Squire Patton Boggs - True Picture

Regional pride combined with a giant global network defines this multi-layered firm.

Squire Patton Boggs training contract review 2021

The Firm

"Ogres are like onions," Shrek taught us. No, not because they stink or make you cry, but because they have layers – much like Squire Patton Boggs (which certainly doesn’t smell or make you cry). The firm is the product of three mergers in the last decade, with legacy firms on both sides of the Atlantic headquartered in Cleveland, Washington DC, and little old Leeds. "We can appear to be a bit of a mismatch of identities,” interviewees reflected. “I think a few years ago the firm had more of a national identity,” one told us, “but increasingly our clients and systems are feeling more integrated – it feels like much more of a global outfit today.” The firm’s international operation of 45 offices in 20 countries was certainly “a massive appeal” to nearly all of our interviewees. Most recently, the firm opened an office in Milan.

“The firm prides itself on its regional roots.”

Right alongside that international reach, “the firm prides itself on its regional roots in the UK,” with offices in Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester. Trainees said the UK offices“continue to generate a lot of their own work, with the benefit of being able to tap into the firm’s global network.” As an example, one trainee told us that “we recently completed our pan-European real estate team conference,” while another enthusiastically relayed that they “recently worked with colleagues in Ohio, Prague, Spain and Germany.”

Sources conceded that “thefirm’s branding perhaps isn’t as strong as some others,” with a couple admitting that they weren’tfamiliar with the firm until they started researching training contracts. They were, however, optimistic of the direction the firm is taking now. “There’s been a big focus on promoting our brand awareness in the market,” one explained. “We’ve been doing a lot of high-profile events in Manchester and Leeds, including sponsorship initiatives in conjunction with the Northern Powerhouse project” – if you’re not familiar, that’s the government’s pledge to boost economic growth in the north of England.

The firm certainly hasn’t struggled to attract the attention of Chambers UK,which designates nationwide rankings for its advertising and marketing, pensions litigation, sport, energy, and health and safety work. And the firm's presence across the country is further confirmed by scores of regional rankings in Yorkshire, the Midlands, the North West and London for core areas like corporate, real estate and litigation. The firm is a national leader outside London for employment and tax law.

The Seats

Squire Patton Boggs has a trainee intake of about 25 a year, with London housing the majority of newbies – Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester all take around five or six each. Trainees here do six four-month seats, putting SPB is in the minority of firms. This appealed to many of our interviewees who wanted “to sample a wide range of practice areas.” There are no compulsory seats, and the first seat is assigned at random when all trainees gather in Leeds for a three-week induction. 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. While some interviewees hadn’t secured their seat preferences in their first few seats, they were reassured that “the further you are through your training contract, the more your preferences are prioritised. Nearly everyone gets at least two of their preferences.”

SPB’s corporate team operates in the mid-market, covering M&A, private equity and capital markets. The firm handles deals in the industrial, healthcare, energy, financial services, media and sports sectors (the firm has several football clubs on the books). Some recent deals include advising US company CAA Sports on its £17.5 million acquisition of Base Soccer, a European football agency, and representing private equity firm ECI Partners on the €63 million buyout of management company KB Associates. “As a trainee you’re mostly involved on the project management side of things,” one source explained. “I’ve been drafting board minutes as well as establishing and taking down data rooms” – these are basically online filing systems that store important documents. In addition, “there’s a lot of client exposure.” Trainees fondly recalled “often dealing with people high up, trying to understand their business.”

“There are a lot of new, interesting concepts to get your head around.”

Over in the pensions department, funding arrangements, pension scheme closures, pension fund mergers and structural discussions all crop up. The work is predominantly advisory with a little bit of litigation thrown in. The group has a lot of long-standing clients for whom it makes amendments to existing pension schemes. For example, the firm advises trustees on all pensions matters of the £1.8 billion Kelda Group Pension Plan. The team also advised Hertfordshire County Council as the administering authority of the Hertfordshire Pension Plan. “On the face of it, it may not sound like one of the most exciting areas, but there are a lot of new, interesting concepts to get your head around,” one source said. Trainees had opportunities to draft deeds and attend trustee meetings.

SPB’s employment group is full-service, tackling transactional, advisory and contentious issues. “We do a lot of the bog standard employment and tribunal claims, but we’ve also been developing our investigations arm recently,” one insider revealed. In a litigious capacity, trainees kept busy “drafting settlement agreements, reviewing bundles and coordinating with barristers’ chambers.” One junior even got the chance “to attend a tribunal in person.” Others reported “helping to create and deliver training materials to clients.” The Birmingham team recently advised Jury’s Inn on employment issues arising from its £1 billion acquisition of four luxury hotels in London, which involved the transfer of around 1,000 employees.

“I’ve been conducting a lot of research in relation to mergers.”

The competition team works closely with SPB’s Brussels offices and “there are a few associates who frequently fly between the two,” sources in London pointed out. There’s a broad spectrum of work for newbies to cut their teeth on, including procurement challenges, merger control reviews, and competition litigation, as well as complaint handling for the Competition Market Authority (CMA). “I’ve been conducting a lot of research in relation to mergers,” one insider told us. “Recently it’s pertained to market definitions, which means looking at previous decisions made by the CMA or European Commission on how they’ve defined the market in relation to a particular product.” The firm recently defended World Sailing (the governing body for sailing) in relation to inquiries from the Italian Antitrust Authority and European Commission about the selection of sailing equipment for the 2024 Olympic Games. It also advised Southend Airport in its dispute with a bus company over bus services between London and the airport.

The firm currently offers two overseas seats in the Brussels and Paris offices. The latter is normally reserved for French speakers – the firm does pay for refresher lessons, but if all you've got left from your GCSE days is 'ou est la discotheque?' it's probably best to gracefully bow out of this one. You might have more luck Down Under: we heard the firm is opening up a new placement in one of its Australian offices. Competition for these seats is very fierce, with “around 12 people applying for each spot.” One lucky insider described the Brussels base as a competition-focused office, complete with “great colleagues and a great flat.”

Client secondments are also available, “each connected to a sector or area of law. For example, there are placements related to telecoms, retail, banking, and television.” Manchester and Leeds sources were happy with their in-house opportunities, and in London, “nearly everyone will do one over the course of their training contract.” Birmingham trainees were a little disappointed however. “It was pushed to us when applying that you could go on a client secondment,” one source explained, “but so far none of my year have been able to go.” We heard from the firm that it is always looking to provide more client secondment opportunities to trainees.

Trainee Life

More and more, mental health is becoming a bigger conversation in our working lives. At SPB, trainees were impressed with the firm’s approach. “On top of a wellbeing portal, there are lots of emails and webinars on how to improve our mental health, fitness, diet and ways to better manage stress and anxiety,” they explained. One source praised the London office’s managing partner Jane Haxby in particular: “Every Friday she’ll send an email out to the whole firm listing all the positive things happening in the firm; giving people shout-outs; providing client feedback; and promoting our charity obligations.” Overall, trainees thought “the firm is conscious of how to keep you perked up all the time. It reflects a drive to make people aware that there’s more to life than just billing.”

“You’re not going to be eating dinner in the office much, unless you’re in the corporate team.”

On a firmwide level trainees observed “some office politics,” in that decisions around salary and bonuses are made in the US. However, for the most part, “it doesn’t affect us day to day,” they were happy to report. “Our HQ may be in the US” – DC is the largest office but official headquarters are in Cleveland, Ohio – “but we don’t possess the same culture as US firms operating in the market.” For starters, trainees don’t work as long hours as their peers in US firms. In the regional offices, “you’re not going to be eating dinner in the office much, unless you’re in the corporate team.” The Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds offices generally start emptying out between 5.30pm and 6pm, depending on workload. “Working past midnight is quite rare,” a Leeds source said. “I’ve only known a few trainees do it.”

SPB salaries also aren’t as high as US firms in the UK, with trainees in the regions starting on £26,000 and Londoners on £37,000. London’s NQ salary jumps to over £30,000 more than that of their regional peers – but hours are longer in the capital. “I had a few periods where I was leaving at 11pm regularly,” one Londoner disclosed, while another mentioned “staying until 4am once during a busy stint in corporate.” Leaving by around the 7pm mark was more typical. And “you might need to do some light work on the weekend occasionally, but only a few hours here or there.”

“You’re assigned a name, object and location where you have to ‘murder’ someone.”

The firm's London office is located in Devonshire Square (they're moving into a new building in the same location very soon). Trainees here were grateful to work alongside “approachable” associates, but wanted to see the firm organise more trainee events – “we have to do a lot of the heavy lifting to organise them.” Up in Leeds, one source summed up the office culture as “a mix of taking the work seriously but having genuine fun at the same time. You can have a laugh with everyone including the partners.” Trainees here highlighted a game of office murder, “where you’re assigned a name, object and location where you have to ‘murder’ someone.” Those in Manchester were keen to tell us about their “unparalleled office space” in the brand new No. 1 Spinningfields tower in the city centre. Down in Birmingham, “we’re a close trainee bunch and hang out a fair bit,” one source told us. “It mainly involves drinking.”During lockdown, trainees across offices told us that "everyone in the firm has been busy sharing recipes" and music recommendations. "There's even an SPB Spotify playlist."

Trainees broke down the firm’s structured qualification process: “It starts with a presentation laying out how it all works and giving us interview tips, after which we’re required to submit a tailored CV for each seat we’re interested in.” Next up are the interviews, and because trainees also have to submit all of their seat appraisals, “they can go into forensic detail about some of the matters you’ve worked on!” Some found the whole process “slightly redundant after spending four months in the seat,” but on the other hand “it’s good because you know where you stand.” This year the firm kept on 21 of 23 qualifiers.

Squire Patton Oz: Trainees who complete the fast-track LPC may get to paralegal in Australia ahead of the training contract (there are also client secondment opportunities).

How to get a Squire Patton Boggs Training Contract


Vacation scheme deadline: 8 January 2021 

Training contract deadline: 8 January 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 a contextualised recruitment system that allows it to match academic achievement against social backgrounds to assess real potential, as well as considering extenuating circumstances.   

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.” 

Squire Patton Boggs

Rutland House,
148 Edmund Street,
B3 2JR
Website www.squirepattonboggs.com

7 Devonshire Square,

6 Wellington Place,

No 1 Spinningfields,
1 Hardman Square,
M3 3EB

  • Partners 105
  • Associates 311
  • Total trainees 47
  • UK offices Birm4
  • Overseas offices 41
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiter: Claire Alderson claire.alderson@squirepb.com 0161 830 5221
  • Training partner: Giles Chesher giles.chesher@squirepb.com
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 23
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
  • Minimum UCAS points or A levels: 120 points BBB*
  • * Our contextualised recruitment system enables us to assess real potential and, as such, we consider all applications.
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 34
  • Dates and deadlines  
  • Training contract applications open: 1st October 2020
  • Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 8th January 2021
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 1st October 2020
  • Vacation scheme 2021 deadline: 8th January 2021
  • Salary and benefits  
  • London:  
  • First-year salary London £37,000; Regions £26,000
  • Second-year salary London £42,000; Regions £28,000
  • Post-qualification salary London £73,000; Regions £44,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa:
  • GDL grant: London £6,000; Regions £4,500
  • LPC grant: London £7,000; Regions £5,000
  • International and regional  
  • Overseas seats: Paris and Brussels  

Firm profile

We are one of the world’s strongest integrated law firms, providing insight at the point where law, business and government meet. A multidisciplinary team of more than 1,500 lawyers in 45 offices across 20 countries provides unrivalled access to expertise, guidance and invaluable connections on the ground. Recognised as having one of the broadest global footprints in the legal industry, we provide access to new knowledge, new markets and new expertise across the US, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Many of our UK clients are among the biggest names and brands in the world, from FTSE and Fortune 100 companies to emerging and fast-growth businesses, financial institutions, and regional and national governments.

Main areas of work
Business immigration; communications; competition – antitrust; corporate; data privacy and cybersecurity; energy and natural resources; 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.

Training opportunities

We offer a unique training contract, tailored to individual trainee needs. We provide a comprehensive induction programme at an external campus, followed by tailored department training for each seat and tailored skills training through seminars and workshops.

The 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. 

Vacation placements

We run a two-week summer placement scheme that provides students with genuine experience as to what life is like as a trainee solicitor.

Penultimate-year law students, final-year non-law students and all postgraduate students are eligible to apply for the summer placement scheme.

All students who are successful in getting onto a placement scheme will automatically be considered for a training contract. 

Other benefits

25 days’ holiday, death in service, life assurance, pension and income protection. Flexible benefits package that includes private medical insurance, dental insurance, cover, a cash plan, a Ride2Work scheme and a season ticket loan. 

Open days and first-year opportunities
We encourage you to come and meet us at any of our firm-organised events, details of which can be found through our website and social media pages.

University law careers fairs 2020

Each year, we attend a number of university law fairs across the UK. To find out where we will be, follow our website news and social media pages for more information.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
We have a global Inclusion & Diversity Committee, which is chaired by senior figures from each continent on which we operate, and in 2019 we appointed a dedicated I&D Manager to formally coordinate and drive our approach.

We are a committed equal opportunities employer and LEXCEL accredited. We continue to be recognised for our inclusive approach by Law360 as a Top 100 Firm for Minority Attorneys, and a Lex 100 Winner for 2019/20 in the categories of Inclusiveness and Approachability, demonstrating the progress we have made following our refreshed I&D initiative across our UK/European offices. We were also finalists in the UK Diversity Awards for our work in the Mental Health & Wellbeing category.

Our approach is centred on six pillars, which each represent our focus to maintain an inclusive, bias-free environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Each pillar drives initiatives that are measured, continually reviewed and developed to ensure that we are achieving our aims. Led by a senior partner acting as a champion, our pillars are supported by resource groups made up of individuals who identify with or who are allies of the particular pillar. We are also active members of Stonewall, ENEI and the Business Disability Forum who guide us on our policies and initiatives.

Our six Groups are Accessibility, Multicultural, LGBT+, Gender Diversity, Social Mobility, and Age Diversity. Initiatives include:
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Active participants in Pride marches in all four UK locations, supported with an Allies programme and blog series during 2020 to raise awareness about LGBT+ experiences
• Following the use of listening groups, launched a Maternity Returners programme and created an Advancing Women task force to remove barriers to career progression

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

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)