Economic slump fails to hinder recruitment

Law firms are remaining defiant in the face of the recession by holding steady on the amount of trainees they recruit, a survey by Lawyer 2B has revealed.

The survey of the top 20 law firms shows that in 2002-03 each firm took on an average of 64 trainees; for 2003-04 and 2004-05, the figures fluctuated very little at 65 and 63 respectively. The average intake for 2005-06 is 62.

Demand for places has increased dramatically in some cases by as much as 72 per cent so wannabe solicitors will have to fight even harder for the available places.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer head of UK graduate recruitment Deborah Dalgleish said: We believe [the increase] is partly as a result of the dearth of opportunities for good graduates in investment banking and management consultancy over the last couple of years.

Law firms appear to have heeded the lessons of the last recession, when they cut back on their intakes only to find they were understaffed when the economy picked up again, forcing them to hike up newly-qualified salaries to make up the shortfall.

Denton Wilde Sapte and SJ Berwin are among the few firms where intake levels have dropped. In 2002-03, they took on 50 and 39 trainees respectively. However, in 2005-06, Dentons will take on 35, while SJ Berwin estimates that its intake will be 30. These findings are in line with a Lawyer 2B survey on retention rates of newly-qualified lawyers, which found that these firms had some of the lowest rates (Lawyer 2B, October 2002). A spokeswoman for Eversheds said it has been reducing its intake in a bid to achieve a 100 per cent retention rate.

Some firms, including CMS Cameron McKenna and Lovells, have made slight increases. Lovells has upped its intake since 2002-03 by 17, while Camerons took on nine more trainees in the relevant period.

Recruitment at magic circle firms Allen & Overy and Cliff-ord Chance remains almost sta-tic at an average of 120 a year.