As UK firms' partnership promotion statistics start to flood in, RollOnFriday statisticians have been working out which firms offer the best chance of partnership.
Taking the numbers of partners promoted in the UK this year, along with firms' average annual trainee intakes, RollOnFriday has calculated the percentage of trainees likely to make partner in each firm's UK offices. And, while it's based on just this year's figures, it is not inspiring viewing for ambitious trainees aiming for the top.
Starting with the good news, there's a hearty pat on the back for Trowers & Hamlins which seems to offer the best shot at partnership by a country mile. Taking on around 15 trainees a year, Trowers promoted 11 lawyers to partnership this year putting the firm at the top of the table, with new trainees having a remarkable 73% chance of making partner based on this year's figures. Burges Salmon is also a relatively good bet for thrusting trainees who have a 31% chance of making partner. And third-placed Wragges, where trainees have a 25% chance, is not doing too shabbily.
Numbers made up in the UK
Approximate annual UK trainee intake
% chance of making partner 
Trowers & Hamlins
11 15
 Burges Salmon
7 22
 Wragges 3 12 25

However Ince has the dishonour of being at the bottom of the pile so far, promoting precisely no one to partnership in the UK (although 5 were promoted in its overseas offices).
Ince aside, it's the Magic Circle firms that seem offer the worst chances of partnership. Despite taking on huge numbers of trainees, the high attrition rates (whether voluntary or forced) take their toll and only a tiny minority are currently making it to the top.

Slaughters promoted just two partners worldwide, one in the UK. With an annual intake of around 90, current trainees have just 1% chance of making partner based on this year's data. But it's not just this year either; the firm has promoted only 11 partners in total since 2009. Things aren't much better at Freshfields, where trainees have a 5% shot at partnership, nor at A&O, where there's a 6% chance.

Numbers made up in the UK 
Approximate annual trainee intake 
% chance of making partner  
Allen & Overy
 Freshfields 5
Slaughter and May
Ince & Co
In fairness, graduate intakes have grown over the last ten years and senior associates promoted this year are likely to have come from smaller recrutiment rounds, making the odds better. But with no major slimming down of trainee intakes on the horizon and consistently low levels of partner promotions each year, trainees shouldn't set their hearts on a corner office.
Here's a full breakdown of the partnership promotion stats, including numbers of women promoted.
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Anonymous 05 April 12 09:24

Really excellent research, guys.

(Would be great too to find out how many trainees eventually become equity partners, i.e. some years after their promotion to junior/salaried/fixed share partner rank).

Anonymous 05 April 12 14:18

Does RoF's ananlysis take into account how many of those promoted to partnership trained with the firm promoting them?

If not these stats might not be giving the correct impression of what the chances of a trainee starting with a firm achieving partnership with that same firm really are.

The scary thing is, if you take where the new partner trained into account, the chances of promotion to partnership for those who train and remain with a firm could actually be worse than is portrayed here.

Anonymous 05 April 12 15:09

A bit unfair on Ince. Have a look at how many of their partners trained at the firm. I would have thought your chances there would be better than at most comparable firms (this year aside).

Anonymous 06 April 12 14:56

It would be interesting to have such statistics for male v. female trainees.



Anonymous 06 April 12 19:17

Isn't this comparing apples with pears? I don't think there is a huge correlation between a firm's requirement for trainees and the business case at the partner end. It makes for a neat story but could it be the case that Trowers doesn't want to risk taking on too many trainees for whom it does not think it will have jobs in two years' time? Meanwhile it might be promoting seniors so that they don't go elsewhere or to replace departures. After all, the minor salary uplift for a salaried partner is cheaper than committing to fees, maintenance and two years' salary for a trainee.

Just a thought.

Anonymous 11 April 12 14:56

Perhaps if the figures were based on the actual chance of progression through the ranks as opposed to simply column A divided by column B. I'm not sure how this methodology measures the chance of starting at the firm, remaining there and ultimately being promoted.

Take it with a pinch of salt.

joayoubi 13 April 12 10:31

The reality is that there are not enough partnership places for the number of trainees in the market; this is something the accountancy world started to deal with a number of years ago.

It’s time law firms started being more honest and realistic with their trainees about the real prospects for partnership – it’s going to take longer, it’s going to be even harder and more competitive than before.

And anyway does everyone really want to be a partner? Really?