When it comes to law, DWF means business in more ways than one – and trainees say “the people are the biggest asset.”
DWF training contract 2024
“It was different,” one trainee told us, hearkening back to what drew them to DWF in the first place. “Not a traditional law firm, but a ‘legal business’. Coming from a non-law background, I thought this would suit me.” In 2019, DWF became the first listed legal business on the London Stock Exchange, an alternative to the traditional law firm model, that targets clients’ legal, business and tech needs through integrated services: legal services, legal operations, and business services.
“Not a traditional law firm, but a ‘legal business’.”
But if you’re reading this, it’s the legal services part that concerns you. DWF operates across 11 offices in the UK, with Manchester and London taking on the largest number of trainees. The rest are split between Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle.The firm also has offices in Southampton and Bristol, plus a whole host of overseas offices to boot.
“I wanted exposure to the type of law I’d enjoyed while studying,” one source commented. “I was looking for traineeships that would give me a taste of commercial law, company law, tax law – commercial work with businesses.” If this rings true, then DWF is a good place to start. The firm’s areas of strength encompass corporate and commercial law, insurance, dispute resolution, employment, finance, regulatory & data, real estate, and tax. The firm also bags strong Chambers UKrankings for its banking & finance and professional negligence work in London, as well as clinical negligence and contentious insurance claims & reinsurance nationwide.
While trainees don’t typically get a say over their first seat at DWF, about a month in advance of the first rotation a preference form is circulated where trainees can rank their choices with some brief comments justifying their selection. “You can choose from a big list of seats that are available across the whole country,” they explained, “so you can express a desire to do a seat in another office if you’d like to.” What’s more, “there’s a box to indicate any qualification preferences you might have, so you can flag that up nice and early.” While this is only an indication, and there is room for trainees’ qualification preferences to evolve as time goes on, sources were unanimous that getting to flag their intentions early on was a big positive. As a general rule, there aren’t any compulsory seats as a part of the training contract, but most new starters will sit in insurance at some stage “just because it’s so big.”
“High-volume casework… so there’s a lot more responsibility for running your own cases.”
So that’s a good place to start. The insurance offering at DWF forms one of the most important practices at the firm, accounting for as much as 50% of the firm’s workload. The department is split into sub-teams that include the likes of commercial insurance, occupational health, catastrophic personal injury, and professional indemnity, and covers work with clients such as Zurich Insurance, Chubb and AXA. As you might expect, with plenty of work in personal injury and accidents at work, the trainee tasks include “reviewing medical evidence and taking witness statements,” one trainee recalled. “On the contentious side of things, you can get that experience running a case right from when it was raised through to settlement.” In one recent case, the firm acted for London Market Reinsurers in its arbitrated dispute around £18 million in travel cancellation losses from COVID-19. Also within the broader insurance umbrella, insurance recoveries work gives trainees a chance to “learn the court process for that specific niche area of law inside out.” Where on larger matters trainees might play a smaller role in the life cycle of a case, “insurance recoveries is more high-volume casework,” one trainee explained, “so there’s a lot more responsibility for running your own cases.” There’s room too, sources told us, for attending hearings and even appearances in court.
If you hear ‘tax’, and feel a sense of foreboding at the more technical aspects, you’re not alone. But trainees who had sat in the taxseat at DWF were keen to offer some reassurance. “Of course, it’s very technical and there’s plenty of black letter law and calculations, which means it’s quite research-based,” one source recalled. “People get scared because it sounds like you’ll essentially function as an accountant, with lots of mental maths! But it’s all on Excel, and we do all the calculations we need on there.” The tax team works with clients on the tax aspects of things like the sale and purchase of companies, joint ventures, and international imports and exports, as well as advising on disputes with tax authorities. This also comes alongside advice on the tax aspects of charity and employment law too. Given the scope of tax law, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the team at DWF works with many different kinds of clients, from Shell and BT to the Premier Inn and Costa Coffee. In one recent matter, the firm advised on the tax aspects of the sale of shares in Crisp Thinking, a company specializing in risk intelligence and online content moderation to protect children on the internet and social media.
“From smaller transactions right up to large acquisitions, there’s a real range…”
As one source put it, “we’ve got quite a lot of clients across the business, but particularly in corporate because the department is so established.” As another of the firm’s bigger teams, trainees in a corporate seat at DWF might touch on private equity transactions, equity capital markets, venture capital, corporate governance and your run-of-the-mill public and private mergers and acquisitions. “From smaller transactions right up to large acquisitions, there’s a real range,” one trainee highlighted. “You might be acting for shareholders on the sell side, or clients looking to acquire a company for private equity houses, right through to small transfers of shares between family members if that’s come from the private client team.” Trainees dipping their toes into the corporate world will have their fair share of bread-and-butter drafting too (from ancillary documents to due diligence reports and attendance notes). In one recent deal, DWF advised PepsiCo on its acquisition of a 20% stake in spring water producer AQUA Carpatica.
Thetransactional side ofreal estateat DWF is split into several different seats, including CAMID (commercial asset management investment development), affordable housing, and occupiers (which involves hotels and leisure companies). According to trainees, the CAMID seat revolves around corporate asset management as opposed to general real estate: “It would tend to be large-scale clients that either owned commercial premises and wanted to let them to people, or clients in sectors like retail and hospitality that wanted to rent premises.” For trainees in the seat, typical tasks included “a lot of draft licences to sign, negotiating with the other side if they needed a markup on the documents, and helping with drafting leases or minutes of variation.” The general consensus was that client contact in the real estate seats was a strong plus: “I was heavily involved with the client and making sure that everything was moving at a suitable pace for completion.” In one recent matter, the firm represented Tikehau Investment Management on the development of 83–85 Pall Mall following its acquisition of the property.
As the name suggests, real estate litigationdeals with the contentious side of the property world, across industries like retail, hotels and leisure, public, telecoms, energy, social housing and technology. There’s plenty of household names among DWF’s real estate litigation client base too, such as Greene King, EE and adidas. Among these clients, the firm acts exclusively for Costa Coffee on all real estate litigation matters, with particular focus on management issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the operation of force majeure clauses and lockdown concessions. “There’s a lot of court-focused work,” one trainee pointed out, “so lots of preparing notices and proceedings. It’s a helpful way of applying your real estate knowledge from the transactional side to the litigious side if you sit in both.”
Reflecting on the firm’s outward image, one trainee told us “it struck me as a commercial firm that retained many of the attributes of a smaller practice in terms of client care.” This was something they reckoned fed into the working culture within DWF too. “The people are the biggest asset to DWF,” another source added. “They are incredibly skilled lawyers, but in a social setting they are also relaxed and fun. On the ground we really get a sense of community.” By way of example, “if you start out as a paralegal, they know you are going to want the training contract, and they really help you with that process and make sure you are aware of the deadlines.”
“The idea is to provide options for a range of different types of workers…”
Change is around the corner too. DWF’s Edinburgh office was the first to be fitted with the new DWF design – modelled around specific ways of working. “The idea is to provide options for a range of different types of workers,” one trainee explained, “so there’s big meeting tables, meeting rooms, silent space, agile working spaces, etc.” Trainees at DWF are required to average 50% of their time in the office, which is two to three days a week in practice, “though it depends on the sort of team you’re in. There are certain weeks where you might be in a lot more because you’re in court that week or something like that.”
Hours at DWF are, on the whole, demonstrably lower than the market average. “I generally start at around 8.30am and finish at around 6pm,” one told us. “Again, it depends on the workload at that time. In corporate for example, it was anywhere between 7 and 10pm.” But trainees were quick to point out that late nights were the exception rather than the rule: “I’ve never really worked past 11pm. A lot of the partners here are really experienced, and they don’t really want that model.”
When it came to salary, trainees did mention that they would “appreciate a salary review, because it is below some of our market competitors, and we’d like a few more conversations about why.” That being said, there certainly wasn’t much by way of hard feelings: “I’m never dreading going to work. Going to work doesn’t feel like a chore, and that surpasses considerations like salary.”
“…seeing yourself at DWF for the long-term can be a selling point.”
As fourth-seaters approach qualification, they receive “a list of all the teams that would be looking for an NQ, which we then apply to, explaining why we’d like to qualify into the team in a few words.” While the setup might be slightly different where seats are uncontested, usually there will be an interview with a couple of partners from the team you’re hoping to qualify into, “and it can be anything from a standard interview to a roleplay scenario.” For example, “in the corporate team, it was a big thing for the partners that they wanted people that would grow together. So, seeing yourself at DWF for the long-term can be a selling point.” In 2023, DWF did not disclose their retention statistics.
Law with a conscience: 100% of our survey respondents indicated that the firm was committed to CSR initiatives.
How to get a DWF training contract
Vacation scheme deadline: 12 January 2024
Training contract deadline: 12 January 2024
Initial application and video interview
DWF receives around 3,000 applications each year for both its vacation scheme and training contracts. The online application form is the same for vacation scheme and direct training contract applicants. It asks candidates to outline their academics, work experience, reasons for pursuing a career at DWF and what transferable skills they have.
Successful applicants are then invited to take part in a video interview which takes around 20 minutes to complete.
The next stage is the assessment centre. This consists of a strengths-based interview, a group exercise/presentation, a short, written exercise and the chance to network with the assessors. From here, vacation scheme offers are made to the vacation-scheme applicants, only.
The final stage of recruitment for both the vacation scheme and direct applicants is a 'meet the leaders' event, which allows applicants to meet and impress the firm's business leaders. The format is a lawyer speed-networking event that sees applicants pick the brains of the practice group heads and senior leaders within the business. “It just goes to show how much the senior figures want to invest their time in the recruitment process,” said one trainee.
The vacation scheme runs for two weeks in June.
Attendees sit with two different departments during their visit, attend a series of presentations and workshops, and undertake a group project. The firm's current trainees praised the work they were given as vac schemers, telling us they'd carried out “typical day-to-day trainee tasks like researching cases and drafting letters to clients.” There is also a social side to the scheme, giving participants the chance to meet current trainees, associates and partners. This allows them to get a good picture of the DWF culture and values, as well as have some fun!
How to wow
DWF accepts applications from any university, and looks for good A-levels/Scottish Highers (or equivalent qualifications) plus a minimum 2:1 degree (either expected or obtained). They also take mitigating circumstances into account and are using the Contextual Recruitment System, which allows them to consider academic achievements in the context in which they were gained.
Throughout the application process, it is important that candidates display a sense of why DWF is the business they want to work for, and why they think it is different from its competitors. This means showing an understanding of the legal market and where DWF sits within it and demonstrating sufficient knowledge of the business's sector groups and clients.
DWF is recruiting up to two pupil barristers to commence a pupillage in September 2022. The core practice areas will be personal injury, occupational health, costs and general commercial insurance litigation. It is envisaged that the pupils will be based in Leeds and London. DWF advertises its pupillages through the BSB Gateway.
1 Scott Place,
2 Hardman Street,
DWF is a global provider of integrated legal and business services. Our vision is to deliver integrated legal and business services on a global scale through our three offerings of Legal Services, Legal Operations and Business Services. We have approximately 4,000 people as well as offices and associations located across the globe. Our purpose is to deliver positive outcomes with our colleagues, clients and communities.
The legal market has changed profoundly in the last decade and the speed of change continues to increase. There is a clear and growing desire for legal services to be delivered in an easier and more efficient way. So we’ve listened to our clients and designed a range of services to meet these needs.
Our ability to seamlessly combine any number of these services to deliver bespoke solutions for our clients is our key differentiator. This Integrated Legal Management approach delivers greater operational efficiency, price certainty and transparency for our clients, without compromising on quality or service.
The business has core strengths in finance & restructuring, insurance, real estate and dispute resolution, and in-depth industry expertise in eight core sectors, namely consumer; energy and natural resources; financial services; insurance; government and public sector; real estate; technology, media and communications; and transport. DWF is focused on delivering service excellence to all of its clients in the UK and internationally, which include major household names and FTSE listed companies.
At DWF we use our values to help define and reinforce our culture and enable us to recruit, retain and develop the highest quality people. This is reflected in our training programme, where our trainees are made to feel part of the DWF team from the moment of offer. Once within the business, our trainees get a high level of responsibility and exposure to business development, innovation and CSR. Many DWF trainees also have the opportunity to complete a client secondment.
The DWF summer vacation scheme takes place in June for two weeks. If you are in your penultimate or final year of a law degree, final year of a non-law degree or a graduate of any discipline then you are eligible to apply.
The business recruits its trainees through the vacation scheme, so it’s a good opportunity to get ahead and see why DWF is the right business for you.
The two-week vacation scheme gives you the chance to work with partners, associates and trainees across two different practice groups. You’ll work on live legal matters and will be given responsibility right from the start. This is combined with a variety of internal workshops and presentations, helping you understand DWF as a business.
Social Mobility and Ethnic Minority Programmes
Our Social Mobility and Ethnic Minority Programmes have been developed to provide individuals from diverse backgrounds with mentoring and skills sessions ahead of a two week paid work experience scheme.
The work experience will be for two weeks and will mirror a vacation scheme; candidates will have the opportunity to complete live legal work, work together on a group project and attend practice group presentations. There will also be the opportunity to attend social events to further build an internal network. While completing the work experience, candidates will have a trainee buddy and a supervisor in addition to their existing mentor.
Those on the programme will then be considered for a training contract.
Pension, healthcare, childcare vouchers, season ticket loan, life assurance, retail vouchers and employee assistance programme.
Our insight days are open to all first-year students, non-law students, graduates etc. Our application portal is now open and you can apply via our website. The deadline to apply for an insight day is 17 October 2023.
Please see our website for the full list of law fairs that we are attending this year.
At DWF, we are proud of our reputation as a supportive and inclusive employer. We aim to be an employer of choice to talent across generations and life stages by providing interventions that advance social inclusion and enable our colleagues to balance their work lives while providing the development opportunities to enjoy fulfilling and rewarding careers. As a responsible business and force for good in society, we embed our culture and values at the heart of everything we do, recognising that our people not only want a great place to work, but take pride in creating it.
Our Global Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Group defines and executes our D&I Strategy. Executive Sponsors and more than 50 senior leaders, supported by our Affinity Networks and network of passionate Diversity Champions, deliver action plans in support of our new five year D&I Strategy which focuses on Gender, Race & Ethnicity, LGBT+, Disability, Mental Health.
Colleague networks strengthen our efforts to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive workplace. They bring colleagues together through events to raise awareness and understanding, often collaborating with our clients. The networks include: Out Front - our company wide LGBT+ network, This is Me - our Gender network and our Race and Ethnicity Network - focused on increasing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation and promoting cultural diversity across the business.
Website: Early Careers | DWF Group
LinkedIn: (6) DWF (UK and Ireland): Overview | LinkedIn
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Banking & Finance: Lenders: Lower Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 4)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Defendant (Band 3)
- Data Protection & Information Law (Band 5)
- Insurance: Contentious Claims & Reinsurance (Band 2)
- Professional Discipline (Band 4)