Retention rate for trainees up
The number of trainees staying with their firms after qualifying recovered in 2011 after a two-year dip, according to a survey of more than 120 commercial firms.
The Chambers Student Guide found that 1,813 of the 2,251 trainees who qualified in 2011 stayed on. That retention rate of 80% was 5% up on 2009 and 2010 levels.
However there remains scepticism that the figures indicate a return to pre-recession prosperity. ‘Because many firms deferred the start dates of trainees in 2009, the qualifying class of 2011 is the smallest in years,’ said Rich Simmons, deputy editor of the guide.
Firms with more qualifiers tended to retain more trainees. Firms with between one and 10 qualifiers kept hold of just 75% of their new intake. National firms DWF and Reynolds Porter Chamberlain retained 100% of their 2011 qualifiers, with commercial firm Berwin Leighton Paisner keeping on 40 of 41.
The news emerged as the official number of practising solicitors hit a record high.
Figures released by the Solicitors Regulation Authority show that there were 125,473 holders of practising certificates at the end of November, a rise of 462 on the previous month and of over 4,500 on the same date in 2010. The total number on the roll now stands at 163,108. The figures come with a health warning however - it is unclear whether they may have been artificially inflated by this year’s phased renewals process.
The rise has come at a time when the number of solicitor firms has remained relatively stable, despite evidence of greater consolidation. The number of firms fell by just 20 year on year, to 10,925. In the past 18 months, there has been only one month (September 2010) in which the number of firms closing outnumbered those opening. Since August, 219 new firms have been formed. Sole practitioner firms still comprise almost a third of solicitor practices, although their number has fallen by more than 250 in a year.
Legal disciplinary practices, introduced in 2009 to allow non-lawyer ownership stakes, continue to grow in number, rising from 323 in November 2010 to almost 500 by the end of last month.