Freshfields posts uncharacteristically low trainee retention rate

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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