SRA gets a roasting as deferrals leave students out in the cold

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  • It seems completely wrong that SRA just puts this down to an 'employment issue'. SRA requires trainees to commit to firms as soon as they accept their training contracts but then won't step in when firms then defer/withdraw training contracts... the position of those trainees who have had deferrals/withdrawals from training contracts is very different to those who have unfortunately been made redundant because realistically trainees do have the potection of employment law to aid them financially. Trainees can't simply sue their future firms for breach of contract without causing serious harm to their own careers and so need the support of SRA.

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  • Reply from Leicestershire Junior Lawyers' Division:
    On behalf of the LJLD I am responding to this story. Please accept my apologies for not having commented on the article sooner.
    Our reaction to the deferral schemes was altogether positive. Whilst we understand there will inevitably be disappointment from some prospective trainees in having to wait a year, the opportunities for good quality training are bound to be limited in times such as these. It makes sense for trainees to begin their contracts once the poor economic situation has begun to improve and the work begins to flow again. The fact that some firms are offering trainees a deferral payment provided they use the time efficiently is very encouraging and would certainly provide young lawyers with the opportunity to learn extra skills and forge new experiences.
    However, as a trainee myself, I am very alarmed by the practice of any firm in attempting to withdraw training contracts on a compulsory basis. There are arguably parallels with the redundancy procedure but this in effect is a serious knockout blow to young lawyers at such a critical stage in their careers. It appears that some firms are failing to appreciate how damaging this can be for prospective new lawyers.
    It is well documented that the offering of training contracts is such a pivotal career moment for any prospective solicitor. The SRA may have no powers at present to interfere in these circumstances, however we at the LJLD believe that they should be granted such a power, and that this power should be exercised. Law students and LPC graduates surely cannot be expected to take legal action against law firms. Aside from the cost and complexity of doing so, we are all too aware of how much emphasis firms place on reputation in the legal world. People in this position desperately need help - this alone justifies the SRA or indeed the Law Society taking control of this issue, especially as their own paid members are losing out here.
    The effect of firms withdrawing training contracts is not only morally unjust after the time and effort some people have gone to in order to secure a training contract against such fierce competition, it is also very worrying for the profession as a whole. This latest development not only makes it even harder than before for hopeful students to obtain a training contract, but adds considerable stress and worry to those who have overcome that substantial hurdle. This is particularly harsh on those who have already begun (or indeed paid for) their LPC.
    We will be raising this issue at a National Level in due course and doing all we can to obtain an explanation from the SRA as to why this practice is currently unhindered. I understand from an above comment that one or two people have had difficulty in contacting the Junior Lawyer’s Division. We at the Leicestershire branch of the JLD can be contacted easily by e-mail . Details are contained at our website – and myself and my fellow committee members would be happy to answer any questions relating to this issue.
    Please be assured that this development has not been missed by us, and we will be doing all we can to obtain answers from the relevant bodies.

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  • My rebuttal to Anonymous | 20-Apr-2009 5:09 pm,

    I am the author of the original post on this article. Kudos on the pointed tone of your comment - you should be a lawyer!

    I appreciate that trainees with some "major commercial firms" might not have best experience possible given the economic climate (man I am sick of that expression!). However I make a point of visiting their website every day and reading legal sites like this one and they are doing multi-million pounds on a weekly basis. I am not so naive to think the champagne will be flowing (as has been the experience of trainees that have preceded me) but I know the quality of work is there for the taking.

    Vis-a-vis "reflection on my future career path"....I have had years of studying to reflect. I am currently on a year out before commencing and have spent it working in 3 different and diverse working environments to broaden my horizons.

    Sidenote: Thank you to Lewis from LJLD who has shared the views of their JLD branch!

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