Squire Patton Boggs - True Picture

Local meets global at Squire Patton Boggs, so whether you're looking to be in the heart of the City or somewhere more regional, you'll no doubt find something appealing here.

Squire Patton Boggs training contract review 2022

The Firm

Squire Patton Boggs is a global firm with a mighty transatlantic heritage. These roots across the US and UK have produced a 45-office firm with locations across Europe, the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. Despite its extensive presence in the US, trainees told us that "it doesn't feel like you're at a US firm and there are none of the stereotypes that you hear about US firms." What you do get is a culture that's "really friendly and calm: everyone takes their time to sit down and have informal chats to get to know you more personally."

You also get a firm that has domestic offices in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds – with plenty of Chambers UK accolades awarded to each. If you're looking to work outside of the capital, then SPB is considered a national leader in banking & finance, employment, pensions, restructuring/insolvency and tax. On a UK-wide basis, the firm's sector expertise in areas such as energy & natural resources, retail, sport, telecommunications and advertising comes to the fore. Each office has a broad array of commercial practice areas (that also pick up Chambers kudos), but if your eye is on London then it's the office's real estate, corporate, competition, employment and pensions work that catches Chambers UK's attention.

"The chance to experience as many areas as possible."

All of SPB's UK offices hire trainees and tend to take on an equal number. London is home to slightly more (around eight each year), while the rest typically take on five or six per intake. SPB's six-seat training contract was a big attraction for our sources, with one telling us that the structure would give them "the chance to experience as many areas as possible." The number of client secondments available (usually around four per seat rotation) was also a plus, as was the chance to experience these and paralegal opportunities before even starting at the firm. After securing their training contract offer at SPB, a few of our interviewees had been able to gain paralegal experience in some of the firm's overseas offices (even Australia is a potential destination for a lucky few when travel rules allow).

The Seats

The four-month seat length suited our interviewees perfectly: “If you enjoy something, it’s long enough to get to grips with it. But if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not half a year wasted. It also means you can do a secondment without limiting your qualification options too much.” Trainees can repeat a seat if they’re interested in qualifying in the area, though “that might be tricky with in-demand seats.” Also, the firm encourages every trainee to get as broad a training contract as possible, with both contentious and non-contentious departments covered. There are no compulsory seats, and the first seat is assigned right off the bat according to business need. After that, trainees specify three preferences at each of their mid-seat reviews. Each office offers seats in the core departments of corporate, real estate, litigation, employment and financial services. More specialist areas like international disputes are only available in the London office.

“If you love pensions, this is the place for it,” one source declared. Funding arrangements, pension scheme closures, pension fund mergers and structural discussions all crop up in SPB’s pensions department. Clients here are “large and longstanding, with huge pension schemes.” The team recentlyadvised the West Midlands Pension Fund on the multimillion sale of a pensions infrastructure manager to Foresight Group. Other clients include Anglian Water Group Pension Trustee Limited, The Pension Service and the Trustees of the UNISON Staff Pension Scheme. Since the pension schemes are governed by “a huge set of rules from the 1900s, they need to be consistently amended when trustees change, for example.” This means that the team has to “go back through records and work out legislation and case law at the time.” It’s no surprise, then, that the work here is “incredibly technical.” It’s also known for its “reasonable and steady hours – there aren’t many tight deadlines here.” This lets trainees get “stuck into meaty research tasks” and gain experience on drafting assignments. They also attend client meetings and take attendance notes – “even though you don’t know most of what they’re talking about, it’s really interesting! Associates take the time to explain what happened afterwards.”

Data protection & cyber security is a team that’s unsurprisingly “really, really busy at the moment. It’s booming.” The team ensures clients don’t breach data protection laws – “the potential sanctions that can be imposed are severe if they don’t comply.” The team monitors everything from personal data capture and storage to “having cookie banners on a website.” The team will do the relevant diligence on “any transaction that comes into corporate,” assisting on M&A and private equity deals. Lawyers here recently advised US company Avaya on the data privacy aspects of its $500 million partnership with cloud-based communications company RingCentral. Trainees review privacy policies and “tell clients whether they’re compliant or not with GDPR.” They then get to put in amendments and also get to do first drafts of new policies, as well as “some agreements like data sharing agreements with subsidiaries. Though they’re owned by the company, they don’t automatically have access to their data.”

"This is a seat where commercial awareness is really important."

The team’s energy department has a heavy focus on renewable resources. “We work with all sorts of wind farms, solar parks and hydrogen projects.” The team helps businesses make use of government environmental schemes and on the regulatory side “advises governmental bodies worldwide on how to keep their laws up to date.” Though “renewables is a hot topic, there’s also oil and mining work.” The team works with energy companies such as EDF, Fiji Electricity Authority, Invenergy, Pall Mall Oil and Gas and Toto Energy. The group recently advised MHI Vestas Offshore Wind Taiwan on its supply and installation agreements, as well as its service contracts. Trainees told us that "this is a seat where commercial awareness is really important. You read a lot of newsletters and papers, as every day new stuff is happening. The industry is changing very quickly.” A typical task is reviewing contracts: “The contracts are super niche and bespoke on very specific projects it's all interesting!”

The banking and financial services team at SPB operates as one big national team, meaning “you get high-quality work, even if you’re not in London, with major banks and multinational borrower clients.” The team tackles real estate finance, general corporate borrowing, acquisition finance and private equity work. “There’s a real variety.” The team works for clients such as HSBC, Santander and Lloyds Bank. A recent matter involved advising a Senegalese telecoms company, Sonatel, on a £50 million loan provided by Credit Suisse. Trainees “get involved in each step of the transaction,” we heard. When acting for the lender, trainees had undertaken due diligence on the borrower and drafted the initial documentation and “less complex security documentation.” If acting for the borrower, trainees attended meetings and drafted board minutes. They also “generally keep an eye on all the checklists, making sure everyone sees what they need to see.”

Client secondments are readily available, and “pretty much everyone does one,” we heard. Trainees who want to go are “told where specific secondments were available and you can put in your preferences.” Those who had gone on a secondment told us they “got a lot of exposure to work and high responsibility. You go off and do your own work a lot. It’s good to get an insight into that commercial mindset.” There are two overseas seats available: one in Paris and another in Brussels. Our sources also spoke of getting involved in a pro bono clinic that at the time of our calls was taking place solely over the phone: “The trainee’s role is to initially call the client, find out their legal problem and arrange a call with a qualified solicitor.”

Trainee Life

We usually report on variations in office culture across the regions, but for our sources who had only worked remotely, it was a case of deducing that “all offices must be similar because we’re a very similar trainee cohort.” Some of our second-year interviewees had been in the office pre-pandemic, however, with a Londoner telling us that the base “is very friendly – it escapes the City lifestyle.” Birmingham, meanwhile, was described as “small and very lovely – if you have a query you can stand up and poke your head over your desk.” Remotely, trainees felt that “the culture hasn’t changed too much. People are up for a chat even if it is over Teams.” The open-door policy has remained "in digital form – I reach out to partners and people in other departments all the time and they’re happy to talk.” HR have also been “keeping an eye on people and asking them if they’re having any issues working from home.”

At the time of our calls, the firm was developing its hybrid working approach and was starting to encourage its trainees to gradually begin coming into the office (building up to an ideal of four days per week). This encouragement was made with trainees' development in mind, as physically being in the office can bring with it increased opportunities to build internal networks and get involved in client work. Trainees' direct supervisors were also being encouraged to attend, and the firm was focusing on ensuring that trainees always had supervision while in the office.

On that development note, we heard that SPB offers an “intensive training programme at the beginning of each seat.” Overall, supervisors’ efforts in training were applauded: “I’ve been able to get really involved with responsibilities that aren’t just low-level tasks. There’s an effort to make sure I get involved in as much as I’m competent to help with.” However, some felt “feedback has been a little harder to get in lockdown.” Across the board, partners were described as “ultra-approachable. They all know you, your life, and they’re happy to teach you.”

“Sixth-form students from disadvantaged backgrounds come into the office."

Diversity and inclusion efforts at SPB were described as “actually amazing.” There are six diversity, equity and inclusion pillars at SPB, which cover accessibility; age; gender; LGBT+; multicultural; and social mobility. Each pillar is chaired and championed by a senior partner. In addition, the firm has been providing respectful behaviour training for all of its lawyers, which involved interactive sessions where “everyone spoke very openly.” The firm has various social mobility schemes, including an event where “sixth-form students from disadvantaged backgrounds come into the office and we speak with them [about pursuing a career in law].”

In comparisonto City firms and US outfits, our sources felt they got a good deal when it came to the hours at SPB. We heard that people tend to log off between 6.30pm and 7pm on average, but “when it’s tough it can get late, like midnight.” However, those hours don’t come “unless there’s a reason – there’s never been pressure to stay late when you don’t have the work.” When it came to salaries, some interviewees flagged the trade-off of having “a very good work-life balance,” while others felt that SPB may need to increase amounts "to retain people.There's a lot of movement in the market with the raising of NQ salaries.” The firm told us that it always keeps its salaries and benefits programmes under review.

Business cases are made for each NQ role and the outcome depends on business need. Trainees can apply for as many roles as they want and can expect to be interviewed by partners and associates for positions. “It was nerve-wracking, but everyone was very friendly," one recalled. "There’s no malice or competition.” In 2021, SPB retained 18 of its 24 qualifiers.


SPB will be paying all the relevant fees and additional costs for the SQE preparation courses and providing additional training on how to hit the ground running at the firm.

How to get a Squire Patton Boggs training contract

Vacation scheme deadline:7 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Training contract deadline:7 January 2022 (opens 1 October 2021)

Insight events

Squire Patton Boggs runs webinars and events to provide prospective applicants with hints and tips to aid their knowledge regarding the application process, with a focus on strategy, the programs on offer and life at the firm.

Applications and assessment

The firm only recruits trainees through its two-week summer placement scheme, which is hosted at each of the firm’s UK offices. 

You will need a minimum of 120 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree in any subject to be considered by the firm. Those who have not graduated yet should be on track to attain a 2:1. The firm uses Rare Recruitment's contextualised recruitment system, which allows it to match candidates' academic achievements against their social backgrounds to assess real potential, as well as considering extenuating circumstances. SPB also works with the Social Mobility Business Partnership.

The contextualised recruitment system allows it to consider applications from those who may not meet the requirements but have extenuating circumstances. 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 its offices, which involves an interview and a presentation. Placement scheme offers are made from here.

The placement scheme

During the placement scheme, students spend time in a department and attend regular presentations. They are also invited to social events, such as dinners, bowling excursions and quiz nights. As with placement schemes anywhere, do not forget that you will be on show at all times. There is no need to worry about this, just simply show yourself off at your best whenever you can. All placement 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 the firm is “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 are likely to be asked why you want to join the firm. 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 that, “everyone always says we are friendly and open, but one of the things that attracts trainees to us is the personal way in which we recruit. Candidates are not just numbers. I personally call people to tell them if they have a job or have not. I attend universities. We do take an interest.” Indeed, Chesher says that following the summer placement 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 are going through university.”

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Competition Law (Band 6)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Licensing (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
    • Health & Safety (Band 3)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 4)
    • Sport (Band 3)
    • Telecommunications (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • Construction (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)

Check out SPB's careers page here.

Check out SPB's graduate brochure here.

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