Allen & Overy, the last Magic Circle firm to announce its retention rate for September qualifiers, has come bottom of the pack.

54 trainees are qualifying, but three chose not to apply for a position. A respectable 45 of the remaining 51 were offered places, so the firm must be fairly confident of plenty of work for its new crop. But only 39 accepted, giving A&O a score of just 72%: down on 79% last year. As a spokesman said, "a number of this year’s intake decided not to accept offers, so our retention rate is lower than we expected".

Total trainees
Trainees retained
Retention score Sept 2013
 Slaughter and May
 51  46  90%
 Linklaters  54  47  87%
 Freshfields  48  39  83%
 Clifford Chance
 60  51  80%
 Allen & Overy
 54  39  72%

It's not clear why so many of the trainees would prefer to throw themselves on the mercy of a less-than-buoyant market than accept a guaranteed £61.5k p.a. and a load of good work. One insider says that they were offered unfanciable positions in the likes of Moscow, and some have already accepted offers at other Magic Circle firms. A spokesman said that it "genuinely appears to be for a variety of reasons". But it's a bit of a kick in the nuts for a firm which has had a reputation as one of the best places at which to train in the City.

    A kick in the nuts yesterday

A&O also announced that as of 2015 it would be cutting its annual grad rec intake from 90 to 85. Not a huge drop, but it comes on the back of a steady decline. At the height of the boom the firm took on 120 trainees a year. It currently takes 105, and next year this will fall to 90. A fall to 85 means an overall 30% drop in grad rec. A spokesman said that "managing our intake numbers means that we aren’t just offering our trainees excellent training and experience, but also a strong prospect of a long-term career with the firm after qualification".

A&O is not alone in reducing trainee numbers. Clifford Chance has confirmed that its trainee intake will fall from 120 to 100 in 2015. Expect to see an unholy mess as law schools seek to fill more and more places while grad rec continues to slide...
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 18 August 13 15:46

View of current A&O trainees is that the partnership appear detached to the point of autism from the thoughts/morale of the trainees. Expect stats to be similar for next intake.

Anonymous 19 August 13 09:58

More bizarre thn the Moscow offer as the offer of a Derivatives role in New York to a trainee that wanted to practice litigation in London. Not to mention the offer of a Sydney role for someone who had made it clear they wanted to stay in London. #WhenAnOfferIsJustATransparentAttemptToMassageTheStats

Anonymous 21 August 13 16:03

There are 2 reaons for this:

1. The usual insane over subscriptions for litigation and competition in a firm which specialises in neither (Why do people train there if that is what they want to do?); and

2. The fact that A&O is now getting a reputation for poor partner management. Partners take no ineterst in trainees and treat them generally as secondary even to PAs. Both trainees and junior associates are generally excluded from transaction social events, team calls and more challenging work and yet are expected to work just as long hours. How do they expect to retain anyone with a culture like that?

Anonymous 22 August 13 10:57

It isn't just trainees and juniors who feel uninvolved and disaffected - the A&O partners are quite amazingly aloof, arrogant and complacent. Sure, there are some great lawyers there, but I doubt it's a good place to stay long-term.

Anonymous 22 August 13 11:40

The culture is caustic and there are many better places to work, simple as that. I guess that fact makes it slightly easier to receive a derisory offer that is clearly intended to massage the stats. I don't this the future is bright for this firm...

Anonymous 23 August 13 16:51

I'm at A&O, and I wanted to put my oar in for the sake of a bit of balance. It's easy for people who are disgruntled to make unpleasant comments about the firm, but I just don't recognise some of the comments which have been made.

Most of the partners are pretty engaged and interested in trainees, I'm included in team meetings and social events, and when we finish a big transaction trainees are normally included in the post-deal lunch or booze-up just the same as anyone else on the team. I'm not saying the firm is perfect - nowhere is - but I think some of the comments above should be treated with a pinch of salt, and possibly those writing them have a bit of an axe to grind...?

Incidentally, A&O has told its next set of qualifiers that nobody was offered a September job in a place they didn't apply for. In other words, the firm is saying that the comment about the six job-rejecters being offered "unfanciable positions in the likes of Moscow" (implying that they had not actively pursued a job in Moscow) isn't true. I don't know if A&O has given an official response to the point (or whether RoF has asked directly about it) but I would definitely be interested to hear it confirmed either way.

Anonymous 18 September 13 13:44

What does that tell you? Allen & Overy is like a leaking tap, even their trainees would rather go unemployed than stay employed in the Belfast office. No surprise for an office with 62% turnover of staff.