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. At the time, it left DWS's reputation as an international firm dead in the water, but its amibitions have changed. In 2014 it opened in Cape Town, Casablanca, Houston and Astana in glamorous Kazakhstan. And in 2015 the firm became the biggest law firm in the world when it merged with Dacheng in China and McKenna Long & Aldridge in the US to create a behemoth.
There's some very good stuff at the gargantuan firm. 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. In September 2015, the firm kept on 16 of its 20 trainees, Revenue in UKMEA is up 6% for 2014/15 and profit up 12% at £42.4m. Although the firm has refused to reveal its global figures for the past couple of years, despite the American Lawyer doing its best to speculate
The atmosphere at Dentons seems to be quite positive. In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey 2015 the firm was praised for being "very open door and non hierarchical"
with "good working arrangements for working parents
It was also reported that "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, some lawyers criticised a confused identity and "bad communication
" from management, and there were also mutterings about penny-pinching to control costs. Or, as one solicitor put it, "as tight as a trout's arse in water
In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey 2016, the firm got a respectable score of 71%. Staff seem to be happy with the "city-standard
" work, but with a culture that allows for "more breaks in-between big jobs than you might get in the magic circle boiler rooms
". Some lawyers were also impressed that the recent expansion had resulted in "refreshingly little by way of American nonsense"
and that whilst "some people may dislike global domination"
at least the firm could "point to a fairly coherent strategy
". One staffer was just pleased that "our business cards have our names written in Chinese on the back
". However, being part of the behemoth does have its downsides as one lawyer complained that "we merge so often I genuinely have no idea where we have offices
" whilst another bemoaned that the market might not appreciate the strategy of "growth for the sake of growth