BCLP braces for low trainee retention rate 

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By Legal Cheek on

26

Exclusive: Firm stresses final figures still to be finalised


Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) looks set to record an uncharacteristically low spring trainee retention rate.

Legal Cheek understands the firm’s spring 2024 score was feared to be as low as 21% (3 out of 14) at one stage, but is now more likely to be 36% (5 out of 14) — or higher — as the firm opens opportunities for additional newly qualified (NQ) roles.

Those to secure NQ roles so far will qualify into the firm’s real estate finance and mergers and acquisitions teams.

A firm spokesperson stressed the process is still ongoing and the exact number of positions and offers has yet to be finalised. They also said the firm hoped to extend further offers and will continue to support its qualifiers throughout their last seat.

Historically, BCLP is a relatively solid performer when it comes to retention rates. The firm chalked up a spring 2022 score of 72% with 13 of its 18 trainees staying put on that occasion, while in spring 2021 the firm kept 14 out of 16, or 88%.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2024 shows the firm recruits around 35 trainees each year, split across two intakes.

Commenting on the forthcoming spring score, the firm spokesperson told Legal Cheek:

“Our focus is to provide all our trainees with the assistance and the support they need to succeed in their legal careers. The number of NQ positions we offer varies from year to year, subject to the needs of the business and market conditions. This year, the number of offered seats is unfortunately lower than the number of trainees. To mitigate this, we have implemented several layers of support to the qualifying intake. We have offered early access to outplacement support, one-to-one interviewing assessments, coaching through our learning & development team, and introductions to our recommended recruitment agencies, as well as ongoing wellbeing support.”

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

They added: “Our qualification process remains in progress as we work to find as many roles as possible for our people. While the exact number of positions and offers has not been finalised, we do expect a notably lower retention rate than we’ve seen historically at this point in time, under 40%. Looking ahead, we hope to extend further offers and will continue to support our qualifiers throughout their last seat and beyond.”

News of the impending score comes in the same month that newly-published accounts revealed that the firm’s UK arm saw its profit before tax fall from £78 million to £29 million. The figures — which cover the year to 31 December 2022 — also show revenue dropped by 11% to £204 million.

The firm attributed much of the revenue loss to its withdrawal from Russia in April 2022, as well as wage inflation and firm investments.

“Globally, in 2022 we delivered a resilient performance thanks to the balance of our global platform, strong sector mandates along with our strength in litigation, and strategic counsel for long-time clients,” a firm spokesperson said. “Excluding the closure of Moscow and adjusting revenue on a constant currency basis, BCLP’s business grew by 2% in 2022 and the firm had its second-best year for profitability.”

The commercial real estate sector — one of BCLP’s key specialisms — has come under particular pressure as a result of the current economic headwinds.

Last week it emerged that City outfit Fladgate had asked associates with its real estate team to work a four day week for four days’ pay. It has been reported that lawyers have until 22 December to confirm whether they will accept the new set-up. Fladgate has been approached for comment.

Last month, meanwhile, Legal Cheek reported Trowers & Hamlins had launched a second redundancy consultation within its UK real estate team amid what it described as a “continued slowdown in market conditions”.

Update: Tuesday, 27 February

BCLP has confirmed its spring 2024 retention is currently 29% (4 out of 14). In an update to the firm’s earlier statement, a spokesperson said: “In these exceptional circumstances, our priority is assisting the remaining trainees to land roles, and we have ramped up our outplacement support efforts. All individuals are currently in interview processes, with most trainees not being retained having already received offers from other firms.”

26 Comments

Babz

What’s happened?

Legal Recruiter

This is the worst period for trainees in a long time.

In the last 3 weeks alone we have registered 20+ candidates from magic/silver circle firms who are not being retained at the end of their TC.

Travers Insider

Travers retention rates are abysmal.

Interested

Which practices are most impacted? All transactional I presume?

Legal recruiter

Transactional is definitely the most affected, although the market, in general, has been challenging this year.

Even contentious roles are seeing a significant number of applicants this year. It’s very much a job-driven market compared to a candidate-driven one in years gone by.

Having had a list of conversations with partners over the last few months, there will be some recovery from Q2. PE firms are waiting for interest rates to come down. Once they do, the market will slowly recover and kick off big in 2025.

Unless the Tories f**k the economy again.

Not good

Similar situation at CMS. No jobs at all in the whole corporate or TMIC practice groups.

Sucks

TMIC was always super popular when I was at CMS – a shame as it is really, really hard to secure an external tech/commercial role even in a good market. Quite a few non-retained NQs are going to be shafted this year.

Anon

Latham’s retention was lower in Sept but you mysteriously didn’t post about that….

Latham NQ

This is because about 7 people went for 2 positions in litigation. It wasn’t that bad at all.

Anon

That’s BS so I doubt you truly are a Latham NQ. Good few who wanted finance, corporate and investment funds got the chop

The reasoning grad rec peddled to those of us retained was that they just didn’t perform well enough, even though a chunk of them had strong performance reviews…

insider

Think it’s quite obvious you weren’t retained anon. You’re not fooling anyone. IFYKYK.

Anon

Erm sure, whatever you think “insider”

US 5PQE

It’s the same for a number of elite US firms. Unless you are of high quality and have been busy you are unlikely to be retained or be hired by another firm as a NQ.

Tough market. Only the strong survive.

Concerned student

In a similar vein to this, I noticed recently that DLA Piper isn’t hiring anyone off its summer internships/ vac schemes in the UK this cycle which I thought was disconcerting. There isn’t an option to apply for them on their website.

Have the places been taken already or are market conditions that bad that we’re going to see firms cancelling vac schemes as well? I’m hoping this is just an outlier but would set a worrying precedent.

Slightly less concerned student

I’m pretty sure DLA’s Summer Internship is going ahead as normal this cycle. Applications were definitely open earlier in the year – perhaps they are full now as they recruit on a rolling basis.

MC Trainee

Our retention is going to be awful this round, if the firm even releases the stats.

Q

What’s the cause – bad market, bad firm (so trainees wanna go to better firms), or bad trainees?

Optimistic Keith

Bad market, high interest rates, private equity firms not spending money.

Take your pick.

Huh

BCLP is a good firm tho, No?

Humphrey

CMS is a weak firm in a weak market. Of all the weak firms in all the weak markets in all the world, she walks into mine.

BCLP is MID

Mid

NRF Insider

NRF gave an offer to 95% of the cohort (19/20) so not universally bad across the City.

anon

NRF though

US KINGPIN

In the current climate you’d take NRF regardless what you think. Besides, it could be worse….. it could be Gowling

Cessle

The reason is obvious. The work just isn’t there. Global recessions have that impact. Listings get pulled, mergers called-off, take-overs postponed. Less call for lawyers and bankers.

Jaded associate

Haul Pastings coming in at 50% as per

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