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Published April 2011
2011 Vault Ranking: 28
In 2010, Washington D.C. stalwart Hogan & Hartson merged with Lovells, a London based Magic Circle firm. Hogan & Hartson was one of the oldest beltway firms, a powerhouse both as a full service law firm, and well known for their extensive and experienced lobbying work. Like most Magic Circle firms, Lovells ran a world-spanning network of offices, with a presence in every major European jurisdiction, as well as the Middle East and Asia. The combined firm creates a megafirm in the truest sense. Hogan now has 2,500 attorneys in a stunning forty-four offices, including such places as Hanoi, Caracas, and Riyadh.
Hogan & Hartson was founded in 1904 by Frank Hogan. He and his firm first began to rise to prominence while successfully representing oil baron Edward Doheny in the Teapot Dome scandal. The firm soon added corporate and regulatory practices, and by the middle of the twentieth century was one of the top full service law firms in Washington, D.C. In the latter half of the century, the firm experienced the same explosion of growth that other American firms did; it expanded to include more than two-dozen international offices.
Solicitor John Lovell originally began his solo practice in 1899 in London. Over time he took on a number of partners, and the firm began a slow and steady growth through the early part of the twentieth century. The firm as it existed before the merger with Hogan was the result of a series of strategic mergers with a number of other firms both British and European.
Together the firm had revenue of $1.8 billion in 2010. In 2009, Hogan & Hartson laid off 30 attorneys and close to 100 staff members. Though Hogan had a salary freeze in 2009, it has since ended. Morale has been slowly improving since the merger, and expectations for the future seem generally positive.
With 2,500 attorneys in 44 offices, it should come as no surprise that the firm has an extensive practice, capable of handling all manner of work for clients. The firm is divided into five broad practice groups: corporate, finance, government regulatory, intellectual property, and litigation. The firm also has a series of industry sector practice areas for attorneys who may specialize in specific client types.
Today the firm is probably most well known for its government and regulatory work done out of the D.C. headquarters. In addition to representing clients before government agencies and helping clients with compliance issues, Hogan is one of the more prolific lobbying firms in the city. On an annual basis, the firm regularly lobbies on behalf of more than one hundred twenty organizations, including big business clients to large non-profit institutional clients.
The firm’s other practice areas should not be overlooked. Hogan’s litigation and arbitration group in particular is among the top appellate and antitrust litigation groups in the country. While it is difficult for a firm of this size to maintain excellence in every practice group in every office, in a number of regional offices it maintains top tier corporate and intellectual property practices as well.
While the combined firm has extensive reach and a very broad practice, it only rates highly in Antitrust, Antitrust Litigation, and Appellate Litigation in the Vault practice area rankings. However the firm is rated number six overall in the Miami, Mid-Atlantic, and Washington, D.C. regional rankings.
Hogan is ranked nationally by Chambers and Partners in Band 1 or 2 for Antitrust, Capital Markets, Energy Regulation (Oil & Gas), Environment, Food & Beverage Regulation, Government Relations, Government Contracts, Healthcare, International Trade, Life Sciences, Privacy & Data Security, and Transportation (assorted). Many of its local rankings include highly rated litigation and corporate practice areas, and the offices should be evaluated individually.
Hiring at Hogan is very straightforward, and similar to many other firms. Academics, as always, are a must, but would-be associates should be mature and likeable. Most large firms do not restrict their hiring to only the top handful of schools, and Hogan is no exception. However, while the firm will consider someone from a lower tier one or upper tier two school, those people should be at the very top of their class and editor of law review if they want to be taken seriously.
The firm offers a summer program in the majority of its American offices, including such less common locations such as Baltimore, Denver, and Northern Virginia. Summer associates are expected to complete between ten to fifteen assignments over the course of the summer, assigned by an attorney coordinator. The firm believes in giving summer associates substantive work, but in return has realistic expectations. Summer associates should plan to put in longer hours than many of their peers at other firms, not leaving the office until 7:30 PM. All-nighters are not uncommon, and the majority of summer associates will experience at least one or two during the program.
Hogan’s summer program features weekly professional development training events, as well as weekly social events such as softball games and dinners hosted by partners. The firm offers unlimited attorney lunches, with budgets varying by office.
The firm delayed the start date of the class of 2009 by only a few months, but the class of 2010 was deferred until an undisclosed 2011 date.
Compensation and Benefits
Hogan has a somewhat unique approach to compensation, when compared to its peer firms. Though the firm uses a lockstep system like many of the other top firms, it includes two separate tracks for compensation. The first track is standard lockstep at market rate, beginning at $160,000, and requires billing 1,950 hours annually. The firm also has a second track at below market pay, which only requires billing 1,800 hours. The firm also has a formal part-time policy, with more than 6% of the firm currently making use of it. In general, associates are allowed to choose their preferred billing track. The firm underwent a salary freeze in 2009, but ended it in 2010.
Bonuses are generally at or close to the market rate, but not always the same in all offices. Offices in non-major markets may get bonuses below the New York market rate. Traditionally the firm pays bonuses to associates who bill at least 1,900 hours, with additional amounts awarded based on non-billable contributions. In practice, this means that billing insanely high hours doesn’t necessarily mean a higher bonus (though it helps), and it is entirely possible to beat the market rate bonus while only turning in an average billable hour total.
Because the firm is so large, it comes as no surprise that face time policies vary wildly by the office and group. In general though, if an associate is hoping to receive an additional bonus beyond just that for total hours, face time is a necessity. The associate has to show that he or she truly cares, and for better or worse a proxy for that is being visible around the office as often as possible. The firm provides four weeks of vacation time, and most associates will use some, but not all. While vacations do get interrupted from time to time, the firm will credit an associate with a replacement vacation day if the attorney is required to perform substantive work.
Other benefits at Hogan include an industry standard eighteen weeks of maternity leave, subsidized cafeteria and backup childcare at some offices, as well as regular happy hours. There are also subsidized gym memberships and a childcare subsidy. New associates receive a bar stipend that varies by office, as well as moving expenses.
The firm has two partnership tracks, with associates being considered around eight years after law school graduation. Attorneys who are working at least two-thirds time on the part time schedule remain eligible to be partner. Though it is possible to go directly from associate to partner, some attorneys become counsel first before eventually becoming partner. Given the size of the firm is it no surprise that standing out is difficult. Partnership is possible, but it is very unlikely and less than a dozen made it each year in Hogan and Hartson. It is unclear if after the merger that will change.
Because the firm is so large and varied, it can be difficult to pin down a single culture for the firm as a whole. However, the sheer size of the firm can also be a strength. People of all types and persuasions can find their niche. There is no overarching political or social culture that is bound to alienate some people. The firm itself also has shown a willingness to accommodate people with different professional interests by including part time work programs and reduced hour compensation tracks.
It is largely unclear what effect, if any, the Lovells merger will have on the American offices of Hogan Lovells. There is a strong reason to believe that there will be little to no impact at all, given that the vast majority of the Lovells offices were overseas, and little is changing in the American offices besides the signs on the doors. Only time will tell.
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