Trainee retention rates have recently been published and actually look quite good. Slaughter and May have published a retention rate of 91% for its newly qualified solicitors. That’s 42 out of 46 trainees retained. The figure from their March intake was at 90%.
Ashurst also increased their retention rate from March. They retained 83% of NQ solicitors up from 78% after 24 out of 27 trainees who applied for solicitor roles were offered employment. SNR Denton’s retention rates were up even more – 83% up from 60%. They are retaining 24 of 29 qualifying trainees.
So the retention rates do seem to be getting better. This should make sense. After all there are 44.5 graduates applying for each trainee solicitor role as I looked at here. So the best of the best should be the only ones getting training contracts. Only people who really want the job and have the ability to be an amazing solicitor. After all the competition, all of the applications and all of the assessments a firm should be pretty sure that they’ve got the right candidate.
And that’s how I first looked at the figures.
But then I thought about something else. Is the actual training contract just another stage of the interview? Do firms ever intend to keep 100% of their graduates? Or is it a situation where they NEED to eliminate one or two candidates because of budget requirements? I don’t know. But 100% retention rates seem rare, and that seems odd to be because of the intensive recruitment process.
Another way to read the situation is that the trainee retention IS a cost cutting measure. NQ solicitors will need to be paid much less than a senior solicitor or partner. Their wages may even be less than an experienced paralegal or legal assistant. So firms could be cutting several senior jobs and replacing them with NQ solicitors that they view as highly talented. Because of the competitiveness perhaps trainees would settle for a lower wage too?
They would be happy simply getting a job in law and making a respectable amount of money in the process. I’d feel pretty annoyed if I’d worked in a firm for several years, got made redundant, and then the firm keeps 100% of its trainees! However this is just speculation. I have no idea how firms will deal with this sort of process, or the transparency which is involved.
I also found it interesting that graduates resigned; 2 of Slaughter’s trainees resigned before qualification. I guess working in a big commercial firm isn’t for everyone, but they must have disliked it enough to make the 59k NQ salary not worth it!
Other retention rates should be released within the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if the other firms repeat this upwards retention trend. But it is hard to know what to make of the numbers. Does the fact that we’re in a recession again mean the retention rate is likely to drop soon? Or was I right by saying that retaining more trainees could be saving firms more money overall?
Would love to hear what other people think.