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’. 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. Reports one rookie: “We get very strong training internally and externally with both technical seat specific matters being covered and general legal skills.”
A reasonably tight trainee cohort adds to the student appeal. One insider describes it thus: “Everyone gets on pretty well, no major falling out, everyone was genuinely pleased for those who got NQ offers and upset for those that didn’t.”
Work/life balance is not bad. Reports another trainee: “Apart from a few hellish weeks, my normal hours are 9ish to 6/6.30ish (although others haven’t been so lucky)!” Across the firm’s offices, according to our data the average arrive time is 8:38am and the average leave time 7:18pm.
Another selling point is its international secondments: over 30% of trainees have spent time abroad with the firm in locations including Dubai, Moscow, Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong. With 90 offices in over 40 countries there is plenty of choice. However, there has been annoyance this year at DLA’s decision to scrap its policy of paying London and regional trainees equal salaries while on secondment abroad. Meanwhile, 17% of the firm’s trainees have done client secondments, to destinations including IHG, The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Premier League.
Less impressive are the perks, which include all the law firm staples such as private medical insurance but not a huge amount more. “What perks?” grumbles one rookie, “Somewhat concerningly for a global law firm, the firm only managed to negotiate a paltry £8 off the standard price of a gym membership… And that’s probably the best perk!” Worse, the coffee machines are said to “put chunks of soup into your drink”. The culinary situation is rescued by free breakfasts in the canteen before 9:30am.
However, there is widespread contentment at a recent pay rise for London newly qualified (NQ) solicitors to £77,000. A simultaneous raise for regional NQs has seen their remuneration move up by two grand to £44,000. The rises come on the back of some good financial results, with global revenue up 7% to $2.63 nillion (£2.03 billion) and profit per equity partner (PEP) increasing by a similar proportion to $1.76 million (£1.36 million).
DLA has also bounced back well from the massive cyber attack it suffered last year, which saw the firm’s email and phone system knocked out for days. Last year trainees complained to us about the “basic” IT provision and “laptops from the mid 90s”, but this year much has changed. An insider reports: “We recently had a roll out of new technology across the office and all fee earners (including trainees) and most business support staff now have swanky new laptops (which also double up as tablets, complete with stylus), two monitors, and noise cancelling, wireless headphones.”
An upcoming move to a new London office, the designs for which are said to be “very high tech”, promise further scope for innovation.