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BLP retains 71% of its trainees while Clifford Chance keeps 96%

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Contrasting retention fortunes between mid-tier and aristocrats

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Two big City law firms have announced their retention rates today — and there are contrasting fortunes.

Clifford Chance will keep 45 out of a cohort of 47 newly qualified (NQ) trainees, equating to an autumn retention figure of 96%.

Meanwhile, mid-tier giant Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is hanging onto 71% — 17 out of 24 — of its autumn qualifiers.

The magic circle firm — which has one of the highest trainee intakes in the City, taking around 100 a year — revealed that it made 45 offers, all of which were duly accepted.

BLP, which takes on 45 trainees annually, said that one of its trainees did not complete the process. The firm added that 14 of the successful 17 will take newly qualified (NQ) jobs in London, two go to Abu Dhabi and one to Berlin. 10 will work in real estate, with the rest split between tax, corporate and litigation. As NQs they will each earn £63,500.

The firm’s training chief, Anthony Lennox, highlighted his pleasure at the willingness of three NQs to go abroad, commenting:

We’ve offered this year’s trainee intake contracts across a range of our practice areas which is pleasing. It is also great that three of our trainees have accepted contracts in Berlin and Abu Dhabi which reaffirms our commitment to offering exciting opportunities across our international offices.

Despite its impressive retention rate, corporate finance specialist Clifford Chance failed to reveal which departments or even offices its new legal talent would be headed to. It also declined to specify if any were on short term contracts.

The firm — which pays its NQs a recently improved £70,000 a year — is the third magic circle firm to announce its autumn retention results.

Earlier this summer profit-powerhouse Slaughter and May revealed it would retain 89% of its trainees, with 33 of a 37 strong cohort remaining post-September. Meanwhile, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer announced last week that eight of its NQs would be heading for the exit, leaving the firm with a somewhat disappointing — by magic circle standards — 83% autumn figure.

It is, however, the Square Mile offices of several prominent US firms that are leading the retention table. Jones Day, White & Case, Shearman & Sterling, Sullivan & Cromwell and Weil Gotshal & Manges have all revealed 100% retention figures this autumn. However, most of these US practices have much smaller graduate intakes than the big English firms.