It was a mixed bag for the magic circle and top US law firms as the final autumn retention rates were announced.
Linklaters was the last of the magic circle firms to announce its autumn 2018 retentions and it was a case of last and least – its 73% score was lower than all of its magic circle rivals. The Silk Street giant is retaining 43 of its 59 qualifiers, although it should be pointed out that it takes on more trainees than any other firm in the City. This is a dip from its recent excellent returns of 84%, 84% and 86% in the last three rounds. NQs will start on around £90,000 (depending on bonus). Graduate recruitment partner Richard Hodgson seemed happy enough though, commenting: “We are pleased to once again retain a good number of quality lawyers … I look forward to seeing their careers progress as they pursue exciting opportunities within a best in class and globally minded firm.”
Freshfields scored 83% (34 out of 41) to put it in the middle of the magic circle pack, slightly ahead of Allen & Overy’s 37 out of 46 (80%). Freshfields’ new NQ solicitors will be on £85,000 per annum. In our earlier autumn retention rate blog, we reported Slaughter and May’s excellent 86% (32 from 37) and Clifford Chance’s less stellar 77% (36 from 47). A mixed bag then for those at the proverbial top of the legal tree.
Looking now at the silver circle, Macfarlanes has notched a more than acceptable 91%, with 21 out of 23 moving up to NQ status. Meanwhile, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has a retention rate of 79% (15 out of 19), which is not outstanding, but is a marked improvement on its spring number of 64%. All but two will be based in London, with one of the new cohorts qualifying into the firm’s Hong Kong real estate team and another into its Frankfurt finance team.
Herbert Smith Freehills has achieved a creditable 82%, with 31 out of 38 staying put. This trails behind Ashurst’s outstanding 90%, with all but two of its 21 qualifiers securing positions as NQ solicitors. The firm’s training principal, Sarah Sivyour, said the results “reinforce the firm’s commitment to attracting, supporting and developing the best people from the widest talent pool.” Good as its results were, Ashurst failed to match the performance of fellow silver circle firm Travers Smith, who achieved a perfect 21 out of 21 as we reported in our early autumn blog.
Elsewhere, Norton Rose Fulbright offered 28 out 31 trainee solicitors NQ positions this autumn, all of whom accepted (a score of 90%). This is a welcome (and impressive) hike from its unspectacular spring showing of 62%. Stephenson Harwoodmatched this 90%, albeit from a lower number, with nine of its trainees staying with the firm. All will be based in London apart from one NQ solicitor who will join the firm’s Shanghai office.
Other firms to have announced their autumn results include CMS, who had 72 trainees qualifying this autumn. Of these, 55 will continue with the firm, 36 of whom will be based in London, six in Edinburgh, six in Sheffield, three in Aberdeen and two each in Glasgow and Bristol. The London-based NQs will start on £70,000 compared to their counterparts in Bristol, who will be on £50,000 and those in Scotland on £40,000. The firm’s Manchester NQs will earn £42,000 and those in Sheffield, £41,000.
Other high performers were RPC, who are keeping 14 of 17 (82%), Fieldfisher, 11 out of 13 (85%), and Clyde & Co, 38 out of 46 (83%). Of these, 30 of Clyde & Co’s newbies will be based in London with the rest spread between Manchester, Guildford, Newcastle, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Singapore. Charles Russell Speechlys, meanwhile, topped all these excellent scores with an even better one of its own – 88% (23 out of 26).
Of the late announcing US firms, Reed Smith is keeping on 10 out of 13 of its London-qualifying trainees (77%), a drop from its 86% this time last year. They will start on £75,000 per annum. Over at White & Case, 21 of its 25 qualifiers are staying put (84%), all of whom will start at a not-to-be-sniffed-at £105,000. This ranks them alongside US rivals Shearman & Sterling and £3,500 ahead of their counterparts at Sullivan & Cromwell.