This polycentric BFG makes a sizeable Dent in the UK legal market.
Dentons Training Contract Review 2024
When you first set out on the path to becoming a lawyer, you’ll quickly find that there are a whole host of different things that distinguish firms from one another. At Dentons, this distinguishing factor is clear from the off. With a staggering 12,000 lawyers working across over 200 offices in 80 different countries, Dentons sits at the top of the pile as the world’s largest law firm by number of offices. “By having that global element, it essentially means that the firm has access to a bigger pool of people as resources,” one trainee commented. At Dentons however, there isn’t a single HQ, leaving each office free to create its own local firm feel. The majority of the firm’s UK trainees are based in London, with the rest split between Milton Keynes and Scotland (made up of a mixture of seats across Edinburgh and Glasgow). As Rosie Buckley, early careers manager, tells us, the firm has half an eye on expansion too: “Next summer (summer 2024), we’re launching an internship in our Dublin office for the first time, with a view to launching the training contract the following year,” so keep your eyes peeled.
“By having that global element, it essentially means that the firm has access to a bigger pool of people as resources…”
Dentons has almost as many Chambers-ranked departments as it does offices, and far too many to list (you can see the full breakdown on the ‘rankings’ tab). But its areas of strength include banking & finance, corporate, dispute resolution, energy, real estate and tech, with a host of UK, London-wide and Thames Valley rankings to match. For trainees hoping to secure a training contract in Edinburgh or Glasgow, it will reassure you to know that the firm bags top-tier rankings for its competition law, tax, and transport rail in Scotland, alongside impressive nods in corporate M&A, information technology & outsourcing, and intellectual property.
Before new trainees start, the firm sends through a booklet offering an outline of all of the seat options available to trainees, which they then rank from 1 to 6. This process is repeated at each rotation, but from the second seat onwards trainees are able to attach a percentage interest to each, and expand on their reasons for doing so. “Being Dentons, traditionally, there are lots of international secondment opportunities,” one trainee told us, “but these are only just coming back post-COVID.” At the last rotation, options included France and Hong Kong, but client secondments are more common as things stand, with trainees able to spend time with “household, nationwide names from across the retail and financial sectors.” Trainees in Scotland were quick to highlight that offices outside of London weren’t at a disadvantage when it came to secondment opportunities too: “You’re not disadvantaged if you’re in Scotland. There are plenty of Scottish trainees who have done client secondments in London.”
For trainees interested in the corporate side of the firm’s work, there will be plenty of collaboration with and overlap between the firm’s other offices, wherever you find yourself. The department offers a mix of capital markets, private equit, and venture capital work – cross-border M&A deals are something of a focus point at the firm. For trainees in the seat, “there’s been a lot of drafting ancillary documents, as well as company reports updating statutory books,” one recalled. “There’s also some reviewing reports and liaising with clients in the seat too.” The nature of these cross-border matters stretching across multiple teams means that trainees in the seat won’t often be involved in a project from beginning to end: “The chances are, there will be at least a few one-off tasks on matters that you won’t hear anything about again.”
As one of the firm’s areas of strength, the real estate team at Dentons has worked with a host of household names from John Lewis and Sainsbury’s to the Department for Work and Pensions and HSBC. Trainees in the seat might touch on corporate real estate transactions, real estate finance and business development work, but their bread and butter is “drafting leases, contacting the client to agree on terms, correspondence with the other side on the finer aspects of these deals, and contact with the Land Registry to check what consents you need.” As one trainee added: “I have been pleasantly surprised by the client contact – much more than you would expect as a first-seat trainee. The earlier you prove yourself, the more responsibility you’re given.” In one recent matter, Dentons’ real estate team advised John Lewis on its £500 million joint venture with abrdn over the development of Build to Rent schemes at a number of properties. Under the broad real estate umbrella, Dentons’ real estate litigation practice handles contentious real estate matters, from negligence and trespass cases to rent review, for a client list that includes the likes of Argos, Taylor Wimpey and the Co-operative Group. “It was definitely the most fast-paced seat I had,” one source recalled, “I would start my day with a plan and within two or three hours it was out the window!” Typical trainee tasks in the seat included “some advisory work, but also some high-profile litigation cases. So I had chances to go to court and prepare for hearings, as well as working on the large-scale advisory projects.”
"The firm hosts a lot of business development events with clients, so it’s a great seat for building your network."
The employment practice at Dentons (known as people, reward & mobility) has been a focus of growth over the last five years, offering trainees a mix of contentious and non-contentious work. “Our clients are mainly employers, so the contentious side will be defending employers against things like unfair dismissal or harassment claims,” one trainee explained, “on the non-contentious side, we will advise on and help draft things like annual leave or sick leave policies, and provide corporate support work if there is a particular deal with an employment aspect.” Like other departments at Dentons, there is plenty of overlap with the firm’s offices overseas, especially in cases where a client’s operations extend beyond the UK. It’s pretty common too – Dentons’ employment client list is a who’s who of recognisable names, from Amazon UK to TK Maxx. As one source put it: “The firm hosts a lot of business development events with clients, so it’s a great seat for building your network (and working out how to do that!)” In one ongoing case, the firm is representing TUI Airways against a High Court claim brought by a group of employees over the changing of the terms in its health insurance scheme.
Dentons’ competition seat is another that offers both contentious and non-contentious work, particularly in the financial services, energy, transport and real estate sectors. Regardless of where trainees are based, the competition team at Dentons functions as one, “so whether you’re a trainee in Scotland or London, you’ll receive instructions from all over the place, and they get involved in what each other are up to.” For trainees, this is typically drafting advice to clients and taking notes of client calls: “There’s also a lot of research into quite niche points of law,” one trainee told us, “looking into case law guidance and commentary, and preparing that information in order to present it to the client.” In recent months, the firm has worked with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, advising the department on possible interventions in the energy markets to reduce energy bills for households and businesses.
As one of the firm’s Scottish contingent told us: “You really do feel that international element. From a Scottish perspective, offices in Scotland are so often treated as the ‘Scottish wing’ of London firms. But here, there is no HQ, and the firm really makes an effort to emphasise how important each office is.” This extends to the social life at Dentons too: “Every other month, the trainees from London and Milton Keynes get together for an event that’s organised by the firm, and there’s free drinks and that sort of thing.” The same is true, trainees tell us, of social events in Edinburgh and Glasgow too. On top of this, departments at Dentons will host their own socials and ‘away-days’, involving everything from black-tie dinners to Brazilian-style drumming.
“…you are sat down at the beginning of each seat to go through the basics.”
Trainees have departmental training sessions every Tuesday, “where we are updated on the newest legislation and how to use certain systems like the Land Registry.” How this training goes depends somewhat on the department, but there is time carved out at the firm for making sure trainees have wrapped their heads around the basics: “On Wednesdays once a month there’s corporate team training for everyone, and there’s also training in IT and lots of different things firm-wide,” one source explained, “but you are sat down at the beginning of each seat to go through the basics.” The emphasis quickly shifts as trainees move through their training contract, however. As one put it: “I’d say 70% is learning on the job. If you get something like an agreement and are asked to review it, it’s a case of looking at the precedents we’ve got. When it comes to something like drafting, you can’t really learn without doing.”
“When it comes to remote working, the firm doesn’t have a strict policy, it’s about what works for you,” Rose Buckley explains. According to trainees, on average lawyers will come into the office two to three days a week, but they too emphasised that this isn’t an obligation. “A lot of the trainees do come in, even when they don’t need to, because it’s a better way to learn,” one source explained, “But there’s no extra pressure to come in; the general rule is, you come in when it works for you.” When it comes to hours, quiet times saw trainees leave at around 6pm (around 9.30pm during busier periods), which places the firm on the more reasonable end of the scale: “There’s not really a 'presence' culture, if you need to step out for an hour to go the gym or send a parcel, no one is going to chase you up on that.”
Come qualification time, “we have a call with HR to set out the steps and the dates that we needed to be aware of,” one second-year told us. “We submit our preferences first (up to two), before they’ve worked out what spaces there are, so the firm can get an idea of which seats are going to be popular.” Then, around February, the firm releases a list of available NQ positions, which candidates are free to apply for: “This is then followed by a one-stage interview process with a case study and a competency interview.” In 2023, Dentons retained 23 of 32 qualifiers.
Pros of pro bono:
At Dentons, there is plenty of opportunity to get involved in pro bono work: “We get a couple of emails a week advertising the things we can get in on, from the National Centre for Domestic Violence to charities that need their policies revamped.”
How to get a Dentons training contract
Vacation scheme deadline:2 January 2024
Training contract deadline: 17 June 2024
Applying to Dentons begins with an online form. As part of the initial screening process, the firm scores each applicant on a number of core factors including motivation, drive, and commercial awareness.
Early Careers Manager Rosie Buckley tells us when it comes to past experiences, the firm "doesn't need to see commercial work experience, but is hoping to see that candidates have researched a career in law and have started to develop relevant skills." A candidate's motivation and commercial awareness are drawn out through questions “tailored towards candidates' achievements and their research on commercial law and Dentons.” Whilst the firm does look at academics, “they are not the most important part of a form, and if candidates feel they can submit a strong overall application we want to hear from them.'”
Candidates whose forms meet the firm's requirements are invited to complete a Legal High Potential assessment. This assessment includes scenario-based, numerical and verbal questions.
The assessment “looks for candidates who are excited to embrace the future of law and apply their intellect and creativity to a variety of work-related situations.” The questions do not require any prior knowledge or experience.
Candidates who are successful in the Legal High Potential assessment will be invited to undertake a short video interview.
Hopefuls who impress enough in the first round get a crack at the final stage. Candidates face an assessment centre consisting of a role play exercise, a written exercise, a case study and a final partner interview.
All in all, “we're looking for ambitious, commercial and forward-thinking candidates because that's what we are as a firm,” Buckley says, reminding applicants that “you've got to want to work for an international firm, as trainees end up getting involved in a lot of cross-jurisdictional work here.”
Dentons hosts two-week schemes in both spring and summer in London, and during the summer across Milton Keynes and Scotland. On top of getting a taster of the firm's work there are a few social events dotted throughout the scheme. Our sources' number-one tip for getting the most out of the scheme? “Speak to as many current trainees as possible – that'll contribute a lot to your understanding of what the firm's about.”
One Fleet Place,
We are Dentons. The world’s largest law firm. With more than 12,500 people in 80+ countries around the world, we have unique breadth, depth and diversity. Alongside our award winning global work, we are committed to a culture of innovation, giving back and inclusion.
Dentons is designed to be different. The landscape we work in is changing at an accelerating pace. We embrace this change, and are looking for trainees and apprentices to join us in redefining what is possible and in shaping the future of law.
Your career at Dentons can shape up to be something extraordinary. It’s a place for those who are driven to challenge. To question. To break tradition. To put your career firmly into fast-forward. This could be the start of something big.
Main areas of work
Work is also about more than just work here. It's about the environment too, and the feeling you get from your team, office and beyond. Our teams are focused on inclusion, giving back, and on looking forward with innovation.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ trainee or apprentice at Dentons and that’s the way we like it. Our expertise within the Firm are as diverse as the needs of our global clients. What we have in common is the ability to contribute to our growing success.
We generally look for a strong academic performance, but consider every application we receive in context and holistically. If you feel you can submit a strong application even if you do not meet these grades, we encourage you to apply.
We also encourage you to include mitigating circumstances if relevant.
We have also implemented the Rare Recruitment Contextual Recruitment System, to give us additional context to every candidate’s application.
The business of law is changing, and we want you to be right there with it. To take us from largest to leading, we're looking for our trainees to think big and see the future of law in a new way.
Our two year, four seat Training Contract is designed to equip you with the skills required to be the lawyer of the future.
On top of our award winning trainee development program, our training contract includes three additional modules: legal project management, innovation and resilience.
Alongside seats in our practice groups, trainees have the opportunity to work in one of our global offices, or directly with one of our clients on a six-month secondment.
Our modernised training contract marks the first stage in your journey from lawyer to leader. The lawyers of the future start here.
The Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) is a new route to qualification which replaces the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Professional Skills Course (PSC). Anyone wanting to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales will need to complete the SQE. Dentons will cover SQE course and exam fees for our future trainees. SQE will apply to all our London and Milton Keynes trainees starting from August 2024 onwards. Our Scottish trainees will continue to complete the Diploma.
Our Training Contract in England will last for two years. There may be an opportunity to use six months previous relevant QWE to reduce the Training Contract to 18 months. This will be discussed on a case by case basis and is not guaranteed.
Everyone on our Training Contract will need to complete 18 months minimum, regardless of how much QWE they have already achieved. The training contract will continue to include four seats alongside our bespoke development modules.
Deciding where to start your career is a big decision. Balance real work with training and networking on our schemes to see what your career at Dentons could look like. Our two week scheme will give you, and us, an insight into whether we’re a good match.
In each week of the scheme you will experience a different practice area, working closely with a supervisor and buddy.
By attending our Vacation Scheme, you'll automatically be assessed for our Training Contract. This could be the start of something much bigger.
Our schemes run in Spring (London only) and Summer (all UK offices).
University isn’t for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you it is. If you want to train to become a solicitor, you just need a spot on the Dentons' Solicitor Apprenticeship.
You’ll start working towards your LLB university degree alongside your day job. No student debt. No eye-watering loans. Just an opportunity to learn and build your career.
The six-year programme aimed at school leavers combines eight seats of work-based learning and part-time study with BPP University.
For more information please visit https://challengers.dentons.com/uk-apprentices/the-programme/how-it-works/
At Dentons, inclusion and diversity is not just a core value – it is an integral part of our strategy. Building a more inclusive and diverse law firm is core to our strategy because it leads to better business outcomes for our clients, our communities and for Dentons.
We believe in creating an environment where everyone can thrive. We work hard to nurture a sense of inclusion that is empowering to the individual, to the teams and to the Firm.
Examples of our inclusion strategy include a focus on allyship program, access initiatives, mentoring programs, and a series of events and conversation focussed on equity and inclusion.
Our Affinity Groups also play a huge part in fostering a sense of belonging and support for everyone at the firm. These groups include GLOW (LGBTQ+), Fusion (Asian Professionals), BPN (Black Professionals), Inspire (Gender Equality), Accessibility (Disability), and our Parents and Carers network.
Experience Dentons starts by providing an introduction to law, the commercial world and to Dentons as a firm. Then, as you progress through the program, you will complete work related to each of our key practice areas, honing both your technical and commercial skills. By the end of Experience Dentons you will have completed a range of meaningful activities, gained insight to insider information from Dentons and will receive a certificate to help boost your LinkedIn profile and CV.
Now to Next Scholarship
The Now to Next Scholarship is a national student scholarship scheme for students of Black, African or Caribbean heritage (including applicants of mixed-race with Black African or Black Caribbean heritage).
Each year, students across the UK will be provided with a scholarship of £2,500 per annum during their three year UK undergraduate law degree.
Alongside the financial support, scholars will be guaranteed a place on Dentons insight events, gain access to mentoring and regularly meet with our Early Careers team and trainees.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 2)
- Employment: Employer (Band 5)
- Environment & Climate Change (Band 1)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 6)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight
- Planning (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 5)
- Restructuring/Insolvency: Disputes Spotlight
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 2)
- Corporate/M&A: £25 million and above (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £10 million and above (Band 2)
- Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 4)
- Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 2)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
- Franchising (Band 2)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 1)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Venture Capital Investment (Band 4)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 4)
- Public Procurement (Band 3)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
- Retail (Band 2)
- Sanctions (Band 2)
- Telecommunications (Band 3)
- Transport: Rail: Franchising (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 2)