Shiny happy people – our new Law Firm Tenure & Attrition Report and why retention rates really matter
Here at TBD, exciting things have been happening of late. My small cadre of fellow data geeks and I have gone on a deep-dive into the facts and figures behind the retention rates at the UK’s top 100 law firms. We have fed our findings into our brand-new Law Firm Tenure & Attrition Report, which is jam-packed full of interesting stats and in-depth analysis. And let me tell you folks: we’re darned proud of it!
What can you expect to find in our eye-opening summary of hires and departures at the nation’s 100 top firms? Well, for one thing, you can see how your practice measures up against the competition in terms of employee retention. You can also discover whether or not the best boutiques are out-performing the UK legal sector’s big players in terms of tenure. Oh, and you can learn who is at the bottom of the pack and haemorrhaging employees.
To give you just a flavour of what is contained in our report, I want to reveal one of our key findings to you here: the name of the top-performing firm when it comes to retaining talent. Drum-roll, please! The winner is… Sackers, with an average tenure of 9.3 years! Now this must be a firm full of shiny happy people, given that this length of tenure puts even the next-highest-performing practice firmly in the shade by a matter of years (2.6 years, to be precise).
So what can we extrapolate from Sackers’ stellar talent retention rate? Well, let’s take a look-see at the firm itself and break down the reasons why it might perform so well on this front:
- Sackers is the pensions boutique par excellence in the UK, ranked number one for many years by both Chambers and Legal 500. To use a fishing metaphor: most major firms refuse to advise pensions trustees, which are relative minnows as far as clients go, because these firms want to avoid conflicts of interest when it comes to acting for pensions companies, which are big fat pike (or carp, if you prefer a less predatory apex species). Sackers is different: it’s happy to act for the minnows.
- By specialising in providing pensions advice, Sackers has managed to get into the top 100 of UK law firms with the smallest head-count of any firm in the table. So who would pensions lawyers want to work for, if not for Sackers? If you’ve made it to Sackers, you’ve made it.
- The fact that Sackers’ lawyers have world-class experience under their belt will make them a much sought-after target of recruiters. However, few firms can offer better conditions for pensions lawyers to practise pensions law than the boutique pensions specialist that is Sackers. And so their people love to work there – which is why they stay for an average of 9.3 years.
- And we’re not just talking about the lawyers here. It’s everybody at the firm: every PA, every marketing professional, every HR specialist. And Sackers has such a small head-count that if even one person left, it would skew the tenure numbers significantly. At the time of writing, Sackers has a staff of 110 people – a massive 10% increase on two years ago, when the firm had only 100 employees. So not only is this little boutique managing to retain its talent, but it’s also growing at a very healthy rate indeed.
- Despite such a strong growth spurt, the average tenure has been in no way diminished, meaning that all those new hires are not dragging down the average – people simply do not leave Sackers. The firm’s recruitment costs must be minimal!
- This all adds up to a very powerful brand. Put simply, if you want pensions advice, Sackers is the firm you will go to: it’s the firm’s one specialism, delivered by a close-knit team of highly competent and (clearly) very professionally fulfilled experts. You can’t put a price on such a distinctive market positioning. And that’s why retention rates matter.
So there you have it, an analysis of just one of the key findings in our new free Law Firm Tenure & Attrition Report. To receive your copy, please sign up here.
It’s all over for the Ince Group
The beleaguered Ince Group has finally been toppled after being beset by audit delays, fire sales of its assets and the suspension of its shares on the London Stock Exchange. It was announced on Wednesday that the listed City firm had been placed into administration, and that Ashurst would be acting as the board’s legal representative.
Suffering the death of a thousand cuts, Ince simply couldn’t survive the news that a major creditor had withdrawn its support from the firm after it yet again failed to publish its accounts, having already missed five previous publication deadlines. The insolvency specialist Quantuma has now taken over the reins and will seek to sell the business to a third party as soon as possible.
The fall of Ince marks the biggest collapse of a listed firm since the liberalisation of the market to allow external shareholdings, and comes in the wake of news that several smaller regional firms have been shut down by the SRA this week. Let’s hope that the ripples don’t swamp anyone else’s boat. And that the good folks formerly employed by Ince have a soft landing.
Beaten by the bean counters
A recent report into job satisfaction levels amongst professionals has found that lawyers are amongst the happiest workers in the UK – though not quite as happy as their bean-counting counterparts.
In a survey conducted by digital marketing firm Reboot Online, responses from 2,500 professionals working in 29 different industries were weighted according to seven different factors: positive impact on others, career prospects, employee empowerment, work relationships, positive impact on mental health, salary and work culture. The findings were used to create an ‘Overall Job Happiness’ index score – and lawyers placed seventh in the top ten of happiest professionals, with accountants just pipping them to sixth place.
However, when analysed more closely, it does make me question just how happy legal professionals really are. Although lawyers scored highly in terms of salary (67.39%) and work culture (71.74%), their results for positive impact on others (34.78%) and mental health benefits (34.78%) are pretty low. The latter figure in particular is a bit worrying, to say the least, and is borne out by the findings of LawCare’s major study into mental ill health in the legal profession, published in 2021.
The happiest profession seems to be the science & pharmaceuticals sector, which took the top spot, followed by the creative industries. If it’s any comfort, I bet both sectors routinely draw on the advice and support of lawyers…
For a more detailed write-up of the survey results, please see here.
Dentons makes a move
According to an article in LegalCheek last week, Dentons – the world’s largest law firm by headcount – has made the decision to move its City base from its current digs at 1 Fleet Place to a new HQ at One Liverpool Street, where a ten-storey office building is currently under construction. The move is scheduled for 2026, when the new offices will be completed; the lease on Denton’s current premises expires in 2025.
This is merely the latest in a string of office relocations amongst City firms, LegalCheek reports. Linklaters has announced that it is moving to 20 Ropemaker Street, Moorgate, in 2026; Allen & Overy is off to pastures new in 2027; and Addeshaw Goddard and Hogan Lovells are also feeling footloose, with moves slated for next and 2026, respectively.
In memoriam Andrew Phillips
In a LinkedIn post published on Wednesday, Stephanie Biden of Bates Wells announced the death of the firm’s founder, Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury, who passed away at the age of 84 on Easter Sunday following a short illness.
Phillips, who founded Bates Wells in 1970, was a tireless champion of the third sector and also adamant in his view that the law should serve as a force for good in the world, rather than being the exclusive preserve of the wealthy. To this end, he created the Legal Action Group in 1971 and the Solicitors Pro Bono Group in 1996.
After retiring from practice in 1998, he joined the House of Lords, where he continued to advocate on behalf of the charitable sector and was one of six peers to scrutinise the bill that went on to become the Charities Act 2006.
Commenting on the 50th anniversary of the Legal Action Group last year, Phillips spoke of “a profound crisis in the provision of law services to poorer people”. The legal profession needs more people of his calibre, and he will be sadly missed.
Shoosmiths gets down with the kids
As the legal sector’s big players continue to scramble for fresh talent, Shoosmiths has gone full maverick and become the latest major UK law firm to enter the crazy world of TikTok in order to appeal to the next generation of young lawyers.
The account @shoosmithgrads was created in late March and so far contains 16 videos, whose content includes an expose on the benefits of standing desks and an interview with partner Alistair Hammerton on the importance of recruiting trainee solicitors.
As the account handle, and the very use of the predominantly youth-focused TikTok platform, clearly imply, this move on the part of Shoosmiths is very much aimed at establishing a rapport with those amongst the GenZ audience who are interested in pursuing a career in the law. I’m sure it won’t be long before the rest of the sector’s behemoths follow suit. TikTok: the new front in the recruitment war? It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Hannah Farrington has recently been named GC at Elvie.
Frances Dickson has moved to becom GC at Cambridge Power.
Martin Lau has left Tradition after 13 years as is now GC at FS sector company Makor Group.
Helen Fovargue has joined MAC Clinical Research as GC after her stints at GSK and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s edition.