Trainee exchange plan gets EU cash

UP TO 1,000 legal trainees could soon be exchanged throughout Europe each year if a Commission-funded pilot project set to run over the next 12 months is a success.

The project, which won a £72,000 grant from the European Union's Leonardo Da Vinci vocational training programme last week, gained approval after almost three years of lobbying by the joint Brussels office of the Law Societies of England and Wales and Scotland.

The office is working with the German, Spanish and Belgian Bars after the three answered calls to co-operate on the project, the Euro-Lawyers Scheme.

The Law Societies' Brussels executive, Frederik Lofthagen, said the pilot was likely to involve three to five trainees from each jurisdiction being placed with firms in other countries, but “by the year 2000 we're hoping that some 1,000 trainees will be exchanged each year between the jurisdictions”.

He said the countries involved in the project would now discuss the criteria for trainees and firms taking on trainees, and the content of the traineeship.

“Initially we will exchange three or four trainees in each jurisdiction and when they've completed their six months we'll give both the receiving firm and the trainee a long questionnaire,” said Lofthagen. “We'll test the ideas we had initially and then we'll do an evaluation.”

President of the Law Society of Scotland, Alan Boyd, said he was “very encouraged” by the commission's response to the joint proposal, the first time it has allocated funds for such a scheme.

“It has recognised that lawyers have a significant role to play in the development of the single market,” he said. “The scheme will enable our young lawyers to be in the forefront of legal developments in Europe.”

“I hope that most of the legal professions within Europe will be able to take part in future years.”

Lofthagen said the group planned to submit an application for additional funding in January 1997, asking the commission to provide a substantially larger budget.

“We'll put in a bid for the grand scheme which will involve a substantial number of trainees and firms and a budget which is 10 times, if not more, what it is now,” he said.

“The idea is for this to expand to include most, if not all, member states of the EU.”