Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Dechert LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Dechert LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘The six-seat system’, ‘collegiate environment and atmosphere so that it is easier to build positive working relationships across multiple teams and departments’, ‘inclusive and social’, ‘only ten trainees’, ‘quality of the vac scheme’, ‘the pro bono programme’, ‘good money’, ‘you can try more areas before qualifying’, ‘mix of practice areas’, ‘very international’

Best thing about the firm? ‘The opportunity to repeat seats and go on international/client secondments’, ‘the small intake’, ‘the responsibility we are given’, ‘direct dealings with partners on a daily basis’, ‘it has the quality of work of a big international law firm yet a small intake so you get plenty of exposure and responsibility’, ‘the people’, ‘six seat rotations’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Limited senior female role models’, ‘smaller teams within departments can mean that experiences are hit and miss’, ‘during appraisals, your “panel partner” doesn’t actually know you so isn’t able to be too supportive’, ‘the feeling that you are obliged to do a secondment’, ‘not as young/sociable as some other firms’, ‘US bureaucracy’, ‘that only some gyms are covered by the fitness allowance’

Best moment? ‘Receiving good feedback for projects I’ve worked hard on’, ‘my advice being relayed to the client’, ‘secondment to Dublin’, ‘being afforded high levels of responsibility during my corporate and securities seat’, ‘drafting documents and having an active role in co-ordinating the stages of a deal’, ‘winning a pro bono case and receiving congratulations from senior people around the firm’

Worst moment? ‘The quite rare but demanding late nights in the office with no one else around’, ‘dating the wrong documents and circulating them during a closing’, ‘staying late to finish a task when all the scanners broke’, ‘misspelling a client’s name in an email’, ‘bibling’, ‘going on secondment where it felt like the office didn’t need another trainee’

The Lex 100 verdict on Dechert LLP

The firm: “Dechert was one of the first U.S. law firms to open an office in London, in 1972. Working closely with colleagues across Dechert’s global office network, our London lawyers advise clients on matters spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as global matters involving Asia and the US.”

The deals: Advised the Arab Republic of Egypt on several multi-tranche bond issuances of US$16 billion, including the largest ever public bond issuance out of Egypt and Africa; advised Coveris Holdings S.A. in the sale of its Global Rigid Business to Lindsay Goldberg LLC for €700M in a corporate carve-out involving 15 jurisdictions; advised fintech company Amun Technologies on the issuance of Amun ETP, the world’s first cryptocurrency-linked exchange-traded product, which was listed on Zurich’s SIX Swiss Exchange; advised Monsanto as co-counsel on EU antitrust issues, merger-control clearance and media/investor outreach in the US$66 billion Bayer/Monsanto merger; advised SK hynix on the US$18 billion acquisition of Toshiba’s NAND flash memory chip unit.

The clients: AGC; Ares; Apollo; Barclays; BNY Mellon; Centaur Media Plc; JP Morgan; Mid Europa Partners.

The star performers:
(Top-ranking departments according to The Legal 500 – see legal500.com for more details) Acquisition finance; Brexit; Commercial litigation; Commercial property: corporate occupiers; Debt capital markets; Emerging markets; Employment: employers and senior executives; Equity capital markets; EU and competition: Trade, WTO, anti-dumping and customs; Flotations: small and mid-cap; Fraud; Hedge funds; Intellectual property; Partnership; Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; Private equity: transactions – high-value deals; Private funds; Property finance; Regulatory investigations and corporate crime; Retail funds.

The verdict

Trainees at Dechert make up a modest intake, which in turn gives them ‘greater exposure to clients and partners in smaller deal teams’. The US firm has ‘strong corporate and finance departments’ and offers an unusual six-seat training contract which affords recruits the ‘opportunity to experience a diverse range of work’. The result is that trainees are able to ‘sit in key practice areas, as well as more niche departments’ and ‘get to know more of the firm’ during their training contract. Dechert has been awarded three Lex 100 Winner medals: one for its ‘excellent vacation scheme’, another for its ‘pay, especially in relation to the hours usually worked’ and the final one for its international secondments, which allowed trainees to ‘develop skills at a faster pace’ and ‘build good working relationships with fee-earners outside of the London office’. The work is of a ‘high quality for excellent clients’ but there is ‘no culture of arbitrarily putting hours in when it is unnecessary to do so’. Some trainees felt, however, that the ‘work could sometimes be distributed more evenly among the trainees in certain departments’. There was also some concern over ‘uncertainty regarding trainee retention’. But ‘leading a client signing meeting for a deal on which I had worked solidly for four months’ and ‘advising a large sovereign wealth fund’ were certainly moments to be proud of. Conversely, ‘struggling with a complex bundling task’ and a ‘stressful deal closing around Christmas’ were worst moments. If a firm which is ‘big enough that you are exposed to exceptional work and clients, but small enough to feel like a family’ sounds up your street, take a closer look at Dechert.

A day in the life of… Jonathan Burke, third-seat trainee, Dechert LLP

Jonathan Burke, Dechert LLP

Departments to date: White-collar and securities litigation, antitrust (in Brussels), financial services

University: Southampton

Degree: Law

8.45am: I normally arrive at Dechert just before 9am, just a stone’s throw from London Blackfriars station. I check my emails to see what has come in overnight and update my to-do list accordingly before skimming through the business news pages online.

9.30am: Having just returned from my secondment to the antitrust team in the Brussels office, I call my supervisor in Brussels to hand over a few work matters. We also pencil in a time for my end of seat appraisal which will take place via video conference.

10.00am: Sitting in the financial services group, I am assisting on a number of hedge fund launches. One in particular is launching with a value close to $1bn. I have been asked to mark up a number of the smaller agreements for this fund. After talking to one of the junior associates, I start by updating the agreements and then make changes to some of the more substantive provisions.

11.30am: I have been assisting my supervisor with an OnPoint publication, an update on an area of law which is distributed by email to current and prospective clients, as well as the firm globally, so it’s a great way to raise profile. After receiving an alert that the piece of legislation we were waiting on has been released, my supervisor asks me to liaise with the marketing team to check the final draft before it is sent out.

1.00pm: A new wellness centre has opened on Dechert’s lower ground floor, so I squeeze in a 30 minute workout during my lunch break. I then shower and head upstairs to grab lunch from our café with a few other trainees.

2.00pm: I return to my desk to find a note from one of the junior associates I work closely with. I head over to his office and he instructs me to draft some board minutes which will allow one of our hedge fund clients to amend their investment strategy and enter into some complex-sounding derivatives. I find some previous minutes on the document management system, which I use as a precedent to guide my first draft.

4.30pm: On behalf of the firm’s global Diversity Committee, I recently attended a client event with the Black Lawyers Alliance in Washington DC at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Over video conference, I debrief other members of the firm’s global Diversity Committee on the evening. We also brainstorm ideas for Black History Month later in the year.

5.30pm: A partner has asked me to assist with the launch of a private equity fund, similar to one that he helped the client launch previously. He asks me to contact our US tax and regulatory team to find out whether we should update the wording in the investment memorandum. I send a couple of emails, hoping that my colleagues in the US will have responded by the time I am back in the office the next day.

7.30pm: A thank you email from a pro bono client comes in just as I prepare to leave. I had assisted a client with an appeal against the Department for Work & Pension’s decision to deny them employment and support allowance. As well as being invaluable for my development as a lawyer, the pro bono matters I have worked on have been very rewarding. Having checked my to-do list for the last time, I confirm with my supervisor that there is nothing urgent I could assist with before heading to an Uncorked event. Dechert Uncorked is a trainee initiative, with the aim of developing our business development skills. We each invite up to two contacts, from industries relevant to Dechert’s sector and practice focuses, to network with our trainee intake, with the aim of cultivating business relationships. This evening’s event will be at Skylight at Tobacco Dock in London.

About the firm

Chair: Andrew J Levander

CEO: Henry N Nassau

Other offices: Almaty, Austin, Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Charlotte, Chicago, Dubai, Dublin, Frankfurt, Hartford, Hong Kong, Jeddah*, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Moscow, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Philadelphia, Princeton, Riyadh*, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Washington DC. (*associated offices)

Who we are: Dechert is a global specialist law firm with approximately 1,000 lawyers across 26 offices. We have some of the world’s leading lawyers advising on both domestic and cross-border matters. The firm is frequently retained to work on the most challenging transactions and disputes, and prides itself on its ability to deliver premium legal services and sound business judgement to its clients. Dechert lawyers bring to their assignments a focus on quality, responsiveness and value for money. We are driven by one key principle: exceptional client service.

What we do: In London, our lawyers are active in Dechert’s practice areas of corporate and securities, financial services and investment management, finance, real estate and trials, investigations and securities, which incorporates our white-collar and commercial litigation teams. Our clients include corporations, financial institutions, sovereign states, quasi-sovereign entities and private and high-net-worth individuals all over the world. Dechert undertakes work for 40 of the ‘Fortune 100’ companies, and advises 24 of the top 25 global asset management firms, and 41 of the top 50 global private debt firms.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for candidates who have a genuine interest in business and our clients, are ambitious and who have a keen sense of building community, both within the workplace and with our clients.

What you’ll do: Our trainees undertake six seats of four months each, with each trainee being seconded to a client or one of our international offices, providing a truly broad legal foundation. Working closely with partners and associates, and with a small trainee intake, no two trainees’ training contracts will be the same. We run a full training programme at the beginning of and throughout the training contract, which complements our on the job training. Following qualification, our NQs attend orientation in Philadelphia.

Perks: Gym membership/subsidy, life assurance, pension scheme with company contributions, private health and dental care, season ticket loan and a subsidised restaurant.

Sponsorship: LPC and GDL full fees and £10,000 maintenance grant.