Dechert LLP - The Inside View

Dech out your resume with this Philly big shot, boasting enviable global transactional and white-collar remits.

Home to a number of landmarks, Philadelphia’s a city teeming with history. Think the Independence Hall (where America’s Founding Fathers spent hours devising the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), the Liberty Bell (which chimed out the announcement of the Declaration of Independence in 1776), and – fast forward a century – the very roots that formed modern-day Dechert. Of course, the firm’s hometown was a pull factor for many, but it was its expansion further afield that kept juniors: “I knew I wanted to work in Philly, but I wanted to work across multiple teams in New York and London.” The firm has ten offices across the US, including Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and DC. A further 10 international offices make up the firm’s global reach, garnering a tidy 44 rankings from Chambers Global.

“I knew I wanted to work in Philly, but I wanted to work across multiple teams in New York and London.”

“I knew I wanted to do public M&A and capital markets work,” one associate relayed of their motivations for selecting Dechert. And a good choice it was! According to our sister guide, Chambers USA, the firm tops the charts for corporate/M&A and capital markets (securitizations: CLOs & CRE) work with medals for both practices nationwide. But that’s not all. The firm’s national product liability & mass torts, toxic torts, and registered funds expertise earn gold stars, too. Regionally, the firm’s New York white-collar crime & government investigations work earns high praise, while its HQ continues to be skill-y in Philly; the firm’s antitrust, intellectual property, real estate finance, tax, corporate/M&A & private equity, and general commercial litigation practices are the standout in Pennsylvania. A stone’s throw away in Massachusetts, the firm’s hedge & mutual funds work shines bright.

Strategy & Future



Reflecting on the past year, Dechert’s continued to bolster both its litigious and transactional arms. For example, the firm recently appointed two new co-chairs of its product liability and mass torts practice, with partners based on either coast in New York and LA. Similarly, on the transactional side, two partners were made co-leaders of the firm’s commercial real estate finance group, highlighting the firm’s focus on its global finance and real estate offerings. Last year also saw the introduction of a new firm management team, consisting of partners across New York, Philadelphia, DC, and Paris practicing corporate, finance & real estate, white-collar, and tax.

Over on the West Coast, the firm recently announced its San Francisco office relocation, indicating the firm’s commitment to growth in the area and desire to tap into the city’s tech scene. The past three years have seen the firm triple its SF headcount.

We spoke to co-chair David Forti to learn more. Read the interview transcript under the 'Get Hired' tab

The Work



Dechert has practices in corporate & securities; executive benefits & executive compensation; finance & real estate; financial restructuring; financial services; global tax; intellectual property; private client; and global litigation. The majority of associates at the firm sit in the finance & real estate, corporate & securities, and financial services groups. Across these groups, associates are staffed through centralized work allocation systems. “We have practice group coordinators who monitor our hours and distribute work based on availability and interest,” one interviewee explained. Many of our sources appreciated this system as it allowed newbies to get their fingers in as many pies as they desire: “From the beginning, the coordinators do their best to get you exposure. As you go onto second year, you can begin to specialize more.”

“You could say we’re top players in the market!”

The finance & real estate team is divided into four subgroups: asset finance & securitization; commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS); commercial real estate finance; and structured credit & collateralized loan obligations. “Dechert is pretty well known in the real estate space, so naturally we work on both sides of the deal. You could say we’re top players in the market!” one associate beamed. This team’s clients range from national and international investment and commercial banks to debt funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), insurance companies, pension funds, and loan servicers. On the securitization side of things, associates described encountering matters to do with residential mortgage work, meanwhile loan origination meant “working on the financing of transactions for office buildings, malls and hotels.” The mix allowed our interviewees to work on both “the concrete side of the financing, i.e. the buildings, and the more abstract side with loans and trust pools.” Moreover, location is hardly a hindrance to the type of work associates here come across: “You’re regularly working with other Dechert offices, so I don’t feel like being in a specific office puts me out,” an insider detailed.

So, what does this mean for junior associates in the group? “Depending on the deal work, you could be doing a lease review, then due diligence for a deposition review. You never know what you’ll be doing in the office that day,” an insider enthused of their varied to-do list. Sources described taking on “organizational roles” on deal teams, with common tasks including checking documents and completing checklists, directing calls with clients, and taking the first stabs at first drafts of various deal documents. And it all pays off: “As you transition into a mid-level, the firm is looking for good communication and organization skills, so you need to demonstrate strengths in these tasks,” a seasoned associate explained.

Finance & real estate clients: Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo. Represented Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) in more than 500 securitizations.

There are three branches in the corporate & securities team: private equity, M&A, and private credit. “Our main work is M&A, but we also have strong private credit work in private equity and public company deal work in capital markets,” detailed an interviewee. When newbies join the group, our sources explained, “The team prefers you to try everything, like you would in a summer rotation, so I’ve worked on a mix of things.” Specialization tends to come “around your third or fourth year.” Examples of junior work in this group include organizing public filings for board resolutions and inputting client comments. “I’ve also managed to draft a lot of ancillaries in my first year,” noted a source. “What I like about Dechert is that the deals are leanly staffed, so I’m working on a lot more complex work than my peers.”

Corporate & securities clients: JP Morgan Securities, Energy Harbor Corp., Cheisi Farmaceutici. Advised Exiger, a SaaS supply chain management software company, on the sale of its financial crime compliance division to Capgemini.

Pro Bono



All attorneys are required to undertake at least 25 hours of pro bono work per year, with a maximum of 100 hours counting towards billable relief for standard bonuses – a reduction from the previous 200-hour threshold, which our sources had mixed opinions on. On the one hand, “it’s a shame as at the beginning of my time at the firm, I was able to take part in pro bono research projects that helped me build more skills related to my practice area. Now there’s less incentive to expand further.” On the other hand, “the firm now has other ways in which you can secure your bonus, so it isn’t a massive loss.” Pro bono hours beyond the 100 threshold will count towards associates' 'extraordinary bonus' (more on that later...) All that said, according to our survey responses, a whopping 98% agreed that Dechert is committed to pro bono work.

Opportunities to get involved in pro bono work include “a little bit of everything.” Typical matters available consist of nonprofit work, social work, research projects, housing work, criminal justice, and military work. “I’ve worked on innocence projects where I screen prisoner cases to see whether or not the Innocence Project can support them,” an insider divulged. “It was so fulfilling and interesting to work with associates from other practices who I wouldn’t have otherwise worked with.”

Pro bono hours

  • For all US attorneys: 69,895
  • Average per US attorney: 106

Career Development



Associates spoke highly of the firm’s regular training sessions: “We have weekly sessions that run the gamut of everything we do. They begin with basic principles of the practice you are in, and then progress to more complicated issues across all product lines.” Accompanying this is the development gained from shadowing partners and senior associates. “You can count shadowing as billable through attending meetings and carrying out research for articles,” we heard. “We’re also encouraged to go to mixers and conferences, and the firm covers the cost.” Dechert’s also hot on tech training, which provides associates “an opportunity to be more innovative with ways of working.”

Another highlight for our sources was the firm’s mentorship program. Newbies are paired with a senior associate and a partner mentor. “Every quarter we received funding to go and grab a coffee or lunch, and chat for an hour about how things are going,” said an interviewee. Indeed, a helping hand is never too far away: “My mentor is just down the hall, so they’re there if I need them.”

In tandem with the extensive internal support is the firm’s transparency on in-house moves: “There is a jobs board so you can see external opportunities with clients,” we heard. “The firm wants to keep those connections with clients, and it’s helpful to have more than just the partnership path.”

Culture



“There are no horror stories…”

“Dechert is true to form,” one associate proclaimed. “Associates feel able to advocate for themselves and for each other – it’s something that’s remained true from my interview to today.” In fact, our survey results indicate that 90% (!) of respondents agreed that associate camaraderie is strong at the firm. This air of unity isn’t solely confined to the associate ranks, however. “There are no horror stories of partners being mean!” associates were pleased to report. In fact, “the culture is pretty casual and laid back – we don’t have a dress code!” Of course, “every attorney is Type A in some way,” a source quipped, “but what’s nice is the people I work with are real and personable.”

Hours & Compensation



Billable hours: 1,950 target

Our interviewees were hard put to find fault in the firm’s compensation structure: “It matches the Cravath scale, so it’s on top of the market, and it’s the same across all offices. I can’t complain!” Those hitting the 1,950 target unlock themselves a generous bonus, while those who make the extra leap to 2,200 hours can expect to receive a further bonus (known as an ‘extraordinary bonus’). Ka-ching!

“…you don’t feel like you’re in the trenches with people who don’t understand!”

As for the hours target, “it is doable,” one junior reasoned, taking into account the 100-hour pro bono allowance. According to our survey, respondents reported working 49.7 hours per week, slightly above our calculated market average of 48.1. So, what do these hours look like in practice? “It can be hard to juggle my partner, friends and family with the need to be online,” one interviewee noted. This was largely down to the fact that matters are often leanly staffed: “You get to work closely with partners for development, but when things come up, there is no back-up on the deal… it’s your responsibility!” The caveat to this, however, was the firm’s support of attorneys with families: “The majority of partners have spouses and are parents, so you don’t feel like you’re in the trenches with people who don’t understand!”

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion



Representation of women in the junior classes was praised by our interviewees: “I would say there’s more than 50% of female juniors at Dechert.” Similarly, of the firm’s most recent round of US partner promotions, 50% were women. “I do think that the firm is trying to foster women from the ground up,” noted an associate. Our interviewees did have a few concerns over the representation of diverse attorneys at the firm. However, this is largely “representative of the legal industry outside of Dechert,” as one junior acknowledged.

That’s not to say the firm isn’t taking the necessary steps towards improving diversity; the firm’s affinity groups got a shout-out from our interviewees. Dechert has nine affinity groups in the US: the Asian Affinity Group; Black Professionals Alliance; the Family Network; Dechert Heroes (Veterans Affinity Group); the Disability Affinity Group; the Global Women’s Initiative; Greater Middle Eastern Alliance; the Latino Affinity Group; and the LGBTQ+ Affinity Group. “We have a diversity event once a month based on what’s being celebrated that month. We recently had a Chinese New Year celebration,” one source highlighted. More casually, the groups also have “pretty regular happy hours.”

Get Hired 



The first stage: recruitment on and off campus  

OCI applicants interviewed: undisclosed 

Interviewees outside OCI: undisclosed 

Dechert conducts interviews at over 25 law schools and job fairs. The firm also accepts early applications and write-ins during the pre-OCI and 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   

Callbacks  

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   

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 beyond their initial practice group interest. Mock negotiations, deposition training, writing skills, presentation workshops and practice group trainings are also dotted throughout the program. The firm’s offices, practice groups and many of the firm's affinity groups host social events.  

As the program comes to an end, summers rank the practice groups available within their respective offices by preference. Candidates then receive offers to join either the transactional or litigation groups and the firm informs them about their specific practice group placement in advance of their start date.  

And finally...  

“You’re likely to encounter some of your biggest career opportunities here at Dechert. Our approach is to judiciously present our people with assignments that draw out their strengths and stretch their boundaries. Accordingly, we recruit lawyers who want to challenge themselves through complex, cutting-edge legal work in a highly collaborative environment. Here, you will be trusted and empowered to do your very best work.” – Christina Sarchio, Securities and Complex Litigation Partner and Deputy Chair of Talent 

Interview with David Forti, Co-chair of Dechert



Commercial strategy, market position and trends

Chambers Associate: How would you define your firm’s current position and identity in the legal market? What differentiates your firm from your peer firms in the market?

David Forti: We are focused on the business of our clients. Our work is more than just understanding the law but also how it impacts our clients’ businesses. Interpreting the law is the first step, but we then further this by designing practical business solutions to address their business and legal challenges. Another factor that sets us apart from others in the market is our culture. I have been here for 28 years now, and I have seen the firm change and grow dramatically over the years. But the one thing that has remained is the culture. The new laterals and associates we hire into the firm understand that we are a community with a consensus driven culture. One other thing that differentiates us is the amount of collaboration we do here at Dechert. People don’t think of themselves as their geography first; they are a part of Dechert practice groups as one team. When you have so many offices, having an individual office approach means lawyers wouldn’t be a part of a large law firm. We have done a terrific job at integrating our offices and plan to continue to do so into the future. We know this strategy makes people feel like they are a part of a unified organization. It has been very easy for us to take our work online as all the different offices have been coordinating for years!

CA: Have there been any developments at the firm over the past year that you’d like law students to know about?

Forti: In 2023, there was a massive global acceptance of AI as something not just theoretical but real. We embraced AI, in tune with our innovative nature. Since this time, we have developed 14 to 15 AI tools. These tools make our lawyers better as they can be used to reduce time spent on a task. In turn, this allows our lawyers to be constantly moving up the learning curve because rather than spending a week trying to find assignment provisions in 100s of documents, our developed tools find the provisions, so the time can be spent on the more intellectual task of analysis. I recently attended our Innovation Certification graduation program – which has seen 183 lawyers and business professionals graduate from it so far – which is a multi-month program that drives innovative learning and development. Here, like-minded lawyers and business professionals come up with many ideas that in turn have been adopted and implemented by the firm. This goes back to our culture of innovation. We are going to be celebrating our 150th anniversary next year and if we hadn’t been innovating over the years, we wouldn’t be able to exist. Innovation is part of our DNA.

I would also like to mention our Dechert Spark Tank. This is a competition held firmwide where individuals or teams come together to present ideas that we can implement to better the firm. This year, we heard ideas related to AI, such as our recent introduction of our chatbot that collates years worth of training programs, making it more user friendly. We have a saying here that lawyers won’t be replaced by AI, but you will be replaced with someone who knows how to use AI.

We have recently partnered with Tthe LorWharton School inof the University of Pennsylvania which has one of the best business programprogramsmes in the world for Dechert. We are going to have 50 third to fifth year peopleassociates go through classes – all from our 3rd to 65th years. They will live there stay on Wharton’s campus and be immersed to understand areasdeepen their understanding of areas such as corporate finance, private equity, accountings, taxation and business strategy. This leads back to my point about embracing the business of our clients by training lawyers in things that aren’t trained in itareas that are critical to our clients. I hope they enjoy it and that it will make their careers better by helping them understand what the clients think about understand.

CA: What is your firm’s commercial strategy focusing on, and how do you expect the next year to unfold?

Forti: We are well positioned for growth in 2024, and being mindful of what has made us successful over the last 150 years, our recently finalized strategic plan is an evolution, not a revolution. Rather than trying to be everything to everybody, we will continue to build specialized practices designed to serve our clients’ needs with a focus on the Financial Services, Private Equity & Private Credit, Real Estate, Life Sciences, and Technology sectors. In terms of geography, we pay close attention to where our clients are moving. South Florida is up there as this is where some of our elite clientele are locating.

CA: It has become a trend throughout our research that junior associates were drawn to Dechert for its DEI efforts. What would you highlight as Dechert’s strengths in this area? Will these develop in the next few years?

Forti: Diversity and Inclusion is one of our core principles. We understand that respecting everyone’s voice empowers people to be themselves, which in turn improves our service. This marries with the innovative thinking that our clients value. Diversity makes us better! We think having a place that celebrates diversity of all types makes us better lawyers for our clients. We know that diverse teams outperform and get better results for our clients.

One goal of diversity, equity and inclusion is to attract and recruit diverse talent, but what we have also done exceptionally well is developing and retaining that talent. For example, we have a formal mentorship and sponsorship programs. Another thing we have done for years is to try to train people in understanding implicit bias. We all have biases based on our own experiences, and we need to learn to identify and be conscious of them. So, to counteract this, we have had inclusive leadership training for years. Once recognized, it becomes much easier to overcome. We have more work to do for sure, but I am happy with the progress we have made so far.

CA: The firm recently expanded its presence on the west coast with the growth of the San Fransisco office. What motivated this move and how do you see this benefiting the firm in the long run?

Forti: We would like to grow on the West Coast. Many of our existing clients operate in the West Coast because it is such a large economy. We want to be where our elite clients are, even in this age of Zoom and proximity. We have been in San Francisco for over 20 years and recently moved to a beautiful new space and significantly increased the size of our office. There is an exceptional legal market in San Francisco, and our client and skill set line up well. LA is also another area where we would like to grow for the same reasons.

The Fun Bit

CA: Is there any advice you’d give to your younger self starting out your career?

Forti: It worked out well, right? So maybe I should do what I did again! In my career, I always tried to incorporate my work with my life as opposed to separating my work from my life. Many of my best friends are colleagues, coworkers, and clients because we have a shared interest in the same type of business, so I have always tried to embrace where most would separate. I think it has made the work fun! I am working with friends towards a common goal, to close a transaction rather than being a tool hired to do something. I love my job and that’s because of the people. The relationships bring me joy.

CA: The hours in BigLaw can be punishing. How do you unwind at the end of a long day/week?

Forti: I am a huge sports fan! I enjoy watching sports. My spouse and our three children are also sports fans so we go to as many live events as we can. For me, the way to relax and enjoy something outside of work is to spend some real quality time with my family. I also like to fish, which is more solitary. It feels meditative for me!

Dechert LLP

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

1095 6th Ave,,
New York,
NY 10036-6797

Main areas of work
Dechert delivers legal expertise and commercial insight in its core practices: antitrust/competition; arbitration; commercial real estate; corporate and securities; cybersecurity and privacy; employee benefits and executive compensation; enforcements and investigations; financial restructuring; financial services and investment management; global finance; intellectual property; life sciences; mergers and acquisitions; national security; private credit; private equity; products liability and mass torts; pro bono; securities and complex litigation; and tax.

Firm profile 
Dechert operates globally across 21 locations, efficiently delivering the highest quality advice that is actionable and commercial. Clients include 9 of the top 10 global asset management firms, more than 50 percent of publicly traded and private BDCs, over 700 private fund and fund management groups, 41 of the top 50 global private debt firms, more than 200 private equity and investment firms, and 40 of the “Fortune 100” companies.

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 six consecutive years. It is also a leading law firm for pro bono services, ranked in the top two spots by The American Lawyer for international pro bono work for the past eight years.

Recruitment
Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2024:

Berkeley, Boston College, Boston University, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Stanford, UCLA, UNC, University of Pennsylvania, UVA, Wake Forest, and Yale.

Recruitment outside OCIs:
Dechert participates in resumé collections at several law schools as well as the Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair (PADJF), 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 depositions. Summer associates also 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.

Social media:
Recruitment website: www.dechert.com/careers
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/dechert-llp/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DechertLLP

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • 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)
    • Banking & Finance (Band 3)
    • 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 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)

More from Dechert:

WATCH: An introduction to the firm

WATCH: Dechert Stars

WATCH: Training at Dechert

WATCH: Diversity & Inclusion at Dechert