Dechert LLP - True Picture

This Philadelphia native remains the Big Cheese in all things finance. But with a six-seat training contract, trainees can snack on a variety box’s worth of practices.

Dechert training contract review 2022

The Firm

Bred in Philly but known worldwide, Dechert has a nimble network of over 20 offices across Asia-Pacific, Europe, the US, and the Middle East. Finance, funds, and corporate-focused practice areas take centre stage in the London arm of this US native; in Chambers UK, the firm earns high praise for banking & finance, corporate/M&A, financial crime and real estate, while it also achieves UK-wide kudos for investment funds, partnership, and regulatory financial services work.

Beyond its global reach and practice expertise, Dechert is also known for its lucrative salary. In 2020, the firm upped its NQ pay despite the pandemic, now offering a hefty £125,000 to its London lawyers. Unsurprisingly, these figures were a big pull for our interviewees, but so was the firm’s six-seat training contract – one of the few US firms in London that doesn’t follow the four-seat training contract structure. Combined with the full-service nature of the firm, one source felt “I would be well informed by the time it came to qualification.”

“I really enjoy the cross-border element... it feels like you’re making an impact all around the world.”

Prior to joining the firm, trainees choose whether they’d like to kick off their training contracts in a transactional or contentious group, though “you don’t specify the particular department.”For subsequent seats, trainees receive a list of the available seats (including secondment opportunities) from which they list three preferences. Everyone must complete a seat in the financial services group but they are otherwise free to choose their four remaining seats. Interviewees were generally happy with seat allocation: “From the third seat onwards, graduate recruitment start to prioritise you.” Sources also added: “People who pick bigger departments tend to get their choices, while smaller departments like financial restructuring are harder to get.”

Dechert offers several client and internationalsecondments, the availability of which is dependent on the firm's business needs. Interviewees mentioned previous destinations such as Singapore, Toulouse, Dublin, Brussels and Luxembourg. An interviewee enthused: "My secondment was my favourite seat out of the training contract, and being the only trainee in that office, I got to do a really broad range of work.”

The Seats

Under the corporateumbrella, trainees source work from subgroups like capital markets, tax, leveraged finance, private equity and M&A. “The fluidity is really helpful from a trainee perspective; you can request to source work from whichever group you prefer.”On the capital markets side, the team focuses on debt securities work, representing issuers in emerging markets (in countries like Luxembourg, Ireland and Egypt). One trainee stated: “I’m working on an IPO in Egypt at the moment!”Another added: “I really enjoy the cross-border element to the seat. It feels like you’re making an impact all around the world – it's great for the ego!”The team recently advised Numis Securities and Citigroup Global Markets as joint underwriters on a £100 million equity fundraise for AIM-listed Keywords Studios. For trainees, typical tasks included a lot of deal management, drafting ancillary documents, and working on investment presentations.

The fundsteam is made up of 200 lawyers and works across the whole of the firm's network. The firm works with financial services firms, asset managers and investment funds, representing clients ranging from small start-up and boutique operations to large institutional hedge funds. On large-scale funds, the team works on setting up sub-funds – for trainees this means “helping with the preparation of the sub-funds, like taking minutes and liaising with the directors.”Overall, sources enjoyed their time in funds and appreciated that “the funds supervisor always gave clear explanations to me and was always ready to answer any questions. I got a good breadth of work and understanding.”On the private equity side, the team recently advised Nordic Capital on the sale of Swedish electronic trading platform Itiviti to Broadridge Financial Solutions for over €2.1 billion.

“I don’t feel like just a number, I feel genuinely valued at the firm.”

Under Dechert’s trials and investigations umbrella, trainees can do seats in commercial litigationand white-collar crime. One source recalled working on “white-collar adjacent work,” in the form of “sanctions for a large company.” More broadly, the commercial litigation group handles disputes involving financial institutions like creditor groups, debtholders, and hedge funds. Trainee tasks include “trial preparation, legal research, document review, drafting memos and attending hearings.”Interviewees also tried their hand at “initial drafts of letters before action.” Previous litigation clients include VTB Bank, Hanging Gardens, and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of China. The team recently advised a fund manager, Tyndaris, in a High Court dispute with an investor over the operation of trading platforms led by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Trainee Life

The atmosphere at Dechert was described as “authentic, open, personable and inclusive.”One interviewee felt the smaller intake – common for a US firm in London – set it apart from other firms: “We’re more personable and have less alphas than you'd expect.”Another elaborated that “as a trainee, I don’t feel like just a number, I feel genuinely valued at the firm.”Under regular circumstances, trainees got to bonding over the various summer events, like champagne up the London Eye... “I was knackered by the end of it – on the tube journey home I went round twice on the Circle Line!” Since the pandemic, trainees have continued to socialise, albeit over Zoom for coffee mornings: “It’s not the same, but I’m hoping drinks on Friday nights come back when we’re back in the office.” 

Trainees were pleasantly surprised with the work-life balanceat Dechert: “The hours aren't as bad as other elite US firms!”On average, sources were loyal to the grind from 9am to 7pm, though hours of course differed between seats: “The firm does its best to shield trainees from unnecessarily long hours. When the hours become more gruelling, you'll be in the trenches with your team – never on your own.” Corporate makes for slightly tougher hours due to “cyclical periods of work,” while areas like tax were said to be kinder. When working with clients in the Middle East, some reported occasional work on Sundays, but otherwise one source explained “anything I’ve done over the weekend is usually because I want to get a head start.”

“Dechert really prides itself on its pro bono work; it’s not just a tick in the box, it’s very much part of the fabric of the firm.”

Being a US outfit, many found “Dechert really prides itself on its pro bono work; it’s not just a tick in the box – it’s very much part of the fabric of the firm.”Within their standard working hours, attorneys are encouraged to do at least 25 hours of pro bonoper year. The firm gives a helping hand on matters to do with disability rights, freedom of expression, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights and much more. Newbies are given a lot more discretion to run pro bono matters: “Although it can be daunting at first it’s a huge confidence boost!”When working alongside the Human Dignity Trust – a charity that works to eradicate laws that criminalise homosexuality – one trainee recalled: “I interviewed the key campaigners that were working to abolish the homophobic laws. It was very rewarding.”

Much like its pro bono efforts, the firm really pushes to make a difference on the D&I front. “Since George Floyd’s death there has been an enormous outpouring from the top ranks of the firmthey’ve really put their money where their mouth is.”Dechert supports its lawyers through various diversity networks, including its highly praised Black Lawyers Alliance, as well as a Stand Against Racism speakers series, and diversity training. In terms of recruitment, one source noted: “There is a real effort to get people in at the most junior levels, and I hope that is going to be reflected up the chain.” One interviewee was keen to express that they felt “extremely supported by the firm”and “very proud to be part of a firm that takes diversity so seriously.”

Job lists are generally available in April, and trainees can choose to apply for up to two positions come qualification.After that, trainees are expected to interview and sometimes do presentations. Processes are more formal depending on how competitive the seat is – funds, corporate and litigation are all popular picks for trainees.” Interviewees felt that senior staff could be more transparent with the qualification process, which was also delayed slightly this year due to the pandemic. Once qualified, NQs can access the partner associate mentorship scheme, where they can choose three partners they’d like to be paired with and can chat about any issues they may need help with. This year, the firm did not disclose how many trainees it kept on.

Say Cheese!

Once qualified, NQs don’t just have their chunky pay to smile about, but new solicitors are also sent to the Philadelphia office for training.

How to get a Dechert training contract 


Winter vacation scheme deadline: 15 October 2021  

Spring vacation scheme deadline: 31 December 2021 

Summer vacation scheme deadline: 31 January 2022 

Applications and assessments 

Dechert recruits all of its trainees exclusively through its vacation schemes. The firm generally receives around 1000 applications for its spring and summer vacation schemes, which take ten candidates each. A source tells us that the vacation scheme “acts as a two-week training contract interview.” There are usually ten training contracts on offer in total. 

Following an initial application short-listing stage, successful candidates are invited to undertake a video interview. Once through that stage, candidates are invited to attend an assessment day at the firm’s office. This includes two face-to-face interviews with partners, associates and a member of the Graduate Recruitment team, a written assessment and lunch with some of the firm’s current trainees. 

At this stage, the firm now operates a 'blind interviewing' system, which means that interviewers have no information on the candidate before they see them, ensuring that everyone is in the same position. Rather than focusing on candidates’ CVs, there is more of a focus on commercial scenarios and the strategy the candidate employed when applying for the role. Candidates are evaluated on style, presentation and the judgement they demonstrate. “Here we're looking for candidates to present their answers in a logical, structured way,” says grad recruitment. “They don't necessarily have to get the answer right, in fact there isn't a right answer; it's more about how candidates reason an argument and analyse the scenario. Like a maths exam, usually a lot of the marks you get are for your working out. It's more about how you arrived at your answer than the answer itself.” 

Following the interview, candidates are given a trainee-led tour around the office. “Trainees often take the interviewees to have a coffee and share their experiences at the firm,” a source tells us. They are given an opportunity to return to talk through any remaining questions.  

Vacation scheme 

Vacation scheme attendees visit two departments during their placement and can state up to four seat preferences beforehand. Alongside live pieces of work there are skills workshops, and training and practice area sessions. Attendees also participate in a group project over the course of their placement. “Take that seriously,” trainees advised. “It’s a crucial part of the decision-making process at the end.” Various networking lunches, sporting events, and evening drinks keep things ticking over on the social front. “There are a lot of socials!” said trainees. “As well as having fun, my tip would be to use them as an opportunity to get an insight into what people are like at the firm rather than just going for drinks and food.” 

Dechert LLP

160 Queen Victoria Street,

  • Partners: 50+*
  • Associates: 86+*
  • Total trainees: 20*
  • * denotes London figure 
  • UK offices: London
  • Overseas offices: 21
  • Contacts  
  • graduate.recruitment@dechert. com
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 10
  • Applications pa: 900
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum A-levels: AAB or equivalent
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 20
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Spring vacation scheme runs: 4th April – 14th April 2022
  • Spring vacation scheme deadline: 31st December 2021
  • Summer vacation scheme runs: 29th June – 8th July 2022
  • Summer vacation scheme deadline: 31st January 2022
  • Winter vacation scheme runs: 13th December – 17th December 2021
  • Winter vacation scheme deadline: 15th October 2021
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £50,000
  • Second-year salary: £55,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £140,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: £10,000
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: London and Dublin
  • Overseas seats: Brussels, Dublin and Singapore

Firm profile
Dechert is a global specialist law firm with approximately 1000 lawyers across 22 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 judgment 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.

Main areas of work
In London, our lawyers are active in Dechert’s core practice areas of corporate and securities, financial services and investment management, finance and real estate, 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.

Training opportunities
We take your training seriously, both before and after you qualify. We have a full, and lively, training programme which covers the whole range of skills you need, from technical legal issues and substantive skills training in each practice area to the Critical Skills Institute, which is focused on leadership, management, communication and client relations. 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. Following qualification, our NQs attend orientation in Philadelphia. 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.

Vacation schemes
We recruit all of our future trainees from two vacation schemes, in spring and summer. Our two week schemes are designed to give you an idea of what it will be like to be a trainee solicitor at Dechert. Each week you will sit in a different practice group and you are given real work to do by our lawyers. Exactly what you will do will depend on which practice group you sit in, but it will include research, drafting and attending meetings. You will also attend training sessions on a range of topics, such as legal writing and negotiation. In 2018, Dechert won Best Training – Vacation Scheme, due to the in depth, comprehensive training we deliver to our vacation scheme participants. Before you start the scheme, we will ask for your practice area preferences and then try to place you in those groups. You will be allocated a supervisor (an associate or partner) and both a partner and a trainee buddy, but will receive work from people at all levels from across the group. Social events, such as evening activities and dinners, are an important part of the vacation schemes as they enable you to build your relationships with Dechert trainees, associates and partners.

Other benefits
Life assurance, an employee assistance programme, subsidised gym membership, subsidised on-site café, private medical and dental insurance, annual health assessments, pension scheme with firm contributions, season ticket loan and cycle to work scheme.

Open days and first-year opportunities
Visit our website for a full list of Dechert’s bespoke open days in 2021/22.

University law careers fairs 2021/22
Visit our website for a full list of the careers fairs we will be attending in 2021/22.

Diversity & Inclusion:
Dechert’s guiding principles and personal commitments are not simply words written on our website and in our policies — they are something that we all must live by every day. Championing diversity is part of Dechert’s DNA — a culture where respecting and valuing everyone’s voice and creating a shared enjoyment in all we do empowers people from different backgrounds, experiences and points of view to be fully themselves and bring their very best.

The following are just some of the key measures that Dechert has undertaken to improve diversity and inclusion at the firm:

Affinity Groups:
Identify and address diversity and inclusion-related issues, and create new and recurring programming focused on the attainment of professional and business development skills. They offer enhanced mentoring opportunities, retreats and educational workshop for diverse attorneys. Reaching beyond Dechert, affinity groups engage with our communities through advocacy, pro bono and speaker programs.
∙ Asian Affinity Group
∙ Black Lawyers Alliance
∙ Dechert’s Family Network
∙ Global Women’s Initiative
∙ Greater Middle Eastern Alliance
∙ Latino Affinity Group
∙ LGBTQ Affinity Group
∙ Dechert Heroes (Veterans Affinity Group)

Diversity Champions:
An award program – open to all those at Dechert, whatever their seniority, role or location – set up to recognize those who have given most to support a diverse and inclusive culture. The firm’s leaders chose four Diversity Champions from 100 peer-nominations; each was awarded a bonus.

Diversity Dashboards:
A user-friendly program covering hours, work quality and distribution of assignments that helps firm leaders see where D&I efforts are working effectively and where more attention is needed.

Diversity Symposium:
A two-day event for diverse associates, designed to help cultivate a wider professional and support network and to connect directly with firm leaders.

Inclusive Leadership:
Regular interactive sessions that build inclusive leadership skills within the partnership and all firm personnel.

Lunch and Learn Empowerment Series for Diverse Associates:
Provides an opportunity for diverse associates to share knowledge and skills gleamed from external workshops and professional development programs with diverse associates and counsel at Dechert. Sessions are held every two months and often include guest contributors from the partnership ranks.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 5)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 5)
    • Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 2)
    • Partnership (Band 3)