Olswang is cutting down on trainee recruitment and retention, bucking the general trend among law firms to keep these figures static.
This year the firm is keeping only half of its trainees who have just qualified. A survey of 20 leading national firms conducted by The Lawyer found that, in general, firms have not changed the number of trainees they recruit. Of the 20 firms surveyed, 13 had offered places to 100 per cent of trainees recruited in 1999. Olswang took on eight trainees in 1999, four of whom were offered assistant contracts. An overwhelming 19 out of 20 firms forecasted that they would recruit the same number of trainees for the next three years. Olswang's recruitment levels are set to drop until 2003. 2000 was a boom year for Olswang, allowing it to offer 23 training contracts in 2001. But although the firm will take on 21 trainees in 2002, it will take on only 15 in 2003, according to a member of Olswang's human resources department. This is no indication of the end of the Olswang boom, according to Olswang chief executive Jonathan Goldstein. He said the figures simply reflect Olswang's comparatively flexible approach to trainee recruitment and retention. He did admit that economic circumstances might be a factor in trainee numbers, but did not think that firms should keep their trainee figures level merely in order to avoid speculation on the state of their finances. "We always work on a base number of 15 trainees," he said. "If we find more good people one year, we take more on." Goldstein refused to comment on why the firm only managed a 50 per cent retention rate this year.