Chambers Global lists it as the 8th most capable global firm, and the firm recently forged an alliance with Saudi Arabian firm ZS&R – in the wake of its foundational 2010 merger between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells, these transatlantic comrades have struck out to become a firm with “a global feel rather than a UK firm/US firm feel.” But it was in the US that the firm made its latest bold move: 2017 saw it merge with Boston-based litigation and investigations boutique Collora because “for us, Boston is an increasingly important market,” explains training principal Crispin Rapinet. “There are many young life sciences companies growing up there, so there's more and more business emanating from the city.”
“I got the impression they saw trainees as an investment.”
Continuing on a different topic, Rapinet comments: “We pride ourselves on the fact that it's not only a nice place to work, but we have people with whom clients also want to work – decent people who aren't arrogant, and who clients enjoy interacting with.” Our trainee interviewees confirmed a more holistic approach: “Some other firms have the reputation of churning trainees, whereas at HL, I got the impression they saw trainees as an investment.” Another reiterated: “What set HL apart for me was the vibe. There was a much friendlier atmosphere here, with a focus on things like work/life balance, diversity and pro bono – which people talk about with sincerity.”
The firm has also made news recently by undergoing a restructuring, cutting some support staff, and shifting others to its Birmingham office. That location acts as a lower-cost support centre for London, and held four trainees at the time of our calls. International secondments and many seat options are unavailable to Brum trainees.
To ensure that the opportunities on offer are realised, trainees must do at least one seat in each of the firm's three branches: litigation, corporate and finance. These areas are quite broadly defined – “things count as corporate that you wouldn't think would, like real estate for instance.” All trainees do an accelerated LPC course, during which they list their preferences for their first seat: “It's a bit of a stab in the dark, but the firm put on a seat fair so you can talk to the different groups.” Then mid-way through the first seat, trainees apply for the rest of their seats, indicating whether they are interested in a secondment or not. “You have your seat plan set out early on, which has its advantages and disadvantages – it's nice because you have that certainty of what's coming up, but some might regret their choices.” International seats on offer include Brussels, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Washington and Johannesburg. Client secondment opportunities include the likes of ExxonMobil, Citigroup and British American Tobacco.
“I never felt like I was doing something to just keep busy.”
Litigation's sub-groups cover areas including commercial litigation, international arbitration, construction litigation, financial services disputes and pensions, as well as corporate litigation, investigations and fraud. Sources working in these areas found that “because the cases we do are so high-profile and go on for several years, trainees are involved less in the client-facing work, and more in the internal support work.” This included putting together research notes, reviewing evidence, preparing witness statements and general bundling – “you can't escape that as a litigation trainee.” Despite this, interviewees reflected: “I never felt like I was doing something to just keep busy – I felt I was always doing something useful.” Court experience varied across the board. One source recalled that “I know some people go months or years without getting to go to trial, but I got to court in the first or second week in my seat, which was a really great experience.”
A uniting quality of so much of the work is its internationalism: the department receives a sizeable amount of work from Russia and the CIS. One example saw lawyers advise on a shareholder dispute between four Ukrainian oligarchs, with a damages claim of $1 billion and the political reputations of two of them at stake. A recent fraud case, meanwhile, saw the team act for Stephen Mullens, a shareholder in Bambino – a family trust of Bernie Ecclestone – as he and Ecclestone were accused of bribery related to the sale of the Formula 1 business. Over in product liability, there's regulatory work: “We advise companies on the pre-market stages, then on the launch-side, including branding, use of warning labels, and looking at product safety directives both in the UK and Europe.” The team works for Vodafone on regulatory and compliance issues when it develops new technologies, as well as providing general advice on product safety issues. Other huge clients across litigation include Ford, SABMiller, Merck and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The corporate team “encourages you to work across all the different sub-groups.” As such, some favoured typical M&A work, while others dealt with regulatory matters or pensions work. The firm advises on high-end, cross-border and complex transactions, both in the UK and globally – for trainees in M&A, their involvement meant drafting ancillary documents and general project management “like keeping track of 120 documents that needed to be signed.” London and US lawyers recently advised The Anschultz Corporation, the majority shareholder in Regal, a cinema chain, on the $5.9 billion acquisition of Regal by Cineworld. The team also advised payments company Paysafe on its £3 billion takeover by a private equity consortium. On the pensions side, sources had experienced “a massive billion-pound pensions scheme buying out all its assets, where we're doing the due diligence.”
Real estate is often popular with trainees who don't necessarily fancy typical corporate work. Sources here found that “there's a lot of responsibility really early on, which is brilliant. From day one you're given your own matters to continue running.” Newbies usually start with “typical licences. You're on the phone to clients, sending emails, negotiating. And as well as handling the admin you've got the drafting for it on top of that.” Sources had also “drafted and negotiated long-term leases and tenancy agreements, or deeds of variations. It's a steep learning curve but you learn a lot more that way.” The team continues to work for Argent Related on the £3 billion Brent Cross South regeneration scheme, and other clients include British Land and M&G Real Estate.
For their finance seat, trainees had sat with groups such as general banking and finance, capital markets, restructuring/insolvency, trade finance and project finance. A recent matter saw the firm advise lenders Export Development Canada, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi on their €75 million financing of a new portfolio of Irish wind farms. Transactions tend to be complex and multi-jurisdictional. Wyevale Garden Centres, the largest garden centre group in the UK, also came to the firm for advice on its £181 million loan. One source explained how they hadn't done much drafting in this seat: “English finance documents are pretty complicated, so I reviewed a lot of foreign security documents and made sure the way terms were defined was consistent.” Those who'd opted for more specific areas like project finance mentioned “looking at gas transportation and sales agreements” as well as dealing with “more discrete regulatory queries from energy and projects clients.” Clients across finance include Barclays, Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC.
Ebony and ivory, in perfect harmony
“It's quite a demanding place, but the people here are normal and nice.” Demanding work but approachable people was the overall consensus on the culture at HL. “It's not an intimidating place to work – people want to help you out – but ultimately, people are perfectionists about the work.” Trainees can expect to work hard here, but at the same time sources felt that “people don't expect you to give up your life.”
A run of late nights in the office isn't uncommon, but interviewees said: “I like the people I work with, and respect them, so I'm always willing to help when it's busy. If I stay for an extra couple of hours we'd both leave at 2am, rather than me leaving at midnight, and them leaving at 5am.” Hours aren't always that horrendous; some regularly left work between 6.30pm and 7pm – in real estate for example. It's safest to consider that “when it comes to a completion, you can expect 9pm to 10pm finishes for that week.”
“Trainees themselves are pretty active in terms of meeting up for drinks or lunch.”
But when there is time, there's a bunch of social stuff to get involved with, championed by 'Thirsty Thursdays' every other week. “The whole firm has drinks in the canteen and there are sometimes speakers, or sometimes a particular theme like the Paralympics.” Each department is slightly different, but generally “trainees themselves are pretty active in terms of meeting up for drinks or lunch.” There are also various sports clubs to get involved with, a choir, plus “they organise piano lessons which people can come in and do.”
From tinkling ivories to twinkling toes – there's also a charity fundraising event called Legally Ballroom where pairs are “trained up to do ballroom dancing, then perform at a big charity night at the Grange St. Paul's Hotel.” Good deeds are aplenty at Hogan Lovells, where there's an “emphasis on pro bono work, which is a big part of the culture.” There's an expectation that lawyers do 25 hours of citizenship work a year (“but people do way more than that”) – many had been involved in asylum applications, fraud matters and employment support appeals. The firm works with the Royal British Legion, Citizens Advice and Hestia – a charity for victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Training opportunities come by the bucketload too: there's two weeks' induction, plus formal training at the start of each seat. The firm's also just scrapped its annual review system, replacing it with 'Pathways', an initiative to encourage regular feedback and more engagement between lawyers.
For qualification, a jobs list is circulated, trainees apply, and can rank multiple choices. The departments holds interviews if more people have applied than there are jobs available. “You can apply for a department even if you haven't sat there – the interviews help make the process fair,” said trainees. “It's a stressful process, but that's to be expected – it's stressful anywhere.” Sources reckoned the process at HL is “pretty transparent;” after the initial application, the firm “lets trainees see a list of how many people applied where – just the numbers though, it's anonymous.” In 2018 54 of 62 qualifiers were retained (including both in Birmingham).
Trainees praised their London office, both for its gym and the fact it boasts the largest free-standing water feature in Europe - "it's a massive statue that swings, but is also a fountain!"
How to get a Hogan Lovells training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 January 2019 (non-law); 31 July 2019 (law)
First-year insight days (2019): 28 February 2019
Law fairs and events
The firm attends up to 27 law fairs and 150 on-campus events each year. It also hosts approximately 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. These initiatives include skills sessions, mentoring, work experience , insight days and office visits for students from Year 9 up to university level.
Additionally, there's an annual open day for mature students, supported by the Birkbeck School of Law, plus four open days for first-year law and non-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.
Applications for Hogan Lovells' training contracts and vacation schemes are considered on a rolling basis during the application period (rather than after the deadline), so we suggest applying early to increase your chances of landing a spot.
The firm receives around 3,900 applications each year. There's space for up to 50 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 now 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.
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 a senior associate and a member of graduate recruitment, and one with partners and senior associates. Those attending an assessment day for a training contract also complete a group exercise.
- Partners 155 (London)
- Total trainees 120
- UK offices London
- Overseas offices 45
- Graduate recruiter: Jen Baird, [email protected]
- Training partner: Crispin Rapinet
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 50
- Applications pa: 3,900
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 (or equivalent) in any discipline
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: AAA
- Vacation scheme places pa: 55
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 17 September 2018
- Training contract deadline: 31 July 2019
- Non-law students and graduates: 17 September to 31 January 2019
- Law students: 1 June to 31 July 2019 2021 start: February and August
- Vacation scheme applications open: 17 September 2018
- Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 31 October 2018 (winter), 6 January 2019 (summer)
- Open day deadline: 28 February 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £45,000
- Second-year salary: £50,000
- Post-qualification salary: £78,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 Days
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: £8,000 in London and £7,000 outside London. Accelerated LPC grants are £7,000.
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London
- Overseas seats: Brussels, Dubai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg,New York, Paris, Singapore, Washington DC
- Client secondments BNP Paribas, Barclays, British American Tobacco, Citibank, Exxon Mobil, Ford Credit Europe, MSD, Prudential, Standard Chartered Bank
Main areas of work
Open days and first-year opportunities
University law careers fairs 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Banking & Finance: Borrowers (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance: Lenders (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
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- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 1)
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- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Environment (Band 4)
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- Litigation (Band 1)
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- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 2)
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- Tax (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 1)
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- Asset Finance: Rail Finance (Band 3)
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- Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 1)
- Construction: International Arbitration (Band 2)
- Consumer Finance (Band 1)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 1)
- Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 4)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 2)
- Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 3)
- Financial Services: Payments Law (Band 1)
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- Infrastructure (Band 2)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 1)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims (Band 4)
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- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 3)
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- Pensions Litigation (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Product Liability: Food (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Mainly Defendant (Band 1)
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- Retail (Band 3)
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- Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)
- Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 2)