What it does: Legal, tax and consulting services for banking and finance, construction and real estate, corporate and M&A, energy, labour and employment, mining and infrastructure, and taxation clients.
Best known for: DFDL claims to be a pioneer international legal service provider for emerging markets in Asia and the Mekong Region (ie Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).
Staff stats: More than 350 employees.
The good bits: Some entry-level roles like market research and data steward require short-term overseas travel to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The not so good bits: The firm seems to have limited opportunities for fresh graduates and interns. A majority of internships and entry-level jobs are in Cambodia.
DFDL’s name derives from the four founding partners of the law firm: Dirksen, Flipse, Doran and Le. These four individuals established DFDL in 1994. DFDL expanded their operations in 2011 to include Bangladesh, Indonesia and Singapore. The firm’s corporate footprint spans offices in Bangladesh, the Lao PDR, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. DFDL also collaborates with partner firms in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
The organisation specialises in consulting, legal and tax services for clients in the banking and finance, construction and real estate, corporate and M&A, energy, labour and employment, mining and infrastructure, and taxation sectors. More than 300 staff members work for the firm with over 150 advisers, 15 national partners and 12 regional partners.
Graduates and students can still send an online application even if they don’t see relevant vacancies. The firm keeps a record of interested candidates and refers to the database for future opportunities. DFDL may choose not to advertise some job openings and hire from the talent pool instead, so it’s best to submit a CV and cover letter despite the lack of available opportunities.
An application for an advisory role can take almost two months on average, but the role most likely applies to experienced individuals. There will be two rounds of job interviews with the hiring manager and company head. They will ask about a candidate’s education, language skills and reason for joining DFDL.
The firm accepts internships at their legal department, although these might be available only in certain regional offices (eg Cambodia and Vietnam). Internships normally start in January of every year.
DFDL requires interns at the Phnom Penh headquarters to have a bachelor’s degree in law, or they should be in their third or fourth year of studies. The firm only hires interns who can speak and write English and Khmer fluently. Other entry-level roles for fresh graduates include billing accountants and translators.
Aspiring interns must also have a law degree or be in their third or fourth year of studies. Experience in legal research and fluency in English will be an advantage. You should expect to work in Hanoi during the internship period. DFDL also hires recent graduates for market research and data stewards not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Thailand.
The firm provides interns with an undisclosed monthly allowance. Salaries for entry-level roles at DFDL are commensurate with an individual’s experience and qualifications. Some positions like market research and data stewards offer the chance to work overseas for a short-term period. Some employees recognise the benefits of a competitive salary, but they believe that DFDL can improve their benefits package.
A career in the field of law entails long hours and demanding tasks. You may still enjoy a healthy work-life balance if you work as a translator at the Cambodia headquarters. Their schedule normally starts at 8 am and ends at 6 pm with a two-hour break from 12 pm to 2 pm.
The presence of global operations also indicates plenty of learning opportunities in international law. The opposite applies to career progression. You might be stuck in the same role for several years before advancing to a higher role.
DFDL’s peers in the international legal services sector include Garrigues, VDB Loi Ltd and Withersworldwide.
The firm actively takes parts in corporate social responsibility programs in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
DFDL has held an annual Tennis Training Fund since 2005. The initiative has supported the development of young players with the help of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia. The firm’s Legal Studies Fund has sponsored underprivileged law students. Other projects include the Clean Energy Practice, Henri Capitant and NGO partnerships.
DFDL joined the Women’s International Group in 2012 for charitable projects. Their US$2,000 donation to the Quality of Life Association has helped victims of unexploded ordnance, as well as financial assistance to the Lao Women’s Disabled Development Centre. The firm has sponsored the Lao Elephant Conservation Program’s activities since 2007 and the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise.
The group co-sponsored the Myanmar International Tennis Project in 2012 to promote the sport in the country. DFDL has also partnered with the Myanmar Women’s Development Association since 1999. The collaboration has helped orphans and students with school fees and other academic-related expenses.
The Mai Nha Children Foundation used a US$1,250 donation from DFDL to build two homes for 20 orphaned children and provide scholarships for over 80 students.
DFDL offers more employment opportunities for graduates in Cambodia than any other regional office. Individuals may be disappointed if they prefer a structured and fast-tracked career path, something that doesn’t seem to be evident at the firm. Graduates should still consider DFDL’s presence in Asia’s emerging markets, providing a wealth of experience that will be useful for any aspiring lawyer.