Trainees for hire: SRA backs revolutionary plan

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  • I agree with the comments here totally. Susan - how will this alleviate the "bottleneck" of trainees you refer to on qualification? Surely Acculaw is no better placed to anticipate the legal market's need for trainees than any law firm? Doesn't the model described simply shift the bottleneck to another place? Firms don't have any "skin in the game" if, for example, one month they can take on 50 trainees and 6 months later cut that down to 30 at the drop of a hat. Once trainees are taken into the system, they can't simply be left idle half way through their training where firms decide there isn't a business need to recruit more trainees from one 6-month period to another. There is surely no guarantee that once a trainee is taken on by Acculaw they will be seconded to a firm.
    Also, you suggest in your reply that this model will benefit trainees more than the current process in respect of demonstrating their capabilities. I can't see how being moved from one firm to another every 6 months is anything other than disadvantageous to trainees, particularly when it comes to firms deciding who qualification positions will be offered to. You say that "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." However, your point overlooks the fact that in a traditional training contract, 2 years' worth of feedback has been accumulated prior to that one or two day interview process. More time spent in a firm (i.e. 2 years, instead of one 6 month secondment to a single department) not only helps trainees get a much greater understanding of a firm (thereby assisting them in convincing an interviewing partner that they know the firm well enough to make an informed choice which won't have them walking out the door in a year's time after qualifying), as well as allowing the partner to gather enough feedback from several teams in the firm to make an informed choice that they have the best candidate for the job. This is even more important in the context of firms' "flagship" teams, especially those that are central to a firm's departmental network (here I am thinking of the corporate teams of some MC firms).
    Being honest, I can't see this will help the majority of trainees. I agree it may assist firms in lowering expenditure, but I am struggling to see how this can be achieved without prejudicing trainees.

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  • I can see the appeal of the flexibility of Acculaw's arrangements. Surely this is not a replacement for the current training contract structure but an additional parallel arrangement. I can understand the concerns of law students that they may end up with a transactional relationship with firms rather than the mythical closer relationship that may otherwise exist. However, I suspect that the market is moving towards that anyway. With the likes of Google refusing to pay for trainee work (or junior solicitor) work for that matter, the professional structures in law firms are under pressure and there may well be a significant increase in outsourcing generally. Acculaw appears to offer an innovative solution which may run alongside traditional trainee contracts and LPOs and as such should be encouraged.

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  • I was due to start my training contract this month and had it withdrawn due to financial problems at the firm I was due to start at.
    Even in the horrible situation I am in, I still cannot bring myself to apply to Acculaw - we have no idea how employable (if at all) these "trainees" will be after 2 years. Whatever the retoric Susan makes, law firms are a traditional bunch, and a recruiter asked to chose between the candidate who trained at 1 firm in a normal way is a known quantity - this new "rent a trainee" is not.
    I'm not saying it couldn't work. Maybe 5 years down the line it will be acceptable as a training method, but right now it seems like you might be playing russian roulette with your career with no idea of your employability at the end.

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  • Seems to me that the real revolution would be to ditch TC's. Once a graduate completes their law studies and the LPC they should be automatically qualified. They then should be able to setup their own business and develop it from there. Much like in the US.
    It's obvious that TC's are a why of limiting who gets into the profession and keeps fees artificially high by having less competition - those that qualify can setup a firm and as it develops hire individuals who have experience in different fields and learn from them.
    Plus isn't the TC, and this type of initiative, undermined by the continual hiring of overseas qualified lawyers (mostly from Oz and NZ). Law firms hire them for less money and they get around not knowing English law by signing off work with "qualified in [insert jurisdiction]". These lawyers have little or no experience and then after 2 yrs do the QLTT and hey presto they are English qualified. This makes a mockery of the current system and proves that TCs should be abandoned for auto qualification upon completing your academic studies.
    You would also break the old boys network as you would have people from all backgrounds becoming qualified and not subject to the blatant discrimination that currently occurs.

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  • Even if this model works and other intermediaries such as AccuLaw enter the market and enough firms are willing to become involved in these work placements or training contracts are the SRA not simply moving the problem around from an over supply of trainee solicitors to an over supply of qualified solicitors? Is the SRA proposing to reduce the period of qualification to allow newly qualified solicitors to set up their own firms? Will there be any quality control anymore? Will prospective employers of newly qualified solicitors trust this method of training? I am all for widening the legal market in anyway possible but it strikes me that there should be more than one solution available to help graduates who have spent a lot of money on their legal education and cannot find jobs.

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  • Acculaw are in reality acting as an employment agency. Won't Acculaw trainees be entitled to the equivalent host firm rate for the trainees after 12 weeks?

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  • Sounds suspiciously like an agency or gang master arrangement. Cuts all sorts of things doesn't it including a fair salary, terms and conditions. So why is the training for this so expensive? Is this the best law firms can do? As a client I would want to know why fees are so high when employees are so cheap? Can we refer this to the relevant government department? It needs scrutiny

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  • I don't see how this is anything other than buying a timeshare in a trainee.

    If a firm wants to give up its commitment to training - I get that. But why then would they take on homeless trainees? For what benefit?

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  • I am not surprised reading some of the comments above, they must come from the typical people working at HR departments etc fearing for their jobs!!

    The new Acculaw model is brilliant, it serves everyone's interests indeed, keen graduates as well as law firms in all aspects- the idea is simply filling the majority of gaps in the current legal industry which we have stood for long enough!
    Of course, only trainees who proved themselves worthy will get the opportunity to stay within one of the firms, which is exactly the case within any other profession anyways!
    An Acculaw trainee left without a permanet position may well reconsider his or her career perspectives or just go on and apply for a different position at a different law firm- in the end of the day the particular law firm will have to provide the best possible services to their clients, too! If they believe they'd work better without them trainees, well, that's one has to take on boat and rather appreciate the fact he or she was given the opportunity to qualify as solicitor, and then probably go on and apply to different firms- nobody has ever said the route to success was easy and the keen trainee will work hard to get where he or she wants to be!

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  • A six-month seat in any given area of law is barely enough time to a) fully get to grips with the work and b) really show what one's capable of, so how on earth will anybody be able to gain the necessary experience in a three-month placement?

    This idea may sound attractive to struggling firms desperate to reduce costs in poor economic climes, therefore there will undoubtedly be a market for it over the next 5 years or so. However, once the economy picks up the whole idea will become a distant memory. Decent firms should want to nurture and mould their future solicitors over a two-year period.

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