Dechert’s interesting range of practice areas marks it out from the more exclusively finance-focused London offices of some other US law firms. International and EU trade is a strong point, as is Dechert’s well-regarded white collar crime practice.
A year on from when Dechert first smashed through the $1 billion (£760 million) revenue barrier, the Philadelphia-based firm toasted further double-digit growth this year — 11% to $1.14 billion (£865 million). This, in turn, pushed profit per equity partner (PEP) to a record $3 million (£2.3 million), an uplift of 10% on the $2.7 million (£2.05 million) the previous year. That PEP is higher than those of all Magic Circle firms, and corresponds with Dechert’s hefty London newly qualified solicitor salary of £120,000.
With nearly 30 offices worldwide, Dechert has an international vibe. A notable selling point for students is the very high chance of doing an international secondment that the firm offers to its trainees — more than half have spent time abroad with the firm, albeit a fair few just making the hop over the Irish Sea to Dechert’s recently expanded office in Dublin. Other popular destinations include Brussels and Luxemburg. There’s also the odd client secondment, with one trainee recently spending time with a top venture capital outfit, and another boasting of how they soaked up the “southern French sun” during a stint with a leading airline manufacturer in Toulouse.
“A good mix of on the job training” coupled with “bespoke” induction sessions at the start of each seat (there are six in total at Dechert) goes some way to explaining the firm’s consistently strong performance in the training category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Although, as with any firm, this can vary from department to department. As for quality of work, one insider reports that “menial tasks are inevitably present” but “associates and partners have gone out of their way to get my input on particularly challenging questions and decisions, adopting a ‘what would you do if you were in my situation?’ approach.”
We are told the vibe around the firm is pretty good, with a “close-knit” group of trainees that “won’t hesitate to help each other out when needed”. Another 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.” We are told partners are “generally very approachable”. A dress down policy, that allows London-based lawyers to wear jeans to work any day of the week continues to give the firm a less formal feel.
Where Dechert really excels is work/life balance, which is remarkably reasonable considering how much it pays. The firm’s London lawyers arrive in the office on average just after 9am and leave before 8pm. Most rookies appreciate they’re getting a sweet deal. “The work/life balance and respect for personal time is generally very good,” an insider tells us. “Trainees don’t mind working late when necessary, as they know they won’t be made to work longer hours than required when it is quieter.” However, this can vary across departments. “In some there is an expectation for you to make yourself available at any time, whereas in others… late nights are only expected when urgent work arises”, we are told.
The transition to remote-working in response to the pandemic seems to have been a relatively smooth one. “Everything worked efficiently,” according to one rookie, “although it is very difficult to be ‘trained’ remotely — i.e. the benefit of sharing an office with a supervisor is noticeably lost.” Another describes the process as “pretty seamless”.
Meanwhile, the office, a stone’s throw from the Thames, is described as “lovely” thanks in part to its “nice internal atrium”. Perks are not bad: there’s a new gym (although some feel it’s a little small), free fruit every day, health and dental insurance, and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. The trainee social scene is also said to have improved as of late, helped by some “quality” departmental and firm-wide events.