Newly-qualified retention rates take hammering

September’s newly-qualified lawyers have been hit hard by a dramatic fall in retention rates. Research by The Lawyer’s sister publication Lawyer 2B shows that retention figures in some firms tumbled as much as 40 per cent.

Firms outside the top 10 were worst affected, with retention rates hovering at an average of 66 per cent. SJ Berwin retained just 61 per cent of its September qualifiers, a fall of 20 per cent on 2002. At Shoosmiths, 5 out of 10 were left without jobs. According to Shoosmiths HR director Louise Hadland, 2003 was the first year in which the firm failed to offer jobs to all qualifiers. She said: “I don’t anticipate the same difficulty in 2004.”

Taylor Wessing offered posts to 14 out of 21 of its newly-qualifieds, but only three made it into the firm’s flagship intellectual property department – the same number as for real estate.

Shipping firms were also hit hard. Stephenson Harwood retained only 44 per cent. Watson Farley & Williams, however, clawed back from a grim 2002 to keep on around three quarters of newly-qualifieds this year.

The magic circle kept its figures respectable, but the real triumphs came from a handful of mid-sized players. Macfarlanes, Withers and Wragge & Co all kept on all of their qualifiers.

Outside of the top 50, Martineau Johnson trainees were informed by email that only 1 of 10 would be retained. At Speechly Bircham, just one trainee out of five stayed. HR director Nicola Swann said: “Each year, our retention figures are driven less by the economic climate and more by what the trainees want to achieve and what we can offer them.”

One out of work Sept-ember qualifier said: “I used to think the hard part was getting the training contract. Now I know it’s being kept on.”

Newly-qualified retention rates
Firm 2003 Retention 2003% 2002 Retention 2002% % change
Shoosmiths 5 out of 10 50 8 out of 10 80 -30
Martineau Johnson 5 out of 11 45 9 out of 13 69 -24
Holman Fenwick & Willan 6 out of 10 60 5 out of 6 83 -23
Denton Wilde Sapte 29 out of 48 60 42 out of 51 82 -22
Gouldens 7 out of 12 58 8 out of 10 80 -22
Speechly Bircham 1 out of 5 20 2 out of 5 40 -20
SJ Berwin 23 out of 38 61 32 out of 40 80 -19
Bird & Bird 7 out of 12 58 10 out of 13 77 -19
Richards Butler 17 out of 23 74 11 out of 12 92 -18
Stephenson Harwood 7 out of 16 44 13 out of 21 62 -18
Cobbetts 6 out of 9 67 10 out of 12 83 -16
Ince & Co 7 out of 10 70 6 out of 7 86 -16
Clyde & Co 15 out of 20 75 18 out of 20 90 -15
Barlow Lyde & Gilbert 13 out of 18 72 13 out of 15 87 -15
Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw 11 out of 17 65 16 out of 20 80 -15
Trowers & Hamlins 11 out of 14 79 13 out of 14 93 -14
Pinsents 23 out of 33 70 32 out of 38 84 -14
Norton Rose 26 out of 32 81 50 out of 54 93 -12
Hammonds 34 out of 48 71 35 out of 42 83 -12
Eversheds 75 out of 100 75 80 out of 93 86 -11
 
Source: Lawyer 2B