DLA, Links, Lovells see trainee retention dive

DLA Piper sends NQs to Middle East as credit crunch bites

DLA, Links, Lovells see trainee retention diveTrainee retention rates at a number of leading firms have plummeted as worsening economic conditions hit the employment market.

DLA Piper, Linklaters, Lovells and McGrigors have all seen significant decreases in trainee retention, with Bevan Brittan coming in ­second from bottom of the list after retaining just nine trainees out of 16 this year.

According to Linklaters, its retention figure was hit by the resignation of a number of its September 2008 qualifying intake. While its actual retention rate is 82 per cent, a spokesman said it would have been 94 per cent without the resignations.

“More trainees decided to seek opportunities elsewhere, including a number who are pursuing a career outside law,” the spokesman added.

DLA Piper, which has been hit by five redundancies in London, saw its retention rate drop by 14 points to 83 per cent.

With London hit by job losses, the firm has seen a record total of its qualifying trainees take up positions in overseas offices. Nine of its 77 qualifying lawyers – equivalent to 12 per cent – have been signed up as ­overseas associates (seven in the Middle East and one each in Moscow and Tokyo).

DLA Piper graduate recruitment executive Claire Evans told The Lawyer she had visited the Middle East with six trainees in May this year. Five of these will return to Dubai as assistants in September, despite never having worked there.

One further trainee, whose ­foreign seat was in Tokyo, will qualify in Dubai, while another trainee has opted for Dubai.

At Lovells 74 per cent of trainees will remain with the firm, down from 79 per cent last year, with just 51 per cent being offered their first choice of departments.

Lovells training principal John Trotter said: “We’ve got people leaving because there are too many for the jobs [in some first choice departments]. Also, there are always a few who want to work in a smaller firm or outside London. And some people might not have matched our expectations.”

He added that, while 32 out of 43 trainees accepted the jobs offered to them, the firm would not be recruiting externally for the remaining 11 positions.

Like Lovells, Simmons & Simmons could only offer first-choice departments to half its trainees, although it ultimately retained three-quarters of its intake.

Several purely UK-based firms also saw their figures decline, with Nabarro’s 100 per cent retention rate from last year dropping to 90 per cent. Scottish-headquartered McGrigors’ retention slid by 14 points to 59 per cent, while Bevan Brittan saw the worst performance of the larger firms with a retention rate of just 56 per cent.

A Bevan Brittan spokesman said: “The ­success rate for candidate progression varies from year to year and depends upon individuals demonstrating adaptability, energy, skills and the right attitude to deal with the challenging legal ;and ;commercial issues our work demands.”

Among the top performers were Ince & Co, which managed to retain all of its trainees for the second year running. Newcastle firm Ward Hadaway entered the 100 per cent club for the first time, while Ashurst, Burges Salmon, Dickinson Dees, Field Fisher ­Waterhouse, LG and ­Watson Farley & Williams each improved significantly on the previous year.