Herbert Smith Freehills has blamed the "unprecedented uncertainty“ created by the pandemic for an autumn trainee retention rate of just 69%, which drops to 66% once fixed term contracts are discounted. Meanwhile, Clyde & Co has reduced its NQ pay for the same reason.
29 out of 32 of HSF's qualifying trainees applied for jobs and 22 were made offers, which they accepted. One of the trainees is being kept at the firm on a fixed term contract, yielding a 66% rate which compares poorly to the firm's usual scores. In March Herbies retained 84% of its Spring qualifiers (27 out of 32 trainees), although last September it managed the less spectacular 71% (27 out of 38 trainees).
In a statement, HSF said that it had offered fewer NQ positions this September than usual "in light of the unprecedented uncertainty caused by Covid-19".
"This has been a very difficult decision made in very specific circumstances. Retaining our trainee talent remains a key priority for the firm", it said.
The results follow the firm’s offer of £8,000 In June to new trainees to defer their training contracts by six months.
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Meanwhile, Clyde & Co is retaining 36 out of 40 final seat trainees, one of whom is also joining on a fixed term contract.
Training principal James Major said he was “delighted that such a significant proportion of our trainees will be staying with the firm".
"Our home-grown talent is vital to the long-term health of the firm, especially at such an uncertain time in the wider business market", he said.
Those staying will be denied the £70,000 pre-pandemic pay packet. Clyde & Co has lopped £2,000 from its NQ salary, and made the same cut to trainee wages. First year trainee pay has been reduced from £40k to £38k, and second years are now on £40k instead of £42k.
In a statement, the firm said it had made a number of decisions in April to build up its financial resilience to the "short term challenges and volatility" it faced as a result of COVID-19. "This included deferring our salary review and promotions processes that typically take place between April and June, to October. As such and in line with other firms, we have made the decision to adjust the salary bands for our trainees and NQs".