Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The size of the trainee cohort – it helps nurture an environment where we all know and support each other’, ‘strong in both disputes and transactional work, which can’t be said for most American firms in the City’, ‘market-leading private equity, insurance and fund formation work’, ‘great at dispute resolution’, ‘friendly and respectful culture’, ‘combined genuine friendliness with everyone being incredibly intelligent’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Everyone is both lovely and extremely impressive – from associate to partner level’, ‘very inclusive and supportive culture – I would be happy picking up the phone to anyone for help’, ‘the quality of the dispute resolution/public interest litigation department’, ‘the salary’, ‘the people – not only are they brilliant at their job but very patient and keen to teach trainees and juniors’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Decisions made by the New York office sometimes don’t take trainees into account’, ‘the unpredictable nature of the hours, especially having to work when you least expect it’, ‘long hours in arbitration’, ‘knowledge management and tech not as cutting-edge as they could be’, ‘the IT systems’, ‘there could be more centralised control in giving out work – most work comes from reaching out to associates’

Best moment? ‘Advising a pro bono client on a legal restructuring’, ‘being trusted to run the warehousing and closings of a co-investment fund’, ‘the congratulatory calls I have received from more senior lawyers after having worked with them on very tough client matters’, ‘researching a question for a major client and briefing a group of partners on it’, ‘working on a matter for the Center for Reproductive Rights’

Worst moment? ‘A 9.30am call on a Sunday’, ‘occasional late nights’, ‘starting out remotely was tough, until I got used to the systems and processes’, ‘lots of admin work in the lead up to a trial’, ‘having to work incredibly hard for some unexpectedly tight deadlines’, ‘when the department as a whole was quiet’, ‘the first few months of working from home were quite isolating’

The Lex 100 verdict on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton trainees ‘wanted experience in both transactional and litigious seats, areas in which the firm showcases great strength’. The US firm’s London office boasts several interesting practice areas and regularly undertakes ‘groundbreaking work’ in international arbitration, private equity, fund formation and public international law. ‘Trainees loved ‘attending client meetings where my research was discussed’, ‘getting to negotiate non-disclosure agreements’ and ‘receiving congratulatory calls from senior lawyers’. A small intake allows recruits to ‘build great relationships’, both with each other and with their colleagues who are ‘genuinely friendly’ and boast the enviable combination of being ‘both whip-smart and kind’. One of the best things about training at Debevoise is ‘the opportunity to work in small teams; this forces you to contribute and be proactive with your work and ideas’. The quality of work is high too: ‘some of the disputes we work on don’t have precedents, so we’re literally working on cutting-edge matters’! It follows that trainees have rated their job satisfaction levels highly enough to award the firm a Lex 100 Winner medal. Another Lex 100 Winner gong has been scooped up for the ‘incredible pay’. Balancing Debevoise’s impressive salary are some ‘tough hours’, which can be ‘unpredictable’, and the worst thing is ‘having to work late when you least expect it; clients can give you a lot of work right at the end of the working day or working week’. The high level of responsibility afforded to trainees can also be ‘overwhelming’. ‘Working 18-hour days for a consecutive 12-day stretch’ and ‘doing really long hours in M&A’ are examples. For a firm which is ‘externally competitive but internally collegiate’, consider Debevoise & Plimpton.

The firm: Debevoise is a leading international law firm. The London office works on many of the highest profile and most complex transactions in Europe and worldwide. It does this by virtue of its English and New York law expertise and its close integration with the other offices.

The clients: AfricInvest Group; AIG Inc; AXA; B&M European Value Retail S.A; Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; Credit Suisse Asset Management Limited; Park Square Capital; Rolls-Royce plc; The Ocean Foundation; United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

The deals: Advised Pantheon on an equity investment as part of the proposed £2bn public takeover by KKR of John Laing Group plc; advised Park Square Capital, one of the world’s most established credit investment firms, on its fourth subordinated debt fund, resulting in total investable capital of €2.2bn; among eight leading law firms involved in a new pro bono initiative with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to launch a free legal advice clinic for applications to the UK government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme; advised a satellite capacity provider in arbitration proceedings and domestic court proceedings brought by another satellite company; advised a major oil and gas company in a multijurisdictional dispute concerning the ownership of interests in a services group in Russia and the CIS.

A day in the life of… Blaise Matthews, former trainee solicitor, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Blaise Matthews, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Departments to date: Corporate M&A, white-collar crime and investigations, international dispute resolution, antitrust and competition

University: University College London

Degree: Law

9.30am: Arriving at the office, I grab a coffee and check what emails have come in overnight.

9.45am: My supervisor and I have our daily run through of tasks and priorities and catch up on any news from over the weekend.

10.15am: As nothing on our matters is too pressing this morning, I turn to a pro bono case I’m working on with a colleague from my previous arbitration seat. The case concerns a constitutional challenge in a jurisdiction where homosexuality is illegal. I summarise some recent case law and feed some drafting comments into a client memo. I then phone the senior associate on the case and discuss next steps.

11.50am: A partner in my department invites me to a client pitch meeting being held later in the week and asks if I can pull together a briefing pack on the potential client. I research the company and produce a corporate and litigation portfolio. I also run internal conflicts checks and summarise any recent news items.

1.00pm: I go out for lunch with the rest of my trainee intake. Eight trainees per year is enough to not feel isolated but small enough to mean a close-knit group. Our number is currently pretty depleted due to trainees being on secondment to the Hong Kong and Moscow offices, and others attending the annual business education course in New York.

1.50pm: I prepare for our global division conference call in which associates and partners report from each office on the progress of cases and deals. Antitrust and competition is an area where matters can be both transactional and litigious, which makes for a varied and interesting call. I provide a briefing on a recent ECJ decision which is relevant for merger control. I update our internal tracker documents which show the progress of our global filings.

3.00pm: I attend a meeting as a member of the London diversity committee at which we discuss affinity networks and upcoming inclusion training. I have conversations afterwards with members of our HR team about an upcoming recruitment event.

3.35pm: I return to my desk and progress some work on our team’s current main deal. We are making regulatory filings in the EU, US and 15 other jurisdictions. I draft some instructions for local counsel in Tanzania and review a packet of board documents for legal privilege. Like most deals and cases at the firm, I am the sole designated trainee on this matter – although daunting at times it means early responsibility and substantive, interesting tasks.

4.20pm: In September I will be qualifying into the firm’s litigation department and so I attend some witness interviews on the case I’ll be working on as an associate.

5.40pm: As my current team produce a note on restraints of trade for Practical Law, I review some recent European Commission decisions and update the note accordingly.

6.30pm: I take a call from a colleague in the New York office who I previously worked with extensively during my white-collar seat. We discuss plans for her upcoming visit to London and catch up on office news.

7.00pm: I set up a meeting with the trainee due to be taking over from me and produce a handover note. Since there is nothing else urgent for today, we both log our time entries and leave the office.

7.40pm: I head to the firm alumni summer party, after which I go out for drinks with fellow trainees and some junior associates.

About the firm

Managing partners: Lord Goldsmith QC, Richard Ward

Other offices: New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Frankfurt, Paris, Luxembourg, Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Who we are: Debevoise is a leading international law firm. The London office works on many of the highest profile and most complex transactions in Europe and worldwide. We do this by virtue of our English and New York law expertise and our close integration with our other offices.

What we do: In developing our practice in London we have sought to replicate the core strengths of our practice worldwide. Our focus is on private equity, insurance, international disputes and investigations, financial institutions, M&A, finance, capital markets and tax.

What we’re looking for: Minimum qualifications – 2(1) degree in any discipline and 144 UCAS points at A-Level (or equivalent). Students whose personal qualities, academic record and other achievements demonstrate exceptional ability, motivation and potential. Applicants will make a significant contribution to our firm and thrive in our unique culture. We look for an ability to listen actively, think creatively and interact successfully. We also look for maturity and leadership qualities.

What you’ll do: Each of our associates should become a ‘well-rounded’ lawyer – an effective counsellor, adviser and advocate – who can combine legal knowledge with the ability to deal with a range of situations. Trainees develop their skills through formal training and on-the-job experience. The two years are split into four six-month seats with an opportunity to gain experience in at least three distinct areas.

Perks: Bonus, private medical and dental insurance, private GP, life assurance, income protection, pension, computer allowance, cycle scheme and subsidised on-site café.

Sponsorship:  SQE + £9,000 maintenance grant per academic year.

Diversity and inclusion