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UK City Firms

Squire Sanders Hammonds (London)

Our view...

So this is what the future looks like - Squire Sanders Hammonds, or SSH (although in some jurisdictions the 'Hammonds' may well be silent). Once just plain old Hammonds, this was the national firm which spent much of the late naughties failing to improve on a massive policy of expansion. Lazarus ain't got nothing on these guys.

Figures aside - PEP was a £360k for 2010 (only slightly down from the year before) - this is the firm which was for a long time the but of many a legal joke. What with an ex-trainee dishing the dirt in a novel, a urinating shoe fetishist and mass redundancies, and it was clear that Hammonds still had a way to go. The redundancies alone were a hammer blow - as turnover fell in 2009, taking PEP with it, large swaths of fee earners in the firm’s corporate and real estate departments were facing redundancy. After all, no-one can cope with a 25% fall in profits.

So still a firm with a lot to prove in its newly shaken-up format (we're still not sure what to call it - and nor are Squire Sanders). But with offices in Berlin, Munich, Paris, Hong Kong, Turin, Milan, Rome, Madrid and Aosta (Ed: where?), there was at least an ambition to sup at the top table. The previously provincial firm - offices in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds and Manchester, plus London and Brussels - had set out its global ambitions. However, while this may all sound very promising for trainee secondments, overseas offices are very expensive to set up and maintain. The chance of a stint in Paris or Hong Kong sounds all well and good, but is basically useless if it is not accompanied by high quality work. And, certainly in London, the firm is struggling to provide this. Part of the problem is that, unlike some of its more successful competitors, the firm has failed to shed its provincial image. Time and again the high profile clients are content to use SSH for their day to day work, but turn to the big City players when they have serious deals to be done. The London office does retain some highly rated niche departments - notably sports, employment and advertising and marketing - but remains decidedly shaky in the core bread-winning areas. That said, it does boast some big name clients, including Aldi, London Underground and some of the major sporting bodies - like UEFA. The firm’s continued poor performance has inevitably had an effect on morale and many have voted with their feet.

Hours vary from group to group, but are rarely in the Magic Circle league - it seems to present more of a lifestyle choice than the more traditional City based firms. In the words of one junior associate, “the prospects are better than many places and it comes without the bullsh*t of many other firms. There also isn’t the ridiculous need to stay late just to impress people”. An NQ comments that “things have turned around recently and management have made a big effort to keep people happy - particularly with the new pay levels for NQs”. Although the "constant kicking in the press" still isn't very helpful. So maybe we'll stop. Suffice it to say that a superb set of scores in the 2011 Firm of the Year survey suggest that this is a very good, upwardly-mobile, bet.

So what do you get with a SSH TC? Well, the firm has fortunately abandoned its bizarre “location rotation” training system, where trainees were expected to spend time in at least three of the firm’s offices. All well and good if you wanted to see more of the country, but not so if you were even vaguely attached to your wife / boyfriend / West Ham season ticket. You’ll now do six seats in one location, with the possibility of spending one of them overseas. Although you'll probably miss the "addictive" caramel shortcake back home.

And on a serious plus point - if it's your sort of thing - SSH is statistically one of the very best firm to train for those who want to make partner. One to watch.

Salary

Salary (1st seat trainee): £35,000
Salary (NQ): £60,000
Salary (1PQE): £63,500
Salary (2PQE): £64,500
Salary (3PQE): £69,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: Yes
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %

Training

Grant for GDL: £6,000
Grant for LPC: £7,000
Training places per year: 40
% of trainees retained: 75%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 61%
Development: 81%
Work/Life: 67%
Openness: 68%
Biscuits: 86%
Toilets: 68%
Social: 90%
Firm of the year overall score: 73%

Benefits

Holiday allowance: 23
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: Contributory. Employee contributes 3.8%, firm contributes 6.2%. Contributions increase with length of service
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: 3 levels depending on length of service. Max package offers 100% pay for 18 weeks and 50% until 29 weeks after birth.
Target hours: 1300
Childcare vouchers: No
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: No
24 hour secretarial support: No
Other: Flexible benefits scheme allows employees to tailor their own benefits package. Figures apply to London office

  

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No enhanced maternity terms for women who get pregnant again within two years ... read more > (4 comments)
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ROLLONFRIDAY STORY 22ND APRIL 2005 ... read more >
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RollOnFriday's compilation of the performance of leading law firms for the 2009/10 financial year ... read more >
  

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