Clifford Chance cuts UK training contract numbers drastically

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By Thomas Connelly on

Magic circle firm to recruit 20 fewer trainees


Magic circle law firm Clifford Chance has confirmed that it will cut UK training contract numbers by a hefty 20%.

As it currently stands the Canary Wharf-based outfit recruits “up to 100” trainee solicitors each year. However, in a decision which will take effect from September 2018, the firm has revealed that it will reduce this figure to “up to 80” — a drop of around 20 training contracts each year, or 20%.

The firm — which upped the pay packets of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to £85,000 earlier this summer — has seen a steady reduction in its trainee intake over the past six years. From a 2010 high of around 140 trainee lawyers, this figure dropped to just over 100 in 2014.

Stressing that the decision to reduce training contract numbers was made well before any post-Brexit referendum panic, a spokesperson for Clifford Chance told Legal Cheek:

In spring this year, the decision was made to reduce our trainee intake. Our trainee intake, like many other elements of our business, is constantly under review to ensure it is the right fit for the future needs of the organisation. We remain one of the largest employers of trainees in the UK market and will continue to offer excellent opportunities to the highest-calibre individuals, supporting them to become great lawyers.

But Clifford Chance isn’t alone. Since 2010 (when the UK was in the grips of an economic recession) all five magic circle players have gradually reduced their trainee lawyer intake.

Anglo-German firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer saw its UK training contract offering drop from around 95 in 2010, to just 80 this year. Meanwhile, Allen & Overy — which took on around 85 trainees this year — offered in excess of 120 training contracts pre-recession. Linklaters, which currently offers around 110 training contracts annually according to Legal Cheek’s Most List, used to provide almost 140 trainee lawyer positions in 2010. Finally, Slaughter and May, which offered almost 90 training contracts back in 2010, recruited less than 80 trainee lawyers last year.

Clifford Chance will be hoping that the reduction of its trainee intake will have a positive impact on future retention performances.

With the magic circle firm aiming for scores in the high nineties, Clifford Chance could only muster a spring 2016 result of 80%, with 11 NQs heading for the exit. Fast-forward to earlier this month, and the firm revealed that nine autumn NQs had left, equating to a retention score of just 82%. Crunching the numbers, this means that Clifford Chance has lost 20 NQs this year.

Now where have we heard that number?