Clifford Chance’s retention rates set to tumble

Clifford Chance has become the latest magic circle firm to report a slump in its trainee solicitor retention rates.

Clifford Chance has become the latest magic circle firm to report a slump in its trainee solicitor retention rates.

The firm has confirmed that it has 70 trainees qualifying in September and plans to retain at least 49, giving it a retention rate at best of 70 per cent. This would put Clifford Chance’s retention rate on a par with fellow magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Clifford Chance’s retention rate for September 2008 qualifiers was approximately 95 per cent while Freshfields held onto 39 out of 40 of newly qualified (NQs) solicitors in the same month, giving it a retention rate of 97 per cent.

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters have not finalised their qualification process yet but A&O has already warned final seat trainees that its retention rate is also likely to be around the 70 per cent mark.

Further down the pecking order, Farrer & Co has joined Bird & Bird and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in the 100 per cent club after offering jobs to all 10 of its September 2009 qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Bristol-based Burges Salmon has reported a retention rate of 91 per cent after offering jobs to 20 out of 22 NQs. This is a slight drop from last September’s figure of 95 per cent.

Macfarlanes and Baker & McKenzie posted retention rates of 85 and 75 per cent respectively. The former firm is keeping hold of 18 out of 21 NQs while the latter has offered jobs to 14 out of 18 final seat trainees.

Jones Day, meanwhile, is retaining seven out of 13 NQ, giving it a retention rate of 54 per cent.

Blake Lapthorn has so far confirmed the lowest retention rate after offering NQ positions to just two out of 14 trainees. The firm’s retention rate of 14 per cent is in stark contrast to last September, when it kept hold of 11 out of 15 NQs.

The firm’s HR and administration director Alistair Gray said: “We’ve met with and fully briefed our 14 trainees who are due to qualify in September regarding the qualification positions with the firm.  We’ve made two offers to trainees for newly qualified positions starting in September which have been accepted making our present percentage retention rate at 14 per cent.”  

“Other newly qualified positions are being considered within the firm and we anticipate that our retention rate will accordingly improve between now and September as other positions are confirmed. Unfortunately, due to market conditions, we will not be able to match our previously high retention rates,” added Gray.

However, Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens’ (MMS) retention rate is reported to be even lower than that of Blake Laptorn. According to reports MMS’ retention rate is around 10 per cent although the firm denied that was the case.

Elsewhere, Bircham Dyson Bell’s retention rate has also plummeted to just 40 per cent after it offered jobs to just 4 out of 10 NQs.