Dechert LLP - The Inside View

All hands on Dech – international work pours through the doors of this multi-talented Pennsylvania institution.

If the founders of what would become Dechert hopped into a time machine from 1875 into the early 2020s, we’d forgive them for not recognizing the giant law firm they sowed the seeds for. With global office locations ranging from Brussels to Beijing, Paris to Philadelphia, associates were “drawn to the firm’s international presence” like moths to a welcoming flame. “It’s the consensus best firm in Philly,” a junior in the firm’s first office and modern-day HQ suggested. Dechert’s top-ranked for both corporate and litigation in Philadelphia, and scores additional rankings in Pennsylvania for antitrust, IP, real estate and tax.

The firm’s largest office by headcount is now New York, which earns its own smattering of Chambers USA rankings including a top corporate spot in its own right. We should also highlight Dechert’s national prowess: varied rankings include market-leading status for M&A, investment funds, product liability and mass torts. As well as sophisticated work and high-caliber clients, associates warmed to the “friendly people and the positive office culture.” One said this of Dechert: “It is a top-tier firm, but not the sweatshop that some can be.” Just under half the juniors on our list were based in the Big Apple, and Philadelphia takes large numbers too; Boston, DCand Charlotte are the other big recruiters, while Austin, Hartford and various California offices house a small number.

“It is a top-tier firm but not the sweatshop that some can be.”

Dechert reached the US top ten for associate satisfaction in our annual research>

Strategy & Future



In its ‘Year in Review 2020’ publication, the firm acknowledged its signature life sciences, technology and financial services practices as “globalized and based upon cultures of innovation,” which of course were potentially threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue was indeed down in 2020 compared to the previous year, though 2019 had seen an impressive 11.5% rise on the year before that. Junior sources were impressed with the level of communication between senior management and attorneys: quarterly meetings with the CFO are accompanied by department-specific catchups. “The global financial services team meets every Friday to discuss our clients’ evolving needs and new rules introduced by the SEC,” sources there said. Others in corporate and securities mentioned a similar monthly meeting with more focus on “comparing billing hours between all the offices in the US.”

The Work



Common practice areas for new juniors include corporate and securities; financial services; and finance and real estate. Other options include antitrust, employee benefits, IP, international arbitration, trial, tax and product liability. For first-years, work allocation “is definitely more based on what your practice group admin assigns you. They do a great job at getting you exposure from everyone.” More experienced juniors who’d graduated past this approach assured us “there’s also space to choose particular deals which suit your interests – it’s a pretty fair system.” Another added that “as you become more senior, it becomes more about what you want. If partners are happy with your work and you prefer certain clients, you know where your next ‘meal’ is going to come from.”

“These deals tend to be largely national, but once in a while there will be a European element.”

Hungry associates in corporate and securities tucked into public and private M&A, leveraged finance, private equity, securities and capital markets deals. Life sciences and healthcare clients are among Dechert’s various specialties. “We’ve been working predominantly on deals with private equity firms,” juniors in New York and Philadelphia said. “These deals tend to be largely national, but once in a while there will be a European element.” Cross-border M&A is also common: our sources were in charge of checklist updates, finalizing completion certificates and running the diligence process on such deals. One noted that once they’d “hit that five or six-month mark” they were “taking the pen, to a degree. I was given some of the main transaction documents to work with, leading calls with counsel and interacting with clients.” Others said that most deals are “staffed with just a junior, a senior associate and a partner,” which allowed for more early responsibility.

Corporate clients: Morgan Stanley, FS Investments, UDG Healthcare. Represented Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC in the $27 billion sale of Refinitiv to the London Stock Exchange Group, 2019’s largest private equity exit.

Dechert’s financial services group advises investment funds, companies and asset managers across all stages of an investment lifecycle. The team also partners with securitization to kickstart private credit funds and risk retention vehicles. “It’s an all-rounder financial services team that’s leading in all respects,” an insider in New York declared. “There’s very much a cross-office focus since on any given day, I could be working with London one hour and then Los Angeles the next.” Associates work “primarily with registered companies and funds speaking to the SEC, renewing statements and inputting updates into risk disclosures,” as well as tending to shareholder reports. Common tasks in financial services include due diligence, preparing board materials and offerings documents. One outgoing first-year told us they’d “learned more in this past year than at three years of law school, and that says a lot.” They and others described a “lot of willingness from individual associates and partners to teach juniors. There’s an understanding that the more time spent educating us, the less arduous any one project will be.”

Financial services clients: Deutsche, Hercules Capital, Wells Fargo. Advised Column Financial on the $345 million mortgage loan and $65 million senior mezzanine loan comprising the acquisition financing for the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

“Partners really care about giving junior associates opportunities to step up.”

Product liability at Dechert “isn’t necessarily what you think when you hear the term,” an associate explained. The firm’s practice spans healthcare, pharmaceuticals, industrial products and mass chemical exposure cases; these include multi-jurisdiction class actions, mass torts and damages litigation. A firm priority in 2020 was to grow the practice in Los Angeles, which they achieved with multiple lateral hires. As for junior associates, they can expect to draft and edit depository motions; prepare witnesses and experts for depositions; and write research reports, memos and briefs. “That’s the main focus, but we’ll do some document review too,” one junior said. Another was full of praise for the team’s emphasis on associate development: “It's stacked with partners, counsel and associates who aren't just incredible lawyers, but genuinely kind and fun people. Partners really care about giving junior associates opportunities to step up and develop their skills.”

Product liability clients: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer. Represented 3M in multidistrict litigation surrounding the design, manufacture and sale of combat arms earplugs.

Career Development



“The firm takes this seriously,” juniors said of their personal development. “There’s a good training system in place, where we have sessions on different topics on a weekly basis,” sources explained. New hires connect with senior associate and partner mentors, but most agreed that informal coaching is if anything more helpful in early growth. Those we speak to had few complaints until they got more senior. “I wish there was a greater emphasis on how to develop management skills,” a source said. We’ve reported in previous years about lack of transparency around the partnership track, and juniors pegged some recent exits to other firms or in-house roles as a result of this. They followed up by saying “the firm does realize that continuity requires promoting partners from within the associate ranks.” One came to this conclusion: “I do think that if it was my dream to be a partner at Dechert, the firm would facilitate that to the fullest extent possible.”

“The firm does realize that continuity requires promoting partners from within the associate ranks.”

Dechert reached the US top 10 for associate career development>

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Associates found their goal “achievable” with 200 pro bono hours included as part of their package. It was generally understood that if you hit your hours and are in “good standing,” then you receive a market bonus. Salary rates drew no complaints either – juniors in Philadelphia were especially stoked. “It’s great not having to live in New York but earning the equivalent salary,” they declared – given hours in Philadelphia tend to be less extreme than NYC, we’d say they’re right to be happy. Some of the smaller offices are also less likely to call for longer hours, and the firm pays identical salaries across the US.

“I would say the working dynamic in Philly differs to that in New York,” one Pennsylvania insider suggested. “There are a lot more people here who want to finish for dinner and their kids’ bedtime, so they leave early and are back online later in the evening if needed.” Across the firm as a whole, average days run from 9am to anything between 6:30 and 8pm. Some in New York felt they’re “never really signing off. If I had a dinner reservation at 8:30pm I would take my laptop home, but I typically wouldn’t need to look at it unless it was the week of a closing.”

Culture



They may come with different hours demands, but juniors suggested that Dechert’s offices are otherwise very similar. “I’ve worked in an office as small as 30 attorneys, and I’ve worked in New York, and I can honestly say that both have the same culture,” one suggested. So what defines the Dechert atmosphere? “People treat each other like real humans, not just as lawyers,” according to juniors. “There's not a lot of posturing or stressing out for the purpose of stressing out.” One followed up: “Everyone works hard and still manages to be nice to each other and help each other out when needed. People are genuinely friendly.” There’s also a common respect that everyone has lives outside of work to attend to, and so there isn’t a hectic social calendar. Dechert does host informal drinks and food every Thursday in each office and “people are always going in and out of rooms. It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues in a work setting, but it’s never something that is forced upon associates.”

“…not a lot of posturing or stressing out for the purpose of stressing out.”

Pro Bono



There’s a 25-hour pro bono requirement for all attorneys; those who go beyond 200 hours have to get any further work approved. “Pro bono is really what you make of it, and it’s the part of the firm which really lets you shape yourself,” sources reckoned. “There’s an incredible array of cases offered, so it’s about figuring out what you want to do and building your skills.” With so much to go around, it’s a good thing there’s a pro bono coordinator who’s “entirely dedicated to notifying teams of the regular updates of new pro bono cases.” Common matters at Dechert include immigration and asylum issues, civil rights, probate, landlord/tenant disputes, personal injury and capital punishment appeals. Some associates in New York described working with Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, “helping them draft wills and healthcare proxies. It’s always great as it’s rewarding, and you get drafting experience.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 79,868
  • Average per attorney: 128

Diversity & Inclusion



Juniors applauded the firm for its efforts to bring in diverse candidates at entry level: “Our first-year class is an extremely diverse group of people,” New York interviewees told us. “We have first-generation ethnically diverse associates in our group.” Corporate associates were especially likely to tell us that “women and ethnically diverse associates are well represented in the department, at associate level at least.” From various different practice groups, we heard Dechert has put “great initiatives in place to improve. They are making conscious efforts to make strides within the world of BigLaw.”

“The firm has gone out of its way to support people professionally and beyond during the remote working era.”

More obvious problems are visible when you look to the partner ranks. “It’s true that it’s not representative” of the broader population, interviewees admitted. “That is a consistent issue for all law firms and not just Dechert.” True enough, but a 20% female partnership falls below the average even in a BigLaw context. Affinity groups for diverse lawyers are in place to help bridge the gaps 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. Associates also celebrated that “the firm has gone out of its way to support people professionally and beyond during the remote working era.” One went on to say “the parental leave policy is also amazing. There are very few places you can get 12 weeks of paid leave.” An additional eight weeks of sick pay are available 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 2020 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 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

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 associate

Summer program

Offers: Undisclosed

Acceptances: Undisclosed

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. 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 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.” – Co-chair of Dechert’s global finance and real estate practice groups, 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: 11
  • Number of international offices: 13
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.071 billion 
  • Partners (US): 226
  • Associates (US): 378
  • 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, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2021: 55
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021: 1Ls: 2, 2Ls: 39
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2021 split by office: Boston: 5, Charlotte: 4, New York: 16, Philadelphia: 10, Silicon Valley: 1, Washington DC: 5
  • Summer salary 2021: 1Ls: $3,653.84 /week 2Ls: $3,653.84 /week
  • Split 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 24 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 2021:
American, Boston College, Boston University, Case Western, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hofstra, Howard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Temple, UNC, University of Pennsylvania, 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, and the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP).

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, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Antitrust (Band 5)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • 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 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Antitrust (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Finance (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • 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 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration: Enforcement Spotlight Table
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 3)
    • International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions (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)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Registered Funds (Band 1)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 5)
    • Securities: Regulation: Enforcement (Band 3)