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South-West firm Clarke Willmott’s future trainees are to be drawn exclusively from its paralegal pool.
This unusual change to the graduate recruitment process has no set intake dates but paralegals will be selected as and when needed by various departments.
There is no guarantee that all of the firm’s paralegals will go on to become solicitors as this will depend on the needs of the business and also on the individual performance of the paralegals.
To receive a training contract, paralegals must have 12 months experience at the firm and have completed the Legal Practice Course.
Clarke Willmott declined to comment on whether they would be funding their paralegals’ LPCs.
During training, they will work in three areas of law, including contentious and non-contentious work as set out by Solicitors Regulation Authority training contract guidelines, but will qualify into the department in which they previously worked as a paralegal.
A Clarke Willmott spokesperson said: “It is an evolutionary step … we always made our training applications open to staff with the LPC within our paralegal pool.
“We have done this because it works and because we have been very impressed by the quality of staff seeking paralegal employment who have been unsuccessful in securing training contracts through the more traditional approaches.
“We do not keep statistics but there are a minimum of nine qualified staff with us currently who were paralegals with us before undertaking training contracts and successfully qualifying into the firm. One of these is now a senior associate.”
The spokesperson added: “Anyone who thinks that the traditional approach is perfect or that an alternative method is in any way second-rate clearly has no idea of the pressures facing those seeking to find their way in the profession and the talent pool within the profession currently without a training contract who deserve a chance to impress within a work environment.”
Co-operative Legal Services, which in May announced plans to offer 100 training contracts annually within the next five years, draws its trainees solely from its paralegal team. (24 May 2012)