Leading City firms have begun to release trainee retention rates for the autumn cohort, with many posting figures in excess of 80%, though rates have dropped at other firms.

Slaughter and May leads the way in the magic circle so far. It has taken on 29 of 32 trainees (90%). Thirty trainees put their name forward for a post.

Allen & Overy had 47 trainees on its programme, all of whom applied. The firm made offers to 41 of whom 40 accepted, giving it an 85% retention rate.

James Partridge, partner and training principal at Allen & Overy, described this as ‘another good result’ and testament to A&O’s compelling offering and commitment to developing exceptional talent.

The figures are similar to those of September last year, when A&O posted an 86% retention rate (keeping 36 of 42 trainees) while Slaughter and May took on 32 of its 36-strong cohort (88%).

A&O’s newly qualified lawyers will start on £78,500 while Slaughter and May’s will earn £78,000.

It was not all good news in the magic circle however after a big decline in the number of trainees taking on a contract at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

The magic circle firm offered contracts to 29 of 41 trainees with 27 accepting a role (66%). It is in marked contrast to last September when the firm retained 95% of its 42 trainees.

Farah Ispahani, trainee development partner, said: ’Our retention rates across each intake vary as we balance a number of different factors when determining the offers that we make to individuals. We are committed to our existing level of training contracts in London and we expect our medium-term average for retention rates to be upheld.’

Elsewhere, Silver Circle firm Ashurst posted a 95% retention rate, offering 19 positions to its intake of 20.

Bird & Bird took on 18 trainees and will retain 15 (83%). Last year, it took on 15 from a total of 17 (88%).

International firm Pinsent Masons’ figures were not as high, though the firm had many more trainees than other firms and took on 74% of the cohort. Of its 91 trainees, 84 trainees applied and 67 had their offer accepted. The retention rate of those actually applying for a position at the firm was 80%.

Last year, 47 out of the 59 trainees were signed up (79%).

Things were less positive for Weil, Gotshal & Manges however. The US-headquartered firm offered contracts to all of its 10 trainees but only five accepted.

A spokesperson said some trainees were keen to qualify into groups which had taken ‘a number of NQs in recent intakes’ and could not offer contracts to every trainee in the groups of their choice.

Last year the firm retained 12 of 14 trainees (85%).

At £115,000, Weil’s salary for newly qualified lawyers is higher than any of the magic circle.

International law firm Taylor Wessing also posted a fairly low score, announcing that it will retain 62% of its 26-strong cohort. Last September it retained 77%, (17 from 22).

Kirstie McGuigan, partner and head of the UK graduate recruitment committee, said the disappointing retention was a product of a number of factors and did not ’paint the full picture’.

’In the last year we have strengthened our graduate programme with the introduction of game based video assessments to enhance the candidate experience. Furthermore, to be recognised with multiple awards for the strength of our graduate recruitment and development programme is testament to the quality of the training we give, and we hope this will be reflected with an uplift in retention rates next year.’