Simmons & Simmons has retained just half of its trainees

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Firm points to Brexit to explain disappointing result


City giant Simmons & Simmons has revealed its 2016 autumn retention rate, and it’s pretty low.

Out of a cohort of 24 trainees, just half will take up newly qualified (NQ) associate positions at the international law firm. To break down the figures, 17 of the newbie lawyers applied for NQ jobs. Thirteen received offers and 12 accepted, equalling a retention rate of 50%. This 12-strong team of fresh-faced lawyers will take home a not too shabby salary of £68,000 each.

For a big City player like Simmons this result isn’t great, and the firm realises this.

Training principal and partner Alan Gar has described the autumn result as disappointing and said he was “genuinely sad” to say goodbye to the lawyers who decided to leave.

The cause of this lacklustre retention rate? In Gar’s opinion, it’s at least partly attributable to “a period of uncertainty caused by Brexit”.

Simmons appears to have been hit hard post-24 June. In August, Legal Cheek reported the firm — which offers 38 training contracts a year — is making lawyer redundancies at its London HQ. The month before, the outfit confirmed profit per equity partner (PEP) had slid by 10% from £650,000 to £585,000.

A simple case of the post-referendum blues, or something deeper? Well, even before the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union was announced, cracks were already beginning to show.

At the beginning of June, the firm reported it would be ditching its Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme for its future trainees. A few months before, the Simmons raised some eyebrows across legal London when it trumpeted a spring retention rate of 78%, but then declined to comment on how many trainees started that round’s qualification process in the first place.

In other autumn retention rate news, national firm Shoosmiths has announced a so-so score of 79%, with 15 out of 19 trainees accepting offers to stay on. Over at US big shot Sullivan & Cromwell all four of its final-seat London trainees have been retained, and will now be paid a whopping £101,500 a year for their efforts.



I feel sorry for all the parents of the NQ’s. It’s a shame that they have brought disappointment to their family for joining this firm. Might as well join a legal aid regional firm, you would probably have more hope in the future going down that route.


Man on the Clapham Omnibus

Anonymous @11.27 – are you one of the Simmons trainees who didn’t get an offer? You come across as having a few chips on your shoulder.

Simmons has some exceptional departments and is strong across the firm. A few trainees leaving is not going to sink the ship in any way, shape or form.



Which ones are those mate?

Looks like Simmons might have to start flogging those artworks they got to keep up with the rent at CityPoint.



No I’m not, I am a trainee at Clifford Chance and everyone in the city knows that Simmons & Simmons aren’t going to be able to keep up with the top city players for long. I will give it a couple of years probably even less before they shut down.



Complete and utter BS.

Is that what they teach you toilers at CC, that Simmons are to shut down and MC is the only way forward? 😂😂😂

Lay off the CC Kool Aid mate – they’ll merge with a US shop far, far sooner than they’ll ever “shut down”, but by all means keep telling yourself that.



I don’t know how getting rid of half your trainees after posting quite disappointing financial figures can be spun as a good thing. Simmons will merge shortly.



Any guesses on who’ll be the lucky suitor?

My bets are either on Hunton & Williams (since they got cold feet with Addleshaws), Nixon Peabody or Goodwin Procter.


Simmons has been in on and off merger talks with other firms for years and it’s never come to anything. Usually with a US firm as that’s a huge gap for them right now.

Their continued failure to consummate these relationships is starting to look a little embarrassing. What’s going on under the surface that causes potential brides to bolt when they do their due diligence?

Skadden 3PQE

Your peen’s too small. The brides need bigger hardware.


Sounds like you’ve drunk too much pool water while chasing them turds


Bantz 'n' Harmony

Savage. 🔥💥🍆



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


Skadden 3PQE

Lololol CC clearly bitched Alex over the jihadi NQs lolz



I’d not worry – they have all got that impressive BPP MBA in Legal Practice. Boston Consulting Group and Goldmans are probably already lining up to recruit the ones who were not retained.


Northern HR command



Beacon of Truth and Honesty

My sources at Simmons tell me that even the 50% figure may not tell the whole story. Apparently one trainee accepted an offer, only to turn it down before actually qualifying. Does this count as ‘retained’? If not then it’s actually a 46% rate. Naughty, naughty Simmons. Again!



Far out, 46% is almost as bad as Orrick Herrington or Mayer Brown.



Not really surprising. Dreadful management there…



A number of people told me that. How come?



Just a combination of irrational internal decisions, poor recruitment procedure and weak remuneration.

It’s really not surprising people are leaving.


Reed Smith NQ

68k for an NQ ain’t bad, stfu.



It ain’t bad only if you hail from some east london ghetto


Cool story brah, stopped me from applying to Reed Smith.


The Brexit excuse is barely plausible.

Financial problems (not arising from Brexit uncertainty) and the much more hum drum reason of people just not settling well are the real reasons for poor retention rate.



Agree – if Simmons have a similar NQ recruitment timetable to my firm then decisions were made before the outcome of the referendum.



I heard that Simmons and Simmons offer free music lessons? That sounds pretty cool, I’ve been looking to learn the skinflute for some time now.



Delicious bantz, 10/10.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



hi friends



hi Ben. you look glorious today. #simmonsglow


Not even the worst of it

Word is that this September’s intake off 22 have already been told by the time they get to the end of their TCs it is unlikely there’ll be more then 8-10 NQ jobs.


District 1 Resident

Brutal, Hunger Games-style approach. I like it.



What a load of nonsense. My experience of S&S HR is they are extremely tight-lipped about qualification until the jobs list for your intake is announced. In what world would they scare monger to incoming trainees? How could they possibly predict business need 2 years from now?



Problem, as has been previously documented with Simmons is that they have a grade A client list – top-tier funds and banks – but don’t do any of the major transnational or even regulatory work

not looking good!



There’s nothing new there though. That’s always been the case (I started my legal career at S&S in 2007 and this was a common criticism of them, internally as well, back then).

Also not new is their horrendous retention rate. S&S hire a larger number of
trainees than their contemporaries, meaning that these trainees end up doing work that paralegals, secretaries (and very occasionally NQs) would end up doing at other shops. As a result, they’ve had quite a few spare qualifiers come qualification time pretty much for all of living memory.

Quite why they do this I don’t know. Potential explanations include an over-optimistic growth strategy (they always think they’ll be bigger in four and a half years’ time when they recruit than they end up being when those trainees qualify); poor culture (you can treat a trainee way worse than a paralegal, secretary or NQ as the others aren’t tied in to get their qualification); marketing (lots of former trainees in-house equals a strong alumni network provided they leave with a positive view of the firm); a really fussy recruiting strategy for NQs (they want to pick the very best solicitors and you just can’t tell who they’ll be when you hire law students); or a combination of the above.


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