News Law firms Herbies defends decision to sell work placement at auction By Margaret Taylor 2 June 2011 12:10 17 December 2015 14:52 Sign in or register to continue reading. It's FREE Sign in Email Password Keep me logged in Forgot your password? Not registered? It's FREE! Register now Register with The Lawyer Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 12:21 “Work placements should be allocated based on socio-economic background, skills and merit, not industry contacts or financial advantage.” what an utterly ridiculous and self-contradicting statement. Your background should have nothing to do with it. The Lawyer is becoming increasingly boring with its constant drip drip moaning about social diversity and access to the professions. I’m a second year undergraduate in law at a Russell Group uni. Everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, who has the grades, is outgoing and made an effort in their applications have vac schemes this summer. Just because you are poor, does not mean you deserve work experience more than anyone else. Work for it, and you’ll get it. This auction was for charity. This is not news. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 12:22 Anyone else wonder what “socio-economic background” has to do with allocation of placements? Skills and merit are surely the only relevant factors. Reply Link anon 2 June 2011 at 12:34 Often the problem arises before the university stage. If you are the first in your family to go to university, have never had contact with a professional person, and work every night after school just to make ends meet, then (a) how are you ever going to make it into a top tier uni? (b) how will you know how to do a good vac scheme application (c) how will you even find out about what becoming a lawyer involves? Reply Link Anon 2 June 2011 at 12:59 @ Anonymous | 2-Jun-2011 12:21 pm – ‘ Work for it, and you’ll get it’ —————————————————– Sadly the UK is very far from a true meritocracy. If life in the UK is a race, then it is one in which some start just a few yards from the finishing line, some start blindfolded, some with the wind behind them and some with it against them, some not even having been told where the track is. Reply Link defiantly middle class 2 June 2011 at 13:01 Oh the delicious irony of raising money to alleviate disadvantage by entrenching disadvantage: yin and yang in perfect balance / what the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away / you get the idea. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 13:30 Having the social dexterity to network your way into a work placement is one thing; buying it is just vulgar. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 13:49 Social diversity is important. The trainee intake at any given top tier law firm is saturated with public/private school entrants and there is an unhealthy policy of nepotism within the City whereby trainees are often the relatives of Partners or clients. This clearly does not apply to the majority but it does apply to a remarkably large minority. At least in this instance a charity benefitted. Normally such placements are handed out to those of wealthy and well-connected backgrounds without such benefit. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 13:57 When I was a student, I would have paid 5 times that to get a placement there. Not that I had the money – I would have put it on student debt. My old man is not that rich but he would have sold his two bedroom place and got a one bedroom place if a placement at A&O and CC was on the market for £100,000. Who would not want to work there? I would even do the training contract again if I could work at someplace like that. Let’s face it , everyone who is not at a top firm is a nobody in law and is desperate to be there. So, well done Herbies for spotting a gap in the market. They could probably make an extra 2-3 million a year if they sold all their placements and training contracts. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 14:01 Anonymous 12:21 pm “Everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, who has the grades, is outgoing and made an effort in their applications have vac schemes this summer”. As well as some people who might not have the grades, are socially retarded and make no effort, but have got a vac scheme precisely because of their background and Daddy’s money. I think you might have missed the self-contradiction in your own comment. Reply Link privileged git 2 June 2011 at 14:33 @ Anonymous | 2-Jun-2011 12:21 pm: ‘I’m a second year undergraduate in law at a Russell Group uni. Everyone, regardless of their backgrounds…’ Has it ever struck you that that most of your fellow students are from similar backgrounds? You say that background should have nothing to do with it – but reality is that it has a lot to do with everything in the UK. You should be thanking your parents for providing you with an educational foundation that allows you to study at an elite university instead of posting ‘work for it and you will get it’ drivel on websites. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 14:49 Seriously, you couldn’t make this up if you tried, could you? Take gun, point at foot, shoot! Unbelievable. Truly beyond belief. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:16 Herbert Smith should be ashamed of themselves, I used to respect the firm but this behaviour just goes to show the depth of their greedyness and arrogance. A placement should be secured based on an applicant’s education and potential not on how much the bank of mum and dad can fork out. Are you seriously telling me that a law student could afford to pay over a grand on securing a placement….complete joke and laughing stock you are Herbies and shame on you! Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:18 ‘Work for it and you’ll get it’ – that really is the most hilarious statement I have ever read. Lots of my friends and myself included are Russell Group with top grades, work experience, volunteering, team sports, CoL etc and we’re definitely working for it, but getting nowhere! Wake up! This auction just reinforces the stereotype. Really you need to know before you are born that you want to be a solicitor so that you can get to professional level in some sort of music/art, learn 15 languages, attend Oxford, volunteer for charities all over the globe, and every single summer have Mummy and Daddy fund you on various work experience exploits. – wish they’d told me that when I was four! Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:24 Herbies are you broke? Do you need bailing out? If so contact the bank of England they seem to be bailing a lot of people out these days. Dragging the reputation of lawyers into the mud. Shame on youl. Whose hair brain decision was this? They should be fired! Reply Link DHL (not the courier) 2 June 2011 at 16:28 Typical jobs for the “boys”. No ordinary family could afford to pay £1150 for a work placement. Mind you they would not be attending a charity event either. Herbies should get off their butt and get out in the community if they are truely going to be inclusive. No surprises here same closed shop mentality most of the Law firms have. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:31 I’m looking forward to seeing how the Bribery Act will impact all those interns who get on placement schemes due to their parent’s mates giving them a place. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:44 Just utter rubbish. Why the news loves to gather and point fingers at anything possibly/remotely inequitable is beyond me. BORING. Why not focus on how a charity (which, by the way, is aimed at “alleviating disadvantage”) now has substantially more cash??? Or even better, not report this at all – I agree – this is not news. And it happens all the time in all industries. This is a one-sided article which puts The Lawyer down. Reply Link Oh please 2 June 2011 at 16:56 Anon @ 4:18 I didn’t have a single one of the privileges/attributes you mention in your melodramatic little list of Things You Need To Get a City TC. I still made it by sheer hard work. You’re just not good enough, too bad. Blaming your failure on your relative lack of money is not going to change that. Anon @ 4:24 The money is not going to Herbies, it is going to the CHARITY. Do you know what a bail out means? Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 16:57 Selling (or indeed, buying) a work placement is particularly crass and I’m amazed Herbert Smith allowed this to happen. Even if the money does go to charity, it’s shockingly bad judgment. But I don’t see that there’s a problem in using family or social connections to get informal placements for work experience. I mean come on, any school, college or university careers adviser will tell you to make the most of any “old boy” (or girl) connections you can find. In some circles that’s called “initiative”. For more formal summer placements or paid work experience, I’d expect most firms to run some kind of application screening or interview process, not least because they should be using it to look for potential trainees. If a firm lets a senior partner’s friend’s counsin’s kids on the scheme and they turn out to be total idiots, well… more fool the law firm. Reply Link PR Suicide 2 June 2011 at 17:00 Much as I like the firm this is one of the worst self-inflicted PR cock-ups I have ever seen. I’m sure with hindsight the partner/PR people who thought of this can now see how stupid it makes the firm look: ‘The highest bidder gets a work placement’ when youth unemployment is going through the roof, law students are increasingly in debt, and everyone and his dog is drowning out the airwaves about social mobility and the need to chose people on talent, not wealth/connections/ability to pay……and yet, ‘Hey, I know, let’s auction the entire firm’s PR credentials for £1,150. That’ll be cool.’ (I’d say Herbert Smith made a bad ROI on this marketing investment.) Reply Link Justin Bieber 2 June 2011 at 17:08 In Defence of Herbert Smith’s PR Team This is a nightmare for a City PR team. Daft partner somewhere goes off and does someting stupid like this, doesn’t tell anyone internally, doesn’t think that it will possibly arounse any attention. Eventually it comes out through a leak or a journalist sniffing around and then you have a PR disaster on your hands and are scrabbling around like a blue-arsed fly trying to clear up the mess. Not their fault at all. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 17:11 Given that most top law firms give most of their work exp places to people who could afford to pay for it, how about in future they sell 75% of the places, give the money to charity and then let the other 25% of places go to students from less privileged backgrounds. So, all oxbridge students get their placement, with a (to them), small fee attached; charities get a nice windfall; and a set number of less well off students get to experience the ‘joy’ of working at a leading law firm. Then, Herbies and others can genuinely say they are doing something for social diversity. That would be newsworthy. Reply Link Haldeman 2 June 2011 at 17:47 The sad thing about many of these comments from the aspirant entrants to the profession is their blinkered view of life and their intellectual incoherence particularly the comments from the person at a “Russell Group” university. I went to a Russell Group university 20 years ago. Noone even cared what it was called. Just another example of the obsession with trying to mark yourself out from the crowd however meaningless. CVs laden with meaningless Apprentice like cliches and 3rd party approbation. God I would die to read a CV that said “worked in the Post Office” and “did some bar work” instead of “rafted down the Yangtse” and “set up a party organising company”. In the words of the Education Secretary Michael Gove (grammar school boy) “too many rich thick kids”. A giant gene pool out there and for purely economic reasons (not affirmative action reasons) we should be trawling deep for the talent even if it presents itself in ways we are not used to, and put in place measures that ensure not equality but equality of opportunity. Partly the enthusiasm of youth I suppose but having worked in the Magic Circle I was more interested in them giving me £100000 rather than me stumping up £100000 for the privilege You live you work you die. Reply Link Mark 2 June 2011 at 18:20 I’m from a lower-middle class family, went to a state school, got a First at uni and have a Magic Circle training contract. It’s true that the top firms scale posh, but there are plenty of people like me or are from working class backgrounds. The distinguishing feature is we all did very well at university and/or have something special to bring to the table – and I’m not talking a couple of vac schemes and being social sec at your law society. The whingers who went to “Russell group” unis and have “top” academics (read: mid-2.1) need to learn that they’re not actually that good or special and aren’t going to walk into any good graduate job. If you don’t have a First, you’ll need to make up for it with something else. Reply Link Ashley Balls 2 June 2011 at 22:16 How very different life is today from the 70’s when white middle class males from 6 universities were the only ‘suitable’ applicants. Thankfully a very enlightened property partner put a stop to it unilaterally. There were far worse. Does anyone remember the no facial hair rule at *** and ‘no women partners while I’m still on the notepaper’. The present crop of undergraduates have much to worry about but at least prejudice has been put in its place. Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 22:31 What is wrong with all of the complaining people? In my understanding this “buy in vac scheme” was an additional one to the ones that the firm already offers. Whats wrong with making a few extra bucks for charity if the day to day operation of vac schemes is not influenced? Life sucks get used to it, if you truly are gifted or blessed with the platinum spoon of law then you will make an impressive carrer. Why does it work in every field other than law? Reply Link Anonymous 2 June 2011 at 23:30 God bless America that is all I can say where affirmative action and social mobility prevails. Where a Black intellect can become the world’s most powerful man and the president of the USA a country formerly seeped in racial prejudice. God bless America where a working class black woman by the name of Michelle Obama even though discouraged by the masses predominantly not to go to Prinston or Harvard got into Prinston and Harvard and then one of America’s leading law firm’s Sidley Austin. The Glass ceiling will always prevail in the UK this is one of the many examples. Reply Link Gary 3 June 2011 at 00:50 All this could have been avoided if they’d have just said that it was an extra Work Placement that they’d added, ergo no-one misses out. And it is only a WP after all. If some total drongo wins the auction – it’s not like they’re guaranteed a TC – so what’s the big deal? I agree though, this is just laughably farcical PR. Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 01:47 Oh please @ 4.56 I don’t think its about lack of money..I think what anon @ 4.18 wants to suggest is that when you have the money you most likely have the right connections and people around you to help you succeed. I am a graduate due to start the LPC this year and I’m just about to start my luck with TC applications. I do believe its very hard to get to a good firm but its not impossible. I think that people from a disadvantaged background like myself (only one in the family with a degree, ethnic minority and believe me..no one is rich enough to afford my LPC..) need to work a lot harder than those with the money and connections..which comes to the issue of equality..there is no such thing as equality really…thats why I believe anon @ 5.11 has made the most intelligent and realistic suggestion so far. Good luck to those that work hard..but also to those that have it all..including the guts to admit they’ll be nothing without daddy’s bank account! PS: maybe other firms will sell wp for less than £1000 so that other less privileged people can afford it..Im sure there would be a lot more competition for those places than for the formal wps! Reply Link Willy Wonka 3 June 2011 at 10:05 I want a ball I want a party Pink macaroons and a million balloons Performing baboons and a vac placement too! Give it to me Right now! Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 10:25 Firstly, it wasn’t a vacation scheme it was an informal work experience placement that probably went to a 16 year old. Very different. Secondly, I take exception to the suggestion that you have to work “harder” to succeed if you’re from a less traditional/less advantaged background even if you have greater obstacles. I grew up in a straight down the line middle class family, certainly not rich (my parents couldn’t have paid my LPC fees either) but comfortable. There are people I work with who grew up in much more disadvantaged homes who had things to overcome I didn’t. My luck was not that things were handed to me on a silver platter (which is a ludicrous suggestion) but that I grew up in a culture where working hard at school, going to university, being a professional were all valued, to a degree expected, and I had plenty of role models around me who had gone along that path. But I worked damn hard to get where I am and this “haves” and “have nots” mentality is wide of the mark; I had the inspiration to want to work hard to achieve the goals I set myself but that does not mean it was easy. Reply Link Vicky 3 June 2011 at 11:26 I really see very little harm in the auctioning of an additional work experience place – no-one lost out and the charity benefited. I do however, find the comments suggesting that everyone has equal opportunities and that it is not harder to get ahead when you come from a less privileged background baffling. I’m from a moderately well-off family and went to an academically strong private school. My friends’ parents and neighbours were solicitors, so informal work experience, was easy to come by. Even small presentational things, like speaking ‘nicely’ and being able to buy a decent suit for interview, have much more impact than they should. I don’t doubt that hard work does sometimes overcome the disadvantages, but fully recognise that my route was much easier than some others. Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 12:49 I doubt this was approved by HS management. I work at HS and have seen one or two “unofficial” placements given to relatives/friends, this practice should be stopped. Knowing the partner personally, he is a very nice guy and not from an overly privileged background himself. I think this is an error of judgment rather than an explicit policy. Reply Link Anthony 3 June 2011 at 13:01 “Your background should have nothing to do with it. The Lawyer is becoming increasingly boring with its constant drip drip moaning about social diversity and access to the professions. ” Agreed. No one has the “right” to become a lawyer, nor does the “right” to an “equal opportunity” even make much sense to begin with. I congratulate this firm for what it did. Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 13:23 I was led to believe that the person buying the placement would be made to feel obliged to give the placement to someone from the charity as a goodwill gesture. I wonder if that would change people’s perceptions of the process? Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 13:40 “Likely well-intentioned but ultimately misguided initiative by major law firm pilloried to fill trade journal; scroll down for chippy comments” shock. Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 14:51 A work placement is an opportunity but it is important to bear in mind that it is not a job offer. Training contracts in any top tier law firm are hard to come by and are obtained on the basis of hard work and merit. Just because you are offered a work placement does not mean, in any respect, that you are in. There is an incredible quantity of impressive candidates that apply to get into these top firms and these firm will make sure that they pick the best ones. The fact that someone’s parent has enough money to buy them a placement will certainly not be sufficient to secure them a job Herbert Smith. Whilst I understand that some may find it offensive that HS has decided to auction off a work placement, it has done so for a good cause. It has not auctionned off a training contract and the many of the reactions here seem to lack perspective. Training contracts are still up for grabs for those who can demonstrate that they have what a top law firm is looking for. By no means should the difference in backgrounds and the challenges that some may have to overcome that others will not, be discarded or ignored but one of the things to remember is that once you are in, there is not one person who has not put in the time, the effort and the drive it takes to get there, regardless of whatever background they are. Reply Link Anonymous 3 June 2011 at 15:36 I interview trainee applicants at my firm. I generally discount work placements, on the basis that I do not know how they were obtained, and suspect it might not have anything to do with merit. Reply Link Haldeman 3 June 2011 at 15:53 law has become like veterinary studies. So hard to get into it attracts the mad overachievers and then they get in and guess what…. the money is to pay for the drudgery of selling legal widgets and being pleasant to clients who you would, in any other walk of life, happily ignore or possibly punch. And before any eager undergraduate who has a complete library of all Magic Circle recruitment brochures says its not like that in the Magic Circle- it is like that in the Magic Circle , tier 2 etc, etc. I have worked in Magic and Silver Circle. It’s all the same. Ever wanted a toy so bad it hurt. Then you got it on Christmas Day. By January 1st it’s sat in its box again.. Welcome to the legal profession. Good solid job, pays the bills, sometimes requires original thought . But really just calm down Reply Link Pietro Le Brewin 3 June 2011 at 16:05 I think we should auction off lavatory visits to the highest bidder. Why should the less well-paid be as comfortable going about their daily business as those earning higher salaries. Personal comfort should come at a price, not as a right. Reply Link JayKay 3 June 2011 at 16:34 @Haldeman 3.53pm “the money is to pay for the drudgery of selling legal widgets and being pleasant to clients who you would, in any other walk of life, happily ignore or possibly punch” That’s actually quite sad to read. With the greatest of respect, you’ve either ended up in the wrong career or been unlucky in choosing some really bad firms to work for. I’ve variously worked in a small niche firm; in a regional office of one of the big national firms and now I’m in-house with a FTSE100 company and I don’t recognise that description in any of them. I suspect your Magic Circle background means you’re probably paid better than I am / was / will be at the same level of PQE, but honestly – there really is more to life as a lawyer than money and if you are tired of the drudgery and don’t like working with the clients you have now, I’d recommend giving something different a try. Reply Link Anonymous 6 June 2011 at 16:32 Other professions do this already – top restaurants already sell experience days as gifts for ridiculous sums, all to chop a few carrots in a michelin starred restaurant and pretend you’re on masterchef… Reply Link H 8 June 2011 at 07:42 @JayKay If you say you’re not in law for the money, I suggest you are not being completely honest. If I had enough money not to work I wouldn’t. Ergo, I don’t have enough money so I have to work. It’s certainly not because I “love the law”. I “tolerate the law” because it pays well and I can afford nice stuff, take good holidays, have no money worries etc. I am not ashamed to say it’s really about the pay cheque at the end of the day. Reply Link Anonymous 10 June 2011 at 07:19 Why is there such an obsession with encouraging an influx of poor people into the profession? I find they lack the social mobility skills to mix with more well-heeled clients and can quite frankly be embarrassing when let out in public. I have nothing against those who make it on the back of their own hard work but surely an element of Darwinian evolution applies to this process and the best will join the rest if their ability so determines? Reply Link @JayKay 10 June 2011 at 09:05 More honest. Reply Link Name Email Cancel reply Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.