Clifford Chance retains 70% of spring qualifying trainees

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Final magic circle firm to reveal 2022 score

Clifford Chance’s London office

Spring retention season is well underway, with Clifford Chance the latest law firm to reveal a score of 70%.

Of the 46 trainees due to qualify next month, the magic circle firm received 41 applications and made 34 offers, of which 32 were accepted. These are all permanent, full-time contracts.

As always, the firm did not provide further breakdown of the practice areas or offices the newly qualified (NQ) solicitors will qualify into.

The new recruits will start on a recently improved base salary of £107,500, almost double their second year trainee salary of £55,000. First year trainees at the firm earn £50,000.

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Clifford Chance offers about 95 training contracts, which is split into two intakes starting in March and September each year. In the autumn 2021 retention round, the firm again scored 70%, keeping 37 of 53 qualifying trainees. It held onto 88% (38/43) final seat trainees last spring.

Firm insiders tell us the results are indicative of some trainees wanting to move over to US firms which pay much higher salaries.

Clifford Chance is the fifth and final member of the magic circle to reveal its spring 2022 retention score. Linklaters reported a 94% result last month, keeping 49 of 52 trainees on permanent deals. Slaughter and May, Freshfields and Allen & Overy followed soon after with results of 85% (33/39), 92% (34/37) and 87% (33/38) respectively.

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Slough High Street Paralegal

That’s what you deserve for roping naive first years into accepting a TC with you! Haha!

Out of curiosity, has anyone heard back for the 2024 TC yet? I applied last August and they haven’t responded to my application yet.



Can you not read? 41 out of 46 wanted to work there and only 36 were offered… this isn’t the gotcha you seem to think it is. The naivety is in the comments here.



Not quite how it works. Even if you intend to leave, you may as well apply for roles internally so (1) you can tell recruiters / other firms you have been offered a role but are choosing to leave and (2) so you have a fall back.



Not great



How is the low retention rate linked to US salaries when they only offered 74% of the intake a job? That seems a pretty low number of offers.



Definitely a factor but interesting point re. low offer rate — anyone know why?



Agreed. High US salaries are only a factor when it comes to take-up rate. Not offer rate.

Wonder which practice areas were undersubscribed.



My understanding is that no trainees are qualifying into SABRE, which had about 4 spaces.

Second factor being oversubscription to smaller/advisory seats with only 1/2 spaces, so people jumping shop to get their first choice.


CC Insider

That’s an incomplete analysis. There were many people making defensive applications (and therefore indicated they wanted to apply for an offer) but subsequently took an offer at another firm, before the offers were made. Therefore the numbers are inflated because the firm did not need to make offers to those individuals.



Does anyone know why CC’s retention scores are so low compared to other Magic Circle law firms?



Because they realised they don’t ever get to use the swimming pool.



because CC is full of people recruited during first year dazzled by a swimming pool but with a superficial appreciation of what commercial law actually involved.

looking through linkedin, their intake seems far less impressive than the rest of the MC.



How on earth can you tell their intake is less impressive purely from browsing LinkedIn? Are we back to assuming only oxbridge grads make good solicitors?



Mixture of leaving for American firms, leaving for smaller joints with better hours, and people not being offered NQ positions where they want to qualify.



Guess they didn’t accept but one person was definitely only offered a 1 year fixed term contract and someone else a 6 months.



If you don’t mind me asking, why was that? Surely, after two years, the firm has a good enough insight to decide whether it wants to retain someone or not?

Cynically, I suspect that short-term contract offers are done to bolster CC’s retention numbers; alternatively, I suppose they could be as a result of offering an NQ place to someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to do a seat in that practice area during their TC.

What’s the reality?



The firm also has an increased focus on lateral hires atm



ouch! rip to the SPARK kids


CC Anonymous

Retention is lower because the firm has taken on huge amounts of lateral hires over the last twelve months or so, I understand. At least in my team.



Lateral Hires from where? Curious as to what sort of firms they recruit from & at what level?


CC Insider

They hired NQs and junior lawyers to deal with the massive exodus from some teams, and only did so after the offers were made and/or indicated by the 4th Seaters – meaning it wasn’t like they took spots from NQs.



Surely it makes sense to just use laterals to fill gaps not taken up by NQs/more senior vacancies rather than hiring lots of junior laterals and then not offering a quarter of your trainee intake a contract after investing significant time and money in training them because the vacancies have been taken by lateral hires.



Not great to throw trainees under the bus because you’re overhiring at the junior associate level. This is the kind of thing that partners/HR should be thinking about.



Most of the recent lateral hires are around 1-3/4PQE, some from smaller firms but quite a few international recruits.


CC Insider

Yeah this isn’t the case, at all – lateral recruitment has no affect whatsoever to the NQ offers as it’s often used to plug mid-level holes. More likely some trainees simply didn’t cut the mustard. It happens.


I’ll have 2 pieces of chicken, 3 wings, large fries and a large beans please.

The US salaries will have a knock on effect across all tiers of firms.

MC and SC NQs will jump to US on qualification, mid tier to MC and SC.

I just don’t see MC upping their salaries any further


Not having 2 pieces of chicken, 3 wings, large fries and a large beans. lol

Your display name…….lol



Moderation team is heavily censoring this comment section so people can’t tell the truth. Lateral hires were made after the NQ roles were sorted. There’s so many reasons as to why people didn’t want to (i) apply for an offer or (ii) applied for an offer but did not take it.



With the type of people that CC recruit, this is hardly surprising. I swear everyone there wants to be whatever the current buzzword is. Likely, they realise it’s a sweatbox that underpins their work ethic and thinks they can “make it big” elsewhere.

Also, what on earth does people going to US firms have to do with applications and offers? It would be a pretty moronic move to not apply for your perm position while also looking to lateral, unless, the market is so mad that you can literally walk into a US firm office on NQ. If that’s the case, the MC are dead.


Anon 2

Some people can walk into a US firm as an NQ.

The lateral market is booming.


CC Insider

Many NQs from MC can walk into US, easily. The training and quality of work is second to none. It’s usually the lower performers that jump ship too, which is interesting.


CC outsider

LOL of course the ‘CC insider’ says that. US firms are outperforming UK firms by most important metrics and it doesn’t look as if the tide is going to turn anytime soon. Many (arguably the majority but no way to measure) graduates would pick top US firms ahead of the Magic Circle. I know undergraduates who have had MC offers and chosen US firms (Latham and Skadden). You can cling to and parrot ‘prestige’ and ‘quality of work’ all you like but it’s beginning to not line up with the facts. US firms are growing stronger, and UK firms are growing weaker.

Also, no, you don’t ‘walk into’ the top US firms. Perhaps some of the bucket shops but not the good ones.


CC Insider

Why do the top tier US take on our rejected CC NQs then? Look, every trainee is different and will have their own motivations. That’s a given. To not respect the training and work on offer in comparison to even top tier US firms – that don’t have the internal infrastructure and support in place to offer more than a few TCs – is silly. The MC offers infinitely better experience to trainees and juniors and that’s not disputable. It’s why the US firms try to poach so many of our lawyers.



It was actually quite easy to walk into US firms, especially when you’re from CC – you should see where most laterals are from compared to other law firms and the MC.


MC Associate

I can’t speak for CC, but in my experience a lot of the trainees we let go are very good. They either ran into some influential senior tosser who trashed their appraisal for questionable reasons or were in a very competitive round for their particular practice area.


Uncle Cliff

1. Last few rounds reflect the covid trainee intake, so interesting to see the lower retention. Conclusion to be drawn from covid/wfh to blame?
2. Also surprising to see the lack of offers made to quite a few (7). What’s happened there? Not good enough or a case of they just wanted different practice areas.
3. Would seem 2 with CC offers reneged so something to be said about the strength of the CC offer.
4. Add on top the number that will inevitably leave post NQ 1-3 yrs.

Surely must be worrying for the CC HR team.

Have a friend at CC who said that they were told not to speak to recruiters by HR which is rather ironic given where the numbers have landed


Apple In-House NQ

This is what happens when your work phones are Androids…

Sign the supplier agreement.


CC Insider

Get this is probably a joke but you get a choice of several phone, including the latest iPhone.


CC Insider

We use iPhones lol…



Curious as to why CC low retention rate is partly attributed to the lure of high salaries from US firms .. the other MC firms have better retention didn’t hear them come out with rhetoric



Wtf is spark?


CC Insider (wow a lot of us are on legal cheek)

Surely the higher ups will be very concerned that on top of loosing tons and tons of associates at all levels they now can’t even manage to keep hold of trainees!


CC NQ looking to jump ship

Surely the higher ups will be very concerned that on top of loosing tons and tons of associates at all levels they now can’t even manage to keep hold of trainees!

Does get very demoralising when everyone around you is leaving


Attention to detail

LOSING, not LOOSING, for the love of god!

Sorry, I appreciate that I need to get out more, but hopefully people will notice this common mistake and avoid making in themselves in future.


Regional Hack

This comment has restored my faith in humanity.


CC Insider

The trainees who have left were second-rate, unfortunately. All the real CC Insiders will know that.



CC insider is having a meltdown


Bagel crumbs

CC insider is worried they will be next.



As an ex CC-insider moving on qualification who was wined, dined and dazzled by the CC brand/“perks” allure, it seems to matter where you’ve trained and qualified. That’s the first question most people asked me at my new firm and have already had new seniors circumvent the central work allocation system to give me work on the supposed premise that having trained at CC/MC I will be better than others at my level who have trained at “lesser” firms… which is rather narrow minded.

Having gone through the CC qualification process, it’s run far far too late. Almost shouting out to the recruiter vultures to pounce on CC trainees. Qualification is a stressful time, the departments do not seem (to me anyway) understand this or want to do anything to help/assure trainees that if they are good/wanted by their chosen depts they will get an NQ offer. All despite parroting on about mental well-being etc. Had I been reassured (as opposed to guaranteed) I would have got a space in my chosen CC department much earlier I would not have left. All good and well saying this after the fact but I would not have even had a CV drafted.

This is all in the context of recruiters circling as early as 2/3 seats and top tier US firm offering concrete offers.

It’s easy to blame the US money, which don’t get me wrong is a factor! But the danger of not landing a job in your desired practice area is much bigger factor.


US insider

Interesting insight but the whole firms thinking MC trainees are better is nonsense. At our firm, whilst they do hire from MC sometimes, they actually specifically prefer to hire from other US or from firms with smaller cohorts. Mostly because it’s felt MC trainees are too specialised. No use getting a A&O trainee to sit in our banking team when they’ve only done securitisation or solely LevFin.

We do however get a ton of MC laterals at 2-4PQE. But to say we would respect MC trainees more is crap, frankly they are often just more oxbridge and less entrepreneurial.



You do know US firms tend to specialise more than their MC counterparts and your view is quite myopic of that reality?

Kirkland, Milbank, Goodwin, Sidley, etc all have specific teams for LevFin.

Safe to say, most MC laterals aren’t going to your firm.


Kirkland NQ

If anyone wants a referral to Kirkland give me a shout!


Actual Kirkland NQ

If anyone wants a referral to Kirkland give me a shout! With all the raises I took home about 175-180k



How do we kick this firm out of the MC? They’re terrible!


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