Vacation Scheme Feature: Debevoise & Plimpton - Alexander Yean


This Hilary Term as we’re all in the thick of vacation scheme and training contract applications, OSCOLA spoke with our Co-Founder, Alexander Yean, on his experience on Debevoise & Plimpton’s vacation scheme in the summer of 2020. As a leading international firm with strong expertise in both transactional and disputes work, Alexander found the experience rewarding and was successful in obtaining a training contract with the firm. Hear it from him!


In August 2020, I undertook a one-week virtual vacation scheme at Debevoise & Plimpton (“Debevoise”). From the get-go, I was impressed by the amount of effort put into making the scheme run as smoothly as possible despite the unprecedented virtual format: I had a tech induction session one week before the scheme even began, and installed a virtual desktop software on my computer at home that allowed me to access Debevoise’s intranet and a personalised Debevoise mailbox.

The scheme itself was extremely packed, despite its short duration: there were several talks each day with lawyers from almost all of Debevoise’s practice areas, ranging from tax to international commercial arbitration. During his introduction session, partner and training principal Patrick Taylor advised us to keep an open mind, which I took to heart—I had applied to Debevoise due to my strong interest in public international law, but after arranging calls with various associates in the firm’s corporate practice groups, I found myself both impressed by and drawn to Debevoise’s expertise in M&A, PE, and funds.


I especially appreciated the fact that I was assigned a mentor (Aisling Cowell, an associate in the firm’s White Collar & Regulatory Defence Group), and I started and ended each working day by checking in with her. Aisling tasked me with preparing a research memo on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office for a client update, and spent almost an hour each day answering my questions and giving me very comprehensive feedback for my work. Several weeks after my vacation scheme, I was proud to see that the memo that I had contributed to had been substantially improved and published on Debevoise’s website.


In terms of assessment, my fellow vacation schemers and I had to complete a pro bono task that involved writing submissions in respect of a client’s appeal for personal independence payments, which was based on an actual case. We were also assigned a presentation task on a hypothetical white collar crime investigation, which involved both parsing the fictitious “evidence” and conducting research into the UK’s regulatory framework. The task made me quite keen to gain further exposure to white collar crime, and I was impressed to learn during the course of my research that Debevoise had represented Rolls-Royce in respect of what was then the largest Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) concluded in the UK.


Most of all, I was struck by how welcoming everyone was, with every single lawyer I emailed taking the time to have a call with me to share about their practice, regardless of how busy they were. A key highlight was having a call with Merryl Lawry-White (an associate with extensive expertise in public international law disputes, an area I have a strong interest in), who spoke to me and my fellow vacation schemers for over an hour despite having an immensely busy week. Further, as a Singaporean with an interest in the Asia-Pacific region, I also appreciated the opportunity to call associates in the Hong Kong office, which recruitment manager Romina Tsvetkova helped to set up. I was impressed to learn that lawyers in the Hong Kong disputes team often worked alongside their London colleagues on complex multi-jurisdictional arbitrations, highlighting Debevoise’s truly global reach.


I remain grateful to everyone who took the time to accommodate me during the scheme, and especially Alex and Romina, who helped to coordinate an extremely memorable week. I was chuffed to receive an offer for a training contract at the end of my scheme, which I signed without hesitation. Having completed similar schemes and received training contract offers from several other leading firms, Debevoise remains my top choice, and I would commend it to any of my like-minded friends interested in a career at a top firm in the City, particularly if they have an interest in commercial disputes, insurance, or funds.


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