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Trainee recruitment bonanza: Firms up TC numbers — led by White & Case with 33% rise

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Other big name to boost graduate hiring is Ashurst with 12.5% increase; five mid-tier outfits also offering more training contracts

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Global titan White & Case has revealed that it will boost its London trainee intake for the 2015-16 recruitment round from 30 trainees to 40.

Ashurst too has posted an improved trainee recruitment target — albeit a slightly more modest one — of 45 for 2015-16. Up from 40, it represents a 12.5% rise.

Though the firms are similar in ambition and City presence, their enhanced trainee figures are indicative of two differing approaches.

In 2011, Ashurst stepped-up its efforts to expand in Asia by merging with Aussie firm Blake Dawson, itself already a major player in the Asian market. Ashurst’s graduate recruitment partner, Hammad Akhtar, indicated to Legal Cheek how this tie-up has informed the firm’s decision to bring in more rookies, explaining:

The increase in the number of training contract vacancies reflects both the increasing strength and globalisation of our business. This has increased the need for trainees and international opportunities for them.

White & Case has a long-standing London presence, which dates back to 1971. Like other US firms in the UK, it’s in growth mode, using its scale to muscle in on the English City mid-tier. Earlier this year the New York-based behemoth swelled its NQ salaries by 20% to £90,000 — one of the biggest NQ pay hikes seen in the City this year. And now it wants more graduates to fill its trainee pipeline.

Following a narrative of contrasting fortunes for training contract numbers in 2014-15, there was concern earlier this month that 2015-16 may not be such a vintage year when CMS Cameron McKenna shocked the market by announcing a 34% reduction in its trainee intake. But the White & Case and Ashurst TC increases have steadied nerves.

And they are not the only firms to boost trainee numbers. Five further top 60 firms have each unveiled impressive trainee hiring targets for 2015-16. Anglo-US firm Squire Patton Boggs, which has a number of UK regional offices, and national firm Bond Dickinson, also big outside London, both see their intakes improved by five to 25.

Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing and Watson Farley & Williams will welcome two additional future trainees in 2016 — taking their numbers up to 24 and 18 respectively — while Mishcon de Reya boosts its target from 12 to 15.

Trainees recruited in the 2015-16 recruitment round don’t actually start their TCs until 2018, so it will take a while for these numbers to trickle through. But the rises at seven firms, no less, show that the City law graduate recruitment market retains some vigour, despite well-documented outsourcing and paralegal trends impacting on junior-level work.