Dorsey & Whitney was born in the USA, but it bucks some of the trends in its London calling.
In many ways, Dorsey fits the US-firm-in-London bill. It has a small trainee intake (only two a year), a strong international and US presence (18 overseas offices, 13 of which are stateside), and competes in the capital for “interesting, complex, top-end work.” These factors were a big draw for the chosen few who were offered training contracts, with the caveat that Dorsey seemed “more forgiving” to our interviewees than other US firms in London. “It definitely feels more English in terms of its expectations, like how much you’re expected to bill and how available you should be,” said one trainee. “Things like 11pm finishes aren’t common,” said another. “The firm respects your life outside of work.”
“It doesn’t feel like a satellite office. The London office has a lot of homegrown work.”
In London, Dorsey has a handful lawyers who are Chambers UK-ranked in AIM capital markets, corporate/M&A and tax work. The firm also achieves Chambers USA rankings in eight different states, with particularly impressive expertise in its home state of Minnesota. Areas including corporate M&A, litigation, and real estate all achieve top-tier recognition – and these are all prominent parts of Dorsey’s offering in London too. In this vein, trainees added: “What also separates us from some other US firms here is that we’re really big on both corporate and litigation.” Despite the London office’s small headcount of around 30 lawyers (including trainees), insiders also asserted that “it doesn’t feel like a satellite office. The London office has a lot of homegrown work.” International work from the US does come through from time to time, though most sources reckoned “it’s not the majority of our work.”
Dorsey has five seat options, which makes seat allocation a simple affair. Trainees are required to complete two seats from corporate, capital markets or banking and then one seat in litigation and one seat in real estate/IP. Despite its respectable overseas presence, there aren’t currently any international opportunities on offer but there are potential client secondments available.
“I’ve done deals in the media space, in the tech space, and I’ve even done deals involving other law firms.”
The firm’s corporate team covers a variety of work, including M&A, capital markets, and some leveraged finance matters. Clients are equally varied, both in terms of size and sector: “I’ve done deals in the media space, in the tech space, and I’ve even done deals involving other law firms – like if they’re being sold to other firms or to private equity sponsors.” Others noted doing “work for both emerging companies as well as bigger clients.” The team recently advised telecommunications company Liberty Latin America on its $1.95 billion acquisition of AT&T’s wireless and wireline operations in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Elsewhere, the team worked with long-time client This Is The Big Deal (which owns the energy auto-switch company Look After My Bills) on its sale to Go Compare for £12.5 million. Interviewees were able to gain experience in “drafting ancillary documents, reviewing share purchase agreements and investment agreements, and making amendments to partnership agreements.” On the capital markets side, trainees worked on several secondary issues – at the time of research, they noted: “IPOs are a bit dead at the moment.” The team generally does a fair bit of work on the Alternative Investment Market, though sources also got the chance to do a couple of matters on the Main Market as well. Similar to M&A tasks, sources got stuck into working on ancillary documents, doing verification, and “helping with closing agreements.” Overall, trainees felt “the team is good at holding your hand in the beginning, then once you show a semblance of understanding they let you go for it. It’s a good balance.”
Over in litigation, interviewees explained “the team is quite small, but they make up a substantial portion of firm revenue compared to how big they are.” Matters themselves are usually quite commercial in nature: the team recently acted for internet company Otello Corporation in a shareholder dispute with US-based Moore Frères & Company worth $70 million. In a high-profile matter, the team also defended technology solutions company Watchstone Group in a warranty and fraudulent misrepresentation claim arising from the sale of the professional services division of Quindell (as Watchstone was formerly known) to law firm Slater and Gordon. Day to day, the seat involved “doing research for associates and partners,” as well as “putting together bundles.” Sources especially appreciated the firm’s US presence in this seat, noting that “we have resources in the States that we can leverage for things like doc review.” They clarified: “We still do some doc review, but more often we do privilege review and letter drafting, which is more substantial.” Depending on timing, some were also able to get hefty amounts of experience in court, while others weren’t quite so lucky.
Trainees usually do the IP andreal estate seat last. During this time, trainees are essentially working for both departments simultaneously, though the split will depend on how busy each department is. For one source, “there was a lot more work in IP than in real estate, so I probably did 80% IP and 20% real estate.” The IP side is “very trade mark-heavy.” For example, the team recently worked on trade mark oppositions at the UK and EU Intellectual Property Offices for Canadian digital media company Score Media and Gaming. On the opposite side, the team defended brokerage services firm CAMcap Markets in trade mark opposition proceedings brought by financial services company Capital Group.For trainees, this typically meant “tasks like IP searches” as well as “writing trade mark oppositions.” Sources held particular praise for the IP partner: “He will give anyone who is willing the opportunity to increase their responsibility.” On the real estate side, trainees had mostly dealt with Land Registry matters.
With around 14 partners, seven associates and four trainees, Dorsey certainly sits on the teenier end of the scale in terms of office headcount. “On one hand you get the advantage of getting more responsibility and you also form bonds with people more quickly,” sources reflected. But with fewer colleagues, the downside is “there’s not always someone available to go to the pub on a Friday!” That’s not to say there’s no social side at Dorsey: sources flagged Christmas and summer parties as particular highlights, as well as occasional informal pub trips. “Alcohol isn’t the focus though,” they clarified. “We’ve also done things like bowling. The firm is progressive in the sense that they respect the fact people don’t always want to drink.” In terms of diversity and inclusion, interviewees felt “the firm is good at promoting diversity, but it would be good to see more in the London office.”
“You could be leaving at 6pm or 11pm – it just depends on how busy we are.”
Interviewees also told us about their working hours. “The hours aren’t quite as rigorous as other US firms in London,” they reckoned. Most often, trainees found they’d start some time between 9am and 9.30am, and finish between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. Of course, “if you’ve got to work late, you work late, but if you don’t have to there’s no pressure to stay in the office until a certain time.” Seats like corporate had slightly less predictable hours, which meant “you could be leaving at 6pm or 11pm – it just depends on how busy we are.” Over the course of the training contract, trainees reckoned “it averages out to be quite favourable.” First-year trainees have a salary of £43,000, which is more in line with big UK firms than the mega bucks at US firms in London. This jumps to £79,000 on qualification.
Rather than a super formal process, qualification at Dorsey is more of a “discussion about whether you want to stay on and whether they want to keep you on.” The firm has to make a business case to keep trainees on post-qualification which is subject to approval from the US, though sources added they’ve “not heard of anyone not getting approved.” Due to the size of the litigation team, trainees reckoned “there’s potentially less scope to qualify there, but it’s not impossible.” In 2020, the firm retained one of two qualifiers.
Dorsey & BRITney? “You’re not hearing American voices all the time,” trainees reiterated. “You deal with American colleagues now and then and tech support is American, but the deals we do are mostly European.”
How to get into Dorsey & Whitney
Training contract deadline: 31 July 2021
Dorsey receives over 300 applications for its two training contract spots each year. The first phase is simple: applicants need only submit a covering letter and CV. “You have to be quite succinct nailing down your experience and how it’s relevant to the firm” according to trainees. “What we’re looking for is a 2:1 from a reputable university,” training partner Mike Cashman tells us.
Applicants tend to “have an interest both in working for an international firm and being part of a small intake, where they can take on more responsibility and gain more experience in the early stages.” Historically, the firm’s recruited a fair few trainees with paralegal experience. Of the most recent cohort, one of the two has paralegeled at another firm before joining Dorsey and Cashman confirms “paralegal experience is helpful, but not critical.”
A group of partners combs through every application and invites between 15 and 20 candidates to a first round interview. “That simply involves coming in to have a chat with a few partners so we can get to know you as a person,” Mike Cashman says. “We’re looking for somebody who has a clear interest in the firm and has done some research about what we do.”
8 or 10 strong performers will progress to round two of interviews. This involves writing a reply to a legal problem; a five-minute presentation on a topic of the applicant’s choice; and a final interview with two Dorsey partners. Cashman explains “people come across well if they’re confident in their presentation and methodical in their analysis of the written problem.”
As for what not to do, Cashman reveals “interviewees most often come across badly in their presentation, especially if they’re ill-prepared.” Fit is also very important at this stage, and applicants get to chat with a couple of the firm’s current trainees to see if they gel. Dorsey makes offers to the two candidates who perform best overall.
Dorsey & Whitney
- Partners: 14
- Associates: 7
- Total trainees: 2 x 1st year 2 x 2nd year
- UK offices: London
- Overseas offices: 19
- Graduate recruiter: Michael Cashman, [email protected], 020 7031 3700
- Training partner: Michael Cashman, [email protected], 020 7031 3700
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Applications pa: 250-300
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or other
- Minimum UCAS points or A levels: N/A
- Vacation scheme places pa: None
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: No fixed date
- Training contract deadline, 2022: 31st July 2021
- Vacation scheme applications open: N/A
- Open day deadline: N/A
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £43,000
- Second-year salary: £49,000
- Post-qualification salary: Currently £79,000 (under review)
- Holiday entitlement: 25
- LPC fees: Yes
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: £7,000
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: None
- Overseas seats: N/A
- Client secondments: N/A
Dorsey provides an integrated, proactive approach to its clients’ legal and business needs around the globe, with locations across the United States and in Canada, Europe and Asia. Industry leaders and successful companies turn to Dorsey for the edge they need to succeed in a highly competitive world. We serve clients in nearly all industries, but focus on six key industries — banking and financial institutions; development and infrastructure; energy and natural resources; food, beverage and agribusiness; healthcare; and technology — in which we have great depth and a history of achieving client success.
Main areas of work
Dorsey is a full-service law firm with an integrated network of practices that routinely work with one another. We have more than 60 practice areas including: benefits and compensation, corporate, finance and restructuring, health transactions and regulations, labour and employment, patent, public finance, real estate, regulatory affairs, tax, trusts and estates, trademark, and trial.
The training contract comprises of four six month seats. Two seats are in Corporate/Capital Markets/ Banking with one Litigation seat and one seat in Real Estate/IP.
We do not offer vacation scheme/work placements.
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Telephone: +44 (0)20 7031 3700
Email: [email protected]
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