US firms retain majority of London qualifiers

It is early in the recruitment cycle for US firms, but recent announcements ­suggest that several US firms’ London offices are holding up despite the ­pressures of the downturn.

Marcus Franks

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has given jobs to 100 per cent of its newly qualified lawyers in London. To put that into perspective, however,
that translates to a total of three trainees accepting offers at the Manhattan-­headquartered firm.

Clearly it is easier for firms such as Skadden to keep numbers looking good with such small annual trainee intakes. For others,the ­challenge is more ­pronounced.

Weil Gotshal & Manges offered 85 per cent of its trainees jobs, keeping on 11 out of 13. Last year the firm also employed 85 per cent, keeping six of the seven trainees in the 2008 intake.

“If people are talented then we’ll want to offer them jobs,” says a London-based Weil partner. “We see the economic environment as a separate issue and one that shouldn’t affect your ­recruitment decisions ­dramatically.”

Despite the downturn Latham & Watkins, which only launched its trainee programme in the City in 2007, has kept on 78 per cent of newly-qualifieds, employing seven trainees out of nine, compared with one out of two last year.

That said, Shearman & Sterling has announced it will be retaining just 64 per cent of its London trainees who are due to qualify in September (Lawyer2B.com, 2 June), keeping on nine of the 14 trainees who are ­coming to the end of their contracts this year, ­compared with six out of seven in 2008.

“Given market conditions I think we’ve done very well to give 70 per cent of newly-qualifieds jobs,” says ­Shearman global HR head ­Marcus Franks. “We wanted to let trainees know as soon as possible and we’ve offered outplacement services to those who have been ­affected.”

It is not great news for Shearman trainees, but although the downturn is still in full swing, US firms are generally keeping their numbers up.