Dechert’s claim to fame in the UK is for being the workplace of Miriam Gonzalez, the high profile lawyer wife of former deputy PM Nick Clegg. Gonzalez leads the firm’s UK international and EU trade team, which is one of its major London practice areas alongside finance, private equity and litigation. Dechert also has a well-regarded white collar crime practice operating out of the UK, giving the office a more rounded feel than some purely deal-driven US firms in the City.
This latter department has been in growth mode in the last couple of years, expanding by a very hefty 60% since 2015. This comes amid wider expansion in London, where billed and received work was up 19% last year. Dechert is doing well on the other side of the Atlantic too, posting a 7.3% rise in overall firm revenue this year to $977.9 million (£751.8 million) and a 5.3% boost profit per equity partner (PEP) to $2.686 million (£2.07 million). That PEP is higher than all magic circle firms with the exception of Slaughter and May, and corresponds with Dechert’s hefty London newly qualified solicitor salary of £110,000.
With its interesting mix of work, and rookie lawyer pay levels sitting in between the magic circle and MoneyLaw US firms, Dechert has a decent pitch to students. Another selling point is the very high chance of doing an international secondment that the firm offers to its trainees – around two thirds have spent time abroad with the firm, albeit a fair few just making the hop over the Irish Sea to Dechert’s office in Dublin. Other popular destinations include Brussels and Singapore. There’s also the odd client secondment, with one trainee recently spending time with a leading hedge fund manager and another working as a judicial assistant at the Royal Courts of Justice for four months.
A six seat trainee rotation process “works really well and gives you much more choice and range of experiences”, we are told, while one-to-one training from supervisors is apparently “excellent”. As with any firm, the work “varies between departments depending on what is available at that time”; at its best it can be “excellent and varied” and obtains an A in this category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey for the second year running.
The culture is pretty good, with “generally very friendly and supportive” trainees. One reports: “The other trainees are all very good. I’d not exactly say we are all friends, but we are pretty good at tolerating each other.” Most partners are “very friendly and approachable”.
Where Dechert really comes into its own is for work/life balance, which is eminently reasonable considering how much it pays. The firm’s London lawyers arrive in the office on average at 9:14am and leave at 7:45pm. Most rookies appreciate they’re getting a sweet deal. “The hours are surprisingly good considering the pay – we certainly have lives outside of work, with majority of our weekends fully to ourselves,” one reports. Still, there is the odd grumble about the lack of agile working for the firm’s lower ranks. “They could roll out agile working for juniors. I don’t understand the management’s incredible hesitation to do so,” one insider says.
Meanwhile, the recently refurbished office is seen as respectable, while the improved canteen – called ‘Cafe Diem’ – “still could be better”. Perks are not bad: there’s free fruit every day, subsidised gym membership, health and dental insurance, and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. The trainee social scene is also said to have improved this year, helped by some “quality” departmental and firm-wide events. The firm’s London Inclusion and Diversity Committee is particularly good for organising stuff apparently, including museum tours and film screenings. Meanwhile, Dechert juniors with a taste for the waves are still buzzing after winning bronze in an annual legal sailing challenge.