Dechert LLP - The Inside View

International work with real-time, practical feedback provided? Philly your boots at Dechert...

ALL the way back in 1875, the firm that would eventually become Dechert set to work “representing the co-owners of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was the largest corporation in the world at that point,” Dechert CEO Henry Nassau tells us. How things change – the Philly firm’s reach now stretches far beyond the length of any railroad andPhiladelphia is only 184 lawyers out of 1,100,”according to Nassau. “Most people here don’t think of themselves as working at a Philly firm – we try not to tie ourselves exclusively to any one community.”

Dechert’s name (pronounced Deck-urt, FWIW) now sits above offices in 26 cities across the US, Europe and Asia – Chambers Globalcommends its investment funds, corporate investigations, agribusiness, and arbitration work worldwide. Back on home turf, Chambers USAhands out the highest rankings nationwide for Dechert’s investment funds, securitization, life sciences, product liability, and real estate practices. The New York  office (the firm’s largest) ranks well for corporate/M&A, white-collar crime, and securities litigation; in its home turf of Philadelphia, Dechert shines brightest for antitrust, IP, litigation, private equity, M&A, real estate, and tax.

Strategy & Future



Nassau tells us that the firm expects 2020 to be “a very strong year. Notwithstanding the economic uncertainty, all our practice groups have been busy in our major offices around the globe.” Two of the busiest were product liability and real estate finance – “on the finance side we’ve seen a strong economy fueled by record low interest rates and people borrowing as much as they can. On the product liability side, it’s just a boom business right now!”  Find out more from Nassau on the Bonus Features tab.

“All our practice groups have been busy around the globe.”

The Work



Around half the juniors on our list were based in New York, with only a fifth in the Philadelphia HQ. Boston and DC  were the other big recruiters while Charlotte, Hartford, Austin and various California offices house the odd junior. Corporate, finance and real estate are the most common practice group destinations – others in descending order include product liability, trial, antitrust, tax, IP, and employee benefits. Most of our interviewees received assignments directly from partners; new starters use “central assignment administrators who allocate discrete tasks on already long-running projects.”

Corporate and securities at Dechert includes public and private M&A, leveraged finance, private equity, securities and capital markets deals. The firm also represents developing companies during “their formation, their annual reporting process and a variety of equity and debt offerings.” Juniors have the option to spend the first year or two “shopping around and seeing what you like”within corporate. “I learned a lot, so my specialism decision was very well informed – the group lets you pick your own destiny.”  Philadelphia’s large M&A department is fairly generalist, whereas the New York group “prides itself on private equity, doing complex M&A deals for those clients.” Juniors here take charge of checklist updates, finalizing completion certificates and running the diligence process, which interviewees rated as “a great opportunity to get to know the entire span of a public offering from start to finish.”More complex responsibilities come over time in the form of drafting memos, purchase agreements and merger agreements, plus coordinating processes with different corporate subgroups.

Corporate clients: B&G Foods, US Ecology, American Express. Represented GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, in the proposed $27 billion sale of financial data provider Refinitiv to London Stock Exchange.

“Pretty broad client exposure... with lots of safety belts!”

The financial services group advises asset managers, investment funds and companies across all stages of an investment lifecycle. Juniors here join client groups for registered and private funds, typically working for the board of trustees or the investment advisers; they then take on any work necessary for that client. Registered funds are “complicated in the sense that they’re new and a little unknown, but there aren’t so much bells and whistles on them”compared to other fund types “so they’re getting hotter and hotter.”  We heard of associates working with colleagues in Europe, Asia and Africa. Juniors in financial services typically handle due diligence, prepare board materials and deal with offering documents for matters: “They’re a safe place to not only get pretty broad client exposure, but to do it in a place with lots of safety belts!” Some of the firm’s clients “might need hand-holding and have you checking their website and things like that. That can be a bit tedious”  for the unlucky bunch who end up on those client teams.

Financial services clients: Morgan Stanley, Hercules Capital, FS KKR. Advised B&G Foods on a $1 billion financing transaction including a registered offering and senior secured term loan facility.

Business is booming for the product liability group: Dechert spun it off from the broader general commercial litigation department in 2018 and expanded further by hiring a group of attorneys from Quinn Emanuel. “We’ve hit a groove and everyone’s well integrated,”sources said. “It happened quicker and smoother than people expected!”  The group works on multi-jurisdiction class actions, damages cases and mass torts on almost exclusively the defense side. Team Dechert handles “really complex work – work that we see as being on the cutting edge and has a direct impact on people.” Pharma, healthcare, industrial products and environmental cases come through the door; the last of those involves dealing with “alleged pollution from certain products, or factories containing certain hazardous compounds.” This involves a lot of research for junior associates: “I like that we do fact investigation,”one said. “There’s a lot of science involved, but getting to see that through the lens of a lawyer really makes you think outside of the box.” Other typical tasks include writing research reports, memos and briefs; preparing witnesses and experts for depositions; second chairing depositions; and “occasional document review.”

Product liability clients: AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer. Acted for Purdue Pharma in 2,600 opioid litigation cases; Purdue is alleged to have fraudulently marketed opioids as part of the nationwide crisis.

Career Development



"If there’s a partner that loves working with you, they’re going to get you on every single one of their deals.” Yes, that's a good thing: we heard that enthusiastic partners are key to associate development. There’s not “as much in the way of formal, sit-down feedback,” as partners tend to give juniors the “benefit of real-time, pragmatic feedback that’s practical and helps me grow as an attorney.” New associates get senior associate and partner mentors; juniors we spoke to “feel comfortable to open up. Mentors make sure we’re being coached well and have enough, but not too much, work.”

“The firm promoted a good number of partners internally, so I hope it’s changing.”

If there's “a weak point at the firm,”  it’s lack of transparency around the partner track. “There’s an access barrier,”according to many, though they agreed mid-levels are “really good at supporting juniors and giving us some of the answers we’re looking for.” The firm told us that it runs multiple programs a year to walk associates through expectations. Historically Dechert has expanded significantly through lateral partner recruitment, “which is extremely frustrating”for some homegrown talent.Things are looking up and in 2019 “the firm promoted a good number of partners internally, so I hope it’s changing.”Some associates leave after four or so years for “somewhere less demanding,” but many were in it for the long haul: “If I never have to send another resume it’d be too soon!”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Most didn't find things toodemanding: juniors said they usually get in between 8:30am and 10am and leave from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. Philadelphia attorneys tend to finish earlier than those in New York;  many go home for dinner and log back on in the evenings but “work a fair number of late nights and a fair number of Sundays too!” Though working from home in the evenings and weekends is “perfectly fine as long as you get the work done,”remote working during the day is rare. Most sources told us they had no trouble achieving 1,950 hours, and many of our interviewees hit more than 2,200. Associates who are in good standing and meet the hours expectations for a given year earn bonuses; they can count all billables, 200 hours of pro bono and 25 partner shadowing hours toward the goal.

“Late nights and a fair number of Sundays too!”

Pro Bono



Anything beyond 200 hours needs approval from the pro bono director; “it’s often liberally granted as long as pro bono isn’t getting in the way of anything else.”  There’s a 25-hour pro bono requirement for all attorneys and some eager beavers do up to 600(!) hours; our interviewees averaged around 250 across all practice groups. Typical pro bono matters at Dechert include immigration and asylum, civil rights, landlord/tenant, probate, personal injury and capital appeals cases. Juniors liked the fact that pro bono “gives the opportunity for additional experiences like appearing in court – building a foundation for future billable matters.”

Juniors told us that the firm’s pro bono coordinator reaches out to newbies in their first few weeks to join a project. Many that we spoke to described pro bono as “part of most people’s day-to-day – it’s always coming up in conversation.”  Associates who complete more than 50 hours of pro bono earn a prize as a thanks from the firm. “It’s a little cube trinket for your desk – some people end up building stacks of them, and you can see the firm’s branding change over time! Those show you’re a good Dechert citizen.” If you need any more incentive, the firm hosts awards ceremonies to recognize “outstanding” pro bono projects.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 65,015
  • Average per attorney: 106.4

Culture



Sources in Philadelphia  described the Dechert type as people who are “intellectually curious but also want to chat about sports or pop culture – I find myself in the hallway a lot just talking to people.”The situation is similar in New York, to the extent that “the office looks exactly the same – same layout, same design... so weird, but I guess we’re all one firm!”Juniors all agreed that while Dechert is “definitely known as being Philadelphia-based, we have a universal one-firm culture and there’s a long-term commitment to building that.”  That’s the thinking behind getting associates involved with hiring: “Along with the partners we’re picking people that will match the firm well. I know I’ll always get to work with good people who I’m able to learn from.”

“They acknowledge that we have a life beyond these walls.”

It makes sense then that juniors in New York  reckoned their base is “way more relaxed”than homegrown Big Apple firms. “They acknowledge that we have a life beyond these walls – Dechert is super supportive of activities outside the firm.”In Boston  we heard that “everyone’s supportive of family life,”an easier goal to achieve in smaller offices – and in bases with an even lower headcount the attorneys “still talk to each other even though we’re scattered across practice areas. We chat around the office and run happy hours, wine and cheese nights and other social events.”

Diversity & Inclusion



Dechert’s approach to diversity begins with “recently making a really concerted effort”to hire diverse summer associate classes. While juniors were optimistic about these efforts, they pointed out that “hiring diverse juniors doesn’t always pan out if you don’t have a diverse partnership they can look up to.”  Fortunately, “thefirm’s been very frank about wanting to hire more diverse lateral partners in the future. That makes me very excited.”

“It’s a really important part of our culture.” 

Affinity groups for diverse lawyers – including a women’s committee, black lawyers’ alliance and groups for LGBTQ lawyers, veterans and parents – each host social events, CLE opportunities and internal discussion sessions. “There are lots of opportunities to engage in diversity and the way it impacts our firm,”whether that’s the annual firm-wide diversity retreat or a mentorship program. “Dechert has been very open to funding any events we want to run,”according to interviewees, who also praised the firm for “making an effort to keep women on as partners – that’s helped a lot by Dechert’s parental leave program.”  Said program gives all new carers 12 weeks of paid leave, with an additional eight weeks of sick pay for anyone who has given birth.

Get Hired



 

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 2019 class, the law schools most represented were Penn, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Duke and NYU. The firm also accepts direct applications. OCIs are conducted by a mix of senior associates and partners, though junior associates are often on hand as well to answer students’ questions at hospitality suites.

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 junior 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 junior associate

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: Undisclosed

Callbacks are customized by office, but all candidates will have the specific ins and outs of the interview explained to them when they arrive on the day. 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.” Some offices host a lunch with junior associates afterwards, while others invite candidates to a reception to allow them to meet more Dechert attorneys. 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 junior associate

Summer program

Offers: Undisclosed

Acceptances: Undisclosed

Dechert's 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. Mock negotiations, deposition training, presentation workshops and practice group trainings are also dotted throughout the program. Each office 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 the spring of their 3L year.

Top tips for this stage:

“The way they wanted to integrate summer attorneys was great. They found it exciting and challenging. They articulated it and connected with it on a deep level. I felt enthusiastic to throw myself in because of that.” – a second-year junior associate

 

And finally...

“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.” – Former New York hiring partner, Laura Swihart

 

Dechert LLP

Cira Centre,
2929 Arch Street,
Philadelphia,
PA 19104-2808
Website www.dechert.com

1095 Avenue of the Americas,
New York,
NY 10036-6797

  • Main Offices: Philadelphia / New York
  • Number of domestic offices: 13
  • Number of international offices: 13
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.14billion 
  • Partners (US): 227
  • Associates (US): 389
  • Contacts 
  • Main recruitment contacts: Alison Bernard, Chief Talent and Human Resources Officer (alison.bernard@dechert.com)
  • Hiring partner: James A Lebovitz, Firmwide Hiring Chair
  • Diversity officers: Abbi L Cohen, Deputy Chair for Diversity; Satra Sampson-Arokium, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2020: 42
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020: 1Ls: 1, 2Ls: 63
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2020 split by office: Boston: 4, Charlotte: 4, Hartford: 1, New York: 28, Philadelphia: 16, Washington DC: 11
  • Summer salary 2020: 1Ls: $3,653.84 /week
  • 2Ls: $3,653.84 /weekSplit summers offered? Yes
  • Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes, case by case

Main areas of work
Dechert delivers legal expertise and commercial insight in our core practices: antitrust; banking and financial institutions; bankruptcy, business restructuring and reorganization; corporate; employee benefits and executive compensation; energy and natural resources; 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; products liability and mass torts; and pro bono.

Firm profile
Dechert is a leading global law firm with 26 offices around the world. At Dechert, we believe that building community within the workplace and with our clients is the key to success. We respect and value everyone’s voice, and want our people to feel empowered to do their very best. Dechert has been certified as a Great Place to Work. We were named one of the ‘Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality’ by Human Rights Campaign and are recognized by Working Mother as one of the Top 100 Companies for Women and one of the Best Law Firms for Women. Dechert is also a leading law firm for pro bono services and was ranked in the top 10 for both international and US by The American Lawyer in 2020.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2020:
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Catholic, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hofstra, Howard Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn State, Stanford, Temple, UNC, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, UCLA, USC, UVA, Vanderbilt, Villanova, and Wake Forest.

Recruitment outside OCIs: Dechert participates in resumé collections at several law schools as well as the Philadelphia Area Diversity Group’s 1L Fellows program.

Summer associate profile: In addition to a strong academic background, we seek candidates with excellent communication, leadership, management and client relations skills.

Summer program components: Dechert’s commitment to providing training and mentorship begins on day one. US summer associates learn about Dechert’s culture, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, and pro bono opportunities. Our summer curriculum also highlights such important skills as time management, networking, public speaking, legal writing, and developing grit and a growth mindset. Our 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 mock negotiations and deposition trainings. Summer associates attend regular practice group meetings, trainings and also participate in Dechert’s industry-recognized Critical Skills Institute. We offer a realistic view of what it is like to practice at one of the world’s most respected global law firms; and summer associates are integrated into the Dechert community as a whole, regardless of office.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.dechert.com/careers
Linkedin: dechert-llp
Twitter: @dechertllp
Facebook: DechertLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (Band 5)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 1)
    • Investment Funds: Regulatory & Compliance (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 2)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 3)