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UK City Firms

Dentons (London)

Our view...

In 2010, DWS merged with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal to create SNR Denton. Or SNRD, as we liked to call it - like you're attempting to hack up a furrball. Then in 2013 it gobbled up Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain, and emerged as a beautiful butterfly called Dentons.

There's a history of slightly incongruous mergers here, too. Denton Hall's 2000 merger with Wilde Sapte was always going to be a marriage of unlikely bedfellows. Denton Hall was a respected media outfit, whereas Wilde Sapte specialised in banking and finance. But in the past decade the firm has tried hard to establish itself as a serious City player. Rumour has it that when it opened new offices on Chancery Lane the powers that be opened up a back entrance just so they could technically say that it was a City firm.
 
It's been a bit of a bumpy journey - some disasters the result of misfortune but others entirely of its own making. In 2003 it axed 70 staff, including 40 solicitors, and two thirds of its qualifying trainees. Later in the year it kissed goodbye to its European network of offices, before bidding sayonara to its Asian presence in 2004. Yes, it left DWS's reputation as an international firm dead in the water, but times have changed. In 2014 it opened in Cape Town, Casablanca, Houston and Astana in glamorous Kazakhstan. It’s doing a huge amount of work in Africa, and now has considerable strength in the Middle East (a Bahrain office was opened in 2010), Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
 
Legacy Denton Wilde Sapte set about getting back on track by concentrating on its core specialist areas - energy, transport and infrastructure; financial institutions; real estate and retail; and TMT.
 
There's some very good stuff at Dentons. The firm’s energy and project finance reputation is very healthy, its banking and finance groups are performing more than respectably and pre credit crunch its real estate group was going great guns. More importantly in today’s climate, the firm can challenge the Magic Circle when it comes to asset finance, restructuring and insolvency instructions.

When DWS became SNRD there were reports of large-scale defections, demands that non-equity partners pump in £20k each and a pretty shonky trainee retention rate of 56%. Has the the latest bedding-in period as Dentons been as tricky? Possibly not. Trainee retention has been solid. Revenue had fallen between 2010 and 2012, by 8% in 20010/11 to £154.4m and by a further 6% in 2011/12, while profits per partner took a massive hit in 2010/11, nose-diving by 34% to £233k. In 2014 the firm took the decision to stop publishing profits per partner, rightly explaining that it was an unrealistic (and easily manipulated) yardstick of success. Nonetheless, for those who like to know, leaked figures revealed that in the UK, Middle East And African branches of the firm PEP was up to £407k in 2013/14, up 23% on the previous period. Profit was up approximately 16% to £28.7m.
 
The atmosphere at Dentons seems to be quite positive – "very friendly office", "very open door and non hierarchical" and "Good working arrangements for working parents". "Teams get on well together" and assistants should bear in mind that the firm has made up more partners than pretty much anyone else in recent years. However there were certainly more than a few grumbles about poor pay and mid-market work in 2012/13. Lawyers criticised a "lack of ambition", a confused identity and "bad communication", although there was a sense that management were trying to improve things, and it may have worked. In 2013/14 one 1PQE noted that while "there was a time when things were really shaky and partners were leaving in droves" the firm "has done well to stem that". Although there are mutterings that penny-pinching to control costs persists. Or, as one solicitor puts it, "as tight as a trout's arse in water".

It usually takes a good couple of years for any merger to bed in. Let's see what comes out of the 2015 Firm of the Year survey.
For more information on Dentons click here

Salary

Salary (1st seat trainee): £39,000
Salary (NQ): £61,000
Salary (1PQE): £67,000
Salary (2PQE): £72,000
Salary (3PQE): £76,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: Yes
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %

Training

Grant for GDL: £7,000
Grant for LPC: £7,000
Training places per year: 20
% of trainees retained: 85%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 68%
Development: 63%
Work/Life: 60%
Openness: 62%
Biscuits: 59%
Toilets: 69%
Social: 66%
Firm of the year overall score: 64%

Benefits

Holiday allowance: 25/26
Flexi holiday: Yes
Pension: Firm contributes 5% (applies to Trainees as well as qualified staff)
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Enhanced
Target hours: 1600
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Sports club membership allowance
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes
Other: Payment if fee earners achieve billing target is 10% of salary for all PQE's. Bonuses are higher for those who exceed their target by more than 50 hours. Various other benefits available through the firm's flexible benefits scheme.

  

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