Herbert Smith, Bakers latest firms to defer trainees

Herbert Smith has become the latest City law firm to offer its trainee solicitors a cash incentive to push back their start dates in a bid to “balance intakes”.

The firm wrote to 79 of its trainees who are due to start in September 2009 yesterday to ask them if they would consider delaying their start dates to March 2010, when only 27 graduates are due to start.

The compensation offered by Herbert Smith to trainees who opt to defer is understood to be above the prevailing market average of £5,000.

Baker & McKenzie has also contacted its trainees due to start in September 2009, March 2010 and September 2010 asking if they would consider deferring for either six or 12 months. The firm is offering £5,000 to those who opt for 12 months.

Norton Rose was the first to confirm that it is paying trainees who agree to push back their start date – offering up to £10,000 to defer for up to 12 months.

But the firm has not waved goodbye to its money easily – each trainee has to put forward a proposal as to why they should be eligible for the payment.

Meanwhile, DLA Piper has also asked a number of its potential trainees due to start in September 2009 to defer their start dates for 12 months for a flat rate of £5,000.

Simmons & Simmons was the first major City firm to admit to deferring the start date of its March trainee solicitor intake.

Seventeen trainees were all asked if they wanted to delay their start dates by 12 months to March 2010 and two accepted.

A Simmons spokesperson conceded that there was a “financial element” to the offer made to the students but declined to disclose details.

Freshfields, meanwhile, is looking to balance its intake sizes in August 2010 and February 2011, and has invited its prospective trainees to consider whether they wish to take six months out, as has happened frequently in the past. The magic circle firm currently has 64 trainees due to start in August 2010, but only 32 set to join the following February.

Freshfields UK trainee recruitment head Deborah Dalgleish said: “The desire to balance LPC cohorts and an intake of 64 as opposed to one of 32 in August 2010 and February 2011 respectively is a question of managing the business effectively and ensuring the usual high standard of training offered to our trainees both at law school and during the training contract.”

The news comes after Lovells asked its autumn 2009 as well as its spring and autumn 2010 intakes to defer in a bid to “smooth out” a bulge in its current intake. Lovells is not offering any compensation but a spokesperson for the firm said that this has not been ruled out.

Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy (A&O) have said that they are not considering deferring training contracts. A&O has, however, axed its forthcoming Easter vacation scheme due to a “lack of interest” from students.

The magic circle firm claimed that more students have been applying to its summer and winter programmes, making its 10-day Easter scheme redundant. 

Slaughter and May has also confirmed that it currently has no plans to defer future trainees.

Field Fisher Waterhouse, meanwhile, has announced plans to scrap both its easter and summer vacation schemes and Charles Russell has cut its two-week summer programme in half in a bid to “control the costs” involved with running it.