Dechert LLP

Joshua Smith
Dechert LLP

Dechert LLP

University: University of Bristol
Degree: Law with study in Continental Europe
Position: Associate, corporate and securities department

Tell us about your law degree.

One of the highlights of my degree was the year I spent in Bordeaux, where I brushed up on my language skills and gained an insight into the workings of French law. I was worried that I'd never use my French once I started work, but I've been pleasantly surprised. So far, the graduate recruitment team has managed to place me with three French-speaking supervisors, all of whom were keen to get me involved with any French work they were doing.

Before your training contract, how much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

It's really important to work out what you're looking for at an early stage. I tried to get as much relevant work experience as possible and this definitely helped me identify what I wanted from my career. Based on my experiences, I quickly narrowed down my applications to international firms that could offer exposure to a diverse range of high-profile international clients. Since starting at Dechert I've worked on matters relating to the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Kenya, Tanzania and a whole host of other countries. The international outlook at the firm is exactly what I was looking for.

How did you decide which firms to apply to?

I looked at the quality of the training I thought I'd receive and the level of responsibility I might be given. Dechert's appeal was its relatively small trainee intake in comparison with some of the other big international firms in London. I desperately didn't want to be swallowed up by an enormous organisation taking on reams of trainees every six months. I'd much rather be one of 10 than one of a hundred; at Dechert you've got a chance to be noticed and to make an impression on people. You're not just a number and you are given real responsibility from an early stage.

What do you most enjoy about the job and why?

Working for big-name clients has its perks: it's pretty satisfying when you're on your way to work and you notice a story about something you or your team assisted with on the front page of the papers.

What makes your firm stand out from the rest?

The six seat system offered at Dechert, which very few other firms operate. The idea behind offering six seats as opposed to four is that trainees are given more flexibility and the chance to try a wider range of specialisms before deciding where to qualify. Although the main selling point is being able to gain experience in lots of different areas of law, it can work the other way around too. For example, if you find a team you like early on, there's nothing to stop you doing multiple seats there.

I'm currently doing my third seat in the corporate and securities team. Dechert offers seats in various practice areas (financial services, corporate & securities, finance & real estate, white collar, international dispute resolution, employment, tax and intellectual property), as well as a number of secondments.

Has there been a particular highlight so far?

Going on secondment to the firm's Brussels office in my third seat was a definite highlight. I studied economics at A level, so competition law had an immediate appeal to me. The experience wasn't just about getting an insight into an area of law that I found interesting, though. The team out there was great and I was under the impression that they were really going places. In fact, that goes for the firm in general at the moment. It feels like a good time to be at the firm. It's on the up.

What's the hardest thing about your job?

There's no denying that a career at a firm like Dechert involves hard graft. You've got to be realistic about the commitment required for this kind of job. Working hard is part and parcel of being a City lawyer and you can find yourself working late into the evening. But that's a small price to pay for an intellectually stimulating and rewarding career.  I'm presented with new challenges every day and I'm constantly learning. It's not the sort of job where you're going to sit back and get bored. Things are fast-paced and you're constantly thinking and working around problems.

What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are currently applying for vacation schemes and training contracts?

You really have to tailor your application to the firm. There's no point copying and pasting the same blurb you've sent to 25 other firms. Dechert is looking for high-achieving candidates with well-rounded CVs. They want someone who's committed, motivated and keen to get involved.

What’s your desert island disc?

That would have to be Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. I genuinely could listen to this on repeat forever.

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