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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 the last year 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 are changing. In 2008 the firm opened an associate office in Kuwait. 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, Kazakhstan, 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. And it managed to lose 25 partners in a year. Ouch.
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. But kicking off 2009 with the announcement that up to 80 staff were at risk of redundancy didn't help, and fears abound that such a finance-heavy firm will be worse placed than most to ride out the recession.

Early smoke signals coming out of the latest merger are hard to read. Suffice it to say that the newly-minted firm is massive, with a true global presence. Or at least that's probably what they'd say. We'll reserve judgment for a bit. When SNRD 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%. Will the latest bedding-in period be as tricky?

Revenue has fallen over the past two years, by 8% in 20010/11 to £154.4m and by a further 6% in 2011/12. Profits per partner took a massive hit in 2010/11, nose-diving by 34% to £233k. But by some stroke of magic, despite turnover slumping yet again, SNR Denton found enough down the back of the sofa (or de-equitised enough partners/elbowed out sufficient staff) to increase PEP by a whopping 48% in 2011/12. No wonder it couldn't sustain the growth in 2012/13, when PEP dropped 1%.
Still, 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. But there are certainly more than a few grumbles about poor pay, mid-market work and low morale. Lawyers criticise a "lack of ambition", a confused identity and "bad communication", although there is a sense that management are trying to improve things. It usually takes a good couple of years for any merger to bed in, so the jury's out. Let's see what happens under the Dentons banner.
For more information on Dentons click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £37,000
Salary (NQ): £59,000
Salary (1PQE): £62,000
Salary (2PQE): £70,000
Salary (3PQE): £75,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

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


Grant for GDL: £7,000
Grant for LPC: £7,000
Training places per year: 20
% of trainees retained: 84%

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%


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: 1540
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Sports club membership allowance
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: No
Other: Payment if fee earners achieve billing target is 8% of salary for all PQE's bonuses are higher for those who exceed their target by more than 60 hours. Various other benefits available through the firm's flexible benefits scheme.


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