US firms pledge commitment to London with trainee intake hike

US firms have underscored their dedication to London with a number of firms vowing to ramp up their trainee intakes during the next three years.

With firms such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Shearman & Sterling focusing on organic growth, and Kirkland & Ellis launching its first trainee scheme in London this autumn, trainees look set to have more choice of firms when applying for training contracts.

Kirkland, which has recruited five trainees to kick-start its London trainee scheme in 2009, has highlighted organic growth as a core part of the firms strategy.

Graduate recruitment coordinator Kate Osborne said: “US firms in London certainly grew by applying very aggressive growth strategies. Now we see the benefit of growing our own and focusing on developing the office.”

Osborne added that the firm plans to increase the number of trainees to six for the 2010 intake.

Transatlantic firm Mayer Brown has ramped up its intake significantly, expecting an increase from 33 this year to 40 for 2010-11.

Recently-merged Dewey & LeBoeuf plans to almost double the number of its trainees from 11 in the 2007-08 intake up to 20 in 2010-11.

Osborne commented: “I think that traditionally US firms set up in London to serve US clients. Now they tend to develop their own European clients. This has a knock-on effect, encouraging firms to think more about the development of the office.”

While Baker & McKenzie increased its trainee intake year-on-year, the firm has experienced a slight dip for the 2010-11 intake from 43 in 2009-10 to 38 in 2010-11.

While 23 of the 30 top US firms in London currently have trainee schemes in the capital, eight do not have any trainee offering. Firms such as Wilmer Hale and Davis Polk & Wardwell have no plans to introduce a trainee scheme in their London offices.

Cleary graduate recruitment partner Shaun Goodman said: “For us it is absolutely crucial to develop lawyers internally. Having a formal, well-structured trainee programme makes a real difference to the success of the firm in London.”