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 — and a department that has been rather busy of late — as is Dechert’s well-regarded white collar crime practice.
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 and continues to rise. Dechert is doing well on the other side of the Atlantic too, posting a 4.5% rise in overall firm revenue this year to $1.02 billion (£819.3 million) and a 2% boost profit per equity partner (PEP) to $2.73 million (£2.19 million). That PEP is higher than all magic circle firms, and corresponds with Dechert’s hefty (and recently improved) London newly qualified solicitor salary of £116,000.
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 — three quarters 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, another working as a judicial assistant at the Royal Courts of Justice for four months and others spending time on secondment in Toulouse.
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 consistently strong grades in this category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.
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”. A new dress down policy, that allows London-based lawyers to wear jeans to work any day of the week has given the firm a less formal feel.
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 just before 9am and leave before eight. 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 the 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 a new gym, free fruit every day, health and dental insurance, and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. The trainee social scene is also said to have improved of late, helped by some “quality” departmental and firm-wide events. The firm’s new Associates Social Committee has put on well-received recent events including summer associates drinks, a summer garden party and karaoke.