The decision to recruit solely from a pool of vacation scheme students comes from Dechert's desire to have trainee solicitors ‘understand the firm and its clients, and reflect the energy, ambition and business focus that our clients look for’, explains training principal Jonathan Angell. ‘We also want our future trainees to have a solid understanding of the commitment Dechert has to its people, the training we provide and our collaborative working environment. We believe the best way to do this is to participate fully in a two-week scheme at our London offices’.
It’s not only those at the top who believe that this is a superior method of recruiting trainees. Many of the firm’s juniors also extol this new approach to recruitment, deeming it an incredibly useful opportunity to develop unparalleled insight into the firm. Charles Ashie, a future trainee, explains: ‘each firm’s culture is so different and so to gain insight in terms of what the people are like – not just the lawyers, but also the receptionists, secretaries and support staff – is invaluable’.
Current trainee Kerenza Kerslake agrees, adding that ‘[by completing the Dechert vacation scheme] you get more of a feel for the work that you’d be doing as a trainee, and get to see how friendly the teams are’. Furthermore, for the candidate bent on securing a training contract offer from the firm, the two-week vacation scheme is the perfect opportunity to showcase the skills and personality traits which cannot be gleaned from an application form. As Ashie rightly notes, completing the vacation scheme means ‘you get to see more of the firm and crucially, they get to see more of you’.
With the increased importance that the Dechert vacation scheme now holds, it is no wonder the firm goes to great lengths to make the two-week placement of excellent quality. And there is no doubt that the firm is living up to the expectations of candidates who join the fold over the spring or summer seasons. The work opportunities, quality of supervision and networking opportunities are unparalleled. Echoing this sentiment, Ashie is quick to praise the excellent supervision he received whilst working in the firm’s white-collar crime department: ‘having a supervisor who is so invested in your personal development over the week was incredible – I was really appreciative of it’.
The scheme sees students spend one week each in two of Dechert’s various departments. They have numerous opportunities to ask questions and network with staff of varying levels of seniority. Candidates are assigned a trainee buddy but sit with a supervisor – usually a senior associate – who assigns trainee-like tasks and provides feedback upon completion.
Much of the work is research-based says Kerslake, who recalls having to conduct research into the people with significant control register and good faith requirements in contracts during her time in the corporate team. In an equally stimulating task, Ashie was tasked with summarising a legislative update relating to white-collar crime. Students are also enlisted to help with pro bono work, which gives candidates an opportunity to see that ‘Dechert is not only committed to providing the highest level of service to clients, but also to individuals and organisations who may not have access to legal services’, asserts Ashie.
Attending training sessions, being included on conference calls, shadowing senior associates, giving group presentations, attending talks on different practice areas and having informal lunches with trainees and supervisors is all part and parcel of the vacation scheme at Dechert. The scheme, says Kerslake, is ‘challenging’ but nevertheless ‘really enjoyable’.
‘Dechert does loads’ to facilitate socialising, says Kerslake. Social events are dotted throughout the two weeks, with everything from ‘cooking classes at [French restaurant] L’Atelier’ and champagne networking events on the London Eye, to trips to the City of London Museum with clients comprising part of the itinerary – ‘it was clear that ‘they’d put a lot of time into organising the two weeks’. Attending these various events ‘showed a more relaxed side to the associates’ says Ashie, who advises incoming recruits to seize opportunities and ‘say yes to everything’! He notes that the firm is keen to get ‘vacation scheme students involved in anything that’s going on in the seat they’re placed in which made [him] feel more welcomed and included’.
Towards the end of the placement, candidates undergo a training contract interview. In recalling the interview process, Kerslake is keen to reassure nervous interviewees that when asked a challenging question, ‘[interviewers] are not testing what you actually know about business or markets, they’re assessing your thought process. So, in asking you a difficult question, they are looking for you to ask sub-questions that will get you to the answer they’re looking for. It’s all about showing that you are interested and willing to learn new things.’
There is no doubt that attending Dechert’s two-week vacation scheme (with a view to gaining a training contract) is beneficial to both the firm and the candidate, as each will emerge in a better position to decide whether to spend two years working with each other. A decision not to be taken lightly!
To apply for Dechert’s vacation scheme, click here.
For more information on the Dechert training contract, read the firm’s full Lex 100 profile.