Autumn retention season: The good, the bad and the ugly

By on

Legal Cheek reflects on the latest NQ results

With the 2017 autumn retention season drawing to a close, now seems the time to reflect on what’s been a summer of triumphant highs, solid mid-table scores and uncharacteristically low lows.

Like in previous rounds, a host of firms have boasted perfect September scores. Bristol-headquartered outfit Burges Salmon kept hold of all 28 of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers, while City duo Watson Farley & Williams (15 out of 15) and Fieldfisher (13 out of 13) also posted flawless marks.

Mayfair firm Forsters and the London office of US titan Sullivan & Cromwell retained all their trainees too, albeit from much smaller autumn intakes of eight and four respectively.

Though the pinnacle of retention rate success is a 100% score, elsewhere in the City a plethora of big outfits revealed less than perfect but still very impressive results.

Slaughter and May, this season’s highest scoring magic circle firm, kept hold of 29 of its 32 NQs, equating to a score of 91%. Meanwhile, its elite counterpart Allen & Overy revealed an 85% figure from a sizeable September cohort of 47.

Sticking with the magic circle, Linklaters retained 47 of its 56 September NQs (84%), while Canary Wharf giant Clifford Chancebouncing back from a disappointing 67% spring score — recently unveiled a respectable 81% result.

Moving on to consider notable mid-table finishers, the likes of Shearman & Sterling and Pinsent Masons scored 75% and 74% respectively. While the former kept hold of 12 of its 16 rookie lawyers, the latter retained 67 but from a much larger intake of 91.

However, it wasn’t all good news.

Freshfields was well off the magic circle pace this season. The firm posted an uncharacteristically low 66% result (27 out of 41), one that we predicted several months prior. Dentons (64%), Mishcon de Reya (64%) and Taylor Wessing (62%) all scored in the low to mid-sixties, too.

Also at the bottom end of the table is mega-paying Kirkland & Ellis. The US outfit’s City outpost kept just five of its nine newbies (56%) this autumn. Legal Cheek understands that Kirkland’s low retention figure was a result of NQs being unable to qualify into their department of choice — a problem flagged up by fellow US firm Weil Gotshal when it unveiled a disappointing 50% score (five out of ten) just weeks later.

At the time of publication there is one big name absent from our table. CMSwhich recently merged with City duo Nabarro and Olswang — is still to reveal its autumn figures. Legal Cheek understands that the numbers are being finalised and will be released very soon.

Trainee autumn retention 2017

Burges Salmon100%28/28
Watson Farley & Williams100%15/15
Blake Morgan100%9/9
Sullivan & Cromwell100%4/4
Latham & Watkins95%21/22
Macfarlanes92%23/25 (two on FTC*)
Slaughter and May91%29/32
Travers Smith90%18/20
Ince & Co90%9/10
Stephenson Harwood90%9/10
Blake Morgan89%8/9
Reed Smith86%12/14
Allen & Overy85%40/47
Gowling WLG84%21/25
Bird & Bird83%15/18
White & Case83%15/18
Osborne Clarke82%14/17
Clifford Chance81%42/52
Bond Dickinson81%22/27
Eversheds Sutherland80%44/55
Herbert Smith Freehills80%28/35
Hogan Lovells80%24/30
Mills & Reeve79%15/19 (one on FTC)
Shearman & Sterling75%12/16
Pinsent Masons74%67/91
Mayer Brown73%8/11
Trowers & Hamlins70%7/10
Browne Jacobson67%6/9
Mishcon de Reya64%9/14
Taylor Wessing62%16/26
Kirkland & Ellis56%5/9
Weil Gotshal50%5/10
Stewarts Law25%1/4

*Fixed term contract

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub.