RPC has posted a less-than-stellar trainee retention rate of 42%. The firm put it down in part to a number of trainees competing to qualify in the same practice area.
Of the 12 qualifiers in the cohort, 10 applied to stay at RPC. But just five are being kept on.
"Firstly, we'd like to congratulate those who will qualify with us as NQs in the autumn”, a spokeswoman told RollOnFriday. "It was an extremely competitive process, with some high quality applicants. However, we are disappointed that our retention rate this year is lower than we typically see at RPC, largely due to applications into certain practice areas being significantly oversubscribed and us being unable to accommodate everybody with the number of roles available."
"We are committed to our application process and are confident that we will see our retention rates return to previous form in 2020", she said.
This year's retention rate is almost half the 82% posted in 2018 and 2017. Part of the problem has been RPC's arguably sensible policy of declining to shoehorn qualifying trainees into a lower-choice department, on the basis that if it did, a bunch of NQs would send out their CVs as soon as they got their feet under the desk.
Meanwhile, Travers Smith posted a solid retention rate of 81%. 17 out of 21 trainees will be kept on. Two of the brood didn't receive offers, while the other two opted to leave for other firms. It, too, represents a drop from last year's 100% and 90% in 2017.
The large departments that would normally take 3 or 4 trainees this year only took 1. Another department that took 6 last year only took 2. They simply didn't have the budget to recruit in the commercial teams. And the rest of the jobs on offer were based in Bristol.
Trainees have no idea of how many jobs are available in each department - could be 6, could be 1.
Multiple trainees applied for two teams, as encouraged by the firm, and were rejected from both. Some teams which are seats every rotation, did not offer jobs. And the department you can spend half your training contract in, offered one job.
This result is due to rigid training contracts lacking variety of seats, issues with budget (probably linked to Asia offices) and hiring trainees with ‘personality’ then being shocked when they actually have one.
RPC / partners at RPC must have known months in advance that there were likely to be significant casualties to the intake and that this would be an anomalous year given clear budgeting deficits / over-subscribed seats and yet did absolutely nothing to convey this to trainees to enable them to prepare accordingly. Trainees have been blindsided in mid-June when most external vacancies have already been filled. The lack of consideration has been astounding.
Is this 2008? Are we in a recession again?
Thank you RPC for zero advance warning about our cot-deaths of a career - hope the Bollinger tastes sweet at this weekend’s partners’ conference...
Retention at RPC this year is a disgrace and comes in the wake of less than stellar financial results. The firm did not attempt to communicate this outcome to the trainees until the latest possible time - even waiting until 4:30 to let people know - then generously allowing trainees to go home ‘early’.
Some trainees spent 50% of their training contract in a group that hired one person, despite having 6-7 trainees in the group at any one time. When HR was approached and asked why they did not let trainees know that only one job was being offered they had no excuse.
asia or bust - where are your international secondments??
The firm is pre-occupied purchasing lateral associates and partners. The culture that it rattles on about is slowly disappearing down the drain as the firm continues to blow its budget on robots.
The slogans that RPC tries to employ are nothing but false platitudes. The only thing #strikinglyreal about RPC is the low pay and the opaque hiring processes.
Does this have anything to do with both their Asia offices tanking?
Silence, ungrateful trainees.
Re-read the terms of your employment contract. Jobs post qualification was, is, and never will be a guarantee of any law firm.
The noise emanating from this article by those commenting above me, I find, frankly, abominable.
You should all appreciate that you were interviewed, selected, sponsored for GDL/LPC fees and trained at a respectable outfit.
Gosh. The level of self-entitlement plaguing the newest generation is astonishing.
May Boris help us all.
- very important person
It's understandably difficult when trainees can't get kept on but these comments are an immature reaction and display a lack of understanding of how a business and law firm works and – dare I say it – a lack of self-awareness as to the fact that maybe those not getting kept on simply weren't good enough? There is genuine sympathy for those who aren't getting kept on but it is fast dissipating as a result of these comments. It's a shame to burn bridges so petulantly with so much of your career still ahead.
^^^ 'Come to RPC!', they said. 'Work with friendly partners!', they said.
They've shoe-horned trainees into any vacancy for years now (including shipping off to Bristol) so as to post mediocre retention rates. End result, a handful of 'home grown' employees sticking around beyond 1-2 years PQE whilst everyone else leaves double quick to work in an area of law that actually interests them (clue: it's probably not re-insurance, or corporate insurance, or any sodding insurance)! Consequently, a fortune is spent hiring laterals on better pay to fill the gaps, further demoralising the home-growns, who then decide to leave...and so the merry-go round continues. Maybe this approach will change things - but sucks for those affected this year. Market is pretty buoyant right now though, so good luck!
When I qualified a couple of years back, my firm was slow to make decisions so I interviewed at a few different firms, got offers, then told the head of the team I wanted to qualify into that I was leaving unless he could offer me a job, which he promptly did. Had he been unable to do so, I'd have left.
A TC is a two year fixed term contract with no obligation on either side. If RPC trainees waited until they got a "no" from their current firm to look elsewhere, then they've been naive.
Did these trainees consider that maybe the HR statement was carefully crafted to save the faces of the departing. Good job shooting yourselves in the foot. Perhaps this trend in retention rates is going to continue until Gen Z enters the picture.
The RPC HR and PR team is clearly busy - see the above comments.
Fact is that if such a large number of trainees “weren’t good enough” as suggested above, it doesn’t reflect well on the recruitment policy and RPC is massively out of step with the market where retention rates are much better. Of course the firm won’t take any responsibility itself and seeks to put down any criticism, or accept any suggestion that this decision is linked to poor performance of the firm and the fact there isn’t a business need for lots of NQs because there isn’t the work, much of which isn’t profitable to do in the city anymore and has been shipped to the regions.
shock horror, law firm doesn’t retain all its trainees. The comments above smack completely of self entitlement and the naivety of the assumptions being expressed very quickly highlights a number of concerns. The simple fact is that it’s clear an intake has chosen to all apply for the same jobs and teams have chosen to select those into teams who performed best. Maybe RPC needs to build a savviness criteria into their recruitment processes! And no I don’t work for RPC but I have worked in recruitment for a number of other law firms and it’s comments like the above which remind me why providing training experiences for the newer generation of lawyers is fast becoming a pretty thankless task. Get real people and instead of lashing out pointlessly on a comments blog like this, focus on using your experience to obtain the role you really want. From experience it’s the lawyers who react maturely and calmly in situations like this who will get the most support and will be snapped up, possibly into roles better suited to what they want to do longer term.
Most people seem to agree that law firms should aim to take on almost all of their trainees, planning their trainee intake size with NQ resource need.
For the firm, it's cheaper in that they save on recruitment fees and they get in someone who knows the team and the work and add more value sooner, as well as being a better known quantity.
But some firms use trainees as slave labour dangling the carrot of NQ ahead of them and only take on half or thereabouts, recruiting only into finance and corporate departments. Whether RPC deserves to fall into this camp, I don't know. It may just be bad resource planning and they took on too many trainees - as opposed to firms which know they are taking on too many trainees and do so deliberately.