Trainees for hire: SRA backs revolutionary plan

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  • This initiative also means, presumably, that trainees will qualify without having received a permanent offer at any of three firms that have hosted them?

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  • It's also a good wheeze to get around having to make redudancy payments if there's a change in the market within 12 months of a solicitor qualifying.

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  • "It is estimated that it costs a firm approximately £175,000 to recruit and train one graduate."

    By whom, and on what basis, please?

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  • Maybe I am missing something here, but to me this looks as though it will potentially harm the wider field of prospective trainees' interests. It suggests Acculaw will recruit a number of would-be solicitors during their final years of study into a kind of "pool", pay them less than they would earn as trainee employees of any City firm, seconding them out on an "as-needed" basis to those firms that would otherwise employ them (at a profit of course to Acculaw but at an overall saving to the firms concerned when recruitment and skills training costs are factored in), with firms incurring only short-term expenditure commitments as their businesses require. I don't understand what happens to those trainees as they qualify though - are they offered positions at firms they work at? What happens to those that aren't? I am sure this model creates more efficiency, but surely it narrows to the minimum the number of potential trainees in the market at any one point. Surely the oversupply of students wanting training contracts will still exist, just as it currently does? If the savings that firms make are put into taking on more secondees to address that oversupply, then this is fantastic, but surely the likelihood is that savings will appear on the bottom line instead. An interesting idea nevertheless...

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  • @Richard Adams

    I agree that they have not justified the figure, but considering all the marketing events/ law fairs at universities that firms participate in, advertising space, HR recruiters' salaries, trainees' salaries, other training staff salaries (e.g. I.T), external training providers that are brought in (e.g. for presentational training or networking training), I am sure many firms actually spend over 175k per trainee. Having been a trainee not so long ago (and without wishing to sound ungrateful), some of this is pointless expenditure.

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  • This approach will reduce social mobility in the legal profession.

    It's the poorest students who reach their training contract in desperate need of a good salary.

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  • @1PQE

    Well, yes, perhaps; but they should not overlook the income that trainees generate, which should be set against the cost of training them to achieve a realistic net figure

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  • The other problem with this model, unless I am mistaken, is that trainees who "do the rounds" of several firms is hardly great for client confidentiality in higher-profile matters, nor does it help in building relationships with members of firms, or gaining a true understanding of how a firm is more widely run. No-one can honestly argue that a trainee spending 6 months or less at a firm understands a firm (for the purpose of qualifying there) as well as someone who spends 2 entire years training there learning how departments interact and the dynamic that goes with that - something which can vary widely between firms.

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  • While it might (which I seriously doubt) cost £175,000 gross to recruit and train a graduate, the fees generated by trainees surely cover this cost several times over. Even at £100 per hour, on a 1,400 hour chargeable year, a trainee will have billed £280,000 over the two-year TC.

    In reality at City firms, trainees will be charged out at much higher rates and do much longer hours. At non-City firms, the costs of employing trainees will be much lower.

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  • What happens if the market decides it doesn't need trainees? (as happened in 2001-2003 and 2008-2011).

    Sitting in a law firm with no work is depressing enough... it must be worse if you're in a temp agency.

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  • I think there's a bit of a flaw here: firms invest an important commodity called time into their trainees with a view to retaining them, surely? This set-up doesn't allow for that?

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  • This business idea won't work
    1) For "as needed" work, firms hire paralegals. Trainees are an investment in the future. Why would any firm hire an experience trainee from Acculaw when they get an uptick in work, when they could hire a paralegal temp much cheaper?
    2) What happens if Acculaw run out of clients half way through someones training contract? Does the trainee just sit at home and wait for a new assignment? Without two years of solid work they won't qualify.
    3) Firms want/need to market for themselves to increase brand recognition amongst potential hires. Who wants to work for a firm no one has heard of??

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  • One assumes since Acculaw are recruiting from postgrad law schools that all graduates will be expected to foot the bill for their fees instead of firm sponsorship. Yet again the ugly topic of class divide raises its head and undoes the hard work of other initiatives.

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  • If this became the primary method of sourcing trainees - which is a big IF as it could become the supplement that temping is in many job markets - there is another negative impact on social mobility. Without the prospect of LPC sponsorship, the course would be prohibitive to those without private means, especially with the current shortfall in availability of commercial loans (hardly likely to be improved in such circumstances).

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  • And the SRA are backing the idea?.... Not sure who's more crazier them or Acculaw.

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  • I can't believe that Tony Angel is in support of such a harebrained scheme.

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  • If you remove the key incentives of trainees to work hard - make a good impression to your employer so that when you fixed term contract is up, they will offer you a permanent job - and replace this with the idea that you are working for a third party with no vested interest in you beyond the two year contract, I cannot see why any trainee other than the most desperate would see this as a good thing. Having a target market of desperate would be solicitors is fine, but not really a solution for anyone other than the CEO who has masterminded this - and has managed to get quotes from people who are no longer at the cutting edge.

    From the firm’s perspective, you get trainees - yes - but if your requirements are so variable - why not stick to paralegals? Trainees are supposed to be an investment in the future of the firm. Why would a partner spend time training someone who was going to move on with no long term future with the organisation. Peaks and troughs is part of the game from the top down - locums are pretty rare these days.

    So the desperate - they will have no choice and sign up. By definition, they will not be of the calibre of those who have secured a full contract at a chosen firm but at least they will be employed for 2 years (albeit at a low salary). Their issue will be on qualification - they will be qualified but unemployed. Whether they will be employable remains to be seen.

    An Acculaw - they will gain fees presumably on each secondment and also on placing the trainee with a full time position at the end. They will be taking no real risk other than interviewing - but it is laughable to think that their standards will be based on anything other than supply and demand. If they have demand for 100 they will hire 100 - if they have demand for 10, they will hire 10 - not much comfort for those who could service their needs from a paralegal.

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  • This is going to lower the quality of training contracts and dumb down the value of trainees.

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  • It has been very interesting reading your comments. The first thing I would do is urge you to take a look at Acculaw’s website www.acculaw.co.uk as this clarifies many of the queries raised.

    In response to the query of whether trainees will qualify without having received a permanent offer, this is currently the situation for all trainees working in any firm. The offer of a permanent job will come at the end of the training contract depending on how that trainee has performed throughout their contract. The same is true for an Acculaw trainee, however secondments will give them far greater opportunities to show potential employers what they are capable of rather than a one or two day interview process. The firms benefit from having far greater opportunities to determine whether an Acculaw trainee is right for them and similarly, trainees are also given the opportunity and more time to determine what fits them best.

    Acculaw only recruits trainees when there is a client requirement and trainees are recruited based on demand for legal services. By that I mean what the demand for legal services is in the next 12 months, not what the firm thinks it might be in the next 2-3 years which is currently what happens in the industry. Acculaw will not under any circumstances recruit trainees to add to a pool on the off-chance some work might come up for them. This would simply artificially delay the bottleneck to qualification. What the model does is allow firms to anticipate what their trainee and therefore qualified lawyer requirements are in much shorter time frames rather than trying to predict what it will be years in advance.

    It is important to highlight that a trainee will not be recruited by Acculaw unless sufficient commitment to that trainee has been given by an Acculaw client. That commitment is not just in terms of time but it terms of committing to treat and train an Acculaw trainee in exactly the same way as they would treat their own trainees. Firms need to make the same day-to-day training investment for Acculaw trainees and therefore it would not be commercially sensible for a firm not to consider an Acculaw trainee for a permanent position provided that trainee had demonstrated all the necessary skills, attitude and personality that a particular firm is after.

    The initial drive behind the Acculaw Trainee Model was to make the training of future lawyers more attractive to firms to entice them away from outsourcing much of their trainee level work to low cost jurisdictions. Shipping large volumes of this work abroad (resulting in further reductions in training contracts as demand in the UK reduces) whilst having 1000’s of intelligent, capable graduates desperate to do this work here surely doesn’t make sense?

    Acculaw is designed to increase social mobility. The model aims to help those who perhaps haven’t had as much guidance in corporate life or lack the initial confidence because they are not fully aware of what is expected of them. Applicants are not rejected solely because they can’t demonstrate a desire to be a lawyer from a young age. This is for the very simple fact that those from low income families who are unlikely to have a parent who is a professional/lawyer, will not have known much about a legal career at such a young age.
    Confidentiality is obviously taken very seriously. The issue of confidentiality is explained to Acculaw trainees in the same way as any trainee solicitor learns to understand and respect the confidentiality of any client. Additional safeguards are also in place to deal with the issue of confidentiality which is by no means new to the industry. It creates an inaccurate picture to say ‘when trainees ‘do the rounds’’. It is highly likely that an Acculaw trainee will work at 1 if not 2 firms for the duration of his/her training contract. The possibility of working for 3 firms really arises should a trainee wish to work for smaller niche practice firms where it will be necessary to work for possibly 3 firms to ensure SRA requirements are met as in the case in a typical consortium arrangement.

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  • Susan - I read your site. Good effort. But lets face it, you will recruit someone on the here and now once you get a client - as you dont want to pay for them unless you can second them somewhere. How does that line up with recruiting the best as it will be on an as and when basis? Paralegals are more flexible as they can work on a much more temporary or project driven basis.
    In relation to retention- even the bad firms run at 70%. What are the chances of a trainee being taken on at one of their first seats when they are long gone and working elsewhere? There is no ownership of these trainees. Will you be publishing your retention rates?
    You indicate on your site that you take out the cost. This is not correct - you actually add to the cost on the assumption that the salary would be the same (your fee). The cost of trainees comes in training time - and if yours are to be seconded to the firm they will also need investment and time spent on them. You also mention that the other costs they dont pay for is sick leave and holiday - but presumably this is just tied into your rate.
    The bast candidates will be snapped up and not readily available to start. Again - how does this allign with recruitment of the best if you are not fishing in the same pool as the majority if not all of the top 100 firms.
    Good luck to you - but dont kid yourself that this is anything more than it is .

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