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

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By Thomas Connelly 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

Firm Score Breakdown
Burges Salmon 100% 28/28
Watson Farley & Williams 100% 15/15
Fieldfisher 100% 13/13
Blake Morgan 100% 9/9
Forsters 100% 8/8
Sullivan & Cromwell 100% 4/4
Latham & Watkins 95% 21/22
Ashurst 95% 19/20
Macfarlanes 92% 23/25 (two on FTC*)
Slaughter and May 91% 29/32
Travers Smith 90% 18/20
Ince & Co 90% 9/10
Stephenson Harwood 90% 9/10
Blake Morgan 89% 8/9
Reed Smith 86% 12/14
Allen & Overy 85% 40/47
Linklaters 84% 47/56
Gowling WLG 84% 21/25
Bird & Bird 83% 15/18
White & Case 83% 15/18
Osborne Clarke 82% 14/17
RPC 82% 14/17
Clifford Chance 81% 42/52
Bond Dickinson 81% 22/27
Eversheds Sutherland 80% 44/55
Herbert Smith Freehills 80% 28/35
Hogan Lovells 80% 24/30
Mills & Reeve 79% 15/19 (one on FTC)
Shearman & Sterling 75% 12/16
Pinsent Masons 74% 67/91
Mayer Brown 73% 8/11
Withers 73% 8/11
Trowers & Hamlins 70% 7/10
Browne Jacobson 67% 6/9
Freshfields 66% 27/41
Dentons 64% 18/28
Mishcon de Reya 64% 9/14
Taylor Wessing 62% 16/26
Kirkland & Ellis 56% 5/9
Weil Gotshal 50% 5/10
Stewarts Law 25% 1/4

*Fixed term contract

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