Legal Business Blogs

Retention round up: mixed bag as Shoosmiths, Dentons, Taylor Wessing record reduced rates

Following last week’s round of positive trainee retention rates within a mix of Magic Circle, international and regional firms; the latest batch of results has revealed a substantial reduction in the number of newly qualified lawyers offered a position at their respective firms.

It’s bad news for the junior lawyer at Shoosmiths as the national firm announced yesterday (7 July) that it will only retain 41% of NQ trainees. Out of a cohort 22, nine out of 11 trainees have so far accepted jobs while out of the remaining 13 newly qualifieds (NQs), seven have been offered jobs at other law firms, and one will return to a non-legal career.

It follows the release of top-40 firm Shoosmiths’ financials which illustrated a modest 3% rise in turnover while PEP dropped 9.7% from £298,000 to £269,000. The firm attributed this to the rise in average equity partner numbers from 40 to 45 during the year.

A spokesperson for Shoosmiths said: ‘Because our trainees are recruited so far in advance, it’s always difficult to predict exactly what our requirements will be at qualification time.

‘Continuing economic uncertainty makes that doubly difficult, and unfortunately we have fewer vacancies at this point in time for newly-qualified solicitors than trainees. We’re hoping more vacancies will become available between now and September, should the economy pick up. In the meantime, we will take all the steps we can to provide support, guidance and help to those trainees still looking for an NQ role.’

Newly merged Dentons has also posted a modest retention rate compared to its peers so far, of 68%. Of its 25 trainees, 17 accepted offers while three were unsuccessful and five chose not to apply.

The low numbers follow the release of the entity’s first financials last month. Publishing broadly flat figures since combining SNR Denton, Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain, the results equated to a combined total turnover of £829.7m, in the top 20 of global law firms in terms of turnover.

Top-20 firm Taylor Wessing also announced its retention rate this week, posting a 70% retention rate out of a cohort 23, making disappointing reading on last year’s figure of 86%. This year, three chose not to apply and the 16 out of 20 that did were successful, equalling a retention rate of 86% from that perspective.

‘We always try to retain as many NQs as possible,’ said graduate recruitment partner, Tim Worden. ‘Having trained them, we expect them to be first-rate associates with good prospects for continued career growth at Taylor Wessing. It’s obviously disappointing that our retention rate isn’t as high this year.’

‘Every year we try our best to match the needs of our various practice areas with the areas into which our trainees wish to qualify, but it’s not always easy to find the perfect match. We hope our retention will be back up to normal levels again next year.’

Those results follow the firm’s announcement last week where a recent redundancy consultation resulted in 22 secretary job losses.

In contrast, City firm Nabarro posted an 83% retention rate across its London and Sheffield offices. It’s a significant boost on the firm’s ranks last year which equalled a 69% retention rate last September. Out of 18 that applied this time around, 15 offers were made and all applicants accepted.

Jane Drew, head of graduate recruitment at Nabarro said: ‘We are pleased that all 15 of our offers have been accepted this year and our retention rate has improved after a blip last year. We put a lot of work into the selection process for our trainees and it is always rewarding to welcome such high quality new lawyers to the firm.’

Elsewhere, SJ Berwin, which recently confirmed a ground breaking union with Asia powerhouse King Wood & Mallesons, unveiled an 88% graduate intake for September 2013

Out of 16 applicants, a total of 14 trainees accepted newly qualified roles with the firm, illustrating a 10% improvement on the firms’ Spring retention rate of 78%. The overall retention rate for this year was 83%. To date, 96% per cent of trainees have accepted roles with the firm.

Nicola Bridge, training principle at SJ Berwin said the firm was ‘impressed at the level of talent this year,’ while its continually ‘high’ retention rates ‘demonstrate that SJ Berwin remains an attractive option for trainees.’