Hogan Lovells - The Inside View

International heavyweight Hogan has a whole lotta' heart.

SIX years into its huge merger and Hogan Lovells is coming together in all the right places. You might assume that a beast as big as this wouldn't have the heart to match, but our sources insisted there's been a “flawless synthesis” of growth and care since the 2010 merger. Understandably, its 13 US offices still retain some of their distinctive pre-merger cultures and practices; but as Alice Valder Curran, a regional managing partner at the firm, puts it: “I feel like now more than ever we are seeing the benefits of that collaboration and the formation of a universal image." This image, she adds, incorporates a strong commitment to diversity both in practice area and recruitment.

With one arm Hogan welcomes juniors and with the other it educates; the firm offers a number of comprehensive training programs for its lawyers and, as this interviewee declared, “is always encouraging us to expand our knowledge.” The CEO Steve Immelt also recently announced that the cap on billable pro bono hours would be lifted, a move that “sent out a strong message, firmwide, that Hogan cares.” In April, the firm received favorable press when it was reported that it is introducing a single, nationwide bonus scale for associates. 

The Work

Incoming juniors join five main groups: litigation, arbitration and employment (LEA); corporate; government regulatory; finance; and IP. The majority of juniors in our sample were fairly evenly spread between Hogan's LEA, corporate and finance groups. Only a handful had made either IP or finance their home.

In DC – the flagship office – new recruits are given the opportunity to do four-month rotations in different practice areas to get a feel for where they might best fit. The rotation system is by no means compulsory but juniors were grateful for the opportunity to sample. Despite this, most of our DC sources confirmed that many people end up opting to stay where they were first placed: “It's less freewheelin' than they want it to sound, but it's nice because you have that 'out'.” Another junior enthused: “I went to a happy hour with some lawyers from another firm. They said they did energy law. I asked 'Why?' They said, 'because we got put there.' It's not like that here.”

“Take ownership of what we are working on.”

In other offices, there isn't quite as much flexibility. Most juniors are “recruited directly into a practice area,” while those less sure “have to decide whether you go the transactional route or go into litigation.” The approach to work assignment within groups is more uniform, we were told. “Each week an associate turns in a report listing their current assignments, then you list the number of hours you are able to work that week.” This reflects management's desire for associates to “take ownership of what we are working on.”

Rather than a top-down approach, juniors felt a healthy, collegial respect permeates the firm. “Sometimes people will assume that you know more than you know,” but a more relaxed hierarchy means that associates can always speak up and clarify: “If you ask and you're proactive, its not a problem.” Overall, the workload throughout Hogan's offices mirrors that of other international behemoths. Most attorneys agreed that “it's not so much that you have a lot of work, it's the unpredictability.”

Relative newbs are given pretty “substantive work.” Litigators boasted of being involved in “witness prep and drafting statements” almost from week one. While a Virginia-based corporate associate told of drafting an array of ancillary documents while balancing “a great deal of diligence memoranda.” Over in government regulatory, sources were especially pleased: “The teams can be quite lean – just me and a partner and sometimes just one other associate. It means I've had the chance to interact with clients early on.”

Training & Development

Sources largely echoed the view that “training opportunities at Hogan are phenomenal!” One excited attorney divulged: “Not only do they have internally-led training programs, they also make it easy for you to go out of the firm and complete the training you need to succeed.” Every year associates undergo one extensive program. “First-years attend a general one, while second-years join a practice area-specific one.” Third-year associates are whisked away to Colorado for an intensive three-day program that includes “courtroom scenarios with real actors.” So realistic are these exercises that “things can get pretty heated,” one lawyer revealed. “You get to really grill these guys!” Yet there's grilling of a more positive kind as well: “Afterwards we take them out for dinner and help wipe the spittle from their faces,” another joked.

"Training opportunities are phenomenal."

Once a year it's the associates' turn to be cross-examined: “Around early September you're given a list of every matter that you've billed more than 20 hours on and you choose which hours you want to be reviewed on.” This approach allows lawyers to share with their superiors work that they are especially proud of. For juniors, assessment takes the form of a “rating system based on stuff like 'firm-mindedness' and 'adaptation to the culture.'” The latter category was deemed  “a bit too abstract really – no one pays it much attention.” Most juniors agreed that the reviews were “pretty consistent,” but a few did complain that “sometimes it takes a while to receive the feedback.”

New starters are assigned two mentors: “A partner and a senior associate.” Highlighting the tight bonds that are formed at Hogan, many told us that “people tend to create their own relationships. The senior associate and partner ease you into starting at Hogan. Then, over time, you develop other connections.” Strong connections are also forged at the firm's famous summer retreat which takes place in DC for all summering associates. “The retreat includes a lot of social stuff, a lot of ice-breakers, you make friends for life – we went zip-lining!”

Hours & Compensation

From 2016, the billing target for associates in all offices is 2,000 hours. Before this new policy came into effect, associates in some offices said lawyers can choose to do "1,800 hours at a reduced, below-market salary.” Those that choose the reduced target are compensated if they do reach the higher target. Most juniors agreed that “not many go for the reduced target: it's mainly people with families and even then, they often end up hitting the higher target.” Associates had varying takes on the levels of pressure they felt to achieve their billing target. Nonetheless, most concurred with a DC lawyer, who said: “In DC, as a first-year, it's almost expected that you won't hit your hours.”

“Relative to other NYC law firms, my work/life balance is incredible.”

The bonus system was deemed slightly opaque when we interviewed associates before the announcement in April 2016 of a single national scale. In New York, “bonuses were market-rate” but elsewhere sources were unclear about whether they needed to hit or exceed their hours in order to receive one. Another added: “Laterals say that if you are even remotely close to your billing target at other firms you get a bonus, but at Hogan you have to exceed your target.” Now, regional differences have been ironed out as 2,000 hours is the target for associates wherever they are located.

The firm is very clear about its desire for lawyers to have a healthy social life. “On a Friday, if you're working late, a partner will tell you to 'go home and do something fun'.” One New York attorney was especially thrilled: “Relative to other NYC law firms, my work/life balance is incredible.” The firm recently ditched its mandatory four weeks for an unlimited vacation allowance: “As long as you're billing your hours, there's no pressure not to take vacation,” said one source. 

Pro Bono

“Hogan has a heart. It has a live and beating heart,” one source declared, rather intensely. It is, they added, reflected in the firm's recently introduced 'Citizenship Program'. The community outreach program is nationwide and requires every employee –“even the janitor” – to do at least 25 'citizenship hours' every year. The firm's commitment to pro bono is something that has drawn many attorneys to the firm. “You go to a top firm's website and they all look the same. One of the things that stands out on Hogan's is the practice group especially dedicated to pro bono.” Facilitating this in both DC and New York there's “one senior associate on an 18-month rotation,” and in the former at least two other associates on four-month stints. There's also a nationwide pro bono coordinator who regularly circulates opportunities: "We do good things for the Innocence Project, as well as stuff for homeless and veterans' organizations."

Pro bono hours 

  • For all attorneys across all US offices: 77,199 
  • Average per US attorney: 79 


“Hogan does a great job of marketing itself as a friendly place,” and in reality “people actually are friendly, engaging and a little more laid back.” The hours may be demanding, but “at 2am, these are the people you want to be around,” one attorney reflected. Again, geographical location can affect culture: we heard, for example, that the “DC office is a bit more academic” while the “NY office is more frenetic.” Along with its hectic pace, the New York office has a nice tradition: “When you get married the firm gives you a Tiffany vase. When you have a baby, you get a Tiffany rattle.”

The other offices conform somewhat to regional stereotypes; the Virginia office is “homely and tight-knit,” while an LA associate gushed over their office's “SoCal culture: casual, relatable, tight and relaxed.”

The desire to recruit the right kind of “people-person” applies to lateral hires as much as juniors. One source revealed that during the recruitment of a partner in their office, “the head sent out an email detailing the candidate's attributes, flagging that they were 'a good person and a lot of fun.' I don't know anywhere else where this would've been taken into consideration.”


"We can go to a soul concert and get down."

From the DC office, Hogan directs its diversity initiatives across the land via its array of committees. These include: “An African-American committee, Latin-American committee, LGBT committee and many more.” Once a year the firm hosts its 'Pathways to Success' conference: the firm's African-American associates are invited to the capital, where they meet with diverse law students and offer advice on their career paths. One associate gushed about the firm's desire to celebrate diversity among its clients as well as its lawyers: “The other day we rented out a suite in the Verizon Center and networked with diverse clients... maybe we don't know how to play golf, but we can go to a soul concert and get down.” Bucking the trend across the country is Hogan's Virginia office, where “most of the corporate partners are female.”

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Most associates were keen to stress the leaps and bounds the firm had made with regards to inter-office cooperation. “When this firm says it's one firm, it means it. I just got off a really high-profile deal and my team was made up of attorneys based in five different cities.” The 2010 merger between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells was designed to maximize the combined firm's international presence, but domestic space has been augmented too: “Every attorney has their own office, they are very nice and of an adequate size.” At the moment, junior associates in DC are given windowless offices –“which can be stifling.” However, after its planned renovation “everyone will be given a portal to the outside world.”

Get Hired

"People with a bit of work experience are sought after."

An interest in the outside world is always a plus for those looking to become part of the Hogan family. “Law school geniuses aren't necessarily what they are looking for. First and foremost, they want people who are well rounded. People with a bit of work experience are sought after too, as they can bring that to the table when dealing with and advising clients.” When it comes to the summer retreats in DC, associates are encouraged to organize activities and get thoroughly stuck into the social side of things. One associate raved about “a microbrewery tour for the summers: there weren't any partners there judging them and everybody had a whale of a time!”

Strategy & Future

Regional managing partner Alice Valder Curran believes that after six years, Hogan is finally able to move forward after consolidating post-merger: "It takes time to get to know people in different offices and we have done that." Though there are no plans to open more offices in the USA, the firm's international presence is flourishing. Fans of barbecues and marsupials will be glad to hear that management is looking at expansion Down Under: "We are working on our Australian offices; we have good people down there," Curran tells us. 

Interview with managing partner Alice Valder Curran


What highlights from the past year would you want to flag up to student readers interested in your firm?

Well, we've had a very strong year, especially in DC. I feel it’s been a fulfilment of the promise we made with the combination. I think now more than ever we are seeing the benefits of our focus on collaboration and the formation of a universal Hogan Lovells image. We made a big effort to properly get to know all of our clients and people around the globe and how we can anticipate and support our clients’ needs. Collaboration and cross office work has reaped dividends.

On the culture side, we followed up on 'Project Redefine' – an initiative that enables partners to construct a unified approach to leading the firm and becoming role models and distributors of a strong, shared culture – by having a number of “Lets Go” meetings around the world. The meetings were about educating everyone – attorneys and business services personnel -- about our vision and our values and asking everyone to contribute to the success and culture of the firm. I led a number of “Lets Go” meetings in Washington. It made me realize how much Hogan Lovells employees worldwide want to affirm what our direction and our values are. It was basically the equivalent of an all-hands meeting worldwide – that's the kind of commitment we have to our people.

We also just published our 2015 M&A year-in- review, which highlights a number of the very significant M&A transactions we handled during the year, showcasing the sophistication and breadth of our practices and clients.

What do you want the firm to look like in ten years' time?

Global but integrated. We are very much one firm but are organised not just by type of law but by type of industry. For example, if we are working with a pharmaceutical company, we are bringing a group of lawyers that know that industry inside and out, whether that lawyer has a transactional, finance, or litigation focus. On the culture side, I want a firm where everyone knows their own value to the bigger picture.

Are there any plans to open new offices? 

Not at the moment. Historically, we haven't been a firm that has planted a flag. We only open somewhere when there is a specific client-based need for that, because we think that that is a smart way to run a business. We are working on filling out our Australia offices: We have good people down there and we want to make sure we support them and build out our capacity there.

What has the firm done and what does it plan to do with respect to the fluctuating economy?

We keep a close eye on that. We stay in a good position because of our geographical and practice diversity. When you have that level of diversification it dampens the impact of market fluctuations. There is no practice area or office that is dominant. That alone really helps to handle economic fluctuations. Sometimes we look at fluctuation as an opportunity.

Define the firm's character or culture. How do you promote that culture?

We have 'leadership behaviours' that are on everybody's desk. They make very clear the skills each of us is expected to develop and how we expect to develop them. For our associates, we recently developed a Lawyer Development Framework that commits to writing the skills necessary to reach certain levels of seniority. We are really committed to the professional development of our associates. If you come to Hogan, you are not only going to be a very good lawyer, you are going to develop expertise in a type of law and at least one industry sector that will be useful no matter where your career takes you.

What has changed about the firm since you joined? 

Since I joined in 1998 the firm obviously has become more global. It’s also much more interdisciplinary with greater industry focus. We have really institutionalized agile working. I came to the firm from the government and wanted to work a reduced schedule. Hogan & Hartson was the only place that would offer that in an intelligent, practical way. We are now formalizing that policy and extending it to all lawyers and all business services personnel throughout the firm. That flexibility is a big reason I came here and also why I have stayed.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for our student readers as they try to enter the legal profession?

The advice I typically give any junior lawyer is to take ownership of your career path. You are smart or otherwise you wouldn't be where you are; you got here by being a hard worker. When you come into a firm, be purposeful of what you do and how you do it because you can’t assume you will have a “fairy godmother” who will manage all aspects of your progression for you. You have to take ownership of your career and manage it practically.

At Hogan Lovells we have a Lawyer Development Framework that helps associates understand what we expect them to do as a first year, a junior associate, senior associate, counsel and so on and provides them with the tools and support to achieve that.

Interview with hiring partner Tim Lloyd


Roughly how many associates do you take on each year? 

Last year, firm-wide in the US we hired 57 in our entering class, including people straight from law school (42) or from a judicial clerkship (15). We have not yet finished hiring for the 2016 class but we could have as many as 75 new associates in the coming year in the U.S.

What's the scope of your recruiting drive? Which law schools do you traditionally draw from?

We recruit from between 25-30 law schools each year. Within that we focus on schools that you would describe as national; schools like Harvard, Duke, Georgetown, NYU, Columbia, Michigan, Berkeley, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Virginia. A number of offices also recruit on a local level. In New York City, for example, we recruit at Fordham and Cornell; Denver goes to the University of Denver; in DC, we visit George Washington, Catholic, Howard and American. As our hiring goals increase, we are considering adding additional schools, such as those in the mid-west, and we are always open to speaking with strong candidates from other schools. At the same time, we find that going to schools where we have had past success and developed long-term relationships benefits all of our offices.

What does the firm do to encourage diversity in recruiting?

We do a number of things. We spend a fair amount of time interacting with law school students and making them aware of our commitment to having a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace. We sponsor activities of diversity groups at law schools and make sure that our recruitment teams understand how important diversity is. We also participate in the LCLD Scholar program (the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity), in which we partner with our clients to promote diversity in the corporate and legal worlds.

What are you looking for in a candidate? 

We are very fortunate in that everyone we meet initially has great academic credentials and they are bright and motivated. Beyond that, this is a firm that places a high premium on team work and being able to work effectively with others. We are looking for someone who has demonstrated the qualities of being an engaging and engaged team player.

What can students do now in their 1L summer to increase their chances of impressing you in their applications and at interview?

Everything is potentially relevant. During the summer, anything you can do to try and improve your legal skills, especially writing, is helpful. It’s also useful to gain an understanding of what lawyers and clients do as well as refining what you think your career goals are. Anyone who comes to us with a good understanding of what it is lawyers do and specifically what they want to do as a lawyer has an immediate head start.

Can you very briefly outline your summer program. 

We have a healthy mix of work assignments, formal training and social events. We strive to expose summer associates to all our areas of practice and give them the chance to get real hands-on experience in the areas that most interest them. We also think it is very important for students to gain an understanding of the firm and how it operates. As a specific example, all of our U.S. summer our associates take part in a summer associate retreat in DC that includes extensive involvement by our firm leaders. Summer associates learn about our firm history, practices, clients, finances, structure and goals. They also go through bonding exercises which they find fun and which really start to connect them to the wider firm.

How can someone really stand out as a summer associate? 

We expect everyone can do the legal work. I think they really will stand out if they are engaging, seek out opportunities and show initiative by making connections with people in practice groups they are most interested in. Summer associates who take best advantage of opportunities to refine their practice interests can really hit the ground running when they return to the firm as associates.

What is the firm's approach to lateral hiring? 

It’s really driven by our practice groups; we are always monitoring to see whether a practice's needs are being met. If they are not, we will supplement.

What does Hogan Lovells offer that is unique? 

If I was a law student, there are two things I would find most significant about Hogan, in addition to its outstanding global-facing practices. The first is its very positive culture – people here are genuinely friendly and supportive. The second thing, which takes a little bit of investigation to really appreciate, is the extent of the firm’s commitment to our attorneys’ professional development. We have devised and implemented a formal, professionally-developed program, which we call our lawyer development framework, for our attorneys. The program provides associates with essential “soft-skill” tools we believe will help them continue to grow professionally and succeed throughout their careers. I’m not aware of any comparable program.

Hogan Lovells

Columbia Square,
555 Thirteenth Street, NW,
Washington, DC,
Website www.hoganlovells.com

  • Head Office: Washington, DC
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Number of international offices: 36
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.82 billion
  • Partners (US): 397
  • Associates (US): 489
  • Summer Salary 2016:  
  • 1Ls: $3,080/week (in most offices)
  • 2Ls: $3,080/week (in most offices)
  • Post 3Ls: $3,080/week (in most offices)
  • 1Ls hired? Yes (in some offices)
  • Split summers offered? Case by case
  • Can summers spend time in overseas office? Case by case 
  • Summers 2016: 83 (69 2Ls, 14 1Ls)
  • Offers/acceptances 2015: 67 offers, 52 acceptances (to date)

Main areas of work
Working at the intersection of law, business and government, across a wide range of industries, Hogan Lovells US LLP’s global practices include corporate; finance; government regulatory; intellectual property, media and technology; litigation, arbitration and employment; and pro bono.

Firm profile
By joining Hogan Lovells, you will become part of a legal practice with a long tradition of excellence. Working as an integrated team, our lawyers provide sophisticated services on a broad spectrum of cutting-edge legal issues. Our unique global platform, collaborative culture and commitment to your professional development, provide an exceptional foundation on which to build a legal career – now and into the future. Hogan Lovells’ pioneering US Pro Bono practice began more than 40 years ago when we were the first law firm to establish a separate practice devoted exclusively to providing pro bono legal services. Our culture of inclusion, which respects and values the diversity of all of our people, enhances the quality of Hogan Lovells’ workplace and our ability to provide excellent legal services for clients. We prize our friendly, team-oriented environment, which encourages professional development, good associate-partner relations and early client contact.

Recruitment details
• Number of 1st year associates: 44
• Number of 2nd year associates: 75
• Associate salaries: 1st year: Varies by market - in most US offices $180,000
• 2nd year: Varies by market – in most US offices $190,000
• Clerking policy: Yes

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2016:
American University, Baltimore, Boston College, Boston University, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Catholic University, Columbia, Colorado, Cornell, Denver, Duke, Florida, Florida International, Florida State, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, NYU, Pennsylvania, Stanford, Texas, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Washington & Lee, William & Mary, Yale

Summer details
Summer associate profile:

With guidance from lawyer assignment coordinators/mentors, students do meaningful client work, and participate in training programs designed to develop and enhance legal skills. Summer Associates have opportunities to attend closings, depositions, and legislative and administrative hearings and meet with alumni and clients serving in prominent roles in government and business. In 2016, five US Summer Associates with strong interest in our transnational practices participated in a two-week program in the London office. All US Summer Associates attend a retreat in Washington where firm leaders share insights about Hogan Lovells’ pre-eminent practices and strategic plans for the future, our vision and values, and commitment to diversity. Through group dinners and team building exercises, US Summer Associates get to know their colleagues from other offices and make life long connections.