Squire Patton Boggs
Once just plain old Hammonds, this UK firm with European offices merged with US outfit Squire Sanders on New Year's Day 2011. In June 2014 it merged with Washington firm Patton Boggs, and Hammonds was ditched from the letterhead.
Hammonds once provided the butt of many a legal joke, with an ex-trainee dishing the dirt in a novel, a urinating shoe fetishist and, less amusingly, mass redundancies.
The previously provincial firm - offices in Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds and Manchester, plus London and Brussels - now has branches everywhere with a whole bunch, of course, in the US. Traditionally, high profile clients were content to use SSH for their day to day work, but turned to the big City players when they had serious deals to get done. The London office did retain some highly-rated niche departments - notably sports, employment and advertising and marketing - but was decidedly shaky in the core bread-winning areas. That said, it did boast some big name clients, including Aldi, London Underground and some of the major sporting bodies, like UEFA. It remains to be seen whether the addition of US firm Patton Boggs, which has had a difficult few years and was casting around for a merger for months, will help the firm shuffle up in potential clients' estimation. The merger means Squires gets to bulk up in Washington, and Patton Boggs gets a global footprint. In 2016 it added California, China, Hong Kong and Germany when it merged with San Francisco firm Carroll, Burdick & McDonough.
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. A fair, if not spectacular, set of scores in the Firm of the Year survey suggests staff are reasonably content. One trainee said that there is "Excellent pay-work ratio, offering a good work-life balance".
One happy partner chimes in that it is "one of the few firms left where partners feel part of a partnership" adding that "partners are treated as human beings first and billing machines second".
As for cash, in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey an NQ said that payrises in "made everyone smile and nod their heads, especially the trainees, who got a tidy little bump". A 1PQE said pay "is really good" compared "to the amount of work that's required", noting that "on average I get a 7pm finish three-four times a week", so "definitely no complaints".
An NQ agrees on the good work-life balance, saying that it "is by far the best of all my mates across City firms", and "makes up" for any salary shortfall.
Higher up the greasy pole, a 3PQE said the salaries are "shocking" with "no guarantee of a bonus even if you smash your hours", while a 4PQE in Leeds says the pay in the regions is "well below market rate". But, they concede, the work life balance "is good. Nobody hangs around just to be seen working".
And after more than a year, apparently the merger "is finally being properly felt through the firm", said a junior lawyer, with "plenty of interesting work coming through from the Middle East, Oz and the US".
As for the offices, after two years of a rumoured move to the Walkie Talkie or the Heron, in January 2016 the firm moved from Devonshire Office Park to flash new digs at No 1 Spinningfields.
If the name of the firm is a bit of a turn-off, the inside chat on this is that "everyone at the firm realises that the Boggs bit sounds a little bit lame, so we've informally re-branded the firm as Squire PB!" Although outside of the firm, other lawyers still delight in including the Boggs bit.
So what do you get with a SPB 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.
Back in the day, SSH was statistically one of the very best firms at which to train for those who wanted to make partner. Now, who knows. Even before the latest merger bolstered the US side of the business, a SSH lawyer said the firm was "essentially run by the Americans" with the consequence that "It doesn't feel like anyone in the UK can make decisions". Although at ground level, one trainee has been sucked in by the US charm reporting that "senior lawyers from the Squire Sander's US network are a hoot to work with".
NB stated salaries are for London.