Trainees – a City view

Write to: The Editor, The Lawyer, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX, Fax 0171 734 0534

The Policy Institute's 4th Year study has produced the usual anti-City outbursts. Self-interest groups maintain that it proves widespread discrimination against women and ethnic minorities in the allocation of training places; even that this discrimination exists "regardless of academic performance". It is further alleged that trainee solicitors recruited to City commercial firms are 16 times more likely to have graduated from Oxbridge than from a new university.

Before we give any credence to this study, which regurgitates the same statistics based on the same 4,000 student base group year after year, we should perhaps look at the facts.

The senior partners of City firms deplore any sort of discrimination. We all run multi-million pound businesses on commercial lines, we have responsibilities for the livelihoods of thousands of people and we are very conscious of our duties. We simply cannot afford to practise discrimination in any form at all. We all spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year on funding our trainees through the CPE and LPC courses. We spend hundreds of man hours of valuable partner time interviewing potential trainees. Why do we do all this? We do it because we believe in excellence and equality of opportunity irrespective of the student's background or financial resources. We choose our trainees on merit, and only on merit. We would be mad to do otherwise.

At Norton Rose, the statistics for the intake of trainees over the five years from 1995 (including future trainees on our books) reveal a consistent 51/49 per cent split in favour of women and an Oxbridge intake varying between 18 per cent and 33 per cent with an average of 24 per cent. Graduates of other universities are very well represented: 25 other universities for the current intake. The percentage of training places allocated to ethnic minority students has varied from 3 per cent to 19 per cent with an average of 10 per cent. The statistics for the Norton Rose M5 Group – the biggest employer of trainees in the country – are not materially different.

The impression that City firms' policy is to hire white male Oxbridge graduates is nonsense.

DTR Lewis,

Senior partner, Norton Rose.