Survey Results - Trainee feedback on Dechert LLP

The lowdown - Trainees (in their own words) on Dechert LLP

Why did you choose this firm over any others? ‘I liked its very niche offerings, like white collar’, ‘it offered a six-seat training contract plus a small trainee intake. I liked the commitment the firm showed to diversity and inclusion’, ‘I wanted to work for a US firm’, ‘friendly, excellent work, flat hierarchy, small teams’, ‘the high-quality and high-profile work’, ‘small trainee intake friendly and inclusive culture’

What is the best thing about the firm? ‘Friendly culture; US salary; small intake and great trainees in intake, ‘the firm is extremely invested in its trainees and this shows’, ‘the global nature of the work; pro bono’, ‘the people’, ‘the work/life balance is better than at other US law firms (from what I’ve heard)’, ‘the client contact trainees get, especially considering the size and profile of the firm’

Worst thing about the firm? ‘The remuneration and at times the opacity of the training structure/seat allocation process’, ‘outside the firm’s focal areas, the quality of work can be lower, which is likely driven by the use of US-style [higher] charge-out rates’, ‘lack of transparency as to graduate recruitment processes’

Best moment? ‘Client contact on deals’, ‘going on a business trip in my first seat’, ‘being part of a fund launch from start to finish and having the client call me directly during the process’, ‘going to a client event with a partner’

Worst moment? ‘Feeling out of my depth with not enough supervision or guidance’, ‘workload and hours’, ‘dealing with one or two associates who do not know how to delegate to trainees’, ‘spending days doing document review’

The Legal 500 Future Lawyers verdict on Dechert LLP

‘Six seats, a small trainee intake’ and ‘very niche offerings like whitecollar crime’ set Dechert apart. A ‘strong commitment to diversity and inclusion’ also make the US firm a great place to train. ‘The firm is extremely invested in its trainees’ respondents said, and recruits can look forward to ‘high-quality work and plenty of client exposure from the get-go. The people at Dechert are great too: ‘everyone is approachable and always takes the time to explain things and answer questions’. Whilst there is ‘definitely a work-hard culture’ at the firm, it is reassuring to hear that colleagues also care about your development, though that’s not to say that there aren’tone or two associates that do not know how to delegate to trainees’! As is perhaps to be expected in a US firm, the hours can be long and as a result the work/life balance can tip the wrong way. The trade-off is ‘more responsibility and more involvement in work. A few trainees complained that ‘the qualification process isn’t that transparent’, nor for that matter is the seat rotation process, with trainees often waiting until the last minute to find out which department they’ll be moving to next. Some respondents commended the flexible work-from-home policy, whilst others pointed out thatsome of the culture and collegiality has been lost since the pandemic’. Dechert is well-known for its pro bono offering, described as ‘excellent and taken seriously There is an extraordinary range of substantial pro bono projects to get involved with; senior colleagues respect time spent on pro bono and this is of vital importance’. Indeed, one trainee’s best moment was ‘being trusted to run and hold the pen on a pro bono project to write a judicial guide partnered with a well-respected NGO. To be part of a small cohort of trainees doing top-notch work in niche areas of law, consider Dechert. 

A day in the life of... Sergiu Moldovan, fourth-seat trainee, Dechert LLP

Sergiu Moldovan, Dechert LLP

Departments to date: Capital markets; Financial services group (Dublin secondment); Enforcement and investigations; Securities and complex litigation

University: London School of Economics and Political Science

Degree: Law

8.45am: I arrive at the Dechert London office ready to start my day. At my desk, I read through my emails, update my to-do list and catch up with the business news.

9.30am: I start my day by reviewing my tasks and setting priorities. Then, I take a moment to discuss the day’s agenda with my supervisor. This face-to-face interaction allows us to align our tasks, discuss any immediate concerns, and plan for the day ahead. This regular interaction is key to maintaining effective working relationships and ensuring a smooth workflow.

9.45am: As I am currently in the securities and complex litigation department, I am assisting my supervisor with preparing for trial in an insurance litigation case. I have been tasked with assisting counsel by researching various points of law to help develop a strategy to rebut some of the opposing side’s arguments. I prepare a summary of the relevant law for my supervisor to review, highlighting how this may be useful in shaping our strategy. After careful consideration, my supervisor forwards this information to counsel.

12.15pm: In addition to my legal responsibilities, I also manage Dechert’s football team. Each week, I send out an email detailing the date of the upcoming match and gather the team. This role not only allows me to engage in a sport I enjoy, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity to meet and interact with people from all around the office. It is a great way to foster camaraderie outside of the usual work environment and contributes to the friendly culture at Dechert.

1.00pm: I meet up with some of the other trainees at Dechert’s brand-new The Dech Café to catch up and eat together. As it is a sunny day, we choose to have lunch on the terrace of the café, enjoying the view of St Pauls. It is a great opportunity to socialise and share experiences with my peers.

2.00pm: I return to my desk and see an email has come in from a pro bono client, an Eritrean mother for whom we are helping draft applications for her children’s British citizenships. The client has sent some information for us to consider in order to progress the fee waiver application they are currently making. I add this task to my to-do list for the next day. During my time at Dechert, I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of pro bono cases, such as assisting charities in raising further financing, working on criminal appeal cases, and participating in multiple evening advice clinics at the Islington Law Centre.

2.30pm: A partner has asked me to draft an initial draft of an OnPoint article. These publications, written by Dechert, aim to provide valuable insights to our clients and are tailored to be relevant to their industries. This particular OnPoint focuses on the FCA’s review of firms’ sanctions controls in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. At Dechert, trainees are encouraged to add value and engage with their work, so I let the partner know my own thoughts on the publication as well. Moreover, having the chance to draft the first version of this OnPoint not only deepens my understanding of the area but also equips me with the knowledge to better advise our clients in the future.

5.00pm: I join a meeting with my supervisor and a few associates from the securities and complex litigation department on the rooftop of our new office at 25 Cannon Street. The rooftop directly overlooks St Pauls, providing a stunning backdrop for our discussions. We are trying to make the most of this beautiful space by holding meetings here. These meetings have been a regular feature and have helped me to get to know members of the department better.

5.30pm: During the securities and complex litigation monthly meetings, trainees are encouraged to present on a recent case or topic of interest that they believe would be relevant to the team’s work. Drawing on my background in arbitration, having completed a master’s degree in the field, I prepare my presentation on the English courts’ approach to granting anti-suit injunctions in respect of a foreign-seated arbitration. These presentations are not only an excellent opportunity to hone public speaking skills, but they also allow everyone in the department to gain insight into my unique perspective, personality and legal skills.

7.30pm: Before leaving for the evening, I confirm with my supervisor that there is nothing urgent that I can assist with and spend some time considering the points I would like to raise at the upcoming trainee townhall.

About the firm

The firm: Dechert was one of the first US law firms to open an office in London, in 1972. Working closely with colleagues across Dechert’s global office network, the London lawyers advise clients on matters spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as global matters involving Asia and the US.

The clients: AGC, Ares, Apollo, Barclays, BNY Mellon, Centaur Media Plc, JP Morgan, Mid Europa Partners.

The deals: Advised the Arab Republic of Egypt on several multi-tranche bond issuances of US$16bn, including the largest ever public bond issuance out of Egypt and Africa; advised Coveris Holdings S.A. on the sale of its Global Rigid Business to Lindsay Goldberg LLC for €700m in a corporate carve-out involving 15 jurisdictions; advised fintech company Amun Technologies on the issuance of Amun ETP, the world’s first cryptocurrency-linked exchange-traded product, which was listed on Zurich’s SIX Swiss Exchange; advised Monsanto as co-counsel on EU antitrust issues, merger control clearance and media/investor outreach in the US$66bn Bayer/Monsanto merger; advised SK hynix on the US$18bn acquisition of Toshiba’s NAND flash memory chip unit.

Co-chairs: David Forti and Mark Thierfelder

Co-managing partners: Sabina Comis and Vince Cohen

Other offices: Austin, Beijing, Boston, Brussels, Charlotte, Chicago, Dubai, Dublin, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Munich, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Singapore, Washington DC.

Who we are: Dechert is a global specialist law firm with approximately 1,000 lawyers across 21 offices. We have some of the world’s leading lawyers advising on both domestic and cross-border matters. The firm is frequently retained to work on the most challenging transactions and disputes, and prides itself on its ability to deliver premium legal services and sound business judgement to its clients. Dechert lawyers bring to their assignments a focus on quality, responsiveness and value for money. We are driven by one key principle: exceptional client service.

What we do: In London, our lawyers are active in Dechert’s practice areas of corporate and securities, financial services and investment management, finance, real estate, and trials, investigations and securities, which incorporates our white-collar and commercial litigation teams. Our clients include corporations, financial institutions, sovereign states, quasi-sovereign entities, and private and high-net-worth individuals all over the world. Dechert undertakes work for 40 of the ‘Fortune 100’ companies, and advises 24 of the top 25 global asset management firms and 41 of the top 50 global private debt firms.

What we’re looking for: We are looking for candidates who have a genuine interest in business and our clients, are ambitious and who have a keen sense of building community, both within the workplace and with our clients.

What you’ll do: Our trainees undertake six seats of four months each, with each trainee being seconded to a client or one of our international offices, providing a truly broad legal foundation. Working closely with partners and associates, and with a small trainee intake, no two trainees’ training contracts will be the same. We run a full training programme at the beginning of and throughout the training contract, which complements our on-the-job training. Following qualification, our NQs attend orientation in Philadelphia.

Perks: Gym membership/subsidy, life assurance, pension scheme with company contributions, private health and dental care, season ticket loan and a subsidised restaurant.

Sponsorship: SQE and PGDL full fees and £12,500 maintenance grant.

Diversity and inclusion

Dechert’s guiding principles and personal commitments are not simply words written on our website and in our policies – they are something that we all must live by every day. Championing diversity is part of Dechert’s DNA – a culture where respecting and valuing everyone’s voice and creating a shared enjoyment in all we do empowers people from different backgrounds, experiences and points of view to be fully themselves and bring their very best.

The following are just some of the key measures that Dechert has undertaken to improve diversity and inclusion at the firm:

Affinity groups – Identify and address diversity and inclusion-related issues, and create new and recurring programming focused on the attainment of professional and business development skills. They offer enhanced mentoring opportunities, retreats and educational workshop for diverse attorneys. Reaching beyond Dechert, affinity groups engage with our communities through advocacy, pro bono and speaker programmes.

  • Asian Affinity Group
  • Black Lawyers Alliance
  • Dechert’s Family Network
  • Global Women’s Initiative
  • Greater Middle Eastern Alliance
  • Latino Affinity Group
  • LGBTQ Affinity Group
  • Dechert Heroes (Veterans Affinity Group)

Diversity Champions – An award programme open to all those at Dechert, whatever their seniority, role or location, set up to recognise those who have given most to support a diverse and inclusive culture. The firm’s leaders chose four Diversity Champions from 100 peer nominations; each was awarded a bonus.

Diversity Dashboards – A user-friendly programme covering hours, work quality and distribution of assignments that helps firm leaders see where D&I efforts are working effectively and where more attention is needed.

Diversity Symposium – A two-day event for diverse associates, designed to help cultivate a wider professional and support network and to connect directly with firm leaders.

Inclusive leadership – Regular interactive sessions that build inclusive leadership skills within the partnership and all firm personnel.

Lunch and Learn Empowerment Series for Diverse Associates – Provides an opportunity for diverse associates to share knowledge and skills gleaned from external workshops and professional development programmes with diverse associates and counsel at Dechert. Sessions are held every two months and often include guest contributors from the partnership ranks.

Sponsorship and Sustained Support (SASS) programme – Designed to help women associates navigate the path to partnership. In the five years prior to implementation, 18% of lawyers promoted to partner were women; in the five years since, 31% were women. We aim for parity, but celebrate the upward trajectory.