Renowned for its funds and cross-border work, this global firm “nurtures your confidence and pushes you to go for it,” say trainees.
Dechert training contract review 2024
There are good law firm names, then there are great ones. And for us, Dechert falls firmly in the latter. Firstly, in case you're saying it wrong, it’s not ‘de-shurt’ or ‘de-cher’ of the French variety – it’s pronounced ‘deck-urt.’ Secondly, Dechert is a Philly native, with most of its offices spread across the US, as well as another nine offices across Europe, Asia and the Middle East to add to the tally. While the firm’s New York HQ is its crown jewel, the London office wears its own crown. Recently moving to a refurbished office overlooking St Paul’s, one trainee shared that “compared to other American firms, the London branch is not simply a satellite office. We are not just supporting the US office. We have our own clients.”
“Whenever someone wants to set up a fund, our number is probably in the top five.”
The cross-border work of this “slightly less cut-throat American law firm” seemed to be a hit with our sources. One trainee told us that “the work we do is complex. We don’t do standard transactions; we do more stimulating and interesting work.” The work in question? Trainees commended the “funds seat which is excellent and class-leading” as well as the opportunities for international secondments to Dublin and Dubai. Chambers UK dishes out praise for the firm’s mid-market banking and finance work on the lender side and corporate financial crime in London. Nationally, Dechert scores top marks for its investment funds work. In Chambers Global, the firm is highly regarded for its UK investigations & enforcement on white-collar matters (international & cross border).
At Dechert, trainees sit in six seats of four months over the course of the training contract. One trainee preferred this set-up as “you have flexibility and customisation with a six-seat contract. You get to repeat seats and if you don’t like them, you don’t need to be there for long.” The firm offers a range of seat options, which include corporate and securities, financial services (funds), finance and real estate, employment, intellectual property, antitrust, white-collar, litigation, tax, and financial restructuring. Under the corporate and securities umbrella, trainees can sit in private equity, M&A, capital and debt markets, as well as leveraged finance. Talk about being spoilt for choice!
Around a month or two before each seat, trainees list their choices and ”grad recruitment curates everyone’s preferences and marries them with business needs.” Our sources said they find out which seat they’re headed to about a week in advance. Whilst there are no compulsory seats at Dechert, one insider mentioned that "most people have a seat in funds because it’s the biggest one.”
Starting with the biggest team in the firm, the funds team was described as “one of the strongest and most institutionalised in the firm.” The source added that “whenever someone wants to set up a fund, our number is probably in the top five.” The department takes care of the life cycle of hedge and credit funds. This means advising on restructuring, setting up underlying funds or their liquidation. With expanding regulatory and ESG practices, there is plenty of work to be found in this team. “You have to prioritise deadlines and deal with intense hours, but it’s worth it,” one source reflected. Some typical trainee tasks included project management, keeping the local council up to speed, negotiating with service providers, and ensuring that ancillary documents and board materials are tied up. To get an idea of who the team works for, Dechert was the sole legal adviser to former Court of Appeal judge Dame Elizabeth Gloster on her independent investigation into the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) regulation and supervision of London Capital & Finance. The seat is also “drafting and research-heavy” and trainees work on preparing term sheets for fund launches, write board minutes, work on memorandums and subscription documents as well as mark-ups for third-party agreements. Reflecting on their time in this seat, one interviewee praised the fact that “you get so much drafting experience and get to do first drafts of key, large and ancillary documents.” Another added: “This team is renowned for giving trainees high levels of responsibility. It comes with its upside. The more work you do here, the more you get involved.”
“We advise on cryptocurrency deals and work on the edge of the market.”
The finance and real estate practice represents major lenders on real estate deals. The team is involved in the conveyancing process and sales and leases of commercial properties. But also, “we advise on cryptocurrency deals and work on the edge of the market. The deals are new and the way we draft their documents is interesting,” one interviewee highlighted. They added that while the work can be complicated, “no one hesitated to explain to me the complex instruments. They broke them down for me and this shaped the way I see complexity in transactions.” Trainees in this team are responsible for running checklists, keeping data rooms up to date, and drafting ancillary documents. On the derivative side, a source described being involved in settlements for clients and Wall Street banks. “I was involved in marking out agreements and discussing the strategy with partners and clients.” A case in point, clients of this team include Citibank, Wells Fargo & Goldman Sachs.
The wider corporate and securities department at Dechert hosts seats in private equity, M&A, capital and debt markets, as well as leveraged finance. In private equity, one interviewee told us they do “sales, portfolio work and management incentive plans.” In M&A, the team similarly deals with private equity firms, as well as life sciences and public listed company work. Trainees in both seats managed the due diligence process on deals and were the points of contact for the internal and external parties involved. They also drafted board minutes and worked on ancillary documents. The M&A team advised Kinross Gold Corporation, a Canadian-based gold and silver mining business, on the sale of assets to Highland, a gold mining company.
Switching to the firm’s contentious offering, the commercial disputes department handles regular litigation, as well as mediation and international arbitration work. “We work with large banks,” said one trainee. And there’s no shortage of things to be tasked with: “I worked on a few big cases where you would review documents, attend court, do pro bono and conduct lots of research.” Key skills here were “attention to detail, meeting deadlines, taking calls and attendance notes.” As is the case for most litigation trainees, there was also “lots of research on case law, precedents and court procedure” – fire up WestLaw! – The team recently acted for a number of Lebanese banks, defending claims by depositors in a series of cases pursued by customers of Lebanese banks in London, New York and Paris as a result of the ongoing Lebanese banking crisis.
Given the London office came into its own following a merger with a British firm, it’s no surprise our sources felt that Dechert “has a British feel, even though it's American.” One trainee explained that “as far as US law firms go, it’s uncommon to be working in a non-competitive environment.” They added that “we strive to achieve excellence, but it’s easier to be excellent when you’re working in a positive environment with people you like!” In fact, all of our interviewees commented on the open and welcoming culture at the firm: “People want to get to know you personally and they take a real interest in you.” Others noted a “real focus on teaching and development,” and one trainee explained that “the firm is good at springboarding you. They don’t silo you as a trainee. So, in terms of longevity in the industry, it will set you up with the skills you need.”
“Supervisors are excellent, excellent, excellent!”
Speaking of skill development, one source beamed that “supervisors are excellent, excellent, excellent!” Trainees sit with their supervisors, who offer feedback freely. They also have mid-seat and end-of-seat appraisals which are extensive, with feedback given from the whole team. The supervision is supported by the seat rotation training offered by the associates, as well as weekly departmental ones offered in some practice areas. “In litigation, it might be legal updates or cases of interest. In corporate, they might take you through the life cycle of a private equity transaction,” explained one source. Another interviewee mentioned that “departmental in-house training usually happens at lunchtime and is led by professional support lawyers or partners.”
A number of interviewees mentioned working from 9am to 7pm, though the hours can vary quite a bit depending on the practice area and the work going on. Many reported working to 9.30pm or later, especially those in funds, which is said to be the busiest department. Though, trainees get the chance to let their hair down as there is plenty happening on the social side of things. Dechert holds the typical pub quizzes, summer and Christmas parties. But there is also a choir, a netball and football team, and the firm also takes part in the annual legal sailing league. One source told us that “Dechert also funds networking events for trainees,” such as Dechert uncorked, which is run by trainees.Another interviewee told us that “we bring our friends who are in the field,” and it’s a chance for trainees to get involved with business development.This event is particularly important because, as one source put it, “it can be hard networking when everyone seems very important, so these events where everyone is junior are great!”
“Pro bono is also a cornerstone at Dechert. It is mandatory and non-negotiable.”
“Pro bono is also a cornerstone at Dechert. It is mandatory and non-negotiable,” one insider informed us. Lawyers at the firm have to do 25 hours of pro bono and, uniquely, so do trainees. All of our interviewees got stuck into this, one reflected that “it provides us with a sense of perspective on what we do. In our work, you can lose sight of reality in the wider context of the world.” There’s a wealth of projects that the firm works on. Some mentioned working at the Islington law clinic, advising people with housing issues and assisting on disability appeals. Whilst others helped individuals who were denied pension payments.
Finally, when qualification comes around, Dechert publishes a jobs list for all departments. Trainees can pick up to two choices and then they interview with those teams; for some groups this can involve both a technical and a motivational interview. One source told us that “it’s not game playing. They are quite transparent and encourage you to share what you are thinking. Grad recruitment offer a lot of support.”
Decked out and ready to win.
Dechert funds the aspiring solicitor's commercial awareness competition. Students that win are offered a vacation scheme at the firm.
How to get a Dechert training contract
- Winter vacation scheme deadline (2023): 27 October 2023
- Spring vacation scheme deadline (2024): 31 December 2023
- Summer vacation scheme deadline (2024): 31 January 2024
Applications and assessments
Dechert recruits all of its trainees exclusively through its vacation schemes. The firm generally receives around 1,500 applications for its winter, spring and summer vacation schemes, which takes up to 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 shortlisting stage, successful candidates are invited to undertake a video interview and written exercise. 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 and an opportunity to have a coffee with one 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.”
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, insight sessions, 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.”
25 Cannon Street,
Dechert is a global specialist law firm with approximately 1000 lawyers across 21 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.
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.
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.
We recruit all of our future trainees from our vacation schemes, in winter, 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. 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.
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 2023/24
Visit our website for a full list of the careers fairs we will be attending in 2023/24
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:
The London Diversity and Inclusion Committee promotes an inclusive culture amongst all employees and seeks to foster a greater understanding of diverse groups represented in Dechert’s London community. The committee engages with other affinity groups across the firm to advance Dechert’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mission.
Dechert is home to several affinity groups. Not only do these groups support the development and retention of diverse attorneys, business service professionals, and allies, but they also affect change by identifying and addressing DEI-related issues. Affinity groups contribute to Dechert’s diversity programming, especially heritage month events that celebrate the richness of our different backgrounds, voices, and perspectives. Our affinity groups include:
• Asian Affinity Group
• Black Lawyers Alliance
• Disability Affinity Group
• Family Network
• Global Women’s Initiative
• Greater Middle Eastern Alliance
• Latino Affinity Group
• LGBTQ Affinity Group
• Dechert Heroes (Veterans Affinity Group)
To increase transparency, goal setting and follow-through, Dechert designed and launched a diversity dashboard that helps firm leaders see where things are working effectively, and where more attention is needed. The Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Global Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion meet bi-monthly with practice group diversity liaison partners and practice group administrators to review hours, work quality and assignments.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 2)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 5)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 5)
- Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 2)
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Credit Funds Spotlight
- Partnership (Band 3)