Clifford Chance keeps 36 out of 46 autumn qualifying trainee solicitors

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Further two rookies retained on six-month deals

Clifford Chance has become the first magic circle firm to reveal its autumn 2020 retention score.

Of the 46 trainees due to qualify next month, 36 will be staying put as newly qualified (NQ) associates — or 78%. The Canary Wharf-based giant confirmed it received 45 applications and made 36 offers. A further two rookies accepted six-month deals.

Clifford Chance, which takes on around 96 trainees each year, did not disclose the departments or offices its new recruits will qualify into.

News of the retention score comes just weeks after the firm reduced NQ pay as part of a range of financial measures in response to the pandemic.

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The firm’s new recruits will receive a revised pay package of up to £94,500 with bonus, roughly £5,500 less than last year’s six-figure sum. Other big players to cut salaries include Allen & Overy, Slaughter and May, Baker McKenzie and Hogan Lovells.

Today’s result marks a slight drop on the firm’s spring score of 85% (34 out of 40).

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March 2020 NQ

That’s quite low in the context of 45 applications (all but one). Usually an 80% ish retention would include a handful of voluntary leavers. Hope those that didn’t stay manage to find something.



By those that didn’t stay, you mean those who weren’t made offers


Leg Rec

I wouldn’t bet on it, the NQ market is dead as a dodo at the moment, and will stay that way at least until Q1 2021.

Hope they’ve saved up some money to tide them over.



This. Also bear in mind that some NQs will have taken NQ roles at their current firm that they aren’t 100% happy with, but appreciating that any NQ job is worth it right now. Those individuals will also be applying for NQ roles in their chosen practice area 6-12 months’ from now. Further competition.


Kirkland NQ

Savage, I wish the NQ competition was televised. It would make for such quality viewing off my 200-inch hologram-enabled bespoke television in my Chelsea townhouse.



Burger flipping time. Maybe some Amazon warehouse work.



It’s not particularly low at all, it’s similar to previous rounds and similar to all the other MC’s firms previous rounds too?



In the past a lot of MC firms have run 80% retention but with a lot higher offer numbers.

So some NQs got an offer but didn’t take it because they didn’t get the offer they wanted (not first choice department or shite office like Abu Dhabi), didn’t want to stay at the firm or just left law altogether.

This is more concerning because many trainees just didn’t get an offer at all (and, tellingly, all those who did took it).

That said, 80% might well look heroic come September given the impending bloodbath.


love the expat lyfe

Abu Dhabi would be lit af you fool.

Think about it: a phat tax-free NQ whack, lush highrise pad overlooking the Gulf and an endless supply of weekend yacht boozups and midnight fck-buddy visits from fellow expat professionals similarly stuck in the Sand Pit.



Unless you’re gay or a woman then you’re going to have a shit time


But all the UAE is crammed full of classless Mancs (is the word “classless” there redundant?), sleazy wide boys and general failed-in-London types. Depressing is not the word.

Salty Grad

Freshfields will have 100% retention. The FF/everyone else divide will be massive. Mark my words!



Firms need to start being more open about the qualification process. Getting a TC is the dream for aspiring solicitors but most don’t realise that it doesn’t end with getting a TC offer.

You think vac schemes are competitive until you start your TC and everyone is fighting for a spot, between departments and offices.



This is a bit of a confusing comment? No firm has ever stated you walk into an NQ position following the TC, it’s all based on performace and that’s very clear. TBH the onus is on the trainee to perform well, firms are not obligated to keep you on if you’re sub par I’m afraid.


William T

You’ve missed the point. It’s not just about performing well as a trainee. There are so many other factors that play a part in why a trainee is either offered an NQ position or rejected.

Some firms are known for their elitism and nepotism. They will offer TCs to a mixed intake of trainees In terms of unis and social economic backgrounds but then will offer NQ positions to the middle class white oxbridge candidates first and prioritise a certain ‘type’ of trainee over others.

It also depends on whether an office is willing to take you on – again this for the most part comes down to having things in common and getting on with the people in the office even more so than performance. How are working class students who have nothing in common with the lawyers going to stand a chance when the office talk consists of horse riding, expensive ski trips, lacrosse etc



Why should entirely well-functioning law firms with excellent esprit des corps be forced to ruin their culture and become more unpleasant places to work, just so some chippy git can feel like he ‘fits in’? If they’re so keen on wanting the job, they can mold themselves to the culture rather than vice versa. Law firms (or any company) are not engines of social mobility; they are providers of professional services whose only obligation is to deliver quality for clients at prices which the market can bear.



“If they’re so keen on wanting the job, they can mold themselves to the culture rather than vice versa”

Ugh, imagine saying things like this unironically.


This isn’t true. At some firms you’re pretty much guaranteed an NQ position once you’ve got a TC. These are the firms with consistent 100% retention rate.





Luke Skywalker

Most US. Small intake – no point in the binning the firm’s investment.

But not “consistent 100% retention rate”. That’s recruitment brochure guff, don’t buy it. At least one or two people typically want to leave (and do leave) (including at Skadden).





Lewis Jones

MC firm Fr3shfi3ld$ have a 6 seat TC and performance is based on a ‘scoring sheet’ system.

The problem with this is that the NQ positions are based on overall scorecards but many trainees have complained about this because instead of picking a seat they actually are interested in, they will pick one with a partner and associate who have a reputation for scoring high and being lenient with the appraisals.

If you don’t believe me – have a look at the firms section on chambers student and it will also tell you on there.

William is right – so many factors besides from performance play a part that it turns into a strategic 2 years of chess playing and manipulating systems in the offices.


FBD anon

Quite a bit wrong here.

The TC is a well publicised 8 seats but, granted, the final two are largely taken up by secondment. Selection of NQs is not decided solely on the ‘scoring sheet system’, though scores are likely to be a contributing factor because obviously partners want to hire the trainees that performed best in their team. It’s actually secondment allocations that rely on appraisal scores. FWIW, explaining the qualification process to trainees is one thing that FBD does very well but the secondment allocation process isn’t the clearest.

It’s also not so much a question of picking partners to get higher scores and it’s definitely not a question of picking departments based on associates… For some trainees there’s maybe some hesitation in picking a certain department because the appraisal partners have a rep for being harsh, especially if you’ve got your eye on a popular secondment. But when it comes to qualification in that specific department, it comes out in the wash anyway. Why would a transactional tax partner care if you didn’t have the best time in your environmental disputes seat?



You’re right sorry I meant 8 seats*

But I stand by the rest of what I said. I would know considering my girlfriend is a 3rd seat trainee there and I hear all of the inside scoop


Agreed. I am one of the stupid people who didn’t quite realise all the extra stuff that goes into qualifying aside from performance and I have no background in skiing or horseracing or anything like that, I’m also gay which makes it harder to discuss my like and interests outside work. Now I’m definitely looking down the barrel of not getting an nq position or getting one i don’t want because i was foolish enough to think it came down to being polite and nice and performance



I REALLY struggle to believe a firm like CC would ostracize you for being gay. Have you seen their inclusivity initiatives etc.? The firm is so LGBTQ focused it’s ridiculous.



The firm claims its LGBTQ+ focussed, much to clients’ praise. But few firms walk the walk internally.



Trust me, it’s taken very seriously internally. There is no chance you’d get away with being anti-LGBTQ at CC – they hired a world famous (and gay) former politician and equal marriage campaigner as their diversity head for god’s sake.


I’m not in CC but regardless – all of that pride stuff in most firms is literally just marketing. They like shoving rainbows on everything for a week in June and then its completely forgotten about. I’m one of two out gay women in a firm of nearly 800 people. Its not like people are throwing pens at my head in the hallway for being gay but I do feel like people keep me at arms length socially, but I’ve had other trainees say I shouldn’t be allowed to change in the girls changing room or sleep in the girls room when we go on trips together. Or just people visibly being shocked if I mention my partner and then being a bit afraid to talk to me afterwards.



I’m very sorry to hear that. I can guarantee you wouldn’t have that experience at CC though. Speaking from experience, many of us are openly gay with no issue. CC really does walk the walk.


Why is that an issue? If they don’t feel comfortable it doesn’t mean they’re anti LGBTQ does it?


This round especially… I know of quite a few trainees wanting to qualify into corporate with high scores from their seats but unable to because places were cut due to covid.



Corporate seats weren’t cut at CC so this simply isn’t true is it.


Flavor Flav

Not sure the above is solely in reference to CC as it is the case at a couple of other firms



Great result in the circumstances and seems they’re thinking ahead and not just in the now. Not too different to previous rounds. Perhaps those on FTCs may go perm too, who knows? Best of luck to those not retained in finding a new role.

It’ll be interesting to see if Freshfields retain everyone, especially given they’ve made the decision to keep salaries high (so would be a massive ouch to those not being retained)



This is truly quite astounding that nearly a quarter of trainees don’t get retained…especially when CC consider themselves to have a fantastic training program and pride themselves on it to beat out against US rivals…


Can't comment

Why are comments not on now?


Heard it here first

FF aren’t keeping everyone, but it’s not due to the fact that they kept the salary at 6 figures.

Either the teams did not have enough space/want the trainee or the trainee didn’t want to be part of the qualification process.

That’s that.


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