TCs up for grabs at UK top 30 firms fall by 11% over three years

Linklaters most popular for applications; success rate falls to 2.9%

Aspiring lawyers are facing an increasingly tough battle to secure a training contract with a top UK law firm, as Legal Week research shows the total number of contracts on offer at top 30 firms has shrunk by 11% over the last three years.

The research, which analyses graduate recruitment trends at 27 of the UK’s top 30 firms, also highlights the vast differences in popularity between the firms, with Linklaters emerging as the firm securing the most applications for training contracts.

Across the top 30, firms have received an average of 35 applications for every place offered so far in 2010, compared with around 31 for every place offered in 2008. In total, there were 1,375 training contracts offered in 2008 for 2010 start dates, compared with 1,225 contracts in 2010.

Even taking into account a slight dip in the total number of applicants to top 30 firms between 2008 and 2010, the reduction in contracts means overall success rates have fallen from an average of 3.2% to 2.9%.

City firms saw a 16% increase in applications between 2008 and 2010, while the number of available places dropped by 7%. In contrast, national and regional firms saw a decline of 33% in the number of applicants – thereby increasing the odds of securing a contract despite the fact fewer places were on offer this year.

Of the firms participating in the survey, Linklaters received the highest number of applications, with 3,785 graduates applying in 2010. The firm received more than twice as many applications as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in each of the last three years, meaning applicants had around a 3% success rate at Linklaters this year, compared with 6% at Freshfields.

Freshfields recruitment partner Simon Johnson said: “Our application process is not an easy one – it comprises a verbal reasoning test and a detailed application form. We are happy with the fact that students have to commit time to the process.”

The magic circle firms taking part in the survey boasted a relatively high average success rate for applicants, taking on 4.5% over the three-year period, compared with a 3.1% success rate at national firms and a 2.5% success rate at City firms. However, these figures do not take into account more stringent application processes.

Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Addleshaw Goddard declined to take part.