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Retention rate row: Simmons & Simmons remains tightlipped over NQ temporary contract accusations

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International heavyweight trumpeted an 80% spring score last week

Simmons & Simmons is remaining tightlipped over accusations that “several” of its newly-qualified lawyers (NQs) are on fixed term contracts.

On Friday the international heavyweight proudly unveiled a 2017 spring retention score of 80%. Putting a series of poor performances behind it, the firm stated that from a 15-strong qualifying cohort, 12 offers were made, and subsequently accepted.

Simmons, which offers around 35 training contracts annually in the United Kingdom via two intakes, has now been accused of placing a number of NQs on six-month fixed term contracts. An unnamed source has told weekly legal blog RollOnFriday that this was an attempt by the firm to “boost” its retention rate.

Simmons — which retained just half of its trainees in autumn 2016 — has so far refused to disclose how many of its newbies, if any, are on fixed term contracts. A spokesperson for the firm has, however, told Legal Cheek:

Out of respect and legal obligation for our employees, trainee or otherwise, we do not reveal the details of employee contracts. We would once again like to congratulate all of our trainees on completing their qualification and wish them every success at Simmons & Simmons.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time the firm has been at the centre of a retention rate row. Last year Simmons confirmed a so-so spring result of 78% from a trainee cohort of nine. However it was later suggested that Simmons had actually started with 13 trainees. If correct, this would have given the firm a retention rate of just 54%. Like today, a spokesperson at the time declined to comment.

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15 Comments

Anonymous

Thomas – why have you locked comments on the AI article? Is it so we can’t insult Richard Susskind?

(9)(1)

Anonymous

I probably wouldn’t take a temporary NQ position. That is the point when you can finally settle down and start building your career and I would hate to have that uncertainty hanging over me.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

I’d rather search for a new job while on a temp contract than from unemployment…

(37)(0)

Anonymous

Simmons isn’t an MC firm anymore. Best days behind it.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

S&S was never an MC firm, or even a silver circle firm (although it sometimes liked to pretend about the latter one).

Its problem is that its bread and butter is financial services work, which is bifurcating into extremely expensive and high quality work (which is almost always awarded to the actual magic/silver circles on brand recognition alone) and cheap as chips commodity work (which will only ever be profitable if you farm loads of it out to regional offices, whereas S&S has fewer than 30 fee earners in Bristol).

It has tried to tackle the issue with a low cost centre in Bristol and some high profile hires to capture the quality work but it increasingly resembles a person standing with a foot on two boats moving inexorably apart. It’s doing the splits at the moment, but it will eventually fall in the water unless it changes strategy.

(0)(0)

LL and P

Agreed. Far (far) easier to get an NQ job whilst on a 6 month contract than to be unemployed. People don’t like to employ the unemployed unless they need someone with immediate availability. It’s a big shame but that’s the truth with many firms.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

This is more common across law firms than the few times it has been picked up by the press. In fact many of Legal Cheek’s “Top” firms or those within its “most” lists are guilty of this from time to time.

It is often used for individuals who haven’t got their 1st or 2nd choice of department on qualification, but haven’t really got any other option than to go to a team that needs an NQ (Finance typically). It is also been given to trainees who typically haven’t got the most consistent of performance reviews, and so they want to have a back up option of getting rid of them if they can’t cut it as a NQ. Sometimes its just because the department isn’t sure whether someone is returning from maternity leave or a secondment, and they need an interim resource.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Helpful

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Exactly: it’s pretty common, unfortunately. And the numbers shouldn’t count towards retention figures.

It’s a win/win for both sides if the firm says “we can’t take you on in an area you want to work in but we’ll pay you an NQ salary and give you a temp job while you look for another job, so you don’t have the stigma of not being taken on and don’t have to worry about the bills”. But it’s not great for the NQ if their prospective employers know the full details of the arrangement.

S&S are keeping their mouths shut about even the existence of this option, let alone whether or not they’re using it. This is good for the NQs, but be under no illusions that it’s also good for S&S in that it artificially boosts their historically pisspoor retention figures, and this is why they’re doing it.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yep, almost all city firms do this with a fair few of their NQs.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

“International heavyweight” lmao

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Yeah, calling a provincial shop like Simmons an ‘international heavyweight’ is a tad ridiculous. Unless they merge with a US shop I can’t imagine them going anywhere.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

Olswang did exactly the same thing last year.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Simmons being typically Simmons!
“In-humane” resources at its best. Widely known as a Hire n Fire firm. Sucks it’s resources dry and spits em out.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

mmons being typically Simmons!
“In-humane” resources at its best. Widely known as a Hire n Fire firm. Sucks it’s resources dry and spits em out.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.