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 five consecutive years, the firm is now thriving. This year turnover rose again, by 6% to £243 million, while profit per equity partner increased by 7% to reach £570,000. Perhaps the icing on the cake for this financially resilient firm is that its net debt position has shifted into one of net cash, having started last year £14 million in debt and ending up with £1.5 million in cash.
DAC Beachcroft is bigger than many realise, with 11 offices in the UK (including a brand spanking new 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 Germany, Australia, the US, Central America and Peru. 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 2019–20 showing DAC Beachcroft kids to be happy with the quality of the work that comes their way. Reports one insider: “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, the 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.” 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.
DAC Beachcroft rates highly for its tech with reports of a push towards agile working across several of its UK offices. 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 half of those surveyed completed client secondments. Destinations include AXA, AIG 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.