Silver circle pair reveal retention rates — and one is much better than the other

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By Thomas Connelly on

Contrasting retention fortunes at Macfarlanes and Ashurst


Single-office City outfit Macfarlanes has announced today an autumn retention rate of 74%, keeping 14 of its 19 newly qualifying (NQ) lawyers.

The firm, which trains around 30 new lawyers each year, revealed it made 18 offers — which 14 NQs have accepted “so far”. Seán Lavin, head of graduate recruitment, reflected plaintively:

Macfarlanes recruits its trainee solicitors for the long term and it is always our ambition to retain 100% of trainees on qualifying. However, it is not always possible to match up the individual expectations of every trainee with the opportunities we have at the firm on qualifying, and so that ambition is not always fulfilled.

Today’s news marks a drop of 10 percentage points on the firm’s autumn figure last year, when it posted 84%. That mid-80s level is the sort of figure that silver circle firms tend to view as respectable.

Indeed, it is just in excess of this proportion of trainees that competitor firm Ashurst has kept on, with 86% of its autumn 2015 qualifying cohort remaining at the firm. The global outfit announced that 18 of its 21 September London qualifiers had accepted full-time associate positions.

Ashurst — which has 28 offices worldwide — confirmed 20 NQ lawyers had put themselves forward for consideration, while one opted out of the process.

Four new associates will head to Ashurst’s corporate transactions department, while corporate projects and banking will receive three NQs each. Real estate will also receive three NQs, and dispute resolution gains two. The firm’s employment, regulatory and securities/derivatives departments bag one new lawyer each.

The news marks a slight decline on the firm’s spring result, when it posted a 91% figure, keeping 21 of 23 NQs.

But forget about the silver circle — if you want retention bliss, look no further than insurance specialist DAC Beachcroft. The national player has posted one of the best autumn retention results yet, with 100% of new qualifiers sticking around.

The firm, which offers around ten training contracts annually, revealed that all 11 autumn NQs would be remaining. Six of its trainee cohort will be based in DAC’s City headquarters, three will heading to Bristol, while the firm’s Manchester and Leeds offices will be gaining a new associate each.

DAC’s perfect retention rate places it as the odd one out among an elite group of top-paying US firms which are currently dominating the City’s autumn retention table. White & Case, Shearman & Sterling, Sullivan & Cromwell and Weil Gotshal & Manges have all revealed 100% figures this autumn. Although like DAC, US firms traditionally have a much smaller trainee intake — meaning that it can be easier to shine in the topsy turvy world of NQ preservation.