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A&O retention rates plummet to 72 per cent

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  • This story is misleading. Over 50 NQ positions were offered - the firm needs new cannon fodder because it's constantly losing associates at around 2-3PQE. Around 6-8 trainees chose not to apply for a job at all, and the rest of the leavers are people who weren't offered their first choice. A lot of these are from litigation where 17 trainees applied for 5 jobs. The unlucky 12 would rather sign on than head to the trenches and fight the tediously dull all-night document production battles of ICM, Banking and Corporate.

    It's true that the firm has just sacked a load of support staff, er, sorry, offered them relocation to Belfast, but there is no shortage of NQ jobs. It is a damning reflection of life as an A&O trainee that well over a quarter are moving on to pastures new.

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  • "39 out of its 53 final seat trainee solicitors, with 38 accepting positions."

    I'm not sure if 38 did accept. I know at least one or two trainees who got offered a position at A&O but left for six figures at US firms where as at least another three left to pursue different career paths. 33 accepting would sound more reasonable - A&O Trainee

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  • The truth of the matter is that often, if the trainees are good enough they will be kept on. When I was a trainee it was not a surprise who was not kept on. If you take 50+ per intake, chances are approx 25% will be of a Mickey Mouse standard. In fact 25% is not a big deal. Graduate Recruitment will be pretty happy with that I imagine. If you go on their website there are loads of positions available (e.g. in Australia) so if the trainees were not kept on, it is likely they were naff and more likely not wanted. You have to remember that in law the road to success has many cut off points and this is one of the biggest ones. Of the ones they did keep on, another 25% won't make past 2 years PQE and so on until maybe 1 of them makes partner. But I wouldn't pity the ones that didn't make the cut – they will get NQ positions elsewhere (often US firms) and can trade off being a trainee at A&O for at least 2 years before the US firms realise why they weren't good enough for A&O. Let's face it, A&O is a pretty special firm and all it means not to be retained by them is that you are not good enough for the top level. Not everyone can play for Barcelona and Manchester United – some people can still make a good living in the Championship – it's called survival of the fittest.

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  • "Not everyone can play for Barcelona and Manchester United – some people can still make a good living in the Championship – it's called survival of the fittest."



    I do not agree with this. Not everybody wants to work in a city/US firm.

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  • "Not everyone can play for Barcelona and Manchester United"

    Reggie - law firms are factories where intelligent people are indoctrinated with the idea that by spending more time indoors hunched over pcs and bits of paper their qudos in the market and among their peers will grow. The lawyers I know are similar to Man Utd players in many respects as they are talented in a narrow sense but all too often believe their own hype, live self centred lifestyles and have little or no moral compass. At least footballers tend to be fit, whereas the average partner is overweight, overworked and absent with respect to his family.

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  • You self important ***. Perhaps some of us would rather not work at A&O than to be subjected to the likes of you.

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  • Let's face it, if you have trained at A&O and get a chance to work for a US firm paying £40k a year more, wouldn't you take it? Especially as the hours are not much different for most departments.

    Trying to say A&O only take the best is a very narrow minded approach, that or an A&O loyalist spin on things.

    If only 25% are going to be good enough, why have so many firms got a 100% retention rate (especially US firms). Perhaps it is to do with the benefits...

    100K a year to be worked hard, or 60k a year to be worked hard? Hmmmm I know which I would choose.

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  • I have to take issue @lawyertobeee. If you are doing any transactional work at any firm e.g. property, corporate, banking, projects restructuring etc or commercial litigation or competition then places like A&O and CC are the best of the best and where the winners go (and stay). If you are not at those firms you either want to be or you are an also-ran. Being at A&O in those practice areas is the pinnacle of law. Why on earth would you want to practice any of the above mentioned areas of law outside A&O, CC etc? Regarding the sporting analogy – why would you want to play for Ipswich and not in the Champions League – it does not make any sense – yes the scenery might be nice on a hot day but it doesn't make up for not being at the top level. It doesn't make up for not going into work with the best people of your generation. Even places like SJ Berwin and Taylor Wessing pale in comparison to A&O. If you like criminal law, judicial review and PI etc then fair enough, maybe Irwin Mitchell is more your thing and that is the place to be. But City law – it is A&O (and the rest of the Magic Circle) and I believe that anyone who works there – it is an honour and a privilege to be working at one of the greatest firms in the world.

    As for US firms, yes the money is good but be under no illusion, I know so many people who have regretted going to US firms. Why? A&O, CC etc attract the best clients and the best work (in the UK) – read Legal Week and The Lawyer every week and you will see that the majority of the top matters are done by MC firms. US firms in the UK don’t get the kind of work you are used to and attracted you to A&O in the first place. Also, at many US firms, there are quiet periods where you are wondering where your next work will be coming from as they are often just here to have a presence to satisfy their blue chip US clients when required. A&O keeps you continuously busy and engaged and that is a more suitable environment for a motivated person. Therefore, a corporate lawyer who is lucky and talented enough to stay at A&O for 5 years is way more advanced than their equivalent at a US firm. Also, the lateral hires at partnership level - How many of them actually pull work away from the Magic Circle? Answer - Not many. The clients are loyal to A&O, CC etc, not the partner. At the very least, they want to say to the shareholders that they instructed the best if the deal goes wrong. So, yeah take the money at a US firm but it is really just compensation for not being good enough for the Magic Circle.

    If you like transactional and commercial law then A&O is one of the places to be. If you practice those areas and don’t have the aspiration to be at a place like A&O then that is why you never got there in the first place because Magic Circle firms are for the hardest workers, the most dedicated, the most determined, the most ambitious and the smartest. If all you want to do is reach the moon, you will never reach the stars. A&O is a special place for special people.

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  • I have to say, I tend to agree with Reggie Bush (although he could have put it in a slightly different way...!)

    I trained at a big regional firm before being lured to a US firm for almost triple the pay. The fact is that most of these US firms are full of money hungry magic circle cast offs. The pay is great - but there is a reason why they feel the need to pay more. The quality of work in my experience was, at times, terrible (even at a top 10 global US law firm) - the calibre of work and clients the firm had in the US simply wasn't (and never would be) mirrored in the London office. Training and support was a joke also.

    I have been at a magic circle firm now for 2 years - much happier. My wallet is around 1k a month lighter but in terms of future prospects, I feel much better off. I appreciate that not all US firms are the same but knowing others at US firms in London, there is a very common thread. The NQs my old US firm had were either (i) not very good and clearly could not cut it at Links, A&O, CC, FBD or S&M or (ii) became very disallusioned very quickly.

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  • I sincerely hope that Reggie Bush is being ironic (although I have met vermin that are actually that unpleasant/narcissistic/narrow-minded/deluded etc - almost all of whom were City lawyers)

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