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UK City Firms
DLA Piper (London)
When Dibb Lupton Broomhead and Alsops merged in the nineties most City firms barely raised an eyebrow. How times have changed. DLA Piper has expanded relentlessly - in 2003 its stated aim was to be a top five full-service European law firm. Then in 2005 it pulled off two mergers with the US's Piper Rudnick and Gray Cary creating the third biggest law firm in the world, now employing over 4,200 lawyers, in 77 offices, across 30 countries. And its recent merger with Australian firm DLA Phillips Fox made it the world's largest firm by head count. Its CEO even bagged a knighthood in the 2009 New Year’s Honours List. Whether you like it or not, DLA Piper is now as ubiquitous as McDonalds. And as tasty as Marmite.
The ubiquity isn't necessarily a good thing. The firm suffers from the same problem as arch competitor Eversheds: it may be everywhere, but it’s not really at the top of its tree anywhere. One associate said last year, "
one word sums up DLA Piper – average
". Possibly unsurprising given the firm’s treatment of its associates – in 2010 it effectively cut salaries whilst bumping up target hours. That and a raft of morale-sapping redundancies suggested that this wasn't the happiest of happy ships.
On the upside it’s making plenty of money, the firm has enticed a number of lateral hires and new offices have been launched in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and most recently Mexico City. The firm represents more than 140 of the top 250 Fortune 500 clients and nearly half of the FTSE 350 or their subsidiaries. That's pretty solid going by any measure.
Its London office (despite its "
") has long been considered the best of any national firm, although it still doesn’t compare to traditional City firms like Ashurst or Macfarlanes. Insiders also like being part of such an ambitious firm, and praise its "
speed of change and forward thinking approach
". It also wins points for being "
genuinely a very friendly firm to work at
", with "
great people to work with
". We're also told that there's a "
lot of empathy amongst fee earners
", although this revelation was somwhat tempered by the conclusion that this was because they all "
feel they lost out in life's lottery and most of whom spend at least half an hour every day in the toilets sobbing quietly.
And the downsides? A fairly common complaint is that there's "
no chance of making partner
," unless you come at it sideways: "
they consistently favour external candidates over internal
". Until very recently only a third of the ("
out of touch
") partnership held full equity. Remuneration at the top may have been staggering, but unless your name began with Sir Nigel and ended in Knowles you would't get a sniff of the uber bucks. Now the partnership is being moved to full-equity. But at a cost, as all partners were asked to cough up capital contributions.
Also, bear in mind that the figures on the right apply only to London - you'll be on an awful lot less outside the capital. Many regional associates grumble that "
Solicitors in the regions get shafted
," asserting that a London NQ gets more than a 5PQE solicitor in Leeds. Following a review in 2008, banding has been jettisoned in favour of pay increases based on individual performance of up to 8%. This has led to huge uncertainty, compounded by confusion over bonuses. One junior associate said, "
the bonus scheme is regarded as a bit of a joke
" and another described it as "
ridiculous. It's totally unachievable, and not worth sacrificing your life for.
A couple of years ago DLA parachuted in ex-Linklaters supremo Tony Angel, famed for his rather ruthless pursuit of the leaner, profit-making law firm model. Inevitably redundancies were on the horizon and in November 2012 the firm announced a consultation with 251 fee-earner and non fee-earner roles across the UK offices. The firm's Glasgow office was then chopped entirely.
The firm may not be for everyone, but overall there’s no denying its meteoric rise in profitability. Once upon a time DLA Piper said that it would look to float - we'd certainly be tempted to buy a few shares. And beyond the cash alone, there are plenty of reports of good friendships, great social activities and - for a massive firm - a decent work-life balance.
For more information on DLA Piper
Salary (1st seat trainee):
Salary (Salaried partner):
Typical bonus as % of salary
Grant for GDL:
Grant for LPC:
Training places per year:
% of trainees retained:
RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores
Firm of the year overall score:
Contributory 6% - 8%
18 weeks, up to 40 weeks once 2 years' service. 5 days paternity leave.
24 hour photocopying support:
24 hour secretarial support:
Service leave scheme - up to ten days extra holiday can be earned over three years. Concierge service.
Explanation and source of figures
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Please update. DLA are moving to a full equity partnership structure.