Legal Business Blogs

NQ retention and pay: Good news for NRF and Bird & Bird but FFW puts 5 trainees on extended contract

If you see a rabble of trainees at the pub this lunchtime they may well be from Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF), which today (13 August) announced it has increased its newly-qualified (NQ) salary by £1,500 and offered in excess of 90% of its trainees a permanent position.

The newly merged, 3,800-lawyer firm has announced a trainee retention rate of 92% after offering 24 of its 26 trainees a NQ role, up from 89% in its last round in May. It has also increased its NQ salary from £61,500 to £63,000, effective 1 July (and backdated to 1 May this year). First and second year trainees will remain constant at £38,000 and £43,000 respectively.

On the retention figures, Sarah Kelly, London head of HR at NRF said: ‘These are our first retention figures since our US combination went live and we are really pleased with the rise to a 92% retention rate. We have had three qualification rounds this year and have kept a consistently high retention rate throughout.’

Elsewhere, the news has also been good for trainees at Bird & Bird, which this round boasts a 94% retention rate. A total of 15 out of 16 trainees from the 2011 intake were made offers, with all accepting associate roles with the firm, while one chose to return to university.

Commercial partner Christian Bartsch said: ‘We are delighted to have been able to offer full contracts to 15 of our trainees from the 2011 intake. They have worked very hard and demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment to the firm. We would like to take this opportunity to welcome them as associates within their respective practice groups.’

However, at City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse the position for trainees is far less clear. The firm’s retention rate appears on the surface to be a respectable 76%, as the firm has offered 12 of its 17 trainees a role and all have accepted. But the figure is in fact far lower as five of these 12 positions have been structured as a 12-month fixed term contract to give the partners further time to assess their performance. A spokesperson for the firm claimed that ‘none of the fixed-term positions are for a paralegal role being dressed up as a NQ role,’ and that the firm is ‘confident that all of these will ultimately result in permanent positions.’

At Orrick, meanwhile, only two out of its eight trainees applied for a training contract, according to a spokesperson for the firm, giving it a retention rate of just 25%.