News

Freshfields posts uncharacteristically low trainee retention rate

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144

Legal Cheek called it back in May

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has unveiled a retention score of just 66%, confirming rumours that the magic circle outfit was bracing itself for an uncharacteristically low autumn result.

Of the 41 final seat trainees due to qualify, 27 will be staying on as newly qualified (NQ) associates. The firm, which dishes out around 80 City training contacts each year, said it had made 29 offers. Freshfields’ trainee development partner, Farah Ispahani, said:

Our retention rates across each intake vary as we balance a number of different factors when determining the offers that we make to individuals. We are committed to our existing level of training contracts in London and we expect our medium-term average for retention rates to be upheld.

Today’s disappointing 66% result won’t come as a surprise to our regular readers.

Back in May Legal Cheek revealed that the Anglo-German outfit — amid trainees grumbles about the firm’s personal assistant policy — was readying itself for a score “of around 65%.”

At the time, we speculated that Brexit was to blame, reporting: “As uncertainty prevails about the UK’s future deal with Europe, associates are apparently opting to stick around at the firm longer than normal, with the lower than usual attrition resulting in reduced capacity for NQ talent.” The firm did not comment on these May rumours.

Freshfields is normally a strong retention performer, regularly posting 80% plus, and is one of the top paying outfits in the City. Legal Cheek’s Most List shows that trainees pocket £43,000 in year one, rising to £48,000 in year two. Upon qualification, an NQ will earn a salary of £85,000, and enjoy perks including freshly made sushi and subsidised ski trips. The firm recently saw profit per equity partner (PEP) notch up 5% to £1.55 million.

The only other magic circlers to have released their 2017 autumn figures are Allen & Overy and Slaughter and May. Allen & Overy confirmed this week that 40 out of 47 September qualifiers had opted to stick around, equating to a solid retention score of 85%. Meanwhile, Slaughters kept hold of 29 out of 32 NQs, giving it a score of 91%.

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144 Comments

Anonymous

Not good. Brexit related?

(9)(0)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

It was multifactorial.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

What were other factors?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Less hiring in corporate; oversubscribed in DR.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Ignore other comments, this person is 100% right. Too many trainees wanted the same seats and wouldn’t take different departments.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

What are your plans now?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Do you lift?

(14)(0)

Arnold

The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is… The Pump.

(10)(0)

K&E HR

You haven’t seen what she can do with a rectal spinner.

(4)(0)

Jones Day partner

I have.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Did she spin it long time?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

She spin it good!

(1)(0)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

You’re all perverts.

(2)(0)

Clifford Chance

We have a pool that needs to be cleaned.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Yet Legal Cheek characteristically posts a story on RoF…

(9)(5)

Anonymous

“Legal Cheek called it back in May”

OH SOOTHSAYERS TELL US THE FUTURE! WILL CMS’S RETENTION DIP BELOW 50%?

(20)(1)

Anonymous

Cannon Place have well and truly screwed the pooch this year.

(6)(0)

The Pooch

They did. It was awful – I’m off to Jones Day.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Shit firm

(7)(7)

Freshfields NQ

It’s freshfields trying to broaden diversity and then finding that some candidates are either not up to the job or don’t fit the culture.

(18)(32)

Anonymous

Maybe they just don’t want to work with wankers like you.

(72)(4)

Anonymous

Properly lol’d at this

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Buthurt is strong in that one.

(0)(1)

Jones Day Equity Partner

Yep.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This is very believable

(3)(3)

Jones Day partner

…like, across the road.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Hi, I was the ethnic Chinese trainee not kept on. Please consider respecting my privacy next time you disclose this sensitive information to Legal Cheek. I’m still looking for a job.

(9)(1)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

I’m the actual Chinese-heritage trainee not kept on and have no problems with ‘Get your facts right’ trying to correct the record.

(0)(0)

Future FBD trainee

Wow, so this is what they meant when they said it’s full of c***s

(21)(1)

Anonymous

Faegre Baker Daniels are an excellent firm, well done.

(13)(2)

Anonymous

This ^

I absolutely agree with the statement above. This is what happens when the HR people forget that we are a business and not a charity.

(5)(18)

Anonymous

Partners do the hiring. Not HR.

(14)(2)

Jones Day Equity Partner

Yep.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

LC didn’t call jack shit – your readers and their comments did. You just copy pasted what they said and called it your own, you f*cking hacks.

(17)(3)

Anonymous

‘Called it.’ Give me a break.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Any insight to where the 14 that are leaving are heading ?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Kirkland and Ellis.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

ROFL.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The job centre presumably.

(2)(9)

Anonymous

This rate is more or less identical to Norton Rose.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Just wait ’till those juicy CMS retention figures are published.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Why are people speculating that CMS’ retention rates will be especially low this year?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Recent merger -> “restructuring” -> deferring future places (and offering £10,000 to the future trainees that accept) -> sh*tcanning the current ones.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Mate was a trainee and Nabarro and he’s been shopping his CV around for months.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Shit firm

(4)(3)

Anonymous

Try Freshfields.

(0)(4)

Anonymous

Nabarro was always shit, Freshfields are excellent. Jog on

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Are you on a rectal spinner?

Anonymous

Nah bender, stick with Nabarros

Anonymous

Goodwin, actually.

Anonymous

From doing the accelerated lpc I can confirm that they do take a lot of candidates from non traditional universities; perhaps these trainees are not being retained at qualification.

(8)(10)

Anonymous

Because somehow where you went to university has any bearing on how you can do the job. Get your head out of your ass, if they didn’t want them they would not have hired them to begin with.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

Law firms always over-hire. Scores of people don’t even make it to the lpc because they have accepted other jobs/decided law is not for them etc etc. Trainee numbers are in no way an exact science. I know fbd tends to hire more business oriented/entrepreneurial people. Maybe they just weren’t suited to law.

(1)(7)

Anonymous

Wrong – gotta be the most diverse firm in the CITY

(0)(5)

Anonymous

No. Kirkland and Latham are far more diverse.

(6)(1)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

Yeah. My non traditional university education meant that I was not retained on qualification.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

This is a joke right?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’m sorry I just can’t imagine the firm going through all that money, time, effort to train you and then decide you went to the wrong kind of uni and they don’t want to retain you.
What was the point then?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

not sure they hire the brightest people in HR…

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Ehh… someone missed a bit of sarcasm… lol. Embarrassing for you.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

yeah, HR should keep off Legal Cheek

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Would be great to know the Oxbridge retention %, would settle some of the arguments above about the effect of uni on retention chances

(3)(0)

Anonymous

45%

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Well that’s clearly not true

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Sorry. 60%.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

So less than the overall?? Doubtful

(1)(0)

Anonymous

they got poached.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

By whom

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Kirkland and Ellis

Anonymous

Is it that the US firms are particularly hiring at the moment, or that they generally take MC-trained people as they know they’ve benefited from good training?

Anonymous

neither. They pay for it…and then work you 20 hours a day

Anonymous

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

Smitten

I want the gorgeous Stuart Boyd in the K&E PE team to work me 20 hours a day. He is so hot. I still think about him.

Freshfields trainee

Since the pay increase to £85k NQ not enough associates are leaving after 2 or 3 years PQ, meaning there aren’t enough associate positions available for trainees to qualify in to. There simply isn’t room for where people want to qualify, even in the largest departments like Corporate.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

I believe this comment.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

You’re a fool.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

In what way is it not true?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Teams are quiet. Why would they take on NQs only to have them sit around doing nothing when they can be developing their skills elsewhere?

(2)(2)

Anonymous

They always seem to be working on a lot

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You’re seriously stupid. The reason the NQs / associates work on a lot is due to trainees not being retained where there is no work to fill that capacity. Had trainees been kept on where there’s no need for them, you would see a lot of NQs sitting around with excess capacity.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

I meant existing trainees, despite high recent retention.

K&E HR

Since US firms have started recruiting their own trainees, they have become more selective with the junior associates they take from the MC, with the result that more juniors are staying in the MC because they can’t get a better offer elsewhere.

(6)(9)

K&E Trainee

Piss off Emma

(14)(0)

L&W HR

She has a point.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

US firms are full of mediocre narcissistic bellends who couldn’t make it in the MC. Stop pretending that the moderately higher salaries compensate for the second rate work and less accomplished colleagues.

(5)(5)

Goodwin HR

Exactly. We don’t just take anyone.

(0)(2)

Jones Day Equity Partner

What’s Goodwin?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

You take ex-KWM betacucks.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Stay away from Freshfields guys. Major restructuring happening in the firm.

(12)(7)

Anonymous

what exactly would they be restructuring? they seem to be in perfectly good nick as far as i can tell.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

save it for the brochure

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Is this not slightly dramatic?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Wait. You can’t possibly be serious. People would currently kill for a TC and you’re telling them to stay away from Freshfields?
No firm is perfect. I don’t get why people think they’re in some mighty position to give all this advice and commentary when they probably haven’t got a TC themselves.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I don’t think anyone would kill for a TC nor would a Legal Cheek comment dissuade a prospective Freshfields trainee from applying for the firm. I do think that such a dramatic reduction in the number of trainees retained should stir debate among students with more secure options if they had them. It’s not really fair to cut one third of the intake, many of whom chose Freshfields over other firms with higher retention numbers, and expect the reaction to be: oh, well, no firm is perfect. You’re obviously from club Freshfields and believe that sprinkling your patronising comments on Legal Cheek would silence the legitimate discussion on career choices when your firm has had an exceptionally bad year.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

A much broader picture of retention rates is more useful than a single result, surely, as Freshfields has had a pretty consistent retention in recent years, with some very high rates until this? Only with one or two more retention rates will clarity emerge. It is, of course, this broader trend that matters most given that those applying for/accepting TCs will not qualify for quite some time. I also question the notion that Freshfields has had an exceptionally bad year. Its financial results were mixed, fine, but its PEP is still above that of CC or A&O (and very similar to Links), and it has worked on some of the year’s biggest mandates, and although tags such as ‘high-profile’ or ‘prestigious’ may seem nebulous, it does matter when trying to qualify at other firms. I’m not sure the year they had was ‘exceptionally bad’.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Waiting to see future retention results isn’t helpful for people choosing TCs now – would you take Freshfields now if you had offers from other MC firms with higher retention results published this year?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Probably. I wouldn’t read too much into one retention rate in a firm that is still getting mandates as big as they come. The fact that FBD was above 90% for the last retention round means that it could easily happen to any firm. If anything, the comments above indicating that many of the trainees who were not retained have found things elsewhere should reassure potential trainees. It’s about the long game

(1)(0)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

People seem to think that the 66% retention is a matter of Freshfields rejecting 1/3 of its trainees; the truth is that 1/3 of trainees rejected Freshfields to pursue careers they really want.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Fairly sure I’ve read that 29 out of 41 were made offers (with 27 accepting). Are you saying that others could have stayed if they had wanted to? Quite confusing

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I personally know a trainee that wanted to qualify in to a department and were told the department simply aren’t looking to retain any more than 1 trainee so they’re having to leave.

(1)(0)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

To clarify the above – trainees did not want to stay at Freshfields if they couldn’t get the department they wanted, i.e. DR was oversubscribed. The firm obviously anticipated that such a dramatic fall in retention rates would lower morale among trainees and cause prospective trainees to have second thoughts about joining but proceeded with the cuts nevertheless – they don’t care if you go somewhere else, there are plenty of top law students to choose from. Freshfields is astonishingly ambitious – it wants to become the top law firm in the global elite, and becoming more efficient is a part of that, even if it means cutting not only trainees, but PAs, associates and partners. The underlying assumption is that if you choose a cut throat career in law, then you accept the consequences of business decisions. Ultimately I hope the firm succeeds – I want to have trained at the best law firm in the world – but I do wish that I had my eyes wide open when choosing the firm.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

they’re replacing trainees with AI.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

No. Manchester.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Is this likely to affect future retention rates as well then?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yep. There are big changes with their business model and generally trainees are seen as an inconvenience by the associates and partners – who call trainees ‘resources’. I’d pick another firm where trainees are more welcome (or where retention numbers are higher so you at least have an offer from your training firm when interviewing for another firm if it turns out that you’d prefer to be an associate elsewhere) to save yourself the trauma of being treated like a PA for 2 years by a bunch of c***ts and then let go.

(5)(3)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

Sorry, you’re clearly not Freshfields. My TC at the firm was remarkable for the calibre of the work and the professionalism of my colleagues. While I won’t be staying with the firm, it was 2 years well spent with a diverse, interesting and meritocratic group of exceptional people.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

And presumably qualification prospects elsewhere for ex-FBD trainees are far better than most. Out of interest, did you get the impression it was a ‘blip’ or could this continue for a while?

(1)(0)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

Absolutely, I’ve had multiple interviews but am just holding out for the right role. It’s difficult to say if this was just a blip, I’ll leave that to Freshfields, who probably can’t be sure themselves given the uncertain business environment, but partners at elite US firms where I have interviewed said that basically they see the FBD TC bullet point on your CV as an indicator that you’ve been selected from an expensive, rigorous and time consuming grad recruitment process that considers the widest possible pool of candidates, regardless of pedigree or background. It’s still the best TC in the City in my opinion.

(10)(3)

Clifford Chance

we need a pool cleaner

Anonymous

… time to accept that offer from Slaughters

(1)(5)

Anonymous

There are some highly attractive partners at Kirkland and Ellis.

(1)(1)

Smitten

Yeah, like Stu, Neel, Michael, David A (not G), Jonny. The hotties at the Gherkin! whew!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Could someone please tell me what Goodwin is?!?!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

ANYONE?!? PLEASE!!!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Who would you all pick out of Freshfields, Slaughters or Jones Day for a TC?

(0)(0)

Smitten

K&E, so I could get close to Stu. He’s so hot. Omg

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I was hoping for serious answers but good luck with Stu

(0)(0)

Smitten

Thanks. Sexy Stu in the Gherkin. whew!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

JD for the moooolah

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Freshfields and Slaughters are exceptional for quality of work and exit opportunities. JD are a good firm too (people seem nice despite comments sections here) but pay poorly for a US firm. The better training at Freshfields and Slaughters would steer me towards those (as they’re known for it across the City – see above), and specifically Freshfields for its TC. Three good options though.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

So between Freshfields and Slaughters who would you pick?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I would probably still pick Freshfields.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

But wouldn’t base it either on one single retention rate score or what a randomer on LC says ha. (I get it seems major when you’re deciding though, and that you want advice.) I wouldn’t be too spooked by the retention rate. The reality is that M&A will boom again at some point, megadeals will come back, and Freshfields will be as well placed as ever to do well.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Thank you – it’s such a huge decision and I’m just trying to get as many views as possible and I know people on Legal Cheek don’t exactly hold back.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Freshfields for the TC, Slaughters for the partnership.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Most Slaughters partners trained at the firm if I’m not mistaken though?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Slaughters all the way then, if you can take the Slaughters people…

(0)(1)

Anonymous

the honeymoon’s over, little bitches

(0)(0)

Freshies trainee

I agree with most of what has been said so far, my impression is that this has been caused by fewer associates leaving the firm (so fewer NQ positions). It is sad to see so many leaving and fairly demotivating for the remaining trainee population. Also, this will start to affect the firm at grad recruitment level – I was lucky and had offers from Slaughters and Links as well as two U.S. firms and may have made a different choice if this story had come out way back then.

Also, Freshies very much pushes the angle that it’s been around longer than any other MC firm, is the only one that’s preeminent in Germany, and good at both corporate and litigation. The more snobbish Freshies partners need to be careful or they’ll start to be viewed as the same as Clifford Chance and the gilded rep will start to slip

(7)(0)

Anonymous

If you were choosing now who would you pick?

(0)(0)

Freshies trainee

Honestly, probably still Freshies but possibly Links or one of the U.S. firms. I didn’t enjoy Slaughters, although obviously a very good firm.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Salary rises to compensate? Am I right in thinking they haven’t been announced?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Late to the party but are people at Slaughters really that bad or is it just a stereotype?

(0)(0)

Smitten

They’re just not very hot.

(1)(0)

SandM trainee

More holiday than the rest of the MC, consistently excellent retention rates, decent training, slightly below market pay, intelligent and generally human colleagues, no billable hours targets at any level, distant partners.

Mixed bag for sure – but based on everything I’ve heard, I’d take it over Freshfields in a heartbeat.

(3)(1)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

Completely agree.

(3)(1)

Linklaters Partner

Tom stop deleting all my comments.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Grow up moron

(0)(0)

Linklaters Partner

Get fucked, arsehole.

(0)(0)

SM and FF Offer Holder

HELP – Currently deciding between Slaughters and Freshies.

Pros for FF:
– Strong in Dispute Resolution, esp Arbitration
– Still band 1 in Corporate (same as SM)
– 3 months seats
– Better international opportunities

Cons for FF:
– Moving office to Liverpool Street halfway through my TC
– Low retention rate
– Current low morale amongst trainees

Remaining questions:
– Are the hours worse at FF or SM?
– Which firm is better placed to survive Brexit (FF is very strong in Europe, esp Brusses and Germany)?

Interested to hear what everybody has to say!

(2)(1)

Freshfields trainee (unemployed)

Please don’t let these Legal Cheek rumours dissuade you from the opportunity to train at one of the oldest and most prestigious law firms in the world.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The restructuring and retention rates are hard facts, not rumours.

(1)(0)

Smitten

Whatever.

Tommy, I would like to nominate Stu for the sexiest solicitor in the City. How do I do this?

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.