DLA Piper LLP (US) - The Inside View

It may be one of the largest law firms in the world, but DLA has plenty more in the pipeline.  

DLA Piper is a relatively new firm (in the context of the legal world, at least). The result of a 2005 merger between one British and two US firms, the brand has been operating as a Swiss verein since its inception. At less than 20 years old (technically), the firm has catapulted to third place in the world’s largest law firms by revenue. Add its 26 US offices and 62 international ones into the mix and it’s clear that this is a firm driven by ambition. Unsurprisingly, the firm looks for lawyers with a similar drive. “Being a great lawyer is just the beginning. You need to be a business counselor and partner,” explains Richard Chesley, the US co-managing director. The firm looks for lawyers that can connect to their clients while offering cutting edge legal advice, but what makes the lawyers stay? “I like all the cross-border and multinational matters I work on”, an associate reflected.  

“I came in wanting to practice in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or patent litigation. Here, I have been able to practice in all these areas."

Other associates highlighted that even though the firm is big, the different cultures of the practice groups make it feel like they are working in a smaller firm. Consequently, “it’s easier to stand out, you don’t get lost in the shuffle.” Since DLA Piper is a young firm, associates love that it doesn’t have an old school culture regarding how people interact with each other. So what questions did the associates ask as they were deciding whether they wanted to work at DLA Piper? “Do I picture myself getting beers with these people? Can I come to these people when I mess up?” The answer was yes. If it’s sophisticated work across multiple practices you’re after, then a quick peruse of the Chambers USA rankings will drive home just how significant the firm’s work is. Earning more than 100 (!) accolades across 15 states, DLA has picked up the most rankings in New York and Chicago. These are, funnily enough, the biggest offices, and are where most of our sources work. 

The Work  

DLA Piper is divided into two verticals. A transactional vertical that includes all corporate services and real estate, and a disputes vertical which revolves around litigation. In addition, the firm operates in fourteen industries ranging from life sciences to construction. Associates come from all sorts of backgrounds and have varying interests: some studied biology in college, some came from clerkships. Some started as paralegals, whilst others joned DLA as laterals: “I came in wanting to practice in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or patent litigation. Here, I have been able to practice in all these areas,” an associate remarked. Suffice to say that if you want to try out different things to see where you best fit, you’re unlikely to get push back.  

Work allocation is mostly free market: “Some of us have work coordinators, but most of the work I get is from people I’ve worked with. It’s rare to receive an email out of the blue from a work coordinator.” There are, however, certain factors that are taken into consideration, like availability, skillset, and where associates need development. “There is a weekly reminder to fill in a workload report with how busy you anticipate being, and you can request additional work” an associate explained. Those starting out have to take the initiative. “At the beginning, I set up virtual chats with everybody whose work interested me. I explained by my background and gave them my availability.” It is useful to note that the firm told us they are piloting a new work allocation system for first year associates in some of the practice groups.

“We have an expert on everything.” 

From antitrust and class actions to cross-border litigation and commercial contract disputes, there’s no type of litigation you won’t find at DLA Piper: “I wasn’t interested in class action, so I didn’t seek out that type of work. I wanted to work on investigations and commercial litigation.” We also heard that work isn’t limited to associates’ home office: “I don’t just work with my colleagues in New York, I work with teams all over the world.” As expected, newbies might run into a case in which they don’t have the technical expertise. Luckily, “We have an expert on everything. I’ve never been left scratching my head on anything technical outside the law,” an associate emphasized. Typical junior associate tasks include drafting motions, responses to subpoenas, summary judgments and pleadings. Filing briefs and taking part in depositions is also common. “It’s doc-heavy and includes a lot of fact finding – you don’t get that in law school,” an associate told us.  

Litigation clients: Nike, Dr. Seuss, Pfizer. Represented British Airways in nationwide class actions concerning alleged failure to refund flights cancelled due to COVID-19. 

The corporate practice groups at DLA focus on M&A, venture capital, private and public equity and debt offerings, meaning associates work with clients on any investment transactions and development.There’s no shortage of hefty deals for associates to work on either, with transactions typically measured in the hundreds of millions and billions of dollars – Fortune 500 companies in numerous industries make up part of the client roster. “Health care and defence are big” an associate explains. Junior associates are expected to do lots of due diligence work, draft schedules, closing documents, research and provide comments to the clients. Nearly all of the associates we surveyed believe the level of responsibility in this group is outstanding, scoring the firm higher than the market average. 

Corporate clients: General Mills, First Washington Realty, i9 Sports Corporation.  Representing T-Mobile in its acquisition of licenses from Channel 51 License Co and LB Licence Co.  

Career development 

The insiders we talked to emphasized that associates “don’t just want to hit their billables, they want to develop too.” The firm just changed how it approaches career development: it places associates into categories 1, 2 and 3. For each category, the firm sets benchmarks depending on practice area.For example, for litigation associates, an important benchmark is client-facing opportunities. During the performance review, associates can request opportunities to fill in any gaps in their development. The firm also offers monthly and annual skills-focused seminars; some seminars simulate mock trials. In these exercises “the spotlight is on you. You present oral arguments in front of lawyers who argue orally every day.” In terms of mentorship, an associate remarked that “it’s been more about individual partners who are invested, as opposed to the firm as a whole.” For instance, associates are assigned career advisors, who are typically partners, through the firm's Career Advisor Program.

Whilst the firm brings in a number of lateral attorneys, it’s also focused on training homegrown associates to help them get up the ladder. In fact, around half of those we surveyed intend to make partner at the firm – a figure significantly higher than the market average. 

Pro Bono 

DLA treats pro bono like any other billable matter. “Sometimes I am asked to work on a matter without even realizing its pro bono” an associate confessed. With a variety of matters available, juniors might work on immigration matters, domestic violence issues, run divorce clinics, and advise people who are facing eviction. Our sources highlighted pro bono as an opportunity to take charge of their work while using their language skills. “I speak French, so I work with refugees from west Africa. I write affidavits, help them with interview prep, and attend their interviews.”  

“Sometimes I am asked to work on a matter without even realizing its pro bono.” 

At DLA Piper, you need a minimum of 60 hours of pro bono in order to qualify for a bonus. Once you hit the threshold of 200 billable hours, you need special request to go over. However, with a strong probono culture, it’s rare for the request to be denied. In fact, DLA lawyers do so much pro bono that the firm ranks in the top 20 in our guide for number of hours per lawyer. 

Pro bono hours  

  • For all US attorneys: 114,000
  • Average per attorney: 67.5

Hours and Compensation 

Billable hours: 2,000 requirement 

Associates noted that with all the work available, it would be difficult not to reach the 2,000 billing requirement. However, in the case that an associate doesn’t hit the target, “there is no hard consequence,” an associate clarified.So, what does an average day look like? Most associates work from 9am to 7pm, and may work after dinner if necessary. The firm has office managers that monitor the number of hours that the associates work. “If you have worked a lot, she will reach out and ask if you are ok or need help from paralegals. They will try to redistribute the work,” an associate explains. With the hours worked, the associates highlighted that they appreciate the transparency and predictability attached to lockstep. They also agree that knowing the number of hours you need to get a bonus is appreciated. As revealed in our survey results, 88% of the respondents feel that the bonus allocation is fair and transparent and 68% say they have a good work/life balance. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 

DLA was just given a Mansfield 5.0 accreditation and offers the Raja Gaddipati Fellowhsip to students to offer insight into life at a law firm. “They listen into the same training we are taking. It’s not just about hiring, it’s also about going back to the formative years when they are still in college,” an associate maintained. Sources also noted that at the junior level, women form around 50% of the ranks. At the partner level, “the New York managing partner is a woman of color. However, most of the partners are white men,” an associate observed. Finally, a few associates felt that some structural programs could be put in place to ensure that implicit bias is not used in picking teams and associates. The firm's Leadership Alliance for Women also just concluded a two-day summit that brought together hundreds of female GCs.  


Given DLA’s size, coupled with the well-known impacts of COVID-19, it was slightly difficult for some associates to define the firm’s culture. Whilst the social scene is lacking, sources found support in the relationships they’d developed with their practice groups: “Yes we work hard, but if you’re working late, the team understands if you need to step away and unwind.” As the firm works hard to create a sustainable hybrid working model, it is encouraging associates to come in the office during the week or for in-person meetings to strengthen the community. An associate was touched to find that their office “celebrates everyone’s accomplishments and nominates support staff and paralegals for awards.”  

“When I’m not with a client, I’m in jeans and a sweater.” 

Considering the day-to-day implications for the culture, one source explained: “I can be myself and joke around when it’s appropriate to. It feels pretty relaxed” an associate revealed. They added: “When I’m not with a client, I’m in jeans and a sweater and no one bats an eye.” So, what influences this culture? “The managing partner set the tone. She is very laid back, has a huge personality and is very easy going. She makes it clear that what’s important is doing the work.” In addition, smaller classes enable a more collaborative and supportive environment. Finally, the associates we talked to agree that “it’s fast paced, but you feel like you are working on things that matter.” 

Strategy and Future 

In conversation with DLA Piper’s co-managing partner, Richard Chesley, one thing was made clear. The firm was founded on a culture of commitment to its people. With intense pride on how the firm weathered the pandemic, there has been a greater focus on working collaboratively with its colleagues and clients. “We are seeing that even with the headwinds in the economy, we had built strong foundations prior to COVID," explains Chesley. To support the changes, DLA piper has been “aggressive in the lateral market by bringing in people from all geographies,” he adds.

With a constant awareness of the competitive forces in the market, DLA Piper is putting more and more time into ESG initiatives. Some other challenges the firm is thinking about include “economic displacement coupled with geopolitical instability.” So one of the questions on leadership’s mind is “how do we provide efficient services in a global economy that is slowing down?” With the world getting smaller, Chesley urges young lawyers to “be patient. There is intense pressure. Take calculated risks that you are willing to deal with. Opportunities will come when you learn your craft and develop the necessary skills.” 

Get Hired

The first stage: recruitment on and off campus 

Chief Talent Acquisition Officer, Stacy Silverstone, tells us that DLA Piper’s on-campus interview efforts “focus on a broad slate of schools including the top national schools, and HBCUs.” The firm sees between 2 and 60 students at each campus, and recruits from a number of job fairs across the country, including the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair, Boston Lawyers Group, Chicago Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair, Philadelphia Area Diversity Job Fair, Southeast Minority Job Fair, Lavender Law Career Fair, Northwest Minority Job Fair, and the Hispanic National Bar Association Job Fair. Additionally, the firm posts all summer associate job openings on its website and encourages students to apply directly. 

Silverstone tell us: “The firm has partners or teams of partners and associates (often alumni) conduct the on-campus interviews.” Questions typically consist of behavioral interview questions, as Silverstone explains: “We believe that behavioral interviews allow us to go beyond the facts on a candidate’s resume, discover and confirm the candidate’s behavioral skills, abilities and talents, and help to ensure that candidates are evaluated equally.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“We recruit based on the structure of our major practice groups. I encourage candidates to find out as much about us and our practice areas as they can – through our website, LinkedIn, Instagram, speaking with our attorneys and alumni and their career services offices. We realize that deciding whether to interview with a firm or accept an offer is an important decision, so we want candidates to feel like they have as much information as possible.” – Chief Talent Acquisition Officer Stacy Silverstone 

“Our interviewers try to get to know you beyond your resume. Focus on giving them a sense of your life experiences that will help you be a successful summer associate and lawyer.” – Chief Talent Acquisition Officer Stacy Silverstone


There are some differences in how callback interviews are conducted from practice group to practice group. “A number of our practice groups hold a ‘super callback’ day during which we interview 16 to 20 candidates in a single day using a panel interview formatWe have done this virtually and in person,” Silverstone explains. As with the On Campus Interviews, questions are often behavioral, as Silverstone tells us: “Our focus at this stage is really on getting as complete a picture of the candidates as we can.” 

Top tips for this stage: 

“Be authentic. The callback interview is really a chance for us to get to know the candidates and for them to get to know us.” – Chief Talent Acquisition Officer Stacy Silverstone 

“It’s also helpful when candidates really do their homework. They should take the time to go to our website and have a clear idea of why they are interested in interviewing with us. There is a lot of information on our careers website about who we are, what we do and the qualities we are looking for in prospective candidates.” – Chief Talent Acquisition Officer Stacy Silverstone

Summer program 

Silverstone says summer associates at DLA Piper “will have the opportunity to contribute to real client projects across cutting-edge practices and sectors. They also will be encouraged to make a meaningful difference by devoting significant time to pro bono work.”

Silverstone tells us the firm “is invested in partnering with the summer associates to support their development during the summer and beyond.” Summer associates are assigned advisors, and work coordinators that round-out that support team. Throughout the summer, Silverstone says, “summer associates will start to develop professional skills and industry knowledge that will allow them to be part of a team providing creative solutions to legal challenges.

“The highlight of our program is our annual summer associate academy,” Silverstone tells us. This two-and-a-half day event brings together summer associates from around the country, giving them the chance to hear from and meet the firm’s leaders, participate in training sessions and build meaningful relationships that will last beyond the summer program.

Notable past summer events: going to see Hamilton, bowling, cooking classes, a fireworks cruise 

Top tips for this stage: 

“I encourage summer associates to engage with the summer program as much as possible. By that, I mean try to be present each day. Take advantage of opportunities for informal lunches and coffees. Seek out connections with lawyers, partners and business professionals and participate fully in the training opportunities offered.” –Chief Talent Acquisition Officer, Stacy Silverstone 

And finally... 

Silverstone says “throughout the interview stages, interviewers are looking for individuals who are driven by challenges and actively embrace a culture of collaboration and excellence.”

DLA Piper LLP (US)

1251 Sixth Ave,
New York,
NY 10019
Website www.dlapiper.com

Main areas of work
From Global 1000 and Fortune 500 enterprises to emerging technology disruptors and the public sector, DLA Piper works closely with businesses that are leading and redefining their industries. In particular, our practices focus on corporate, employment, finance, intellectual property and technology, litigation, regulatory and government affairs, private equity, real estate, and tax. 

Firm profile
DLA Piper is a leading global law firm delivering seamlessly executed global solutions, reliable guidance and peace of mind to clients around the world. As a trusted steward of growth and change, we empower our clients to tackle their toughest challenges. With locations in more than 40 countries, our global footprint is not only wide, but also deep.  

Law Schools attending for OCIs in 2023:
Boston College, Boston Univ, Columbia, Cornell, Emory, Florida A&M, Fordham, Georgetown, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, Notre Dame, NYU, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UCLA, Univ of Chicago, Univ of Florida, Univ of Georgia, Univ of Miami, Univ of Michigan, Univ of Pennsylvania, Univ of Southern California (USC), Texas Southern, Univ of Texas, Univ of Virginia, Univ of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis 

Recruitment outside OCIs:
You can find us at numerous job fairs or at law schools throughout the US where we collect resumes. 

Summer associate profile: We're looking for exceptional law students. We are seeking candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset, who are motivated to build their legal skills and gain insight into client needs. We value innovators and creative thinkers who thrive on challenge and value teamwork. 

Summer program components: From day one, our summer associates are part of a team doing meaningful work for our clients. Our summer associates will be integrated into one of the firm’s core practice groups and supported by lawyers who are invested in their growth and development. Through community and team-building activities, they will get to know the other summer associates and the lawyers in their local offices.

Summer associates will participate in a series of training and development opportunities to acquire the skills they will need as they launch their legal careers, including a 2.5-day in-person event where they will hear from and meet DLA Piper’s senior leaders, participate in learning sessions and make connections that will last beyond the summer. 

Social media:
Recruitment website: https://www.dlapiper.com/en-us/careers
Linkedin: dla-piper
Twitter: @DLA_piper
Facebook: DLAPiperGlobal
Instagram: @dlapiper

This Firm's Rankings in
USA Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Antitrust (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Debt & Equity (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • Labor & Employment: The Elite (Band 4)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Media & Entertainment: Transactional (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 3)
    • Technology: Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Technology: Transactions (Band 2)
    • Venture Capital (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 4)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 4)
    • Healthcare (Band 5)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Telecom, Broadcast & Satellite (Band 1)
    • Healthcare (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 3)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 3)
    • Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 4)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 1)
    • Construction (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 1)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Real Estate (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 3)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: The Elite (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Litigation: General Commercial: Highly Regarded (Band 4)
    • Litigation: Securities (Band 5)
    • Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Corporate & Finance (Band 4)
    • Real Estate: Mainly Dirt (Band 3)
    • Tax (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A & Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 4)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 5)
    • Technology: Corporate & Commercial (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Bankruptcy/Restructuring: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Cannabis Law (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitization: CLOs (Band 3)
    • Corporate Crime & Investigations: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 1)
    • E-Discovery & Information Governance (Band 2)
    • Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (Band 5)
    • FCPA (Band 5)
    • Food & Beverages: Regulatory & Litigation (Band 3)
    • Franchising (Band 1)
    • Government Contracts: The Elite (Band 3)
    • Government Relations: Federal (Band 3)
    • Healthcare: Highly Regarded (Band 2)
    • Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Insurer (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Trademark, Copyright & Trade Secrets (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: The Elite (Band 4)
    • International Trade: Intellectual Property (Section 337) (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Investor Representation (Band 1)
    • Labor & Employment (Band 5)
    • Leisure & Hospitality (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 4)
    • Outsourcing (Band 2)
    • Privacy & Data Security: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Private Equity: Fund Formation (Band 4)
    • Product Liability & Mass Torts: The Elite (Band 2)
    • Real Estate (Band 2)
    • REITs (Band 3)
    • Retail (Band 1)
    • Sports Law (Band 2)
    • Startups & Emerging Companies (Band 3)
    • State Attorneys General (Band 3)
    • Tax: Controversy (Band 4)
    • Tax: Corporate & Finance (Band 5)
    • Technology (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Zoning/Land Use (Band 2)
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 2)
    • Litigation: General Commercial (Band 3)

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