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 other? ‘Unparalleled reputation in international arbitration plus a strong funds practice’; ‘great vacation scheme and feeling like an individual due to comparatively small size of the office/cohort’; ‘market-leading insurance/funds team’; ‘I wanted top-tier international work in a small office’; ‘the reputation for having a really friendly culture’; ‘the pay is an obvious draw’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Remuneration’; ‘the quality of work generated by the arbitration practice’; ‘the diversity of working cultures between teams’; ‘people are genuinely very friendly, even when the work you have to do is mundane or procedural, those above you will almost always make the effort to explain why and how it fits into the bigger picture’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The hours’; ‘occasionally difficult personalities’; ‘highly uneven interest in developing juniors from more senior lawyers’; ‘the relatively little formal training compared to UK counterparts is both a good and a bad thing. It makes you proactive in asking conceptual/ understanding questions but can also make you feel like your baseline understanding is slightly off the pace, particularly in the early days’

Best moment? ‘Travelling to The Hague over-night in a taxi’; ‘sitting in on three days of in-person negotiations and getting involved with the live drafting’; ‘being in the trenches with the rest of the team when it’s busy is really enjoyable’

Worst moment? ‘Generally gruelling hours’; ‘being put into a department which I knew absolutely nothing about in my first seat (I came to love it and think the firm choosing your first seat is a good thing)’; ‘waiting up till 6am to receive a document from Cayman that never came’

The Lex 100 verdict on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

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: AmTrust Financial Services; AXA ; Clayton Dubilier & Rice; Elliott Management Corporation; Helios Investment Partners; Metric Capital; Park Square Capital Partners; Rolls-Royce plc; Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited; Uralkali.

The deals: Advised a flagship private equity fund managed by EQT in a subscription facility of initially more than €2.3bn (with an upper limit of €5bn) with a large club of lenders – the facility incorporates innovative environmental, social and governance mechanics, which impact the margin payable to the lenders, and at the transaction date, it is the first ESG-linked subscription facility of this size across the global fund finance markets; advised LeapFrog Investments on its investment in MedGenome, a leading genetic diagnostics, research and data company focused on expanding access for populations in South Asia and other emerging markets, with operations in the US, India, Canada and Singapore; advised GreyCastle in its sale to Monument Re, including advising on the complex offshore UK/Bermuda life insurance structure (also advised on the original establishment of GreyCastle); advised a Bermudian physician in a successful challenge to his arrest and the search of his home before the Bermuda Supreme Court, upheld by the Bermuda Court of Appeal; advised GHO Capital Partners in the formation of GHO Capital Fund II, a €975m fund which was Europe’s largest ever healthcare fund at the time of closing.

The verdict

With an ‘unparalleled reputation in international arbitration and a strong funds practice’, Debevoise & Plimpton is an attractive option for recruits looking for ‘top-tier international work in a small office’. This year the firm secures Lex 100 Winner awards for overall job satisfaction, living up to expectations, trainee confidence in retention after the training contract and financial remuneration. Trainees highlight the pay as an ‘obvious draw’, commenting that the firm has ‘longer hours than some but bigger disputes to work on than most’ and ‘less administrative structure/red tape than some’. They praise the ‘quality of work generated by the arbitration practice and the diversity of working cultures between teams’. But, in some cases, trainees complain about the style of training, recognising that ‘the relatively little formal training compared to UK counterparts is both a good and a bad thing’. Yet, the smaller intake size does allow for personalised training and recruits ‘seem to get comparatively more responsibility at an earlier stage than other firms’. ‘Pro-bono at the firm is truly outstanding’ say trainees, who add that ‘the firm is really keen to get trainees involved in pro bono projects. It’s not only excellent legal training, it’s extremely fulfilling and interesting work’.

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, Washington DC, Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Luxembourg

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: 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: We partner with the University of Law for the GDL and LPC. Full tuition fees are paid for both the GDL and LPC, together with a maintenance grant of £9,000 per year.

Diversity and inclusion