Get you a firm that can do both: Squire Patton Boggs is an international mover and shaker with a strong regional presence.
Squire Patton Boggs training contract review 2024
Some people look as effortless in their finery and designer labels as they do in their cosy Sunday slacks. Squire Patton Boggs is the law firm equivalent – as comfortable operating across borders as it is across the counties of England. Its offices in London, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester are just four in a 42-strong network. Most of the overseas offices are located in the US and Europe, but there are a fair few bases in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific too. “The opportunity to work with offices in Europe and as far as Australia even in the first few seats is amazing!” gushed trainees. Most recently, the firm opened bases in Amsterdam and Dublin, both with a focus on M&A.
Here in the UK, trainees are hired into all four offices. “We have 42 offices, but it’s a lot cosier than the numbers suggest,” emerging talent principal Steven Ward reassures us. Trainees echoed his comments. “By the end of the vac scheme, I knew people enough so that I felt comfortable in the interview,” one recalled. “It was a two-way conversation – that’s why I warmed to it.” Others agreed that “the approachability of partners really helps. You get good training at all levels of the firm.”
“Trainees are not background characters. We’re at the forefront of what’s going on.”
Squire’s is a solid mid-market performer, and its multi-disciplinary expertise is evident in its Chambers UK rankings. In Yorkshire, it’s among the best for mid-market corporate/M&A and private equity, planning, tax and employment. It’s also strong in litigation, real estate and employment law in the region, as well as in the North West and West Midlands. Down in London, the firm’s no slouch and has particular expertise in lower mid-market banking and finance (lender side) and real estate. Nationally, the firm is noted in a medley of areas, including commodities, health and safety, business immigration, advertising and marketing, pensions litigation, and retail.
A fair amount of trainees get the opportunity to go on an international or client secondment. Rookies had embarked on seats in Brussels, Paris, Sydney and Singapore, as well as opportunities with companies closer to home – a national newspaper, or an international shipping practice are just a couple of examples.
The firm offers six seats, each with four-month rotations, giving trainees a chance to shop around. “The first seat is allocated to us, but the firm does try to match us up with what suits us,” so if you’re coming in from a background or interest in transactions, for example, you’re likely to be sat in a corporate seat. After that, trainees name their top three preferences at each mid-seat review. “If you don’t get your first choice, HR will make sure you get it next time round, which is an advantage of the six-seat system.”
“… one deal that spanned six jurisdictions, from Singapore to Chile.”
The corporate department encompasses private equity, capital markets and M&A. The bulk of the work is mid-market, with deal values in the tens and hundreds of millions. Clients include a lot of regional private equity houses like NorthEdge Capital, as well as national firms like H2 Equity Partners. The firm also works with clients in different sectors, including telecoms company Cellnex, and Cazoo, the used car dealer. The firm recently advised the shareholders of wealth management company Progeny Holdings on its sale to Pegasus Bidco. On the buyer side, the firm represented private equity company Endless on its acquisition of Yorkshire Premier Meat. Tasks such as “post-completion signings and registering through Company House” are typical for beginners, but it doesn’t take long to gain more responsibility in this seat, and we heard trainees can expect a good amount of client contact in corporate. “Trainees are not background characters,” one confirmed. “We’re at the forefront of what’s going on.” For example, “I closed a mini investment, while liaising with investors and also drafting share purchase agreements.” How’s that for main character energy?
The firm’s banking & financepractice has some variation between offices. The London office often works as its own stand alone department, mostly on the lender side of transactions (though not exclusively). “We work closely together in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester” on general corporate banking matters, including acquisition financing and real estate investment. As trainees, “you’re encouraged to have the first draft of almost everything. They trust us to get involved.” Trainees found themselves on international matters – for example, “I was keeping the client and team updated and getting a lot of facetime in one deal that spanned six jurisdictions, from Singapore to Chile.” Lender-side clients include big names in banking such as Lloyds Bank and HSBC. On the borrower side, the team advised the Wolverhampton Wanderers in connection with a financing by a group of banks.
“The partner or senior associate will use my research in the calls.”
Real estate has multiple teams under its umbrella, with construction, commercial, property, projects, real estate finance and planning all pulling in trainees for assistance. “It’s very broad,” they confirmed. “You do transactional and advisory work.” Some of the rookie work includes “leasehold and freehold, and working closely on new development projects.” In the planning seat, “typical trainee tasks were research and drafting, sometimes with more of a contentious angle, like witness statements.” Clients include developers like Taylor Wimpey, local authorities such as Leeds City Council, and – adding a touch of glamour – Charlotte Tilbury Beauty. The team recently advised Live Nation and Oak View Group on their Cardiff Arena development, which will include a 15,000-seat indoor arena and hotel. The team also advised Hull-based construction company Ashcourt Group on a £42 million refinancing.
Squire’s employment team works some well-known names, such as Tesco, Burberry and Nokia. The London team focuses on the employer side, with notable expertise in equal pay disputes – it’s currently one of the firms defending Tesco in equal pay claims brought by the store’s employees, for example. “Since day one, I’ve been able to get involved in all sorts!” one trainee shared. “I took part in my first preliminary within a week of starting.” Interviewees got involved in “client calls and research – the partner or senior associate will use my research in the calls.” Although “there can be a fair amount of bundling and a bit of copying data, as you get into the flow, you’re drafting witness statements and substantive documents that are used in the tribunals.” The firm is also very keen on newbies seeing a tribunal themselves, we heard.
In all of the seats, trainees have a checklist “which lists everything you should get involved in,” like drafting and organisational duties. “It’s linked to the appraisals,” they confirmed. “The idea is you go over with it with your supervisor, and they can then divert work for you to have a broad range.”
All trainees gather in Leeds during their first three weeks for an induction. “The trainees tend to form strong bonds there,” says Ward. Upon starting, trainees are also given a mentor and a buddy, typically a senior partner and associate, respectively. “The training is comprehensive,” newbies found. “We have constant trainee programmes to learn how to be better lawyers, as well as a day-to-day supervisor to chat to over a coffee.”
We heard rookies tend to be in the office more often than not, as “it helps our training. We follow our team and their office habits a lot of the time. But if there’s no reason to be in then there’s no pressure to be.” Squire’s official hybrid working policy requires staff to be in 50% of the time, and has also instated an ‘all-in on Thursday’ rule to guarantee one day in the week when everyone can cross paths and mingle.
Every office has social and charity committees that put on a variety of events. Something that a few trainees were excited to be part of was the firm’s “own Tough Mudder team,” which was gearing up to compete in the infamously challenging (and very muddy) obstacle course. But if you’re more of an indoor sort of person, there’s plenty more on offer. “The trainee social committee puts on events every week or two” as well. “Last week we went go-karting and tonight it’s a pub quiz.” Phew!
“Late nights aren’t common, even in corporate and banking.”
Working hours“really depend on which seat you’re in,” with transactional seats requiring a bit more midnight oil than others. However, “late nights aren’t common, even in corporate and banking. And the teams are flexible around evening commitments.” Standard practice levels out at a very manageable 9am to 5.30/6pm day, and “the office is normally cleared out by 7pm.” In fact, “there’s no culture of staying just for the sake of it,” we heard.
Regarding compensation, “it’s competitive” sources agreed. That said, there were some question marks for those in the regions over the disparity between their pay and the London salary, which rises to £95,000 on qualification (a £30,000 difference from Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester). “The hours we do aren’t too dissimilar and it’s getting more and more expensive every day to live in regional cities.”
The firm’s head of D&I and emerging talent, got a shout out from interviewees, who also told us about the many events and initiatives on offer at the firm. There’s a series of ‘Break the Bias’ events which have seen in guest speakers such as Vicky Macqueen, the head of Women’s Rugby at Leicester Tigers. The trainees can also get involved in programmes with state schools: “Across the country, we talk to students who might not have considered law or university was for them. As well as helping out sixth-form students with CVs, we also helped build a playground in the local community.” The firm also has various ‘resource groups’ for gender, social mobility, age, disability, neurodiversity and other facets of identity.
One trainee felt “there’s a big push toward diversity” overall, both at the junior and more senior ends of the spectrum. At the junior end, the firm’s rolled out a new social mobility scholarship programme, with trainees acting as mentors to the apprentices. “The growth of the programme has been fantastic,” says Ward, “and seeing our trainees really show ownership and be a part of the programme to help raise the apprentices is exactly the kind of trainees we want to raise ourselves.”
When the clock strikes qualification o’clock in March, trainees get an email from the emerging talent team outlining the process, followed by an information session and a one-to-one with HR. Trainees then upload their CVs and seat appraisal forms before undergoing interviews. Our sources were confident in their chances: “The firm wants to focus on retention and values homegrown talent.” This year, 22 out of 26 qualifiers were retained. Even rumours that two people went after one spot last year didn’t dampen their spirit – “there was no backstabbing and, in the end, the firm decided to keep both people on.” Ward shares his words of wisdom: “From the get-go, it’s important to have agency in your career. If you like a seat, stay in contact and reach out to department.”
All for one and one for all!“There is an appreciation that you are a person and have a life outside of work, so why would I leave?” one happy trainee questioned. “I couldn’t risk that feeling of belonging.”
How to get a Squire Patton Boggs training contract
- Vacation scheme deadline: 3 January 2024 (opens 18 September 2023)
Open Day 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 one-week summer placement scheme, which is hosted at each of the firm’s UK offices.
You will need a minimum 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, group exercise 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 considered for a training contract and have a final interview and presentation on their final 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 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.”
Squire Patton Boggs
148 Edmund Street,
2 & A Half Devonshire Square,
6 Wellington Place,
No 1 Spinningfields,
1 Hardman Square,
Business Immigration; Communications; Competition – antitrust; Corporate; Data privacy, Cybersecurity & Digital Assets; Environmental, Safety and Health; Financial Services; Government Investigations and White Collar; Insurance; Intellectual Property and Technology; International Dispute Resolution; International Trade; Labour and Employment; Litigation; Pensions; Public and Infrastructure Finance; Public Policy; Real Estate; Restructuring and Insolvency; Tax Strategy and Benefits.
Our unique approach to the SQE will provide you with a tailored programme of learning, not only to pass the SQE, but also to prepare you for your career at our firm. We will develop the key skills you need to succeed from day one as a trainee with us.
The trainee solicitor programme comprises six four-month seats during the training contract. The key to the training contract is ‘involvement and responsibility’, which is achieved through the choice and number of seats that can be undertaken during the programme, including secondments to clients and our overseas offices. Trainees benefit from two-tier supervision and challenging work.
The minimum requirement is that you are on-track to achieve or have achieved a 2:1 in your undergraduate degree. You would need to be at least in your penultimate-year of a law degree, final-year of a non-law degree to be eligible to apply for the summer placement scheme, so that you can complete all required learning (LLB/GDL/SQE) before the start date. We accept applications from those that have completed the LPC, but if you have not completed this, you will be expected to complete the SQE which will be fully funded by SPB.
We recruit all of our future trainee solicitors from the summer vacation scheme.
We encourage you to come and meet us at university events and our various panels/sessions with Legal Cheek, LawCareers.Net, Aspiring Solicitors. We host Open Day’s in our offices every year, with applications for these opening in September and closing in October.
As a leading global law firm, we take seriously our responsibility to call out and help eradicate inequality and discrimination in all its guises. We are intentional about doing so, both within our own firm and in the communities where we practice. We have taken a comprehensive approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), to ensure that all of our people throughout the firm feel welcomed and have equitable opportunities to belong, succeed, thrive, and fully and fairly pursue their career objectives. Our Global DEI Team focuses on strengthening our inclusive working environment by raising awareness through action, championing allyship, and providing guidance and training to drive meaningful change. The team consists of dedicated and experienced DEI practitioners, leadership, partners and staff who sit in different offices and cover multiple jurisdictions, ensuring that each initiative is globally and locally relevant. We look at the entire employee life cycle and center our goals around four strategic pillars – career, culture, community and clients. This ensures that our recruiting, hiring, development and promotion practices all reflect our shared focus. As part of our action plan, we have introduced a number of measures focused on improving our approach to the recruitment, retention and advancement of employees, and strongly believe that working with our clients to create programs helps strengthen our ability and outreach as a whole, meaning we can have maximum impact on our people, industries, local communities and the wider global society.
We are proud of the many employee resource groups (ERGs) within the firm which offer an opportunity for colleagues across practice groups, functions, geographies, etc. engage with various topics. Each ERG is chaired by a senior partner acting as a champion who drives initiatives that are measured and reviewed to ensure that we are achieving our aims. Everyone in the firm is encouraged to engage with the diversity, equity and inclusion agenda. Fee-earners have been allotted a 50 hours billable hours allowance across the UK LLP.
Some initiatives and accomplishments include:
1. A holistic wellbeing programme to promote good mental and physical health across our firm globally through a series of initiatives around the themes of health, family, finances, community and career;
2. Signatories of the Mindful Business Charter, a bilateral collaboration between leading banks and law firms committed to promoting more mindful working practices and reducing avoidable stress;
3. Introduction of blind screening, contextualised recruitment and specialist outreach programmes to encourage higher application rates from ethnic minorities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds;
4. Signatories of the Social Mobility Pledge with a commitment to improve access to the profession through our network of partnerships with organisations such as Sutton Trust, Social Mobility Business Partnership as well via our programme of work insight schemes;
5. Active participants in Pride marches across the UK locations;
6. Launch of the firm’s Global Squire Women’s Affinity Network;
7. Named as a Top 30 Employer for Working Families 2023.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 4)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Pensions (Band 3)
- Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 1)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 2)
North East & Yorkshire
- Pensions (Band 4)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Pensions (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
- Commodities: Physicals (Band 3)
- Health & Safety (Band 3)
- Immigration: Business (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
- Licensing (Band 3)
- Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Up to £500 million (Band 4)
- Retail (Band 3)
- Shipping (Band 5)
- Sport (Band 4)
- Telecommunications (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £5 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 2)
- Planning (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 1)
Yorkshire: South and West
- Employment (Band 1)