Training vacancies plummet as deferrals rise

Vacancies for training contracts for 2011-12 are set for a dramatic fall as the number of law firms deferring trainee start dates continues to rise.

At the time of going to press, almost 40 firms had asked trainees from either their 2009 or 2010 intakes to push back their start dates, including most recently Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) (see table below).

BLG has asked half of its September 2009 intake to delay joining the firm for six months in return for a no-strings-attached cash payment of £2,500. The firm is also the latest in a line of firms to slash its summer vacation scheme, from three down to two.

The deferrals have resulted in Allen & Overy closing its applications for training contracts starting in September 2011 and March 2012 ahead of schedule.
Fellow magic circle firms Clifford Chance and Linklaters are both reviewing their training contract vacancies, with both conceding that thay may have to scale back graduate recruitment.

Clifford Chance said in a statement: “In light of this year’s deferrals and the ­continuing economic downturn, we are reviewing the appropriate number of trainee contracts we will make available overall for 2011 and 2012.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the only magic circle firm not pushing back trainee start dates nor undergoing a major redundancy programme, is keeping the number of trainees it will offer places to under review. Freshfields typically has 50 trainees starting every six months.

Freshfields UK head of trainee recruitment Deborah Dalgleish said in a statement: “We’re midway through our recruitment programme for August 2011/February 2012 and are applying our usual very rigorous selection criteria. We’re not planning to impose any compulsory deferrals on training contract start dates, but recognise that both this and overall trainee numbers need to be kept under review in challenging market conditions. Our policy will always be to recruit the number of trainees we consider will best service the business and our clients’ needs.”

Elsewhere, Norton Rose and Lovells are not accepting any fresh applications for training contracts starting in 2011, although both firms do have some vacancies for students participating in their summer vacation schemes.

Norton Rose graduate recruitment manager Karen Potts said: “We don’t plan to reduce the number of training contracts for 2012. However, we’re not immune to the economic climate.”

Hammonds has cut its recruitment for 2009 by half after around 20 of its 40 trainees who were due to start in September opted to defer by 12 months, with many using their time to take part in client secondments organised by the firm.

Similarly, Blake Lapthorn is scaling back on graduate recruitment for 2011 by “about half” after asking its trainees to defer for a year. The firm has brought its application deadline forward from 12 July to 27 April.

Other firms to close applications for 2011 are Halliwells, LG and Shoosmiths, while Eversheds and Field Fisher Waterhouse have put their graduate recruitment schemes on hold until 2010.

Field Fisher is deferring its entire September 2009 and September 2010 intake for 12 months and is not hiring any trainees for 2011. The firm has also cancelled its summer vacation scheme, as has Eversheds.

Morgan Cole has also closed the shutters on training contract applications, although it is not deferring trainees (The, 11 May).

Bird & Bird decided to bring its applications ­deadline forward by nearly two months to 29 May after it announced a “substantially increased” number of training contract applications.

Similarly, Taylor Wessing, which is deferring September 2009 and 2010 intakes, brought its applications deadline forward to 17 April and has cancelled its spring assessment centre.

A statement on its graduate recruitment website reads: “Due to an increased number of exceptionally strong applications for the 2011 training contract programme we have become closer to filling our positions earlier than expected.”

In previous years most major law firms closed their training contract application deadlines in July.

Scottish firm Dundas & Wilson is not accepting any further applications for training contracts in its London office commencing in September 2011.

Slaughter and May was forced to close its training contract applications to non-law students earlier than usual after receiving a significantly higher volume of applications.

Slaughters, however, has confirmed that the number of trainees it is planning to recruit for 2011-12 will remain unchanged at approximately 95.

Hammonds graduate recruitment partner Caroline Noblet said: “It’s always going to be hard to get into law but I think this year the competition will be even higher.”

Firms not accepting applications for 2011

Allen & Overy
Blake Lapthorn
Field Fisher Waterhouse
Morgan Cole
Taylor Wessing