Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘Firm culture and lockstep pay structure’, ‘the culture (it’s not elbows out, purely collaborative)’, ‘one of the top American firms with a small intake’, ‘prestige, salary’, ‘small firm; high level of responsibility; smaller group of trainees’, ‘I liked the firm culture’, ‘reputation, min-MBA opportunity, pay, office locations’

Best thing about the firm? ‘My colleagues’, ‘the people – they’re very kind’, ‘lockstep’, ‘the breadth, depth and quality of the work’, ‘the people and the pay’, ‘everyone is there to help each other, no one is trying to get ahead or compete with others for work or credit’, ‘the people – they are approachable, understanding and brilliant at their jobs’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘Trainees can sometimes slip through the cracks unless you are very vocal about your needs, especially in a virtual environment’, ‘sometimes trainees aren’t given credit on client updates/deal summaries when due’, ‘perhaps internal things like IT need improvement’, ‘hours’, ‘lack of formalised training’, ‘the hours’, ‘the management’

Best moment? ‘Attending a hearing’, ‘taking on more responsibility in each transaction I work on’, ‘doing research that was ultimately used in a case’, ‘getting to know the team and experiencing different work with everyone’

Worst moment? ‘My first six months’, ‘late nights (mornings)’, ‘the impact of some poor decisions by management’, ‘due diligence exercise that the client kept changing’, ‘the inability to spend much of my training contract in the office’, ‘working on a bank holiday’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

‘Highly-distinguished’ US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has a ‘market-leading name for disputes’, as well as a ‘reputation as a friendly place to work’. A small trainee intake means that recruits are ‘much more respected and valued as part of the team’, and ‘are not treated just as tools to advance work’. Debevoise has been awarded three Future Lawyers Winners medals for vacation scheme, confidence of being kept on and salary. One of the best things about the firm is ‘the people: everyone is there to help each other, no one is trying to get ahead or compete with others for work or credit’. Some Debevoise trainees don’t mind that ‘training is very informal’ and are happy to ‘learn on the go’. Others are a bit frustrated at the ‘lack of formalised training’, especially the ‘limited precedents and training documents’. Recruits also feel that they are ‘not always given credit on client updates and deal summaries when due’. There’s no doubt, however, that trainees are very involved in deals and are not just given menial tasks. An example of the high-level work enjoyed by one recruit was ‘a month-long project whilst in the funds team; three of us worked 16+ hour days throughout to close a fairly complex deal in an accelerated timetable’. And hard work is appreciated, with trainees on more than one occasion reporting ‘attending client closing dinners for deals worked on’. Much less rewarding was ‘working on a bank holiday’ and ‘a long due diligence exercise that the client kept changing’. For ‘breadth, depth and quality of work’ with people who are ‘approachable, understanding and brilliant at their jobs’, consider Debevoise & Plimpton.

A day in the life of... Blaise Matthews, former trainee solicitor, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Blaise Matthews, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Departments to date: Corporate M&A, white-collar crime and investigations, international dispute resolution, antitrust and competition

University: University College London

Degree: Law

9.30am: Arriving at the office, I grab a coffee and check what emails have come in overnight.

9.45am: My supervisor and I have our daily run through of tasks and priorities and catch up on any news from over the weekend.

10.15am: As nothing on our matters is too pressing this morning, I turn to a pro bono case I’m working on with a colleague from my previous arbitration seat. The case concerns a constitutional challenge in a jurisdiction where homosexuality is illegal. I summarise some recent case law and feed some drafting comments into a client memo. I then phone the senior associate on the case and discuss next steps.

11.50am: A partner in my department invites me to a client pitch meeting being held later in the week and asks if I can pull together a briefing pack on the potential client. I research the company and produce a corporate and litigation portfolio. I also run internal conflicts checks and summarise any recent news items.

1.00pm: I go out for lunch with the rest of my trainee intake. Eight trainees per year is enough to not feel isolated but small enough to mean a close-knit group. Our number is currently pretty depleted due to trainees being on secondment to the Hong Kong and Moscow offices, and others attending the annual business education course in New York.

1.50pm: I prepare for our global division conference call in which associates and partners report from each office on the progress of cases and deals. Antitrust and competition is an area where matters can be both transactional and litigious, which makes for a varied and interesting call. I provide a briefing on a recent ECJ decision which is relevant for merger control. I update our internal tracker documents which show the progress of our global filings.

3.00pm: I attend a meeting as a member of the London diversity committee at which we discuss affinity networks and upcoming inclusion training. I have conversations afterwards with members of our HR team about an upcoming recruitment event.

3.35pm: I return to my desk and progress some work on our team’s current main deal. We are making regulatory filings in the EU, US and 15 other jurisdictions. I draft some instructions for local counsel in Tanzania and review a packet of board documents for legal privilege. Like most deals and cases at the firm, I am the sole designated trainee on this matter – although daunting at times it means early responsibility and substantive, interesting tasks.

4.20pm: In September I will be qualifying into the firm’s litigation department and so I attend some witness interviews on the case I’ll be working on as an associate.

5.40pm: As my current team produce a note on restraints of trade for Practical Law, I review some recent European Commission decisions and update the note accordingly.

6.30pm: I take a call from a colleague in the New York office who I previously worked with extensively during my white-collar seat. We discuss plans for her upcoming visit to London and catch up on office news.

7.00pm: I set up a meeting with the trainee due to be taking over from me and produce a handover note. Since there is nothing else urgent for today, we both log our time entries and leave the office.

7.40pm: I head to the firm alumni summer party, after which I go out for drinks with fellow trainees and some junior associates.

About the firm

The firm: Debevoise is a leading international law firm. The London office works on many of the highest profile and most complex transactions in Europe and worldwide. It does this by virtue of its English and New York law expertise and its close integration with the other offices.

The clients: AfricInvest Group; AIG Inc; AXA; B&M European Value Retail S.A; Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; Credit Suisse Asset Management Limited; Park Square Capital; Rolls-Royce plc; The Ocean Foundation; United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

The deals: Advised Pantheon on an equity investment as part of the proposed £2bn public takeover by KKR of John Laing Group plc; advised Park Square Capital, one of the world’s most established credit investment firms, on its fourth subordinated debt fund, resulting in total investable capital of €2.2bn; among eight leading law firms involved in a new pro bono initiative with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to launch a free legal advice clinic for applications to the UK government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme; advised a satellite capacity provider in arbitration proceedings and domestic court proceedings brought by another satellite company; advised a major oil and gas company in a multijurisdictional dispute concerning the ownership of interests in a services group in Russia and the CIS.

Managing partners: Lord Goldsmith QC, Richard Ward

Other offices: New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Frankfurt, Paris, Luxembourg, Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Who we are: Debevoise is a leading international law firm. The London office works on many of the highest profile and most complex transactions in Europe and worldwide. We do this by virtue of our English and New York law expertise and our close integration with our other offices.

What we do: In developing our practice in London we have sought to replicate the core strengths of our practice worldwide. Our focus is on private equity, insurance, international disputes and investigations, financial institutions, M&A, finance, capital markets and tax.

What we’re looking for in a trainee: Minimum qualifications – 2(1) degree in any discipline and 144 UCAS points at A-Level (or equivalent). Students whose personal qualities, academic record and other achievements demonstrate exceptional ability, motivation and potential. Applicants will make a significant contribution to our firm and thrive in our unique culture. We look for an ability to listen actively, think creatively and interact successfully. We also look for maturity and leadership qualities.

What you’ll do: Each of our associates should become a ‘well-rounded’ lawyer – an effective counsellor, adviser and advocate – who can combine legal knowledge with the ability to deal with a range of situations. Trainees develop their skills through formal training and on-the-job experience. The two years are split into four six-month seats with an opportunity to gain experience in at least three distinct areas.

Perks: Bonus, private medical and dental insurance, private GP, life assurance, income protection, pension, computer allowance, cycle scheme and subsidised on-site café.

Sponsorship: SQE + £9,000 maintenance grant per academic year.

Diversity and inclusion