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? ‘Its strength in contentious and non-contentious work’, ‘reputation for being junior-friendly’, ‘prestige, pay, nice interviewers, location, secondment opportunities’, ‘fantastic remuneration’, ‘good training environment – you learn by doing’, ‘it’s a small London office which is part of a much larger international firm’, ‘opportunity to do two contentious seats’, ‘the people seemed relaxed’

Best thing about the firm? ‘Being able to approach a partner and be listened to’, ‘the disputes are particularly interesting’, ‘the legal assistants and secretaries are wonderful and incredibly helpful’, ‘associates are really supportive and generally have an open-door policy’, ‘small teams mean lots of contact with clients and partners’, ‘everyone is understanding that you have a life outside of the firm’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The learn-by-doing experience – you can end up not having a very good understanding of a certain area of law compared to trainees at other firms’, ‘the social life – lack of juniors in some teams can be quite isolating as a trainee’, ‘opaque decision-making process’, ‘not much support for trainee activities’, ‘fairly opaque about qualification until the very end of the training contract’

Best moment? ‘Being sent to Brussels alone for a filing’, ‘receiving EU clearance for a joint venture after months of work’, ‘contributing a meaningful piece of work for a highly-prestigious pro bono matter’, ‘travelling with my team for a hearing’, ‘winning a pro bono matter where I drafted the submissions’, ‘being told by my supervisor that I’m doing a good job’

Worst moment? ‘Frequently having to make amendments to the work I produce’, ‘staying very late to pull document bundles together before a hearing or an interview is never fun’, ‘not being able to make a call from my unnecessarily complicated desk phone’, ‘being dragged in to do some work for an associate late at night’

The Lex 100 verdict on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

The firm: “Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. Our clients look to us to bring a distinctively high degree of quality, intensity and creativity to resolve legal challenges effectively and cost efficiently.”

The deals: Advised Royal Dutch Shell in its dispute with the Federal Republic of Nigeria in relation to the $1.3 billion purchase of the OPL 245 licence; advised the audit committee of Mobile Telesystems, a Russian telecommunications company, in its internal investigation relating to its Uzbek subsidiary; advised AXA in its $15.3 billion acquisition of XL/Catlin Group; advised the state of Qatar and Qatari entities and individuals in international claims arising out of the measures imposed by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar; advised LeapFrog Investment in the formation of LeapFrog Financial Inclusion Fund III, a $700 million emerging markets-focused impact fund.

The clients: AmTrust Financial Services; B&M Retail; Deutsche Bank; DH Private Equity Partners; Helios Investment Partners; Interros; Oaktree Capital Management; Park Square Capital Partners; Rolls-Royce; Uralkali.

The star performers:

(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Acquisition finance; Commercial litigation; Corporate tax; Emerging markets; EU and competition; Insurance: corporate and regulatory; International Arbitration; M&A: upper mid-market and premium deals, £250m+; Private equity: transactions – high-value deals; Private funds; Public international law; Real estate funds; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime.

The verdict

Debevoise & Plimpton boasts ‘both transactional and contentious teams that operate at a very high level’. The US firm’s ‘top quality arbitration and funds work’ attracted many and the salary, which is ‘among the highest in the City’, was also an undoubtable draw. Consequently, Debevoise has amassed four Lex 100 Winner medals for job satisfaction, quality of work, confidence of being kept on and remuneration. Recruits enjoy being part of a small intake where they form a valuable part of ‘tight-knit teams’ and get to work on ‘very large deals with renowned clients’. The training contract is flexible: ‘the firm really takes into account what you would like to do’. Highlights such as ‘working on a challenge against anti-homosexuality laws and preparing submissions for the Supreme Court in Belize’ and ‘travelling to fourteen different countries during my white-collar seat’ are definitely not to be sniffed at. On the flip side, ‘all-nighters’ and ‘drafting board minutes for the first time without context or precedent late at night’ were instances trainees would rather forget. Whilst ‘being involved in live matters and learning as you go along’ is exciting, the ‘less formal training’ sometimes leads to ‘uneven development’ and to trainees having ‘limited knowledge of the area of law you are involved with’, at least to begin with. But pro bono at the firm ‘surpasses expectations’ and is ‘far from another marketing angle’. Indeed, several trainees cited working on notable pro bono cases as some of their proudest moments. To work at a firm which is ‘full of very smart people who are incredible at what they do’ but which maintains an ‘unsnobbish and non-aggressive culture’, take a closer look at Debevoise & Plimpton.

A day in the life of… Blaise Matthews, 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

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