Increasing revenues, new office openings and even some exploratory merger talks show that this global firm is in no mood to plateau.
2018 proved to be quite peachy for this global juggernaut of a firm: SPB kickstarted the year with an office opening in Atlanta, which brought its domestic number of bases up to 18 and its global tally up to 47; it then followed a trend among other global Swiss vereins (like Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper and Norton Rose Fulbright) by posting increases in both revenue and profitability (revenue went up by 3.5% to $1.03 billion); and reportedly engaged in preliminary merger talks with Brit firm Addleshaw Goddard. While these alleged talks came to nothing, it's safe to say that SPB still very much has its eye on growth – whether that will come from a future merger remains to be seen (SPB is not currently in merger talks with any firm), but SPB is already familiar with the whole combination process: it came into being following the 2014 joining in arms of Cleveland stalwarts Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and DC lobbying legends Patton Boggs.
“No one had the mindset of hoarding work.”
The strength of legacy Patton Boggs’ expertise is still evident in SPB’s current Chambers USA rankings: the firm picks up nationwide recognition for its government relations know-how, especially with regards to areas like housing, banking and transportation. However, on domestic soil Ohio is still SPB’s most respected turf in Chambers USA. Here, SPB picks up high rankings for a broad collection of areas, including banking & finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate/M&A, employee benefits & executive compensation, general commercial litigation and natural resources & environment. Elsewhere, insurance litigation is a strength in New York, while in Arizona, SPB out-sizzles the competition with its corporate and labor & employment talents.
Of course, an appetite for growth and a good full-service offering did prove attractive to our interviewees. However, they were also swayed by SPB’s softer side, with one recalling that “it was clear the focus was on delivering the best work product for the client. No one had the mindset of hoarding work in order to boost their own hours; people were nice, friendly and good to work for.” More on SPB’s ‘A+’ culture later…
At the time of our research, juniors could be found dotted across 14 of the firm's US offices, with the largest numbers honing their careers in DC, Cleveland and Columbus. When it came to practices, SPB’s litigation, corporate, financial services and IP & technology groups housed the most juniors on our list, but there were ten other groups represented too, including areas like real estate, labor and employment, trade and public policy. Work assignment tends to be informal in most groups. “You can always go around and ask people for work if you have capacity,” relayed one source, but more often than not our interviewees found that work landed on their desks quite easily: “There’s no database or online system to pull work from – it’s people reaching out to you.” Inter-office working is a key part of SPB associate life. “I get to work with partners and associates in many other offices. It’s neat – you get to see their projects and interact with them. It’s nice to work with a lot of different people all over the world.”
Litigators work as generalists for “at least the first few years,” and can touch upon general commercial matters (such as contract disputes), as well as product liability, insurance, bankruptcy, trusts and estates, real estate, construction and healthcare cases – “healthcare is big in all of our offices and it’s only going to get bigger!” We heard that DC gets its hands on a lot of international work via its international arbitration clients, while associates in the smaller offices told us that they work on a range of matters spanning “smaller disputes over car accidents all the way up to representing states or state entities.” In offices with big litigation departments such as Cleveland and DC, “the cases we work on typically span over many years with claims running into the billions.” There’s a lot of research and collaboration with technical experts on offer for juniors: “It’s been an incredible learning opportunity not only to learn about the law, but also to become an expert in obscure things related to a particular case. I’ve been learning the technical aspects of how banking systems work, for example!” Sources had also been able to draft documents such as pleadings and motions to dismiss: “They focus first on developing you as a writer, then as an advocate.” Lucky interviewees had even been given stand-up time in court.
Litigation clients: Samsung Electronics; Procter & Gamble; and the Ohio Department of Commerce. Recently represented Samsung during multidistrict litigation related to the voluntary recall of 2.8 million washing machines.
Associates in the corporate and financial services departments get to know each other pretty well, as “the groups overlap a ton. It’s not a clear line. There’s crossover with the entities we’re dealing with, plus the mechanics of the research and drafting is similar.” Most juniors liked the opportunity to “get a background in everything financial and corporate rather than just specializing in one area.” The corporate practice handles a lot of midmarket M&A and corporate governance matters, while the financial services group oversees work such as bank note and securities offerings, as well as public company processes like IPOs. The Cleveland office, we heard, “does a lot of the debt finance work, like loan and security agreements, as well as guarantees.” Clients range from “small startups all the way up to the Fortune 500 companies and major banks. There’s a variety, which is cool.” Tasks for juniors here included “drafting loan, security and guarantee documents,” as well as “advising companies and assisting with security filings.” Over in corporate, “there’s a fair amount of drafting, whether that’s nondisclosure agreements or portions of merger agreements.” In addition, there’s plenty of due diligence (DD) to do, as well as DD reports to write.
Corporate clients: NovaBay Pharmaceuticals; Lincoln Electric; and JBS USA Food Company. Recently advised Canadian agri-food company Lassonde Industries on its $146 million acquisition of all the issued and outstanding equity of a Michigan-based beverage company, Old Orchard Brands.
“The firm cares where you’re going to be in ten, twenty years. The training reflects that,” said one source decisively. Quite a few of our interviewees mentioned being sent to sector-based conferences and to seminars that had been recommended by the firm based on an associate’s individual “strengths and weaknesses.” Litigators in particular reported a lot of group training; at the time of our calls all US junior litigators were just about to be sent to Cleveland for a deposition course, while many sources also highlighted a big conference in Dallas in 2018: “Everyone flew to the office for a day of training and presentations. It brought everyone together, and we got to network and socialize, which is nice and important.” What’s more, Chuck Norris was there: “It was surreal but cool. He gave a short talk at the end of the day about his charity, Kickstart Kids. He was in good shape!”
“I have a lot of mentors.”
Interviewees had mixed views on how clear progression at the firm is, with one source stating: “No one knows how you get up there [to the partnership],” while another declared that “there are clear objective standards that they want you to be hitting; as you reach those standards, you can advance from one rank to another.” Some felt especially pleased with the feedback they’d received, with this source telling us that they “receive constant feedback for everything I work on; a partner reviews my work and tells me how I could do better.” Others felt that the input of mentors had been particularly useful for their career progression: “I have a lot of mentors who recognize my talents and make an effort to introduce me to other people of their caliber in different offices.”
For one interviewee, “the best thing about” SPB was its “culture of politeness – that goes a long way. I think the firm is a very civil place, and that carries over into the way associates are treated. If they need you to work late on a matter, for example, that request will be made in a civil way.” Others did agree with this assessment, with this source awarding SPB an “A+ for culture: it’s really good. The people have always been warm, welcoming and helpful – there’s no one I dread working with!” Another summed up SPB as a “BigLaw firm with a small-firm culture.”
“There is an emphasis on accountability.”
A ‘smaller firm’ vibe also gave sources a sense of being able to take ownership of their work. “There is an emphasis on accountability,” one commented. “Everyone is able to sign their own work and put their name on it. It’s not like a firm where a partner signs everything you do. Being able to have personal accountability has resonated with me.” Another pointed to the presence of “a lot of self-motivated attorneys” at SPB. “There’s a culture of ‘show us what you want to do and we’ll help you get where you want to get, but we’re not going to hold your hand. You can have and do as much work as you’re willing to take on.'”
Hours & Compensation
Associates must bill a “reasonable” 1,950 hours a year (1,900 for first-years). Many of the people we interviewed had surpassed the target (with some going over it by 350 hours), though those who had barely scraped by said “for certain groups it’s much easier – corporate stays really busy, but other small groups such as public policy have more business development and less billable work.”
A new bonus system left some juniors feeling “a bit of pressure to bill more.” The new system – which has been implemented alongside the existing discretionary bonus setup – gives associates a like-for-like percentage match on their additional hours: “For example, if you’re over your hours by 5%, you get 5% of your salary as a bonus.” Bonus increases are reportedly tiered at various percentages. Some interviewees preferred the new system, though we heard that it may not be “substantial enough to get people to break their back to hit those extra hours.” Juniors’ individualized base salaries are calculated using a variety of factors: “They consider the local market, your billables from the last year, community involvement, business development and participation in firm functions. The system favors those who are go-getters.”
Some of our sources had taken on pro bono work, while others hadn’t done very much at all. Those who had, told us that the firm is “very supportive” of juniors who want to source their own projects to work on, but we did also hear of associates getting matters from nonprofit groups like the Pro Bono Partnership of Ohio and OneJustice, as well as from attorneys in other offices. A mix of corporate and litigation work was highlighted, with sources pointing to matters like drafting bylaws for nonprofits; representing animal rights advocacy groups; contributing to death row cases; and assisting those who had had lost their homes in wildfires in California by advising on insurance matters. “I know pro bono is taken very seriously by associates at my level,” reported one interviewee. However, they felt that efforts were mostly concentrated in the Midwestern offices. Associates can count 100 hours of pro bono work toward their billable hours for the year.
Pro bono hours
- For all US offices: 19,900
- Average per US attorney: 28
Diversity & Inclusion
“Our diversity could be better,” is a comment we’re used to hearing at Chambers Associate, but SPB interviewees did credit their firm for “being cognizant of that.” Another source noted the “large strides taken to make sure we’re as diverse as possible.” SPB’s global managing partner Fred Nance is African American, and chairs the firm’s diversity committee, which reaches out to and joins local diversity-based organizations. “It’s a streamlined way of making sure we can reach all of our diversity goals and aspirations,” one associate told us.
“The firm’s attitude is really good.”
Those in smaller offices lamented that “the firm isn’t always successful at hiring people of color,” though it was noted by many that the firm has a lot of support in place for female attorneys. The regional women’s committees were highlighted in particular: “In Cincinnati, for example, the committee hosts women’s lunches, as well as events with women in the business community maybe every quarter. I’ve heard that the women’s committee in Cleveland is a lot more active though.” Juniors felt these events provided a great place to “have an open discussion – they’ve been really useful with regard to helping women succeed.” Overall, juniors believed that “the firm’s attitude is really good and we’re really supportive of each other.” Importantly, it was highlighted that “there’s lots of support from non-diverse people too.”
The Work: Intellectual Property
IP at SPB covers patent prosecution, patent litigation and transactional matters. These are predominately overseen by the Northern Virginia, San Francisco, Palo Alto and Cleveland offices [confirm in CB]. On the transactional front, the firm’s attorneys handle a fair amount of trademark-related work, such as registrations and enforcements. Patent prosecution attorneys cover “a large variety of industries: telecoms, automotive, fiber optics, electronics – you name it!” Lawyers here typically interview examiners and inventors, and go on to draft the patents. “If we get a client whose tech is unfamiliar, we do some background research to develop our fundamental knowledge.” One associate mused that patent prosecution is interesting because “it’s like a puzzle; you’re figuring out where the differences lie and asserting arguments to differentiate aspects of the invention… it’s like a far more advanced version of ‘Spot the Difference’ children’s books!” Sources also referenced litigation matters being pursued through avenues such as the PTAB and the TTAB. The work on this front is split 50/50 between plaintiff and defense.
IP clients: fitness product developer Sensoria; décor specialists Home Expressions; and power generator manufacturer Generac Power Systems. The firm was retained as lead counsel to Sensoria as the company faced patent claims tied to wearable technology.
Hours & Compensation
Interviewees told us they typically get in around 9am and leave by 7pm. However, many that we interviewed told us they’ll work extra hours in the evenings. As for working remotely, sources felt that they could on an “as needed” basis, with one emphasizing that they “definitely don’t feel pressure if I have to work from home once in a while.” On a broad level, associates reported that the firm “does a good job of knowing that you have a personal and a family life, and respecting that.”
Squire Patton Boggs
4900 Key Tower,
127 Public Square,
- Founding Office: Cleveland, OH
- Number of domestic offices: 18
- Number of international offices: 29
- Worldwide revenue: $1,000,000,000
- Partners (US): 247
- Associates (US): 263
- Other Attorneys (US): 165
- Main recruitment contact: Crystal L Arnold (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring partner: Aneca E Lasley
- Inclusion & Diversity Committee Leadership: Frederick R Nance, Alethia N Nancoo, Traci H Rollins
- Women’s Enterprise Leadership: Aneca E Lasley
- Recrutiment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 17
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 30
- 1Ls: 6, 2Ls: 24, 3Ls: 0, SEO: 0
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
American, Arizona, ASU, Case, Cincinnati, Cleveland-Marshall, Colorado, CUA, Denver, Emory, George Mason, Georgetown, GSU, GW Law, Harvard, Howard, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, UGA, UNC, UVA
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in minority/diverse job fairs, law student and bar association events, and meet law students both on-campus and in our offices.
Summer associate profile:
We seek outstanding academic credentials, excellent communication skills, common sense, creativity, a strong work ethic and an ability to cultivate long-term relationships with our clients and colleagues.
Summer program components:
A range of valuable experiences structured around three global themes:
Commercial: Work side by side with our partners, attending depositions, hearings, deal negotiations and trials. In addition, you will cover legal writing and research, public speaking, negotiations and advocacy techniques.
Connected: Attend practice group meetings and associate training programs to build your network of contacts within the business.
Committed: Enjoy a collegial atmosphere with the support of a mentor for the duration of your summer with us.
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2019
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite Recognised Practitioner
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A Recognised Practitioner
- Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 4)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Government Relations (Band 3)