Debevoise & Plimpton

Debevoise London office may be small but it's magnificently well paid. Founded in 1989, the headcount has grown steadily, and is now at around 110 lawyers.The firm traditionally concentrated on the domestic market (its head office in New York houses over 450 lawyers), but it’s started to expand in Europe with offices now in Frankfurt, Paris and Moscow.  And also is building in Asia with a presence in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai, which brings the total number of lawyers worldwide to around 650. In the past the firm toyed with the idea of a European merger, but never committed - much to the annoyance of Freshfields, which made no secret of its desire for a tie up.

The firm is well known for its leading cross border work, in particular in the areas of finance, private equity and real estate. The financials are looking healthy: it announced a 6 per cent revenue increase for the 2015 financial year, with turnover of $756.9m. And partner PEP rose a whopping 10 % to $2.62m. After a dip in 2016, gross revenue rose 11.8% in 2017, hitting a firm record of $822 million, while PEP grew 17.4% to $2.8m.

It may be smaller than many of its competitors but it has an enviable client list. In London, this includes Ares (private equity funds) on setting up a $1.3bn real estate fund, Park Square Capital on a $2.4bn fund and Exponent on a £1bn PE fund. On the disputes side, the firm famously hired Lord Goldsmith QC to strengthen its practice in 2007. Since his appointment the firm has continued to grow its dispute resolution group, and it's won a number of landmark cases. And the London corporate team is able to count a number of large banks and private equity houses among its clients.

The success of the London office is reflected in the growth of the number of trainees coming through the door - it aims to recruit a minimum of 8 trainees each year going forward.  To many as well, the cash involved makes Debevoise an enticing prospect in comparison to other city firms. Put simply by one associate, “the pay rocks”. It also practices litigation and arbitration, so the work is more varied than the standard corporate fare. 

One insider says that “everyone is very friendly, even under pressure after a long all-nighter”. However, the downside includes the fact that the “time zones can be a nightmare… US partners have a tendency to forget that London is 5 hours ahead”. According to a senior associate, "Holidays are not respected".

That was borne out by the responses to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 survey. Debs trainees and NQs said there was "exceptional pay and bonus", but "the benefits and vacation allowance are not great". The hours, said a junior lawyer, "can be pretty terrible, but this is balanced by good flexibility and great pay".

In terms of career progression, the London office "is quite small, so occasionally you have to choose between what you want to do and what is available to do at the firm".
One final point: the name is pronounced Debevoyz (to rhyme with toys). Although sadly they seem to have removed the audio file on their home page that featured a bored, overworked American telling you how to say it.


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