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2015 retention rates highest since financial crisis, with 1,922 out of 2,376 trainees kept on

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US firms’ London offices did the best

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Retention rates have reached their highest level since the financial downturn, with 1,922 out of 2,376 newly qualifying (NQ) lawyers being kept on by their respective firms.

As the latest retention round comes to a close, much to the relief of everyone at Legal Cheek, some law geeks have crunched the results of 125 top law firms to reveal an impressive industry average of 81% trainees kept on.

The figure — that marks a slight improvement on 2014 — is the highest result recorded since the year after the economic crash of 2008, when the retention average plummeted to 74%.

But this encouraging result, which was obtained by researchers at Chambers Student, obscures a gloomy reality.

Despite the much lower retention rate in 2009, slightly more trainees were actually taken on as NQs that year — 1,954, to be precise — due to the much greater numbers of training contracts offered before the financial crisis. Training contract numbers are still down over 20% from their 2008 high.

For aspiring lawyers that means while it may be harder to find a training contract today, if you’re one of the lucky ones that does you have a better chance of being kept on post-qualification.

Looking at the breakdown of retention rates in relation to a firm’s size and location also throws up some potentially useful information for students concerned about being dumped by their firm at the end of their TC.

Mid-sized firms — which Chambers defines as offering between 11-25 training contracts each year, and includes the London offices of many leading US firms — averaged a retention figure of 83%, out-performing both smaller and larger competitors.

Couple this with firms located in the City of London beating both regional and other London outfits on retention, the message appears to be to apply to a mid-sized City firm if you want job security.

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With the London office of US firms dominating the retention standings this year, there were top 10 spots for White & Case (100%), Jones Day (100%) Shearman & Sterling (100%), Latham Watkins (95%) and Clearly Gottleib (92%).

However regional outfits, such Bristol’s Burges Salmon (100%) and Newcastle outfit Ward Hadaway (100%), also secured places at the top. Disappointingly, Clifford Chance was the only magic circle outfit to break the top 10 posting an autumn retention figure of 94%.

Legal Cheek understands that the elite magical quintet has been hit this year by US raiders keen to bulk up on NQs.