The Legal Cheek View
The tale of how DLA Piper rose from humble regional outfit in Sheffield to become, via a series of bold mergers, one of the world’s top three biggest law firms is one of the great business stories of recent times.
Inevitably the success has bred some snarkiness, with the now ubiquitous DLA sometimes referred to as the ‘Coca-Cola of the legal world’. With 80 offices in over 30 countries, it’s certainly hard to miss. But even the firm’s harshest critics concede that its dizzying growth over the last two decades has in general been remarkably well-consolidated. Particularly impressive is the way that the firm has managed to carve out, simultaneously, a reputation for high-end legal expertise and volume work prowess.
In the UK, the firm is led from London with further offices in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield and London – and structured similarly to other national firms. Those in the capital earn more (see below) but an effort is made to apportion quality work as evenly as possible.
Admin-level tasks are sent to the firm’s paralegal-staffed ‘Legal Delivery Centre’ in Leeds, which may account for DLA's fairly high training quality scores in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. A tight trainee cohort adds to the student appeal. One insider describes it thus:
“There is the occasional jackass, but majority of the people are absolutely lovely and many of whom I would even count as close friends.”
Work/life balance is reasonable. Reports another trainee: “I've had a few late nights, and by late, I mean leaving between 10-11pm, but usually I leave between 6-7.30, with no problems”. And the social life is very good, with lots of drinks activities and additional clubs and activities based around things like netball, football and charity work. There is even a firm choir.
But perhaps DLA’s biggest selling point is its international secondments: nearly 40% of trainees have spent time abroad with the firm in locations including Dubai, Moscow, Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Less impressive are the perks, which include all the law firm staples such as private medical insurance, but in the office top out at the subsidised firm canteens. The gym membership subsidy is apparently “stingy” while offices are so-so with “basic” IT provision and “laptops from the mid 90s”. Worse, the coffee machines “put chunks of soup into your drink”.
But with the firm turning over more than $2.5 million last year, future trainees can console themselves with the knowledge that at least there are funds in place to put such things right.