Stage diving

A happy trainee qualifying into their firm: how it looks now that pandemic restrictions are easing


Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields are the latest firms to announce their trainee retention results, completing the Magic Circle round-up for the spring. CMS, Shoosmiths and Simmons & Simmons have also released their results. 

Freshfields top of the Magic Circle in the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2022, is retaining 34 out of its cohort of 37 qualifying trainees - a retention rate of 92%. The firm posted a score of 81% last autumn and 94% last spring.

The Magic Circle firm's training principal, Craig Montgomery, said the result was "testament to the talent and determination demonstrated by our trainees, and the learning and development opportunities afforded at Freshfields." 

Allen & Overy is keeping 33 out of its brood of 38, with a retention score of 87%. It follows a good retention run for A&O throughout the pandemic, as it recorded a score of 85% last autumn and 92% last spring. 

Across firms, the cohorts set to qualify in the spring would have started their training contracts as the first UK lockdown loomed in March 2020. James Partridge, A&O's graduate recruitment partner said of the homeschooled cohort: "To qualify at the end of a two-year period during which we spent the majority of our time working remotely is an achievement that should not be underestimated."

Clifford Chance is retaining 32 out of its cohort of 46 qualifying trainees, a retention rate of 70%, matching its score last autumn. The 70% rate is a drop from spring 2021 when the firm posted a score of 88%.

All the Magic Circle firms have now posted their retention figures, as Linklaters recently posted a retention rate of 94%, while Slaughter and May scored 85%. 

Meanwhile, at the top of the class, Shoosmiths is retaining 100% of its qualifying trainees, as all seven of the cohort are in the everyone-is-welcome club. Three cheers and a small flute of sparkling wine for each trainee.

CMS is retaining 24 out of 25 of its qualifying trainees this spring, a score of 96%. It follows another excellent score of 90% last autumn.

But not every firm has been going great guns, Simmons & Simmons posted a below par score of 57% as it is retaining four out of seven of its qualifying cohort, a drop from last autumn's result of 80%.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Simple 04 February 22 10:51

Pretty simple analysis for anyone wanting to do transactional work. Do I:

(1) Stay at magic circle / silver circle firm and uncritically accept the message that working for a US firm is the worst thing in the world.

(2) Realise that that message is both totally self-serving and inaccurate and go to a US shop to be paid 50% more as an NQ and 100% more by 3-4PQE, for working pretty much the same hours.

Looks like more people are waking up to that message, but the indoctrination is incredible. I heard from a reliable source that one NQ in their finance team when approached about a job at a US firm said "why would I leave the best finance firm in the City". Best finance firm in the City? CC? Maybe in 2004 mate...

To Simple 04 February 22 11:55

Money is not the only motivator for lawyers (I hear MC lawyers are still able to pay their electricity bills), these firms have a lot of support and focus much more on teaching the juniors than the US firms. Another aspect is of course culture. Not all MC firms are better than all US ones but a lot of them are so if you are working hard, it is much nicer working with nice people. 

@To Simple 04 February 22 12:05

That’s just more of the same mudslinging with no basis in fact.

Amazing how some at the magic circle are so convinced that the culture / training at US firms is terrible, despite the fact that most US firms in London are run in large part by ex-magic circle lawyers (so unless they had a personality transplant when moving, it is hard to see how the same people from the same background create a much worse culture when they leave for a better platform).

Anon 04 February 22 14:53

Speaking from the inside, I quite enjoy the culture at my US firm.  It is more or less the same as at my former Magic Circle firm.  The idea that the same people who work at UK firms go to US firms and become raving psychopathic maniacs because they have been offered money is somewhat ridiculous.

Of course, if they were already raving psychopathic maniacs then that’s different.  But the split of nutters seems fairly even.

@@To Simple 04 February 22 15:00

I've been at both, and my own individual experience is that the "culture" (as associates experience it) is better at the MC firm I was at, vs the U.S. firm I was at: the lockstep partnership means there is less in-fighting amongst partners (e.g. no being told to hide matters from certain partners, or having to do work completely outside your practice to ensure it stays in the right profit centre, or being monopolised by partners trying to land-grab).

The teams are also generally bigger, which means more opportunity to avoid individual partners you don't like, more opportunity to hand over to peers for holidays, more opportunity to be selective about different work types, and more room to spread out workload (so you aren't swamped by just a couple of deals coming in the door).

Obviously its nonsense to say that one firm is "nicer" than any one other firm, but these structural points do make a significant difference.

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