More than 200 offices in over 70 countries around the world? With numbers like these, it can only be Dentons.
Dentons training contract review 2022
‘Ambition’, ‘drive’, and ‘global opportunities’ are among the factors which drew this year's trainees to Dentons, a firm which holds the unique accolade of being the world’s largest law firm by geographic footprint. There’s no sign of the firm taking its foot off the pedal in the future either. Paul Jarvis, Dentons' CEO for the UK, Ireland and the Middle East tells us that "by our assessment, we were responsible for around 80% to 90% of all law firm cross-border mergers." Some of the most recent of these include combinations with firms in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Tanzania, reflecting the firm's ambition to grow in Africa and South America. "These will continue to be key markets," says Jarvis. He adds that “our global platform is helping us to win new clients and interesting projects; it also gives our lawyers the opportunity to work internationally.”
“International isn’t just a buzzword here…”
“International isn’t just a buzzword here,” according to trainees, many of whom were “eager to make use of secondary language skills.” One insider told us: “I’ve worked with local counsel in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and South America.” Those north of the border in Glasgow and Edinburgh also appreciated that “Dentons seemed to be one of the few international firms that took an interest in recruiting Scottish students.”
Global credentials aside, our interviewees were also attracted to Dentons’ status as “a modern law firm.” One source felt that “where other firms sounded like the classic law firm, Dentons sounded forward-thinking and exciting.” Indeed, Jarvis tell us that “we have heavily invested in a cutting-edge training contract journey to include key modules of resilience, innovation and legal project management.” Others cited its full-service status as another key attraction: “Coming out of law school, you have little awareness of all the different practice areas, so it’s great to be somewhere where you can sit in a range of different groups.” Many of those groups also come with prestigious Chambers UK rankings. In total, the firm rakes in over 60 domestic rankings across a range of areas including litigation, M&A, environment, IT, and real estate. The firm’s Milton Keynes office enjoys particular prestige, being one of the leading firms in the Thames Valley area, with six top rankings to its name. Go to Chambers.com for the full breakdown of rankings.
Most of the England-based trainees can be found in the London office, but Milton Keynes also recruits a sizeable cohort each year (the firm recently closed its office spaces in Aberdeen and Watford). One trainee in Milton Keynes told us that “I wanted a big firm with access to a global network and big clients but without the late hours and stress.” We were told that “real estate, property litigation, and corporate are the main focuses” of the Milton Keynes office. “Our work outreach isn’t limited to the Thames Valley either,” one source added, emphasising that “we often work with associates in London on international deals.”
Before starting with the firm, trainees are given information on all the seats on offer, including outlines of key trainee responsibilities. From then on, they use an online system to rank up to six choices, allocating a ‘percentage of preference’ to each, alongside a small explanation of their reasoning. In London, all trainees must a complete a seat in banking. Most of our interviewees had no problem with the system, though our survey results indicate a handful of trainees were disappointed with their choices – typical of any training contract with a large intake and lots of people to accommodate. One source also pointed out that “your first seat is typically within corporate, banking or real estate, where the firm has the most business need.”
Both international and client secondments are available to all Dentons’ trainees, which requires candidates to “fill in a Dentons CV, listing all your relevant experiences.” Though our interviewees offered praise for the variety of client secondments up for grabs – around 20 according to one insider – some also voiced disappointment at the international placements on offer. “Considering how many offices the firm has, the spots are quite limited,” one source said, adding that “nobody has gone away during the pandemic.” We should point out that nearly every firm has stopped sending trainees abroad in the last 18 months. In the past, trainees have been sent to the Middle East, Germany, France, Singapore, and Australia. One insider also reasoned that “it’s much more valuable for your career getting experience of working in-house with a client than working abroad for six months, especially if you want to leave private practice down the line.”
“By month three, I was co-leading deals with a senior associate...”
Banking, identified by our interviewees as “a specialty of the firm,” is one of the firm’s largest department and is broken into four subgroups. A: general banking and real estate finance; B: asset finance, commodities, and projects; C: securitisation, derivatives and capital markets; and R: regulatory finance. Trainees with experience in group B told us that “although the seat is meant to be an all-rounder, unless you tell your supervisor, you end up working exclusively within one of the further subsections.” Our survey results indicate that trainee regard it as a fantastic seat to progress their legal knowledge and gain an understanding of a key legal sector, as exemplified by one trainee’s experience: “By month three, I was co-leading deals with a senior associate and clients would ring me directly on my number.” Similarly, another source described “taking charge of communication, drafting documents, and reviewing amendments.” Recently the firm represented a group of clients including Nordea and Nordic financing group Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken on a €750 million facility to Atlas Copco, a Swedish manufacturing company. The team also advised CPI Property Group on its new five-year term, €700 million loan with ten different international banks, including Barclays, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and HSBC.
We were told that Dentons’ real estate group incorporates a mix of real estate finance, as well as "traditional real estate work that deals with corporate work and portfolio sales.” The groups are further divided by sectors such as hotels & leisure and retail. Trainees told us that they are “free to work across all the areas.” Though one insider admitted it could be “a bit of an anxiety-inducer,” they also praised it as a seat “that provides great experience and client exposure.” One source explained: “There are a lot of small matters that you can take the lead on such as a wayleave agreement, or residential sale of a flat.” They added that “most of work is commercial but there’s also some high net worth issues too.” The firm has a number of household names on its books including TfL, Royal Mail and John Lewis, the last of which the team advised on the sale and leaseback of 11 Waitrose stores across the country worth £136 million.
Trainees can also opt for a seat in construction, which offers a mix of contentious and non-contentious work. However, we heard that “the contentious work is only available to trainees in London and Scotland." Trainees here were able to rack up considerable drafting experience in the form of warranty agreements, subcontracts and “other minor agreements that are part of the wider project.”
Within Dentons' broad disputes umbrella, trainees can sample commercial litigation, arbitration, and banking litigation. “There are limited paralegals in the department, so you do end up doing many of the basic tasks such as preparing exhibits and bundles,” one source told us. However, we also heard of trainees taking on more responsibility such as drafting client memos and helping to develop case strategy. We even heard reports of one trainee being able to attend a trial in the Royal Court of Justice. Recently, the firm defended PwC against allegations from Watchstone that the accountancy giant was guilty of being in breach of confidence at the cost of £63 million.
Dentons’ corporate trainees typically sit across the whole department, rather than specialising in a specific practice. There are opportunities for trainees to work on both lower mid-market and higher-value M&A transactions, as well as private equity deals and IPOs. Recently the firm advised Allied Cigar Corporation and Gemstone Investment on the acquisition of Imperial Brands’ hand-rolled cigar business for £1.1 billion; advised Statkraft, a European renewable energy company, on its £117.7 million acquisition of Solarcentury, a global solar power company; and advised Capita, a consulting, digital services and software business, on the £54.5 million sale of Eclipse Legal Systems to Access UK. Trainees here provide a lot of administrative support but also enjoy plenty of client contact – which is more typical of corporate seats compared to litigious practices.
“I think that the firm has a very solid vision of what it wants its culture to be like,” one trainee observed. They elaborated: “What it wants to be is a very modern law firm that is very open to learning and trialling new ways of doing things.” Though sources agreed that "there’s definitely buy-in from the leadership and the resources to build a dynamic firm,” for some, this was not always “the lived experience,” with problems acquiring second screens for home working cited as an example. Some also identified efforts on the social side during the pandemic as “being particularly lacklustre.” However, for others, avoiding any more “forced fun online” was actually welcome! Moreover, those with experience in the office noted that “many teams have great camaraderie, good team spirit and are very social.” They also reflected the firm is “very accepting of individuality, and actually diverse in term of ethnicities, backgrounds and sexual orientation.”
Many of our interviewees were consoled by the fact that “quite a few people at Dentons have worked here for 20 or even 30 years. They are very welcoming and always very generous in offering you their help.” One source highlighted that “particularly in banking, they are very keen to invest in your development from your first month to your last. The partners very much support you in your journey to becoming a junior associate.”
"The partners very much support you in your journey to becoming a junior associate.”
In Milton Keynes, trainees can expect a standard day to run from 9am to 6pm. That’s patently not the case in London where one trainee was candid in their admission that “the hours can be very tough. Working from home, it feels like everyone has got busier, and with changing work patterns I seem to be getting work from everyone.” They added that a “good day would be working from 9am to 7pm, while a bad day would be working until 11pm, which I have done a fair few of.”
For those with particularly gruelling hours, the fact that the firm’s pay packet is below other City competitors was a point of slight frustration, and some observed that it was not unusual for “associates to move to other firms, as well as into in-house positions.” However, we also spoke to trainees who had less intense training contracts, highlighting opportunities “to clock off at 6pm when the pressure is off,” and having limited experiences of working weekends.
Moreover, Jarvis shines a light on some of the firm’s recent initiatives to help relieve the pressures placed on trainees: “Firstly, we have introduced a ‘no meeting on Fridays’ policy to try to give people some time away from Zoom meetings, which can be tiring. We have also made a push to shorten all our meetings where possible.” He adds that “I would also like to see a culture where emails aren’t being sent out at 10pm every night,” emphasising the imperative “to find a model where we continue to meet client demands but we don’t burn out as an industry.”
Qualification kicks off in late February to March and trainees can apply up to two departments in any of the firm’s locations, including the Middle East. Each application requires trainees to list their experience, “answer some competency-based questions,” and finish with an interview – an “intense process” by the standards of this year’s interviewees. This year the firm did not disclose its retention figures in 2021.
The firm has a number of pro bono partnerships including with the National Centre for Domestic Violence and Kids in Need of Defence.
How to get a Dentons training contract
Training contract deadline (2024): 30 June 2022
Applying to Dentons begins with an online form. As part of the initial screening process, the firm scores each applicant on three core factors: academics, past experiences and motivation.
Early Careers Recruitment Lead 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, on the other hand, is drawn out through questions “tailored towards candidates' achievements and their research on commercial law and Dentons.
Around 15% of the firm's 2000 applicants are invited to take a Watson-Glaser critical thinking test. The firm keeps the pass mark for this under wraps. Those who pass the Watson Glaser are invited to complete a first round telephone interview.
The interview itself “encourages conversation and gets you talking about yourself,” according to the firm's current trainees. “The questions are designed to get you to demonstrate your ability in certain areas – for example, planning, organising and coping under pressure.”
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 (which is assessed by senior associates), a case study and a final partner interview.
All in all, “we're looking for ambitious, driven and determined 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; one of these involves an afternoon treasure hunt. 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,
- Partners: 206
- Assistant solicitors: 439
- Total trainees: 81
- UK offices: 4
- Overseas offices: 200+
- Graduate recruiter: email@example.com
- Training partner: Nigel Webber, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: England 26, Scotland 12
- Minimum required degree grade: ABB at A-Level (or equivalent)
- Vacation scheme places pa: 40
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 30 June 2022
- Vacation scheme 2022 deadline: 3 January 2022
- Salary and benefits First-year salary: £45,000 (London), £31,000 (Milton Keynes), £25,000 (Scotland)
- Second-year salary: £50,000 (London), £34,000 (Milton Keynes), £28,000 (Scotland)
- Post qualification salary: £80,000 (London), £50,000 (Milton Keynes), £45,000 (Scotland)
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: Yes
- Maintenance grant pa: Yes
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Milton Keynes
- Client secondments and international secondments: yes
Working across 190+ locations, our work spans 77 countries, with our lawyers speaking over 80 languages. Our award wins in 2021 highlight our recognition in the market, and the quality of work trainees are involved in.
Main areas of work
Trainees are able to choose from a wealth of seats, to work with experts across our trainee practice areas: banking and finance, competition, corporate, dispute resolution, ETI (energy, transport and infrastructure), private client, PRM (people, reward and mobility), real estate, tax and TMT (technology, media and telecommunications).
Work is also about more than work here. It's about the environment too, and the feeling you get from your team, office and beyond. Our teams are also focused on inclusion and diversity, giving back, and on looking forward with innovation.
Type of trainee
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.
Trainees - You must have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) and a minimum of ABB at A-Level (or equivalent) to be considered.
Apprentices - We do need to see a strong record of academic and extra-curricular achievement. We’re looking for 7 GCSEs at grade 6 or above (including Maths and English) and ABB at A-Level.
We do look at every form received, and take extenuating circumstances into account for grades that do not meet our requirements. 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.
On top of our existing development program, our market leading training contract includes three new modules: legal project management, innovation and resilience. All designed to help you become the lawyer of the future.
Our training contracts consist of four six-month seats, where along with seats in our practice groups, trainees have the opportunity to work in one of our global offices, or directly with one of our clients over a six-month secondment. The modernised training contract marks the first stage in your journey from lawyer to leader. The lawyers of the future start here.
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.
By attending our Vacation Scheme, you'll automatically be assessed for our Training Contract. This could be the start of something much bigger.
• Spring (London only) – 28th March 2022
• Summer (London, Milton Keynes, Glasgow & Edinburgh) – 4th July 2022
Want to get a feel for what a legal career with us is really like? Our vacation schemes balance real work with training and networking, to give you a holistic view of Dentons and an insight into our way of life.
Locations: London, Milton Keynes and Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow)
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' apprenticeship scheme. 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 combines eight seats of work-based learning and part-time study with BPP University.
Locations: London and Milton Keynes
For more information please visit https://challengers.dentons.com/uk-apprentices/the-programme/how-it-works/
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing
Inclusion and Diversity at Dentons is sponsored by our CEO, Paul Jarvis, and shaped by our people and diversity networks: Inspire (Gender Equality), Black Professionals Network, GLOW (LGBT+), Fusion (Asian Professionals Network) and our Parents and Carers Network.
Experience Dentons is an innovative new virtual work experience program, designed to give you an insight into life as a commercial solicitor at the world’s largest law firm.
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.
By taking part in the program you’ll also unlock a space on our quarterly live insight events, where you’ll network with our teams and have the chance to find out more about our student opportunities and how to apply. This could be the start of something much bigger.
Now to Next Scholarship
The Now to Next Scholarship is a national student scholarship scheme for students of BME Black and Minority ethnic, or Mixed African or Caribbean background. 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. As well as the financial award, the students will also receive additional support with a guaranteed place on virtual insight events and mentoring.
Applications open 1st March 2022 – 3 May 2022.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Banking Litigation (Band 4)
- Capital Markets: Debt (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- Construction: Contentious (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Employment: Employer (Band 5)
- Environment (Band 1)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 6)
- Intellectual Property: Law Firms With Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys Spotlight Table
- Litigation (Band 5)
- Planning (Band 3)
- Real Estate Finance (Band 5)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 5)
- Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 5)
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Competition Law (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Intellectual Property (Band 2)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 1)
- Transport: Rail (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 1)
- Construction (Band 1)
- Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 3)
- Litigation (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
- Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 1)
- Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: AIM (Band 3)
- Commercial Contracts (Band 4)
- Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 2)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 3)
- Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 3)
- Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
- Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
- Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 4)
- International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
- Outsourcing (Band 3)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 4)
- Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 3)
- Public Procurement (Band 3)
- Retail (Band 2)
- Telecommunications (Band 3)
- Transport: Rail: Franchising (Band 1)
- Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 2)
- Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 2)