When the merger between Beachcroft and Davis Arnold Cooper was announced in 2011 there were high hopes that we were about to see an ABCD LLP. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. And the more sensibly named DAC Beachcroft came into being instead.
Having slowly restructured its post-merger finances, reducing net debt for six consecutive years, the firm is now thriving. This year turnover rose again, by 6% to £258 million, while profit per equity partner (PEP) inched up 3% to reach £590,000. Perhaps the icing on the cake for this financially resilient firm is that its net debt position has shifted into one of net cash, ending the financial year with £8 million in reserves.
DAC Beachcroft is bigger than many realise, with 11 offices in the UK (including a “very swish” City of London HQ housed in the iconic Walbrook Building) and eight internationally, including exotic outposts in Auckland and Bogotá. Recently it has expanded further via strategic alliances with firms in Australia, Central America, Germany, Madrid, Peru and the US. The focus is very much on insurance work, but DAC Beachcroft has branched out into more general litigation and commercial work over the years, with highly rated specialisms in healthcare and real estate practices.
It’s a nice mix for rookies to cut their teeth on, with the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2020–21 showing DAC Beachcroft kids to be happy with the quality of the work that comes their way. One insider reports: “The work is varied: within the TMT team you can be working on business as usual work, be it services agreement or software licences, which as a junior you are given to lead on with minimal supervision. Where on the other hand you can be assisting on much larger digital transformation projects. The breadth of work helps to keep things stimulating.”
Another adds: “In my first two seats I have certainly felt that the quality of work given to me is at a level equivalent to the work carried out by NQs. Where partners are working on really interesting matters, I have felt that they have made every effort to get me involved in some way.”
Indeed, one strength is the approachability of the partners. “I have actually called a supervisor dad before,” one rookie quips. Another adds: “Fee earners make a real effort to ensure that they provide constructive feedback on work done for them. This includes neat learning points and doesn’t just focus on the law but also on how to deal with a particular client.” This continued under lockdown, as per one rookie: “My supervisor makes sure to call regularly and I still get the training I would get if I was in the office.”
Work/life balance is also very good, with DAC Beachcroft boasting some of the lowest hours of any major corporate law firm. “The ethos is that there is no face time culture and that if there is nothing urgent required to be done then you can go home — people don’t stay late for the sake of it,” shares one insider. Another tells us one of the trainee partners is “known to walk past trainees at 5:30pm and ask them what they’re still doing there”.
DAC Beachcroft rates highly for its WFH tech and has pushed for agile working across several of its UK offices in recent years. That lent itself nicely when the firm transitioned to remote-working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re told servers were amped up to sort out any “(minor) technical glitches”, with one rookie reporting: “It works as well as in the office… almost shockingly well.” Plus our spies tell us the firm is getting to grips with new technology such as time recording tools and even introducing training sessions to ensure its staff are up to speed.
An area where the firm falls down is international secondments, which are rare to non-existent despite the firm’s impressive global coverage. However, over a third of those surveyed completed client secondments. Destinations include AIG, AXA and Unilever.
Another gripe voiced by DAC Beachcroft juniors is over money — with the London newly qualified pay among the lower in the City (the trade-off is of course those fantastic hours). Regional salaries vary but can be on the low side relative to the firm’s peers. This produces considerable grumbling, with myth-making abounding about the firm’s perceived stinginess. One tipster jokes: “The free tea bags throughout the office appear to be made from the sweepings left over when the first lot of sweepings have already been used up.” But in fairness to the firm it also offers some solid perks, including a “good” bonus scheme, “excellent” pension plan “with higher firm contributions”, private healthcare and subsidised gym membership.
There’s also perhaps the best selection of trolleys of any firm in corporate law: a drinks trolley at the end of every month on Fridays at 4pm, an ice lolly trolley during hot weather, occasional doughnuts and fruit platter trolleys, and a prosecco trolley for end of year financial results. Trolley fun often extends out of work, with a good social scene in the northern offices (the southern offices are apparently less sociable). There are also three office-wide parties annually, including a big trainee bash in the summer, and, post-COVID, virtual activities such as Zoom group exercise classes for lawyers to take part in.