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Shoosmiths has become the first major law firm to make the dramatic move of asking its trainee solicitors to withdraw from their training contracts.
The national law firm wants half of its 20-strong September 2009 intake to push back their start dates for either one or two years and it is also offering candidates the option to withdraw.
Graduate recruitment officer Joanne Taylor said: “It’s not a move that we’ve taken lightly, and it’s part of an overall business planning strategy that’s being reviewed constantly to ensure Shoosmiths remains robust and successful in this tough economic climate.”
For all trainees due to start with the Midlands-based firm in September 2010 the deferral and withdrawal process will become compulsory, with their start date moved to either September 2011 or September 2012.
“We understand that deferring or withdrawing from training contracts is going to be a difficult decision for future trainees,” Taylor added.
Those opting to defer will be kept informed about developments at Shoosmiths while those choosing to withdraw will receive letters confirming new arrangements. It will also be known by then how many have chosen to defer their training contracts.
The firm is not offering any compensation to any of its future trainees who decide to defer or withdraw their training contracts but in a copy of letter, which has been seen by this website, future trainees have been told that they will not have to pay back their Legal Practice Course fees.
“There is no financial compensation for withdrawing from your training contract however, in this circumstance, provided you satisfy the requirements of clause 1 of the payback section of the funding agreement i.e. that you complete your LPC and pass it at your first attempt you will not be required to re-imburse any fees/living allowance paid to you or on your behalf,” reads the letter.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to achieve the necessary reduction in those starting their training contract this year by voluntary deferrals; should this not be the case then we will have to consider compuisory deferrals,” it continues.
The letter also said that some trainees may be required to relocate. “Due to business needs you may be required to work at a different location than that detailed in the letter offering you a training contract. Should this be necessary and you are affected, we will ensure that we discuss this with you however I must advise you that no relocation expenses or other costs associated with working in a different office will be paid to you,” reads the letter.
Trainees have been given until 6 April to make their decision and if enough volunteers do not come forward Shoosmiths plans to introduce compulsory deferrals, according to the letter.
Though Shoosmiths is not planning to make any changes to its summer vacation scheme it is not accepting any applications for training contracts starting in September 2011.