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An employment engagement survey conducted for The Lawyer by YouGovCentaur revealed that 64 per cent of non-fee-earning staff feel undervalued at their firms (The Lawyer, 1 September).
In a bid to counteract this trend, Addleshaw Goddard has introduced a business development graduate trainee programme. Business development director Richard Oakes, who devised the plan, says the firm launched the trainee scheme because the legal profession generally finds it difficult to recruit high-calibre business development people.
“Time and time again we have to interview 20 or 30 people to find the right person, and that costs time and money and impacts on the bottom line,” says Oakes.
He says recruiting and training graduates is still expensive, but the advantages outweigh the costs. “It means they will understand the law firm’s values inside out and we’ll be able to fill the pipeline with talent,” says Oakes.
“There’s a high risk with hiring outside of law firms as the profession is quite different from other businesses. The graduate scheme tries to solve this problem to some extent. We get to know them over two years as they get to know us, and we can help shape their careers, which benefits us both.”
Oakes adds that while Addleshaws is interested in the bottom line, it is not skimping on graduate pay. “Some said perhaps I was a little mad, but I wanted to be able to take on the likes of Marks and Spencer and Mars when it came to attracting talent, so we’ve matched their salaries and offered what I believe is an attractive package,” he says.
The package as it stands mirrors that of trainee lawyers. Trainees are put on a two-year programme that has four six-month seats, including working within brands and communication.
Addleshaws’ first business development trainee is Georgina Kennon, who received a 2:1 in psychology from Durham University. Kennon has been to Romania with the firm’s trainee lawyers to build houses through a programme with Habitat for Humanity.
“We were helping to build a home for a two-parent, four-child family who had received a plot of land from the government but needed to build at least the foundation within a year to keep it,” explains Kennon. “It was an amazing experience, but it also meant I got to know and become friends with the trainee lawyers. Not being a lawyer didn’t make a difference to them as they saw me as one of the group.”
Kennon explains that she decided to take up the graduate scheme at Addleshaws as the firm offers a unique programme.
“Business development at, say, Proctor & Gamble or Mars is more sales-based, but at Addleshaws there’s more involvement from the beginning in the business of the firm and that really appealed,” she says.
Addleshaws is not the first law firm to start a business development trainee scheme. Herbert Smith tried it more than eight years ago, but decided to drop the programme in 2006 because it was felt that generalism in business development no longer suited the firm, which now focuses on recruiting specialists to the different areas of the business.