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Top firms Herbert Smith and Clifford Chance are reporting an improvement in recruitment figures for trainees.
But the Trainee Solicitors Group has warned against complacency, saying although the signs are good, the number of available training places is still greatly outweighed by the volume of graduates leaving the legal practice course.
Herbert Smith's recruitment partner, Patrick Robinson, says the high number of trainees starting with his firm this year "reflects the upturn in work we have seen over the last few months".
Thirty-four trainees joined the firm this month and even more are expected to be recruited in the current intake.
Robinson says the calibre of candidates applying for positions has also improved during the past two or three years, and the "commitment and dedication" of potential employees is more evident.
"Basically, undergraduates want jobs desperately, whereas three or four years ago they were able to pick them up more easily."
Chris Perrin, recruitment partner at Clifford Chance, says 97 trainees have joined the firm in its 1994/95 intake, a similar figure to that of last year.
However, he says the practice had originally set a cut-off of 90 training contracts to be offered for 1995/96, but it has since rethought and set a new target of 115.
"That's really a reflection of increased levels of confidence and activity," says Perrin.
But TSG chair, Fiona Boyle, says a recruitment problem still exists within the profession.