SJ Berwin head of real estate Bryan Pickup is stepping down from his role as departmental chief to head the firm’s graduate recruitment and retention efforts.

Pickup and corporate finance partner Laura O’Neill will jointly head the new initiative, which aims to make its graduate and trainee intake processes more inclusive and boost retention rates.

Pickup said: “We can attract people from all walks of life and dispel the myth that you have to be an Oxbridge graduate to be given an opportunity at our firm.”

The revamped programme is part of the firm’s renewed graduate strategy, which aims to provide a more defined career path for trainees. The firm hopes to improve its retention rate, which dropped to 78 per cent, according to this year’s Lawyer 2B retention survey.

Last summer (14 August 2006) The Lawyer reported that SJ Berwin had launched a series of graduate classes following another graduate strategy review, which tried to tackle retention rate issues and lessen discontent within the junior ranks. Pickup said: “There’s a lot of competition for new recruits. We need to make sure we’re being proactive in attracting trainees.”

Other retention initiatives include SJ Berwin’s recently revamped Assistant Solicitors’ Forum, which has become an elected body designed to discuss all issues affecting the firm’s associates.