It's business as usual for Squire Patton Boggs, which is continuing to hire lateral partners and merge with like-minded firms.
SQUIRE Patton Boggs really knows how to kick off the New Year with a bang. Each year there's something new and exciting hitting the legal headlines: early 2018 saw the firm announce that it had nabbed three partners from Dentons to launch a new office in Atlanta.
With this addition, Squire has 18 US offices and 47 worldwide – at the time of writing at least. The firm in its current form came about through the 2014 merger between Ohio-founded Squire Sanders and DC-headquartered Patton Boggs, which brought together two firms with storied histories. Squire now seeks to get the attention of students across the country, from coast to coast. “I was attracted to the complexity of the work and the clients,” one junior told us. Those clients range from industrial businesses like Goodyear Tires, Amtrak and Valvoline to UnitedHealth and an Ohio golf club. Others noted that all the mergers mean Squire is “a large firm with a medium-firm feel – it's the best of both worlds.” Sources felt the most appealing part of Squire was its “strong international presence, with a number of offices all over the world.”
On home turf, Squire excels in Chambers USA in its home state of Ohio. Areas such as banking and finance, corporate M&A, and natural resources and environment earn top-tier rankings, while areas including bankruptcy/restructuring, labor and employment, and general commercial litigation follow closely. The firm also picks up one or two Chambers USA rankings in New York, Florida and Arizona, plus national recognition for its government relations practice (previously a core area of expertise for legacy firm Patton Boggs in DC).
At the time of our research, juniors could be found dotted across ten of the firm's US offices, with the largest numbers in DC and Columbus. Litigation and corporate take in most juniors, with others spread across areas including public policy, financial services, IP, environment, government investigations and real estate.
An informal work assignment system permeates most groups, which means a hefty amount of independence for juniors. “I'm the only person who knows everything I'm working on," one interviewee asserted, "so it's really up to me to manage my time and workload, and understand whether I have too much or too little on my plate.” The system has both pros and cons – a pro is that “there's no gatekeeping – you get opportunities you wouldn't otherwise get.” Others, however, highlighted that “at times all things are busy at once which can be overwhelming.” Juniors in some groups mentioned submitting their availability every two weeks, which is “so that they can make sure the firm is allocating work correctly if a partner needs an associate and doesn't immediately have someone in mind.”
"It's really up to me to manage my time and workload."
Litigators have a variety of areas they can get their teeth stuck into. “We handle contract disputes, environmental litigation, antitrust litigation, healthcare litigation, and some regulatory work for organizations like the DEA.” Some offices have a narrower focus. For example, a West Coast source explained: “Product liability is probably the biggest focus in this office, as well as IP and employment litigation.” Others highlighted being involved in international commercial litigation which means “large cases perhaps involving foreign governments or large international corporations.” Past clients have included Fiat Chrysler and the DOJ. Juniors' responsibility levels increase over time. “In my first year I did a lot of research and memos, but now in my second year I've hardly done any research," one source told us. "Instead, I've been drafting briefs and arguing motions in court, attending case management conferences and taking depositions.” Tasks like doc review and trial prep come up too.
Corporate attorneys cover “M&A, corporate governance, startup work, and both private and public company work” across industries including healthcare, financial services, technology and real estate. Sometimes the firm acts for government agencies too. Juniors told us they had “drafted significant portions of purchase agreements and commercial transaction documents.” Some also reported regular client contact: “I got to speak to the client directly despite how junior I was!” Others reckoned they spent more time on classic tasks like due diligence and reviewing agreements. “Squire staffs quite leanly," another source commented, "so I've had the opportunity to work on more than just diligence. I've drafted and negotiated things like contracts and employment or shareholder agreements.”
The public policy team in DC is home to a couple of juniors. "The work ranges from actual law to arguing the case for whatever a client's issue is up on Capitol Hill," a junior informed us. "We do work with foreign clients who may not understand how something becomes law." It's a junior's task to "track legislation's progress through Congress; for example, tax reform or immigration, which have been in the news frequently. I would draft memos on how different versions of a bill might affect our client's business, and – once the law has passed – engage with the client on what points will affect them."
While the firm has no official headquarters, juniors still felt that the Cleveland office (where Squire Sanders was founded in 1890) functioned as the 'nerve center'. However, DC is the firm's biggest office and, at the time of our calls, housed the most juniors. Those in Columbus described themselves as “the little brother” to Cleveland as the latter “is the biggest Ohio office.” The third Ohio office in Cincinnati is the smallest of the three.
The DC office was recently remodeled, although “not all the floors are finished yet.” Sources found it to now have a “very modern, clean and sleek feel.” Interviewees praised the showers in the building, so if associates fancy a workout before the real work, they can shower after. Everyone gets their own office, though sources reported that newbies have to wait until their second-year for an exterior office. San Francisco associates had noticed the growth of the office since the firm's merger with 50-lawyer Carroll Burdick in 2016. Interviewees also noted the existence of health/wellness rooms in certain offices across the network, which come equipped with sofas and provide a handy space for associates to have a moment of peace if they require it.
With the merger between Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs feeling like something of days past for current newbies (think back to the year of Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar selfie and the Ice Bucket Challenge), most agreed the only effect on the culture had been that “now we are a large firm, but with a medium-firm feel because of all the mergers. That was never lost.”
“It's still corporate, but I feel like I have a lot of freedom here."
Sources also believed that Squire “is a large global firm, but doesn't have that high-pressure feel.” They elaborated: “It feels very conversational – I feel very comfortable saying what I feel.” As a result, the term “pretty laid back” came up a lot when juniors were describing the culture. That said, juniors added: “It's still corporate, but I feel like I have a lot of freedom here. It's pretty much what you make of it.” An entrepreneurial approach was also valued: “You get opportunities, but it's about taking them and creating something out of them. The firm values your efforts to bring in clients, network and engage in your community.”
Sources also noticed that “people love to socialize – events are pretty well attended and we always have seasonal things like holiday parties and regular happy hours.” There are occasional weekend gatherings too, though “we usually leave weekends for people's friends and family outside of work.” In the summer, social calendars are busier. A source reported: “In 2017 we did bowling and wine tasting, with some dinners and a rooftop party thrown in!”
Training & Development
“I would say most of the training has come through gaining experience and learning on the job,” a source told us. This was the general consensus all round, though interviewees did emphasize that the firm is “really encouraging of CLEs – one came with an attorney tool kit which I've referred back to several times.” There are also a couple of NITA trainings for litigators. Some felt training was an area that could be improved, though many admitted: “I've been fortunate to work with partners who have taken the time to mentor and teach me. The partners are willing to teach at this firm, and I've benefited from that more than any general group training.” The firm told us that it has recently revamped its training program, which starts over the summer and continues into the first year under the banner of 'SPB University'.
Hours & Compensation
First-years are eased into the firm with a billing target of 1,900 hours, increasing to 1,950 from the second year onward. “My understanding is that it is a goal, and not something you'll be fired over if you don't meet it,” a source told us. Not that it matters too much, as most juniors found it to be an achievable target. An average day looked something like 9am to 6pm in the office, though “leaving at six doesn't mean I stop working – I go home, and work from there.” The ability to work remotely was praised across the board – “it's a super awesome thing about the firm!” Despite this, occasional late nights in the office are unavoidable. “I have been here until midnight or the early morning, but that is a pretty rare occurrence,” a junior reported. Another joked: “When it's deal time I pretty much live here,” though they emphasized “that is the minority of the time.”
“I have been here until midnight or the early morning, but that is a pretty rare occurrence."
Associates are paid different amounts in different markets, but it ain't all about the money, and juniors we spoke to were generally happy with their salary. That said, when it comes to bonuses there was some uncertainty: “It's one thing people complain about – it's not transparent. If you meet your billables, you're not necessarily going to get a bonus. It's a subjective system.”
A firm-wide pro bono committee and dedicated coordinators in Cleveland and Dallas help to staff attorneys on projects. Up to 100 hours of pro bono can count toward associates' billing targets. Experiences with pro bono varied among our interviewees. One source felt: “I don't think they necessarily present us with lots of pro bono opportunities, but they're willing to support pro bono opportunities we might bring in.” Several sources recalled doing pro bono during their summer, specifically “free advice clinics on various housing issues.” Some associates had recently been involved with the Tenant Advocacy Project, child custody issues and consumer protection cases, while others had drafted agreements and contracts for nonprofit organizations. The firm also does a fair bit for work for KIND (Kids In Need of Defense), takes on matters for veterans' groups and runs its own 'Public Service Initiative' that is focused on high-stakes cases like death penalty appeals. Associates who had got into pro bono agreed that “it's a nice opportunity because you're completely in control of those cases and you get different experiences than on billable work.”
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 18,599
- Average per US attorney: 26
Juniors noticed good gender diversity at the associate level, where "the male-to-female ratio is equal” – male partners still outnumber female partners four to one though. Associates in different offices had different opinions on the extent of the racial diversity around them. Most found that “racial diversity is not so great” although all agreed “the firm makes a point to communicate that it is committed to diversity.” Interviewees also noted that global managing partner Fred Nance is African American. Nance is a member of the firm's global board, which is 50% diverse; he is also one of the leaders of the firm's diversity committee, which works on developing diversity initiatives. One such initiative is the Women's Enterprise Group, which addresses advancement and retention of women.
Strategy & Future
“Squire is entrepreneurial, so it is always looking outwards," a junior believed. "It's very much a global firm, with more offices outside the US than inside. I feel we have more visibility in the global market than ever before.” So what's the plan going forward? Juniors broadly guessed that “it seems the goal is to continue moving forward and staying healthy financially. We're trending in the right direction.” Others added that they couldn't foresee "anything major coming up" (like more mergers), but were eagerly awaiting the firm's annual meeting for more info on Squire's plans: "The managing partner and several other partners make a presentation on the financial health of the firm and where they want it to go. They also tell us what the firm is interested in; technology is obviously a huge thing, and the firm is going to engage with technological advances and modernize accordingly."
In one associate's opinion, Squire lawyers could be marked out as “weird – in a good way.” More testimony gave us the impression that the firm looks for something little different. Recollecting their experience of recruitment one source told us: “I do remember that people who got interviews here were not the predictable people, and that is the same every year. They look for qualities that maybe other firms don't look for. The people who interview are so random that there's no way to pinpoint it, but I have friends who got offers everywhere but Squire.” To give us a little indication, one ventured that the firm “hires people who are smart, pretty relaxed and personable, but they've all done great things. They are picky.” Associates felt it necessary to show “willingness to learn, to put in the time.”
As for the interviews, their structure was “pretty normal. It's a half day where you meet with five or six different partners and have lunch with a couple of associates.” For one source, “something that struck me about the interviewing process was the degree of close questioning about my person, not just about my academic accomplishment, though that was certainly a focus and to be sure a pre-requisite, but once the bonafides were established, Squire took more of an interest in who I was and how I worked and how I didn't work. Also what I did in my time off.”
Interview with Global Managing Partner Fred Nance
Chambers Associate: How has the past year been for Squire Patton Boggs?
Fred Nance: 2017 was another strong year for the firm where we performed well across all fronts. Our cross border compliance, regulatory, policy and transactional practices saw healthy activity and our Litigation practice had another very strong year. We always have our eyes open for opportunities to bring on new talent, grow in emerging areas and help our clients solve problems. We’re excited to have opened doors in Atlanta, a market of increasing international importance where we had many existing connections. We also made investments to build our depth and quality of in a number of key areas including cybersecurity, technology, financial services, disputes and public policy. We came into 2018 with very positive momentum and see it as a year with great promise.
CA: What is the firm's strategy for the next few years?
FN: We consider ourselves to be very nimble for a firm of our size. This is critical when you are operating across as many practices and international markets as we do. When you look back at the many successes that we have had over the last few years, they have come from articulating strategic priorities across the firm, taking input and converting opportunities that are aligned with these priorities and that fit within our culture. Our new office in Atlanta is a perfect illustration. This approach has served us well and will continue to guide us going forward as opportunities arise and market circumstances change.
CA: What is the firm doing in order to improve diversity?
FN: Improving diversity and inclusion within our firm and the legal industry as a whole is something that hits close to home. We spend a lot of time on this and it starts with leadership. For starters, we are proud that the firm’s 12-person Global Board, which doubles as our Compensation Committee, is fifty-percent diverse. We also have women and minorities heading several dozen of our practice groups, industry groups and offices. The fact that I, as an African-American am the global managing partner of the largest portion of our firm and the second largest part is headed by a woman, Jane Haxby is obviously unusual as is indicative of a culture that is unfortunately rarely found among large global firms. Our success in this area combined with our expertise and platform distinguish us in the industry and represent attributes to which we are finding more and more clients are drawn. We are also involved in a range of initiatives on this front outside of the firm and are aligned with organizations pursuing various strategies to help foster the next generation of diverse leaders.
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): 262
- Associates (US): 244
- Other Attorneys (US): 161
- 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 2018: 15
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 30
- 1Ls: 7, 2Ls: 23, 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, George Mason, Georgetown, GW Law, Harvard, Howard, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, UNC, UVA
Recruitment outside OCIs:
We participate in 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
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Labor & Employment (Band 2)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
- 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 3)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 2)
- Natural Resources & Environment (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Government Relations (Band 3)
- Projects: PPP Recognised Practitioner