A survey of LawGroup UK members – the national network of over 80 medium-sized firms – undertaken for The Lawyer highlights how they can now "pick-and choose" the exact type of trainee they want, simply because of the volume of applications they are receiving. Over a quarter of the firms which replied to the survey said they no longer felt they needed to "attract" trainees. Some had received over 500 applications.
When distinguishing between applications at the CV stage, the vast majority of firms said they looked at the academic qualifications and university of the applicant, followed by the perceived "personality" that came across.
The local connections a trainee can bring to a firm was also deemed important. This would seem to be the most significant difference between medium-sized practices and those in the top 20.
However, when considering candidates at interview, personality is the deciding factor. A LawGroup UK member says: "At the interview stage, I want to be sure that the trainee will gel with the culture of the firm. Therefore I will choose a lesser-qualified candidate over a more qualified one, if I believe they will fit in with others in the team or have a better rapport."
Most firms felt they could offer good training and hands-on experience, but those with a 100 per cent trainee retention rate all included "responsibility" as the primary benefit. This is vital considering the number of firms who treat trainees as "gophers" and then wonder why they cannot hold on to them.
The average retention rate for trainees was 73 per cent (over a five-year period), and the average salary was #10,828.
LawGroup's head Damon Swindell says: "During my visits to our member firms I noted that more and more of those firms who have taken on trainees are prepared to allow them real responsibility as part of their development. Fewer appear to use trainees as 'dogs-bodies'."
How medium-sized firms pick trainees
What are the most important criteria when selecting a candidate for interview?
1 Academic qualifications; 2 Personality; 3 Local connections; 4 Experience & expertise; 5 CV; 6 Commitment; 7 Maturity; 8 Knowledge
What do you offer to attract the right trainees?
1 Good training; 2 Hands-on experience; 3 Responsibility; 4 Employment after training 5 Nothing – too many applicants; 6 Variety of work