DLA Piper LLP - True Picture

Oh DLA, the pipes, the pipes are calling trainees drawn to an “entrepreneurial success story.”

DLA Piper training contract review 2022

The Firm

Firms often boast about their international credentials – one outpost here, a small European group there. But at DLA Piper – a firm with over 90 offices in 40 plus countries – multinationalism is in the DLA DNA. Its origins, however, are quite humble, with one of its legacy firms forged and founded in Yorkshire back in Georgian times. Many iterations and a mega merger in 2005 transformed the firm into what it is today: the largest law firm in the UK by revenue (£2.1 billion in 2020) and the third largest in the world. “The firm was nowhere near where they are today compared with even 30 years ago,” said one starry-eyed source. “I was drawn to that entrepreneurial success story.”

“...one of the most prestigious and truly global firms.”

DLA scoops up rankings in over 40 regions across the world from Chambers Global and is considered among the world elite for its capabilities in the technology sector. Domestically, Chambers UK rates DLA as a national leader outside London in banking and finance, corporate/M&A, employment, IT, litigation, restructuring, and tax. In London specifically it gets top accolades for mid-market corporate/M&A and IT. There’s more to be found in the regions, but you’ll have to head over to the Chambers.com for a full breakdown. We’ve got a word limit over here!

DLA has seven offices in the UK in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, and Edinburgh. The firm recruits trainees into all these locations; around half of the 60-plus intake go to London, with the rest allocated evenly across the remaining bases. Sources across the country gave glowing reviews of their chosen international juggernaut, with trainees in Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh describing it variously as “one of the most prestigious and truly global firms” in their cities.

The Seats

Mid-way through each seat, trainees rank three preferences for their next rotation, “and the firm will try to accommodate them with the seat you get.” There aren’t any compulsory seats, but some placements are more likely depending on the office. For example, trainees in Edinburgh are also likely to be “put into real estate, as it’s the biggest department here.” Client secondments are common, while international secondments are more competitive to secure – “in my cohort, only four went.” At the moment, DLA is offering an overseas secondment in its Dublin office.

DLA’s litigation and regulatory department encompasses arbitrations, corporate crime investigations, and commercial litigation. Those working on international arbitrations enjoy the benefit of the firm’s sprawling network, acting for clients such as gas company Gazprom on commercial arbitrations as well as governments including the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Guinea, Lithuania, and Thailand on investor-state matters. In the latter area, the firm also represents companies and recently acted for cigarette company Philip Morris in an ICSID claim against Ukraine regarding a €44 million fine issued by the Ukrainian competition authority. Those in financial crime work on regulatory investigations and defence matters – in a recent high-profile case the firm successfully defended Thomas Kalaris, former chief executive of Barclays, against allegations of fraudulent capital raisings at the bank during the 2008 financial crash. Commercial litigation teams cover civil fraud, class actions, banking litigation, energy and construction disputes, and product liability cases. In one recent case, the firm acted for the owner of the Marriott Hotel in Regent’s Park against a hunger striker who was occupying one of the hotel rooms in protest against the client.

We spoke with sources who had worked across all permutations of the firm’s litigious departments. “There's a massive variety of work,” according to one trainee. Sources had worked on anti-money laundering matters, as well as disputes spanning the construction, aviation, technology, and telecommunications sectors. “I enjoyed that wide berth and not being pigeonholed,” said one trainee. Understandably, greater autonomy arose on smaller-value matters, with trainees drafting letters to claimants and disclosure documents, or corresponding with courts. Work on higher-value, multi-jurisdictional matters is unsurprisingly “a lot more supervised, and perhaps more administrative with research, attendance notes, and setting out hearing bundles.”

The firm’s corporate department covers M&A, private equity, and capital markets matters. Corporate/M&A clients include Blackstone Real Estate Partners, Unilever, Brewdog, Merlin Entertainments, Rolls-Royce and Roark Capital, which the firm advised on its $1.5 billion acquisition of ServiceMaster Brands. On the capital markets side, the firm handles debt and equity work on domestic and international transactions. Clients here include Morgan Stanley, Keller Group, and PureTech Health – the firm recently advised Mothercare on its transfer from the London Stock Exchange Main Market to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Trainees had taken on “post-completion work for multinational corporate M&A deals,” which for one entailed “looking at company structuring for tax efficiencies.” Another noted that a “heavy aspect of the trainee experience” concerns managing documents and questions arising from disclosure processes. “You might do the first draft of a base document,” one trainee added. “The associates are good at encouraging you to put those together.”

“We had quite a lot of pandemic-related work acting for commercial landlords.”

Work in real estate is split between planning, construction (both contentious and non-contentious), infrastructure development, conveyancing, and financing. Our sources encountered clients in the engineering and oil and gas sectors, and also got involved in construction arbitration, InfraTech, and PPP/PFI work. Clients include Transport for Greater Manchester, AXA, HSBC, Carillion Construction, and National Grid, as well as Heineken, KFC and Liverpool FC. The team recently advised investment trust company Prologis on the £473 million sale of a portfolio of buildings and land to Blackstone, while on the construction side, the team is advising Quintain on its £3.5 billion regeneration project at Wembley Park. Contentious work can crop up here: one trainee enjoyed “helping on an appeal going to the High Court,” which involved negotiating statements of case, drafting deeds, signing witness statements, and instructing experts. “We had quite a lot of pandemic-related work acting for commercial landlords granting rent deferrals to tenants,” one source said. “I was helping change rent structures.” Other sources had worked on Land Registry titles and drafted lease reviews. “The draft I did was actually used!” added another source. “It was great to be adding value rather than it just being a learning process.”

Trainees had also worked in the firm’s energy and infrastructure projects group. The department works across the oil and gas, power, renewables, alternative energy and water spaces. Matters include a variety of renewable energy acquisitions, as well as sales, financings and emerging technology development. Clients include City of London, EY, and National Grid. Trainees work on domestic and international projects – in an example of the latter, the firm recently advised Prime Capital and Enlight Energy on their investment in a wind park project in Sweden. “A rail project allowed me to do some drafting early on,” one trainee said. Other projects included schools and public sector building projects, and there was also some bus and rail franchising work. “I was liaising with clients on contracts and negotiations,” another trainee told us, adding they had helped draft franchise agreements and attended completion meetings. “It was a good mix of transactional work and commercial contract drafting experience.”

Trainees might sit in the intellectual property & technology (IPT) group, which also covers outsourcing matters. The department encompasses commercial contracts teams and data protection expertise. The team here advises Heineken on its global trade mark portfolio and IP matters. We also spoke with trainees in the firm’s finance group, which handles both debt and leveraged finance, as well as real estate finance support. “About 70% of my work was on the lender side in debt finance, with 30% being for debt buyers,” one estimated. Another found that “the trainee tasks in finance are very set. It was nice to have structured and specific tasks from the outset.” Sources had registered changes at Companies House, drafted share purchase agreements, and wound up searches after deal completion.

“All trainees I know are involved in pro bono in some way.”

Pro bono workalso plays a significant role for DLA trainees, so much so that the London office offers a dedicated pro bono seat. “All trainees I know are involved in pro bono in some way,” one source informed us. Interviewees had worked on human rights cases with non-profit organisation Reprieve; conducted research for various NGOs and the UN; assisted on matters with The Prince’s Trust; and got involved in more localised matters, like “helping to get child refugee citizenships” with an immigration clinic in Manchester. 

Trainee Life

For a firm so sprawled across the globe, you have to wonder if there’s a degree of disconnection between colleagues across all the different offices. But one interviewee told us that’s not the case: “The trainee network is very close.” An induction period in London brings all the newbies together to begin with: “You’re sat with people from other offices deliberately, to meet as many people as you can.” Overall, interviewees described “a very supportive culture, where people collaborate and are very open.” Another added: “Even if you’re not born a team player, you learn to be one here.” Personalities dovary of course, with one trainee finding that “some seniors are really nice, whereas some others aren’t as open.” Collectively though, this bunch felt supported across the firm: “I think I was quite surprised by how normal everyone was. Everyone’s been so kind.”

“You’re sat with people from other offices deliberately, to meet as many people as you can.

Our interviewees praised firm-wide and office specific social events. Those in Birmingham do a charity treasure hunt with clients across the city, Edinburgh hosts a “really fun” annual Burns Night event, and the Leeds lot head off to Cheltenham Races together. “There are good opportunities for team-wide socialising,” one summarised. Even in the Zoom age, quizzes, wine tastings, and a Trivial Pursuit night kept trainees feeling connected.

With regards to diversity,“DLA is pushing in the right direction but there’s still a way to go to balance the firm.” Another source added: “In my 18 months here, there’s been a huge difference in the visibility of initiatives.” DLA’s various affinity groups host workshops and events, such as the LGBTQ+ group IRIS, which recently ran a workshop on transgender rights. One source also championed the firm’s approach to wellbeing:“Our CEO is very good with mental health discussions, releasing a bi-weekly blog and letting us know to switch off if we need to.”

But if you’re working at a giant global firm with people across time zones, how likely is switching off? “The hours are generally positive,” one felt. “Even in corporate I wasn’t regularly working into the night.” While some all-nighters were reported in corporate and finance, more predictable seats like real estate meant earlier finishes. “Subject to client demands, there are some departments where you can be done by 6.30pm.” Another offered a more critical view: “It’s a corporate law firm. If I’m told something needs to be done by morning, it doesn’t matter if it takes all night.” Finishing times depended on the seat, but averages across our interviews ranged between 7 and 10pm.

Trainees described compensation as “fair and in line with the market” – that’s a first-year salary of £30,000 (£46,000 in London).Amid job losses and salary cuts at other firms during the pandemic, sources felt “confident in the leadership” at DLA Piper. “People weren’t worried about those sorts of things here.”

When qualification time rolls around, trainees can apply for up to three NQ positions; a ‘clearing round’ happens for those who don’t get their first choice. Among our interviewees, those outside London felt most confident about their chances of nabbing a job offer. The firm did not disclose its 2021 retention figures.

Doublin’ down in Dublin town

After opening in 2019, the firm’s Irish base is growing with a trainee class, partner hires, and a move to a larger office.

How to get a DLA Piper training contract


2022 Summer internship deadline: 17:00 Friday 31st December 2021

Apply for 2024 training contracts via the internship

The application form

DLA Piper receives over 4,000 applications in total for 60-70 training contract places a year. Last year, DLA Piper removed their minimum grade boundaries at A-Level and degree but will need to achieve a commendation on the GDL (if applicable) and the LPC. The majority of Training Contracts are offered to candidates who successfully complete DLA Piper’s Summer Internship.

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. Early Years Development Manager, Katie Garman 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.”

Candidates are required to submit an online application (including a CV) and answer a commercial awareness question.  Candidates are then invited to take the Watson Glaser test. Candidates that show they have what it takes are invited to the final stage – an assessment centre.

The assessment centre

The half day assessment centre 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 Garman. There are three exercises to complete, and candidates are fully briefed ahead of 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 training contract at DLA Piper.

Summer Internship

DLA Piper recruits the majority of its trainees from the summer internship. The three-week scheme – regardless of which office participants are in – starts with interns 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 professional skills training, Responsible Business and Sector workshops along with lots of networking opportunities. 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 intern 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).


160 Aldersgate Street,
Website www.dlapiper.com

  • Partners 1,400
  • Associates: 3,300
  • Total trainees: 180
  • UK offices: Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and the North West
  • International offices: Brisbane, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruitment: graduaterecruitment@dlapiper.com 
  • Training principal: Matthew Swynnerton
  • UK Training contracts pa: Up to 70
  • Summer internship places pa: Up to 100
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • UK Summer internship applications 2022 open: Monday 6 September 2021
  • UK Summer internship 2022 deadline: 17:00 on Friday 31 December 2021
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £30,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £46,000 (London)
  • Second-year salary: £33,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £51,000 (London)
  • Post-qualification salary: £48,000 (English Regions and Scotland), £88,000 (London)
  • Holiday entitlement: 28 days
  • Sponsorship 
  •  LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant pa: Yes
  • International and regional 
  • Offices with training contracts: UK: Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, London, North West / International: Brisbane, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth 
  • 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. With over 90 offices in more than 40 countries, the firm provides seamless local and cross-border advice. The firm believes great businesses can make a better world. That's why, every day, DLA Piper helps its clients succeed.

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 and projects, 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.

Summer internship
Our Summer Internship is designed to give students a real insight into DLA Piper. The programme runs across our eight offices in the UK, Ireland and the UAE, and 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 our 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 across two of our practice groups in their chosen office location.

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 offices for students from any degree discipline.

Social media

Facebook www.facebook.com/DLAPiperGraduates

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 4)
    • Competition Law (Band 5)
    • Construction: Contentious (Band 2)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Pensions (Band 5)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 4)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 5)
    • Tax (Band 5)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • 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 2)
    • Planning (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (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)
    • Litigation (Band 2)
    • Pensions (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 1)
    • Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 4)
    • Aviation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: AIM (Band 4)
    • Commercial Contracts (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 3)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 4)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
    • Health & Safety (Band 4)
    • Hotels & Leisure (Band 2)
    • Infrastructure: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Advertising & Marketing (Band 4)
    • Media & Entertainment: Publishing (Band 2)
    • Outsourcing (Band 1)
    • Parliamentary & Public Affairs: Public Affairs (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Employment (Band 2)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A: Mid-Market and Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Information Technology (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Planning (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 3)
    • Employment (Band 3)