DLA Piper LLP - True Picture

At this global firm, trainees up and down the country can get a taste of international work.

The Piper belt



We're quite weird for an international firm because we've got so many offices in the UK,” one trainee shared. Rather than relying on a City monolith, DLA holds no less than seven strongholds across the UK, with trainees stationed in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Sheffield at the time of our calls. A 'One UK Approach' also works its magic to share tasks between offices, meaning high-quality matters regardless of location. Chambers UK recognises this, calling the firm a national leader outside of London in banking and finance, corporate, employment, IT, litigation, pensions, and restructuring – the firm is also top ranked nationwide for its media, mining and retail work. The wider context, of course, is a huge network of 90 offices worldwide and the fourth highest revenue of any firm in 2017. One regional insider explained their decision to sign up: “I really enjoyed living in Yorkshire, and having access to London-quality work was quite appealing to me.

Another added: “We have offices in so many places, it means you can literally open up your phone and reach out to anyone you like in the world. It makes you have a broader mindset, which keeps things interesting.” There’s another location to ring now too. Rather than sitting on its hands over Brexit, DLA has decided to open a new office in Dublin to take advantage of the financial clients relocating post-divorce – “we've now got the global co-chairman in London too, so that'll up the ante here” reckoned one trainee. London lawyers are also switching offices, moving close to the Barbican in Autumn 2018.

“Living life in the fast lane.”

Before officially starting, newbies submit three department choices for their first seat. From then on, trainees have informal catch-ups with graduate recruitment midway through each seat: “It's more of a fluid discussion,” one junior explained. "You make an oral indication of where you'd like to go next. It helps you to strongly put forward your case.” In Liverpool, trainees are “more likely to do a seat in real estate at some point. If you look at the nature of the work here, it’s almost impossible to avoid.” In London there are more specialist seats available. One trainee even pointed out that “the London office offers a pro bono seat, which is pretty rare.

For secondments, trainees are encouraged to apply with a CV. “There's an unspoken rule that you're unlikely to get an international secondment unless you've already done a seat in the area you're opting for,” reckoned sources. Destinations include Dubai, Hong Kong, New York and Sydney. One newbie who'd spent time in Dubai described their experience abroad as “living life in the fast lane. It's incredibly interesting working in a different culture – everything is different with clients and regulators due to the political landscape.” For those looking to experience an out-of-office thrill closer to home, there are client secondments to the likes of the Premier League, ITV and big-name banks.

The Maltese amalgam



The corporate team advises on M&A, private equity and capital markets work for clients across sectors like healthcare, banking, retail, energy and tech. Virgin Media, Lloyds Development Capital, H&M and the London Stock Exchange Group are clients on the M&A side, while the firm has worked with HSBC on the capital markets side, plus mid-market private equity houses such as Beech Tree and ABRY Partners. The London M&A team recently advised Vodafone on the merger of Vodafone Malta with the Maltese TV and broadband provider Melita – a matter valued at €508 million. And to prove that international matters really do make their way beyond the capital, the Birmingham team recently represented Luxembourg-based investor Iberia Industry Capital on its acquisition of Rowes Cornish Bakers, one of the UK's oldest Cornish pasty businesses. Because Birmingham trainees could also experience selling a “business down the road for an entrepreneur who has built up a £100 million empire,” they saw the corporate seat as “a real mix of complex international deals and some that really are local.” Sources who'd been heavily involved on the M&A side of things described “covering a bit of everything,” although “it’s primarily drafting ancillary documents, shareholder resolutions and managing completion checklists. While there's not masses of responsibility, it means you get quite a lot of autonomy over the bits you're working on.

The litigation and regulatory team advises all sorts of blue-chip companies and big banks (such as Standard Chartered, Unilever, the BBC and British Airways) in a range of areas that include financial services regulation, international arbitration and corporate crime investigations. The London team recently represented Cyprus Popular Bank in seeking to recover €3.5 billion in losses from the 2011 banking crisis. In Yorkshire, the team successfully advised 4,000 individual members of IBM's final salary pension plan who stood to have their benefits dramatically cut when IBM closed the scheme. “As a trainee, you get to see it all,” one insider declared, which includes “attending all the meetings with senior clients. You get to do a lot of letter drafting and first drafts of witness statements for the partners.” A Sheffield-based newbie agreed with this: “Because there are some smaller matters, it means you can get more involved with drafting skeleton arguments and providing instructions to counsel, so it's all quite hands-on.” In Birmingham, one trainee reported “drafting a response to a breach of contract claim for a massive client in a tech dispute.”

The firm's real estate department covers core commercial real estate (landlord and tenant work, development, sales and purchases, and investment), disputes, planning, construction and finance. The team's clients include AXA Investment Fund, WeWork, Liverpool Football Club and Asda. In London, lawyers advised Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Merrill Lynch on the £425 million financing of Tottenham Hotspur's new 61,500 seat stadium. In the firm's Yorkshire offices, lawyers advised British Airways on the sale of its HQ building in Waterside and its plan to develop a brand-new base. In the North West, lawyers helped the HS2 project buy up property for its Euston Hub. One insider shared that “you kind of get left to run your own files. I'd be given the initial instructions about fitting some new fixtures within a shop, I’d then draft the documents and get them signed off by the partner.” As well as drafting licences and leases, a Leeds-based source added that “I had around 15 files on the go with relatively little supervision. I was given the client's 'playbook' with their best and worse case scenarios regarding different lease terms – and it was up to me to negotiate with the other side.” On the real estate finance side, a London-based insider had “liaised with our international offices, the typical ones being Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and sometimes the US,” as well as “attending completion meetings to facilitate the signature process.

“Right, I need to relocate people in 17 countries – where am I going to have problems?”

DLA's employment team offers the full works: advisory, contentious and transactional work. ITV, Trinity Mirror Group, Paddy Power and Puma are just a few clients from a list that stretches from manufacturing to retail and beyond. The London team defended Uber against its drivers disputing their worker status, and outside of London, the Manchester and Sheffield teams come in for particular praise from Chambers UK. The Birmingham team meanwhile gave immigration and employment advice to Aston University on its plans to open a Hong Kong branch for international secondments; it also helped shoe shop Clarks with its restructuring and the plan to cut 80 head office employees that came with it. Trainees reported “assessing highly sensitive allegations at big companies,” which included “sifting through all the witness statements and drafting merits advice.” Another source recalled “attending the employment tribunal as the sole representative of DLA, and taking notes for the client.” Work on corporate support “is pretty varied. Most of our clients tend to have operations across the world – they’ll often say: ‘Right, I need to relocate people in 17 countries – where am I going to have problems?’ It's my job to speak to colleagues in different jurisdictions and compile that report.

The intellectual property and technology group, commonly referred to as ‘IPT’ is divided into two different subgroups: “On the IP side, you have IT, media, sports and entertainment copyright and trade mark stuff; on the tech side you have tech and outsourcing” where work is heavily commercial. Trainees are allocated to either one of these subgroups. The teams' clients include Visa, VICE Media, BMW and Marriott Hotels, and on the tech side the team recently advised Gett, the taxi provider, on its vehicle supply arrangements with Porsche and Europcar. The IP arm recently assisted Adobe in tracking down copyright-infringers in the high street and online. One junior here boasted having “great exposure to cool and upcoming new areas like artificial intelligence, robotics, fintech, blockchain and GDPR work. My work has involved a fair bit of drafting of parts of master service agreements and company policies.

The piping on the cake



I can't remember a time when anyone talked to me like dirt or treated me like a child,” one source defiantly declared, “and while the work can be quite intense, it's supportive here.” Looking to the Birmingham office, trainees used Sandra Wallace, DLA's UK managing partner, as an example: “Her door is usually open and you can just walk in there and have a chat.” But a nice chat is no match for cold hard cash in this business – our London sources reported they were happy with their as-near-as-dammit “magic circle salaries,” but some trainees in the regions weren't pleased that “London's NQs will be paid £30,000 more than us even though we're doing high-value work and putting in the same hours.” We also heard that “graduate recruitment have moved from the regional offices and are now all centrally based in London.” This prompted one regional insider to comment that “London isn't at the centre of everything we do – but to the outside world that doesn't always come across, and not having graduate recruitment here any more doesn't help.” Nevertheless, we heard that members of graduate recruitment regularly travel across the network for various reasons, including seat reviews, firm events and summer programmes.

The tradition of being at your desk until the last partner leaves is not something that is prevalent at DLA,” a London-based trainee insisted. But that silver lining could be a little thin for some. “The litigation seat is full-on,” said sources who'd worked from 8.30am until 7.30pm on average, with the threat of “a few late nights that last till 3am.” In corporate and IPT, our insiders reported leaving regularly at 8.00pm, with “a scattering of midnights” in the midst of a deadline. Real estate and employment provided more consistent ten-hour days. 

“We have quarterly cinema trips or mini-golf tournaments.”

On a lighter note, a Liverpool source was keen to add that “we have quarterly cinema trips or mini-golf tournaments.” Each office hosts a summer and Christmas party, plus a trainee event each year. Examples include a Burns Night celebration in Edinburgh and a Grand National get-together in Liverpool. The London office has also “started doing 'London Links', where each practice group takes charge of an event for the rest of the office. We recently went bowling.” The only UK-wide trainee event we heard of is hosted in London during induction week, “where we get to meet the trainees from Hong Kong and Australia too.

Trainees are able to apply to any of DLA's offices come qualification. “The jobs list doesn't actually state how many positions are available and which location it is,” shared one insider. “That's flexible apparently.” Applications require a CV, and teams may choose to interview trainees. After offers have been made, “any jobs that haven't been accepted go back into a pool and get reallocated – HR try to be accommodating.” At the time this feature was published in early October 2018, the firm had not confirmed its retention rate to us yet; we'll publish it here when we know it.

“There's so much pro bono stuff going on at the firm.” High-profile opportunities come via Unicef, the Prince's Trust, and the UN. “They get snapped up instantly though,” so speed is of the essence.

How to get a DLA Piper training contract



APPLY HERE

Vacation scheme deadline (2019): 31 December 2018 (opens September 2018)

Apply for 2021 training contracts via the firm's 2019 vac scheme

The application form

DLA Piper receives over 3,000 applications in total for 70 training contract places a year. Future trainees need a minimum ABB at A level and a 2:1 degree. They also need to achieve a commendation on the GDL (if applicable) and the LPC. UK graduate recruitment and development manager Katie Sands tells us: “Although we are looking for intellectual calibre, ambition, drive, and resilience, we're also looking for those who can think innovatively and have an interest in responsible business – not just making money.”

Both vacation scheme applicants and those going straight for the training contract complete the same application process. “We've streamlined the process this year, making it much simpler to complete,” Sands reveals. In terms of work experience, law-related stints are not essential, but the firm's recruiters will be looking to gain “an understanding as to why a candidate is interested in law, and how they can demonstrate that through the experiences they've had to date.” Sands explains that a prior involvement in pro bono activities will go down well: “We are industry leading in our pro bono work, so showing an early commitment is viewed very favourably.”

Those who impress at this stage are invited to take a verbal reasoning test. If candidates make the cut, they are then required to answer a set of motivational questions that assess their interest in commercial law as a whole, but also their specific interest in DLA Piper. This is followed by the completion of an occupational personality questionnaire, which, Sands explains, “allows us to understand a candidate's personal behavioural preferences.” Candidates that show they have what it takes are invited to the final stage – the assessment centre. Vac schemers complete the assessment day before their schemes.

The assessment day

The day involves being formally welcomed to the firm by a senior partner or a member of the firm's executive committee. “Candidates get to meet fee-earners from all over the UK, which gives them an insight into our 'One-UK' approach,” says Sands. There are three exercises to complete, and candidates are briefed on what they involve the day before they attend the assessment centre.

Thankfully, attendees don't have to wait long to find out the outcome of their assessment: they are contacted the day after with feedback and the result. Those who are given good news are subsequently assigned a buddy – a current trainee at the firm – who provides the candidate with support and guidance before they start their traineeship at DLA.

Vacation scheme

DLA Piper now recruits over 90% of its trainees from its vacation scheme. The three-week scheme – regardless of which office participants are in – starts with vac schemers all journeying to London for a four-day induction. On the first day, participants hear from the firm's CEO and other senior leaders at the firm. This is followed by two days of professional skills training, which covers everything from communication skills to networking to general employability. The last day of the induction focuses on learning the ins and outs of operating a responsible business. Upon returning to their respective offices, participants complete an office-specific induction before dividing the rest of their time between two departments.

At the end of the week, a supervisor (usually a senior associate or partner) sits down with their assigned vac schemer to deliver feedback. Participants complete work that our trainee sources felt was “pitched at the right level.” As one told us: “We were genuinely assisting on real work. By the end of my scheme I could really see myself fitting in at the firm.”

Participants are assessed throughout the scheme on various projects (as well as through participation in compulsory 'practice group insight' and 'thought leadership' sessions).

DLA Piper LLP

3 Noble Street,
London,
EC2V 7EE
Website www.dlapiper.com

  • Partners 1,300
  • Associates 4,000
  • Total trainees 150
  • UK offices Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield
  • Contacts 
  • Graduate recruiter: [email protected]
  • Training partner: Duncan Mosley
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 70
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Minimum A levels: ABB
  • Vacation scheme places pa: 100
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Vacation scheme applications open: 3 September 2018
  •  Vacation scheme 2019 deadline: 31 December 2018
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £28,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £45,000 (London)
  • Second-year salary: £31,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £50,000 (London)
  • Post-qualification salary: £44,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £77,000 (London)
  • Holiday entitlement: 28 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: Yes
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: Birmingham Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield
  • Overseas seats: Multiple (circa 15 per seat move)
  • Client secondments: Multiple (circa 10 per seat move)

Firm profile



DLA Piper is one of the world’s leading business law firms. As a trusted advisor to our clients, we deliver quality, consistency and value, helping them achieve their goals.

With over 90 offices in more than 40 countries, we provide seamless local and cross-border advice, whenever and wherever our clients need us.

Our ten sector groups cover the full range of business law services, and provide insight on industry trends, opportunities and challenges. 

Main areas of work



Unlike many law firms, DLA Piper is organised to provide clients with a range of essential business advice, not just on large scale mergers and acquisitions and banking deals but also on people and employment, commercial dealings, litigation, insurance, real estate, IT, intellectual property, plans for restructuring and tax. We have a comprehensive, award winning client relationship management programme and our brand is built upon local legal excellence and global capability.

DLA Piper has the following practice groups: corporate, employment, finance, projects and restructuring, intellectual property and technology, litigation and regulatory, real estate, tax.

Training opportunities



Our graduates complete four six month rotations, and the majority will undertake an international or client secondment. Our industry leading training is designed to equip our graduates to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours to become the future leaders of our firm. 

Vacation scheme



At DLA Piper we offer 100 summer internships across our seven UK offices. The summer internship is three weeks in duration, commencing with a week-long induction programme in our London office. The induction programme gives students the opportunity to hear from senior leaders, to participate in professional skills training, to attend networking events and to participate in responsible business activities.

Students spend the second and third weeks of the summer internship undertaking work experience placements in two of our practice groups. The summer internship also has daily practice group insight sessions and thought leadership seminars.

Other benefits



Life insurance, private healthcare, cycle to work schemes, gym, restaurant, employee assistance programme.

Open days and first-year opportunities



At DLA Piper we offer a three-day insight programme specifically for those in their first year of a law degree or second year of a non-law degree and who are interested in a career in law. We also host open days in all of our UK offices for students from any degree discipline

University law careers fairs 2018



Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kings College Lancaster, London, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, University College London, Warwick, York.

Social media



Twitter @DLA_Piper_Grads

Facebook dlapiperukgraduates

Instagram @dlapiper

Linkedin dla-piper-uk-graduates

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Lenders (Band 4)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Finance & Derivatives Recognised Practitioner
    • Competition Law (Band 5)
    • Construction: Purchaser (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 4)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 4)
    • Pensions (Band 5)
    • Planning (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 4)
    • Professional Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 1)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 4)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 1)
    • Aviation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 3)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 4)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 4)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 4)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory Recognised Practitioner
    • Franchising (Band 3)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • Health & Safety (Band 4)
    • Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims (Band 5)
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Reinsurance (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Film & Television (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Gaming, Social Media & Interactive Content (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Public Affairs (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Product Liability: Food (Band 3)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Sport (Band 2)
    • Telecommunications (Band 2)
    • Transport: Rail: Franchising (Band 2)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Rolling Stock (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)