Dechert LLP - The Inside View

First things first: it's pronounced Deck-urt not De-shirt. Now you've got that down let us tell you more about this Philly-founded global firm...

WHILE New York is now this firm's largest office, Dechert originally grew up in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. It is far from just a US-based firm, however: Dechert now has 14 international offices from London and Paris to Hong Kong and Riyadh. “Dechert is an exciting place to be right now," says managing partner Henry Nassau. "We are well established as one of the world’s elite law firms." Chambers Global awards the firm a slew of rankings in various practice areas across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The international slant of the firm didn't go unnoticed among our interviewees. "On my floor we speak more than 30 languages!" one associate exclaimed. "I remember when a colleague came up to me with a document in a language I could not read, I said just walk down the hall and you'll find someone who can translate it. Two minutes later she found two people who could."

"Global corporates like to turn to a law firm that works around the world.”

In the US most of the firm's attorneys work in either New York or Philadelphia, and the firm wins Chambers USA nationwide rankings for corporate M&A, capital markets, financial regulation, investment funds, real estate, securities, product liability, and more. The firm's highest rankings come in Pennsylvania where it's top-rated for corporate, litigation, antitrust, and tax. It's recognized in a further four states and DC by Chambers USA, including New York. The firm has also been on a bit of a hiring spree recently, nabbing two real estate attorneys from King & Spalding in Dubai in July 2018, an ERISA partner from Stroock in New York, and Hughes Hubbard's chair of international trade. Most notably, Dechert also expanded its product liability practice after 29 lawyers lateraled from Quinn Emanuel in 2018.

Strategy & Future



Given all those new faces joining the firm you may be wondering how the firm is doing more generally. Henry Nassau tells us growth has been strong of late: “In the last twelve months we have seen growth across the board, in litigation, finance, corporate and financial services." Hegoes on to explain: “The world is constantly getting more complex, both in domestic and international jurisdictions. Regulation has got increasingly complex and significant, and large corporates regularly need to conduct internal investigations and self-report to the authorities. And global corporates like to turn to a law firm that works around the world for that.”

The Work



The largest chunk of juniors are based in New York, followed by Philadelphia. DC, Boston, and Charlotte then trail behind while there were just one or two juniors in Chicago, Hartford, Orange County, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley at the time of our research. Dechert's juniors work in a range of practice areas (12 by our count). The biggest four are financial services; trial, investigations & securities (litigation); corporate & securities; and global finance. Product liability, IP, antitrust, tax, labor, and private client take in just a few juniors. Practice group administrators receive work from seniors and divvy it out to juniors in their first few years. After that, "once you get into your second and third year you have built relationships and you get your work directly from senior attorneys." Smaller groups and offices break from this system, with juniors working directly for senior attorneys right off the bat.

"There can be a lot of stuff going in different directions."

The trial, investigations & securities group is comprised of teams focused on commercial litigation, securities litigation, and white-collar, compliance and investigations. Generally juniors find themselves taking on "a lot of legal research and writing, drafting parts of briefs and motions." They also "take phone calls or handle discovery tasks such as looking at documents that are being included in a witness binder." Insiders reserved particular praise for white-collar work, which gave them the chance to "interview people and create a presentation that will go to the Department of Justice." At the same time this work "can be stressful," we heard – "if we're working on an investigation which is not straight A to Z there can be a lot of stuff going in different directions."

Litigation clients: Pfizer, Union Carbide, and Monster Worldwide. Defended the director of a Hong Kong NGO against charges that he had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing African government officials on behalf of a Chinese energy company.

The corporate & securities group mainly does "private equity work representing funds, alongside a fair amount of securities work." On the private equity side juniors are "in charge of keeping the checklist up to date and drafting ancillary agreements along with more administrative tasks like putting comments into the deal documents. You basically do anything that the senior associate wants you to do." When it comes to securities work rookies "take the first shot at a lot of the documents, get the senior associate's comments and go from there, coordinating with specialists along the way." Interviewees found their private equity work most stimulating, but liked securities work less as "it's a lot of plug and play, a bit repetitive." The hours can also be particulary grueling too. "I would be happy to work ten to 12 hours a day steadily," explained one source, "rather than 16 or 18 hours a day for weeks with no weekend off. That's really rough."

Corporate clients: B&G Foods, lending platform Cerberus, and H&E Equipment. Represented Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC on its strategic partnership with a Blackstone-led consortium to acquire part of Thomson Reuters' financial and risk business.

The financial services group advises asset managers, investment funds and financial services firms across all stages of an investment lifecycle. Their clients span start-ups all the way up to some of the biggest financial institutions. Dechert's work with registered funds, which includes regulatory and formation matters, is particularly well-regarded in Chambers USA. One junior told us that when working on securities matters "you are usually more focused on one specific document," whereas "for a PE fund there are more documents going back and forth and there's more focus on keeping the checklist up to date and knowing where all the documents are." Insiders like the international feel of the PE work. "I find it pretty interesting working with lawyers from other parts of the world and learning about the regulatory landscape in those countries," purred one budding attorney.

Financial services clients: Hercules Capital, Barings, and Horizon Technology Finance. Advised the senior management team of real estate lender Colony American Finance on its sale to investment management firm Fortress Investment.

"It adds a problem-solving side to the work."

Finance & real estate falls under the broader umbrella of Dechert's global finance practice. Sources told us that it covers the likes of loan origination, asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities, and collateralized loan obligations. The firm told us that at any given time an office may be doing more of a certain type of work than others, so the configuration of matters can shift. At the time of our calls, juniors reported seeing quite a bit of CLO work in Charlotte, while New York was "starting to build a loan origination team," and San Francisco and Chicago had a good "mix of loan origination and mortgage-backed securities." Juniors' days are spent drafting "a lot of emails and documents," calling clients, and helping structure deals. The latter is particularly interesting, sources said, as "it adds a problem-solving side to the work."

Finance & real estate clients: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BlackRock, and Credit Suisse. Advised Freddie Mac on 50 deals worth $50 billion during one year, particularly the securitization of mortgage loans.

Career Development



Dechert has its associates progress up four levels, laying out the different achievements and skills they are expected to have as they move up: the levels are connected to the experiences associates should be getting as juniors, mid-levels, seniors and finally as candidates for the partnership. The idea is for associates to move up these levels at their own pace and with a clear sense of what they need to do in order to progress. An overarching critical skills framework is tied to these levels, and covers competencies related to leadership, management, communications and client relations skills. Having such a structure was a positive for a number of our interviewees, because it made the path to partnership "very transparent, as there are basically charts they give us." However, developing the skills and achievements to move up is something juniors have to be proactive about. "If you do search out opportunities the firm is very accommodating," noted one source, "less so if you don't take the initiative."

In terms of retention, years five to six were singled out as when most associates head on elsewhere. The question to what extent Dechert's name adds polish to a CV produced different opinions. A source in Philadelphia told us: "It's a big boost as people in the area know Dechert." A colleague in Charlotte agreed. But others, particularly in the smaller offices, felt Dechert's prestige was more localized and practice area-specific. 

Culture



"I think our superiors are very open," mused one interviewee, pointing to accommodating gestures made by seniors. For example, "if you're planning a vacation people aren't going to give you a ton of work before you are about to leave." We also heard the Boston office has "breakfast in the kitchen and cookies every Wednesday, which gives you the opportunity to talk in a non-stressful atmosphere. You feel a lot more comfortable talking to a partner getting a cookie and a cupcake!" We also found out that Dechert has recently implemented a new and more relaxed business casual dress policy that includes jeans, although denim is sensibly off the cards for client meetings!

"You feel a lot more comfortable talking to a partner getting a cookie and a cupcake!"

As accommodating and approachable as senior attorneys may be, Dechert is still a BigLaw firm and the workload means juniors can't be too relaxed. "My work once got really backed up..." one junior said. "When that happens there's an expectation of really getting stuck into it, and I had to work really long hours to make up the time." One other thing to factor in is that juniors in the smaller offices felt that sometimes "the firm gets a little bit New York and Philadelphia centric." One commented: "As someone in a practice group the majority of which is located in New York, I have to make an effort to ensure I'm able to work with them." The firm communicated to us that there is no favoritism when it comes to the larger New York and Philadelphia offices; we were told that a lot of Dechert's programs do stem from those offices as it simply makes sense from a population point of view.

Hours & Compensation



Dechert's billable hours requirement comes to 1,950. Most sources told us they had no trouble achieving this, but a corporate insider did note that the variable nature of their working hours makes hitting the target difficult. Bonuses are given to associates who are in good standing and meet the bonus hours expectations for a given year; billable hours, pro bono (see below) and 25 partner shadowing hours are among the elements that can count toward the bonus hours expectations. Juniors said they usually get in between 8:30am and 10am and leave between 6:30pm to 9:30pm depending on how busy things are. Interviewees said they regularly go home and log back in to work for one or two more hours.

When it comes to salaries, Dechert matched the Milbank scale in 2018, which sources in Philadelphia responded to with a laid-back thumbs-up as "people kind of expected it would happen." Others from Charlotte to Boston were far more excited. One chirpy interviewee reported: "Half the office went out for drinks the night it was announced!"

Diversity & Inclusion



Taking a look at the numbers Dechert isn't doing unusually badly on diversity. 46% of associates are female and a tad over 70% are white, while 17% of partners are female and 91% are white. So things could evidently be better, especially at the senior end. Even though the workplace may not be the most diverse possible, we heard positive feedback about inclusion – partners were complimented for having an inclusive approach and facilitating juniors' attendance of diversity events.

Pro Bono



Associates can count 200 pro bono hours toward their billable target (and potentially more if approved by the firm). Attorneys are also expected to commit at least 25 hours to pro bono each year. "The firm is very supportive of pro bono, particularly in the litigation groups," one junior said. "It's seen as a great way for young associates to get experience conducting depositions and appearing in court." Transactional associates did say finding pro bono "is a bit more difficult, though we do a whole lot for nonprofits, helping them draft board documents and deal with tax issues." To get staffed on a pro bono matter, associates either contact a centralized pro bono team or sign up for available opportunities sent round in weekly/biweekly emails. We heard of the firm taking on asylum, human trafficking, and prisoners' rights cases, including representing Guantánamo Bay prisoners. Associates can also bring in their own projects, subject to the usual conflict checks.

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 64,904
  • Average per attorney: undisclosed

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 Georgetown, NYU, Penn, Cornell, Columbia and Harvard. The firm also accepts direct applications and resume drops. 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:

“Come in and have a conversation with the interviewer – they are not trying to stump you or trip candidates up.” – A second-year junior associate

“We hope that candidates will demonstrate a genuine interest in our firm and our practice opportunities. Students can immediately impress by being intellectually curious, achieving academically and possessing strong communication skills.” Firmwide hiring committee chair,  Jim Lebovitz

 

Callbacks

Applicants invited to second stage interview: Undisclosed

Callbacks differ in small ways between offices, but all candidates will have the specific ins and outs of the interview explained to them when they arrive on the day. Hopefuls typically face four 30-minute interview 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 quiz Dechert’s attorneys even more. After the interviews, the hiring committee meets each week to consider candidates and start making offers.

Top tips for this stage:

“Interviewers will want to know what draws you to Dechert, what you personally feel makes our firm stand out, and what is important to you in a summer associate program.” Senior attorney recruiting manager,  Nicole Oddo Smith

“Treat your resume as your means to initiating a conversation and be able to talk about everything on it.” Global director of legal recruitingDaniel Vatanaviggun

 

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 may be set by different attorneys, or summer associates can reach out to lawyers directly and ask for work. 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 a series of 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 on their success and practice group placement in the spring of their 3L year.

Top tips for this stage:

“Importantly, don’t forget to pursue pro bono work.  It is an invaluable way to meet attorneys across practice groups and seniority levels from whom you can learn.” Chief talent and human resources officer,  Alison Bernard

 

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: 14
  • Worldwide revenue: $1.022 billion 
  • Partners (US): 225
  • Associates (US): 374
  • 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: Hector Gonzalez, Deputy Chair for Diversity; Satra Sampson-Arokium, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Recruitment details 
  • Entry-level associates starting in 2019: 40
  • Clerking policy: Yes
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019: 1Ls 5, 2Ls 45
  • Summers joining/anticipated 2019 split by office: Boston: 4, Charlotte: 3, Hartford: 1, New York: 16, Philadelphia: 14, Silicon Valley: 2, Washington DC: 9
  • Summer salary 2019: 1Ls: $3,461.54/week 2Ls: $3,461.54/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 27 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 named The American Lawyer’s #1 firm for international pro bono for the last three years.

Recruitment Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2019:
American, Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Fordham, George Washington, Georgetown, Harvard, Hofstra, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn State, Stanford, Temple, University of Connecticut, 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 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity 1L Scholars program. We welcome applications from experienced lawyers seeking sophisticated work and the opportunity to become experts in their field.

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 gather for a multi-day, interactive orientation in New York to learn about Dechert’s culture, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, and pro bono opportunities. The curriculum also highlights such important skills as time management, networking, 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, 2019

Ranked Departments

    • Antitrust (Band 3)
    • Hedge & Mutual Funds (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Recognised Practitioner
    • 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 3)
    • Banking & Finance Recognised Practitioner
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring Recognised Practitioner
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Hedge Funds (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Registered Funds (Band 1)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 3)
    • Securities: Litigation (Band 4)
    • Securities: Regulation (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance Recognised Practitioner