Get your Phil at this Philly phenomenon with plentiful pro bono opportunities and proactive mentorship.
“In Philly, Dechert is top of the market for M&A deal work,” one associate boasted. And if Chambers USA rankings are anything to go by, they may just have hit the nail on the head. On the corporate/M&A front, the firm picks up a top-tier nationwide ranking from the guide. Coupled with top-notch compensation and “a shining culture,” joining the firm “was a no-brainer” for our interviewees. But it’s not only in the M&A space where this firm is the big cheese (steak). The firm garners three additional top nationwide rankings for its capital markets securitization, registered funds and product liability & mass torts expertise. In its home state, Dechert is further recognized as the crème de la crème for antitrust, real estate finance, tax, and general commercial litigation work. A short distance away in Massachusetts, the firm earns high praise for its hedge & mutual funds work, while over in the Big Apple, it excels in white-collar crime & government investigations.
“You have to be courageous enough to surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you!”
With all these accolades, joining Dechert may seem like an overwhelming prospect; CEO Henry Nassau offered this advice: “You have to be courageous enough to surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you!” That’s not to say juniors are expected to keep shtum: “One of our rules internally is not only is everyone heard, but everyone is expected to speak up. We must be comfortable having a view on commercial problems as well as legal ones,” declared Nassau. Stateside, the firm has ten offices across Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and DC. While it may be known as a Philly powerhouse, New York is in fact the firm’s largest office. But that’s not all. Dechert boasts a further 12 international offices, which are decked out with 48 Chambers Global rankings. Dechert is home to one of the smaller associate classes in our guide. At the time of research, New York took on the most juniors, followed by the Philly HQ. Boston and DC took on a few each.
Strategy & Future
“45% of the firm touches financial institutions, 45% is contentious, and 10% are ancillary support practices,” Nassau details. He breaks this down further, explaining that the firm’s core practices cover “financial services, which include asset management, PE, funds, financial institutions; lending, and high-stakes litigation where we handle areas of greatest commercial risk to our clients.”
Reflecting on the past year, Nassau highlights three big developments: 1) “the continued prominence of our mass torts practice,” 2) “the continued growth of our large private equity funds practice – multibillion-dollar funds, rather than mid-market which we do a great deal of,” and 3) “Andy and I preparing to step aside from leadership to purely serve clients, and a whole new management team about to come in. They’re a diverse group in a number of ways and are spread out across the firm.” Indeed, the new team set to take the reins in July 2023 consists of partners spread across New York, Philadelphia, DC, and Paris who specialize in corporate, finance & real estate, white-collar, and tax – a sound indication of the firm’s intentions for growth. This team includes Mark E. Thierfelder and David W. Forti who will serve as cochairs, and Sabina Comis and Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. who will serve as the firm's first global managing partners.
“I heard that everyone at Dechert wants to help you grow,” one lateral told us. “I’ve experienced that now, and I would say the same to any associate interested in the firm!” From trainings on specific subject matters or client development, to insights into the firm and its financials, associates sang nothing but praises. One particular highlight for our sources was the ‘How and Why I Became a Partner’ talk where partners discussed what other options they were considering, and (you guessed it) how and why they became a partner. As part of the Alumni Careers Panel, the firm “even invited former Dechert people who had gone in-house or to government roles to talk about why they left,” a source explained. “It’s nice to know that even if you don’t make partner there are relationships that extend beyond that!”
Additionally, juniors are formally assigned an associate and a partner mentor. Last year, the firm introduced a new rotation system by which associates have the opportunity to be reassigned new mentors once a year to “help keep things fresh.” Obviously, “if things went well, the relationship continues organically.”
Practices at Dechert span corporate & securities; employee benefits & executive compensation; finance & real estate; financial restructuring & reorganization; financial services; intellectual property; litigation (which is further split into subgroups); private client; and global tax. According to our list, the majority of juniors join the financial services group, while the corporate & securities and finance & real estate groups take on a sizable number each.Most groups have a central work coordinator who serves as “a good buffer between associates and partners.” Juniors do get some informal one-off assignments for clients, “but rarely will you get sprung on a large deal without it going through your coordinator, who knows all your hours.” And according to our associate sources, if you’re looking to be staffed on a specific type of matter, coordinators generally “have a good sense of what’s going on!”
Over in the corporate & securities group, newer associates are encouraged to dip their toes in a variety of matters. “There’s a big emphasis on private equity M&A,” one source told us. “We represent a ton of private equity sponsors, mostly in the mid-market.” On such deals, our sources were “given a lot of leeway right away.” This meant being tasked with reviewing the data room, working group lists, and taking first cuts at documents.
“You’re seeing how the sausage gets made…”
The group also does a lot of work with business development companies (BDCs), like forming them and carrying out ongoing work for them. There’s also some leveraged finance work juniors can get involved in, dealing with credit facilities and financing work relating to private equity. “There’s loads of facetime with clients during meetings and on calls,” one source said. “I really enjoy the process of managing the client and working with them directly. You’re seeing how the sausage gets made, right from the bid to the final signing, and post-closing deliverables!”
Corporate & securities clients: J.P. Morgan, One Equity Partners, US Ecology. Advises the Singaporean wealth fund, GIC, on multiple investments and acquisitions, including one involving the acquisition of a majority stake in Medline, a medical supply company.
The firm’s financial services team advises top financial clients on M&A deals, including asset management, real estate, and fund and CLO consolidations; essentially, associates here are involved in “advising clients on any kind of regulatory transactional matter in the financial services space.” Our sources had been involved in fund launches, “which included admin work at the beginning, but quickly transformed into drafting, responding to comments from the SEC, and advising clients on complex securities matters – some more complex than expected!” One interviewee particularly enjoyed work in the closed-end fund space, as it tends to be “faster-paced, and you’re seeing more deal-side work.” They were even able to put a positive spin on drafting: “Drafting regulatory statements is something anyone outside the space would probably find boring, but reading the risk disclosures really helps you understand the market, meaning you’re able to draft a robust disclosure which covers every kind of possible risk for investors.” The team also works closely with the corporate department in relation to M&A and reorganizations.
Financial services clients: T. Rowe Price, StoneCastle Partners, Gramercy Funds. Advised J.P. Morgan Asset Management on its acquisition of Campbell Global, a forestland-focused investment manager.
“No one’s extraordinarily territorial!”
“The product liability & mass torts group is fairly well known for its ability to take on large, complex mass torts,” one associate told us rather humbly. In fact, the group serves numerous high-profile clients across the pharmaceuticals, medical device, manufacturing, and insurance sectors in complex multidistrict and state court litigations in the US. This group falls under the firm's litigation ‘umbrella’, and juniors staffed on matters here often find themselves responsible for anything from discovery to trial. Tasks vary based on what stage each case is at, and our sources had had a crack at some different ancillary discovery matters, depositions, and jury instructions. “I find pre-trial work particularly exciting,” one interviewee shared. “It’s interesting to see how people could have different theories of the same case, and how everything comes together.” In the same vein, going to trial is “a unique experience,” we heard. “The trial team always comes together to form a close-knit environment where everyone’s pitching, troubleshooting, and helping each other out,” a source gushed. Staffing in this group happens “fairly organically” as matters tend to last three to five years, if not longer. “The partners are very in touch with one another and know what’s going on with other matters, so I’ve never had any issues with staffing at all,” one source told us. “If I have competing deadlines, they’re happy to work it out with one another – no one’s extraordinarily territorial!”
Product liability & mass torts clients: The Rockefeller Foundation, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson. Recently represented GlaxoSmithKline in relation to a multidistrict and state court litigation claiming that Zantac, a medication used to treat heartburn, is carcinogenic.
All attorneys at the firm are required to bill at least 25 hours of pro bono per year; “It’s strictly enforced from the top down – all partners do it,” sources made clear. Up to 200 hours can be counted toward billable relief, but “there are some folks who do even more than 200!” Additional hours can be granted upon request, and our sources had “never heard of anyone getting denied.”
With a wide range of initiatives to get involved in, it’s hardly surprising that Dechert’s attorneys rack up so many pro bono hours each year. “The firm has a large focus on voting rights,” sources explained. “It’s something they really highlight and impress on.” Other matters range from representing individuals in housing court, to immigration and asylum work, to work with nonprofit organizations. The firm’s pro bono partner circulates emails almost every day with new opportunities, and attorneys are always welcome to present specific opportunities that they’re interested in to the pro bono team. In 2022, the firm was ranked in the top ten for both international and national in the American Lawyer Annual Pro Bono Scorecard.
Pro bono hours
- For all US attorneys: 74,591
- Average per US attorney: 101
“I had heard horror stories of law firms where everyone’s super competitive, undercutting, and cutthroat, but I’ve not experienced that in the slightest at Dechert,” one rather relieved interviewee told us. “I feel comfortable airing any stress I’m feeling, and as juniors we share work among each other if we’re feeling overwhelmed,” they explained, with another adding, “It’s not a place that cares what time you come into the office or what you’re wearing as long as you do good work.” On the social side, our sources described the firm as having a “very fun after-work-drinks type of energy.” We’d swipe right! On Thursdays the New York office hosts ‘TGIT’ where people can connect over food and drink. “They do a really good job of having moments for people to come together,” a source praised. Over in Philadelphia, “there’s something happening every month,” from informal happy hours to office-wide events.
Hours & Compensation
Billable hours: 1,950 target
When asked if they felt well compensated for the hours they were putting in, our interviewees’ responses were clear: “Oh, absolutely, yes!” This conviction hardly comes as a surprise considering Dechert’s compensation is top of the market, ranking an impressive third in our salary percentiles. A generous bonus is unlocked once associates hit their target of 1,950 hours; we even heard further bonuses (known as an ‘extraordinary bonus’) can be earned upon exceeding 2,200 billable hours.
“People log off to have dinner or take care of their childcare responsibilities before logging back on later to wrap up."
Of the 1,950 hour target, up to 200 hours can be counted toward pro bono, and up to 50 toward “all of the other work we do as associates,” which includes DE&I, training, recruiting, mentoring, business development, innovation, legal knowledge management, and shadowing. Overall, our sources felt the target was “very doable, especially considering the pro bono and shadowing opportunities.” On a good day, this would mean logging on anywhere between 9 and 10am and logging off between 7 and 8pm. “There have been days where I have to work beyond those hours if there’s something pressing, but part of the job is navigating those boundaries,” one source explained. During longer nights, it’s not uncommon to see “people log off to have dinner or take care of their childcare responsibilities before logging back on later to wrap up,” another added. Overall, according to our associate survey, Dechert scored noticeably better than the market for things like reasonable hours & workload, fair bonus allocation & worthwhile benefits package, and good work/life balance.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
“I feel good about DEI at the firm,” one source said. “One of our shining partners is a woman; it’s inspiring to see a woman that high up!” In addition to the most recent partner class being primarily female, “the benefits the firm offers women are great.” These include surrogacy and adoption support, and fertility healthcare benefits from Carrot, as well as a generous maternal leave.
And in addition to the numerous affinity groups in place at the firm, the Philadelphia office has a diverse associates committee which meets regularly to discuss events and recruitment efforts: “We host recruiting events for diverse candidates, as well as regular events at local law schools in collaboration with their diversity programs.” What's more, the firm's Global Women's Initiative recently connected in-person in Barcelona for the annual SASS (Sponsorship and Sustained Support) program for senior women associates, counsel, and partners.
The first stage: recruitment on and off campus
OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed
Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed
Dechert conducts interviews at over 30 law schools and job fairs. In its 2023 class, the law schools most represented are Duke, Temple, Cornell, Penn, Columbia and NYU. The firm also accepts early applications and write-ins during the standard OCI season. OCIs are conducted virtually by a mix of senior associates and partners.
According to hiring sources, interviewers tend to have their own style, but “most will look for indicators of a candidate’s ambition, communication skills, leadership and management abilities, as well as potential in teamwork, collaboration and client relationship-building. We also enjoy being able to answer questions about the firm and our own experiences and career paths.” Without a rigid format, the interviews stood out in some associates’ memories, as this source explained: “It was more them offering me career advice, rather than the traditional 'tell me about these things on your CV' format.”
Top tips for this stage:
“The main personal aspect of it is you get gut feelings. One thing that stood out is every single person I met with was incredibly enthusiastic about the work they were doing. I thought these are the people I’d want to work those long hours with.” – a second-year associate
“I didn’t know much about Dechert going into the interview. The people who interviewed me were great, very warm, and followed up. It was good to see they have a good experience at Dechert.” – a second-year associate
Applicants invited to second stage interview: undisclosed
Callbacks are offered in a hybrid format, but all candidates will have the specific ins and outs of the interview explained to them prior to the interview. Candidates typically have four 30-minute interviews with a mix of partners and associates. As with the OCIs, “callback interviews and the questions interviewers ask will still vary,” according to hiring sources at the firm, who add that “interviews can become more personalized, but different attorneys will find different aspects of candidates’ experiences and interests impressive or discussion-worthy.” After the interviews, the hiring committee meets to consider candidates and make offers.
Top tips for this stage:
“The money was the same everywhere, all my firms were in the same area. Then I came here for a student dinner and drinks and felt very at home. I laughed at jokes because they were actually funny, not because I was trying to fit in. It was comfortable. If I never send out another resume in my entire life, it’d be too soon.” – a third-year associate
Dechert's standard ten-week summer program starts with an orientation in New York, after which summers get to pursue work in practice groups that interest them. Assignments come from different attorneys and summer associates are encouraged to explore beyond their initial practice group interest. Mock negotiations, deposition training, presentation workshops and practice group trainings are also dotted throughout the program. Each office, practice groups and many of the firm's affinity groups also host social events.
As the program comes to an end, summers rank the practice groups available within their respective offices by preference. The firm informs candidates as to their practice group placement in advance of their start date.
“Pay attention to the personalities, daily routines, strengths, and passions of those attorneys in your practice groups of interest. Then, do some introspection and be honest with yourself. Can you envision yourself becoming a member of this team? Finding a practice and a group of people with whom you naturally ‘fit’ increases the likelihood of long term success.” – Laura Swihart, co-chair of Dechert’s global finance and real estate practice groups
2929 Arch Street,
1095 Avenue of the Americas,
Main areas of work
Dechert delivers legal expertise and commercial insight in its core practices: antitrust/competition; corporate and private equity; employee benefits and executive compensation; financial restructuring and reorganization; global finance; financial services and investment management; intellectual property; international arbitration; international tax and private client services; international trade and government regulation; life sciences; litigation; real estate; privacy and cybersecurity; products liability and mass torts; pro bono; and white collar, compliance, and investigations.
Dechert operates globally across 21 locations, providing the highest quality advice that is actionable, commercial, and delivered efficiently. Its clients include all 10 of the top 10 global asset management firms, 41 of the top 50 global private debt firms, 40 of the “Fortune 100” companies, and more than 200 private equity and investment firms.
Dechert respects and values everyone’s voice and empowers people to do their very best work. Dechert has been certified as a “Great Place to Work” for five consecutive years. It is also a leading law firm for pro bono services and was ranked #1 by The American Lawyer for five of the last seven years for international pro bono work.
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Stanford, Temple, UCLA, UNC, University of Pennsylvania, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Wake Forest, and Yale.
Recruitment outside OCIs:
Dechert participates in resumé collections at several law schools as well as the Philadelphia Area Diversity Group’s 1L Fellows program, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Scholars Program, the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP), the Lavender Law Fair, and The Loyola Patent Law Interview Program.
Summer associate profile:
Dechert seeks candidates with a strong academic background who demonstrate excellence in communication, leadership, management, and client relations.
Summer program components:
Dechert’s commitment to providing training and mentorship begins on day one when summer associates are integrated into the Dechert community. U.S. summer associates learn about Dechert’s culture, diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives, and pro bono opportunities. The summer curriculum also highlights important skills such as time management, networking, innovation and collaboration. Summer associates do not formally rotate through practice groups; rather, they work on challenging, substantive assignments across practice areas of their own choosing. Extensive formal training programs include legal writing, mock negotiations, and deposition trainings. Summer associates attend regular practice group meetings and trainings. The program offers a realistic view of what it is like to practice at one of the world’s most respected global law firms.
Recruitment website: www.dechert.com/careers
This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
District of Columbia
- Antitrust (Band 5)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 2)
- Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: The Elite (Band 1)
- Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 3)
- Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 4)
- Antitrust (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 2)
- Intellectual Property (Band 1)
- Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
- Tax (Band 1)
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia & Surrounds
- Banking & Finance (Band 3)
- Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
- Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
USA - Nationwide
- Antitrust (Band 4)
- Banking & Finance (Band 5)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: ABS (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: CLOs (Band 1)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: CMBS (Band 2)
- Capital Markets: Securitization: CRE CLOs (Band 1)
- Corporate Crime & Investigations: The Elite (Band 4)
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
- Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
- Financial Services Regulation: Broker Dealer (Compliance & Enforcement) (Band 4)
- International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 3)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions: The Elite (Band 4)
- Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 2)
- Life Sciences (Band 4)
- Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
- Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 1)
- Product Liability: Toxic Torts (Band 1)
- Real Estate (Band 3)
- Registered Funds (Band 1)
- Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
- Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 3)
- Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)