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Training contract numbers fall at UK’s leading corporate law firms

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41

Uh-oh

Training contract places among the leading corporate law firms have fallen by 5% as firms reveal their new 2017-18 recruitment targets.

The data, compiled as part of Legal Cheek’s 2018 Firms Most List, shows in a comparison with last years’ list that trainee places are down by over 100 from 2,147 to 2,036 across the largest 70 UK-based firms.

There are some notable individual fallers, and risers — as detailed in the tables below.

Fallers

Firm 2016-17 training contract numbers (to commence 2019) 2017-18 training contract numbers (to commence 2020)
DLA Piper 75 70
Herbert Smith Freehills 70 60
Eversheds Sutherland 55 50
DWF 50 40
Irwin Mitchell 50 45
Norton Rose Fulbright 50 45
Berwin Leighton Paisner 45 40
Simmons & Simmons 35 33
Gowling WLG 30 25
King & Wood Mallesons 30 0
Nabarro 30 0
Charles Russell Speechlys 24 23
Walker Morris 20 15
Shearman & Sterling 17 15
RPC 15 12
Skadden 12 10
Dechert 11 10
Howard Kennedy 10 8
Olswang 9 0

Looking at these firms, it’s hard to unite them all under a particular grouping. But there does seem to be a bit of wider weakness in the global megafirm bracket, which could suggest that these firms are focusing their graduate recruitment energies on other jurisdictions at a time of political uncertainty for the UK. It’s often argued, however, that Brexit is actually increasing work for law firms’ UK offices, so perhaps other factors are at play.

Something else to consider is the fact that King & Wood Mallesons Europe, Nabarro and Olswang no longer exist, having, in the case of the former, collapsed, and in the case of the latter pair been absorbed by CMS.

One further thing that is worth noting is that last year some of these firms prefaced their training contract target numbers with the phrase “up to”, so they may not have taken their full quota, and as a result some of these new figures could conceal a drop that is not as marked as it may at first seem.

Risers

Firm 2016-17 training contract numbers (to commence 2019) 2017-18 training contract numbers (to commence 2020)
CMS 60 65
Addleshaw Goddard 30 37
Baker McKenzie 30 33
Reed Smith 24 25
Fieldfisher 14 18
Ropes & Gray 6 7

Sadly this table is significantly shorter than the first one. Also, to put a further dampener on things, the rise in training contract numbers at CMS is actually a net fall when you consider that last year CMS, Nabarro and Olswang offered a combined total of 99 trainee places. However, Addleshaw Goddard, Baker McKenzie, Reed Smith, Fieldfisher and Ropes & Gray are all clearly doing something right.

Everyone else — and that is the vast majority of firms in the Most List — have kept training contract numbers the same as last year. Notably, this includes all five of the magic circle firms, among them the biggest training firm in the UK, Linklaters, which continues to offer a whopping 110 training contracts.

The magic circle have been among the biggest spenders on artificial intelligence and other lawtech software over the last couple of years, but the jury is still out on how this will affect junior lawyers. Some people in the market predict major drops in training contract numbers, while others think the new technology will actually increase the need for rookies.

Interestingly, the 5% fall in training contract numbers across the leading corporate law firms goes against the wider UK legal market trend that saw training contract numbers increase last year to their highest level since before the 2008 financial crisis. According to the Law Society’s annual statistical report published in June, total training contract numbers across all firms in England and Wales jumped from 5,457 to 5,728 in 2015-16.

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41 Comments

Anonymous

Ah FFS!

Anonymous

Interesting research. Surprised at some of these falls tbh

Anonymous

WHAT. KWM, Nabarro and Olswang aren’t taking any trainees this year?!??!!

Anonymous

KWM went under and closed. Nabarro and Olswang merged into CMS.

Anonymous

Everyone knows. That’s the joke.

Legna & Lived

Brexit is coming for you all. Hahaha . Sitting comfortably in Ireland.

Jk

Anonymous

More jobs for British lawyers in London. Once you lose your right to work and practice as a lawyer here under a post-Brexit visa system.

Anonymous

Sweet mediocrity for a soon mediocre place

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

May as well retract female suffrage as well, no good ever came of it. All hail the white male patriarchy.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

Actually with mutual recognition of the professions between Ireland and the UK lawyers from both jurisdiction can still across the pond after Brexit. So no change there.

Anonymous

Good. Young graduates should find more rewarding ways to apply their education than getting sucked in to what’s ultimately a mediocre career with mediocre people who brand themselves as exceptional.

Anonymous

Law is a decent career option as they go and as City jobs go. Other options are to go into Big 4 or second-tier accountancy, investment banking, consulting somewhere or some random grad scheme at a FTSE.

Anonymous

As a mediocre person in this mediocre career, I could not agree more!

Anonymous

Someone’s on their third round of TC applications…

Jones Day Partner

My trainee is in the “risers”. Well, that’s how I feel anyway when I see her coming at me, wearing leather and whip in hand.

Anonymous

You have a mental illness

Jones Day Partner

With abuse like that you’ll be getting a TC with us soon.

Anonymous

Learn French and prepare to move to Brussels.

Anonymous

Brussels is an utter sh1thole.

Vote leave, take control.

Anonymous

Brussels will be far better to live in than post-Brexit London. These reductions are just the beginning. Get what you voted for. Luckily I am Dutch. I’m quitting law to run a bakery in Utrecht to watch it all burn from a distance.

Anonymous

Enjoy baking with your Dutch oven.

Anonymous

Addleshaw Goddard merged with HBJ Gateley which may explain the increase in places available.

Anonymous

Slight hesitation in numbers is also partly down to the new SQE system coming in at 2020.

Big Dolla

What makes you say this?

2020 intake would not be affected by the new SQE system, so why would they reduce numbers there for that reason?

Anonymous

They wouldn’t. 1:40pm makes a hopeful comment at best. City firms will continue to require candidates to do some sort of sponsored prep course (and definitely for those doing a non-law degree, require a GDL-like course given the currently light law content of the SQE assessments being mooted) ahead of a graduate scheme. Anyone who believes the SQE will suddenly open up qualified roles in large firms for candidates who have put themselves through the test is naive. It might prompt firms to look at how they’ll train and when, but in an industry that sells expertise, firms will need to be confident about the training and capability of lawyers.

Anonymous

No, its nothing to do with what you have suggested. Most of it will be business as usual.

Just some firms do not want to make a two year commitment for a small number of training contract, when they can offer much more flexible option of 6 month placements and those placements can match their specific practice area requirements at the time much more closely. Some firms are already looking at having a core of trainees like they typically would, and then supplementing them with off-cycle internships very much like how the investment banks work.

The graduate schemes/training contracts will continue as you have suggested, but it isn’t the only option available to firms now and so some are holding back. If for any reason it doesn’t work out, they can easily do top up recruitment over the next two years. But there is no reason to over recruit now, especially given the uncertainty in the market.

Anonymous

Why MC so high?
Why Links so so high?

Anonymous

To replace all the ethnic NQs not retained in this round with anglos, obvs.

Anonymous

I blame Wrexit…

Anonymous

I blame immigration…

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

The racist shit-stirrer had better be sure of his/her anonymity if he/she wants to remain in the profession. Terrible to spend all that money and be struck off / section 43’d.

Anonymous

The CMS predecessor firms’ (including the old CMS) fall from 99 to 65 is the big story here. 34 training contract places up in smoke.

Can only hope that this isn’t a function of the amount of work that’s been lost as a result of the merger.

Anonymous

Work is massively unevenly distributed at CMS right now. Most is being hoarded by those who care a lot and want to keep their jobs in what is quite frankly a horrible and cutthroat atmosphere. Events organised to integrate people don’t even have a free bar offered. CMS used to be a fun place to be a trainee but with the drop in numbers they got rid of diversity of background of trainees and largely go Oxbridge now (somehow the firm attracts those candidates still). The building is massively failing. They are losing their good people.

Anonymous

Shearman sometimes takes a smaller intake following a larger one and vice versa.

Anonymous

Anyone know (roughly) how many years NQ’s at MC firms stay on for?

We get a lot of rentention rate talk, but I’d be interested in knowing more about the mid-long term retention rates at firms.

Anonymous

Typically somewhere between 10-18% are lost each year – but that’s seen as fairly healthy as long as they aren’t losing the people they want to keep.

Anonymous

Half are gone by PQE 2-3; more than three quarters are gone by PQE 5-6. Many develop mental illnesses or pseudo disabilities along the way and stay on because the firm is not in a position to push them out and they can’t generate better options for themselves. Unless you have superhuman resilience, or have sponsors who help you navigate your career, law firms are very traumatic places to work.

Anonymous

Damn.

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