Trainees for hire: SRA backs revolutionary plan

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  • We all know that the general probation time lasts 3 months within any other profession- why should this be so different within the legal profession? It seems a three month placement has been regarded as sufficient to demonstrate one's capabilities to a potential employer- who are we to judge over someone's believe to be capable of proving someone his or her capacities in three months time? How can you just decide and close all doors to some really ambitious graduates? If they believe they can do it, let them do it! The future will show! I strongly doubt the new model could make things any worse than they already are!

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  • I am still struggling with part of the business model.

    Firm A takes on 30 Acculaw trainees and firm B takes on 20 Acculaw trainees for 3 months, the minimum guarranteed period. After 3 months Firm A decides to drop 15 trainees due to work-flow problems but Firm B picks up 5 of them due to increasing need. What happens to the remaining 10 if Firms C,D,E etc cannot accomodate them?

    The entire business model is based upon Acculaw recruiting the exact number of trainees required (not a huge problem) and then retaining that exact number in firms when the firms can simply drop the trainees at any point. I don't see how this can possibly be managed so there will be a large number of trainees floating about with 3,6,12 months under their belts but then no job, no pay and no security for months on end, if ever again.

    The whole thing sounds horrendous and shame on those firms (Olswang take note) that agree to the model simply to trim a few quid of the bottom line to bolster PEP.

    It's short-termism in a way that would make a banker blush! These people are supposed to be the future of the firm and the industry!

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  • This is an interesting and clearly novel idea. Like any such idea it needs a decent level of challenge and scrutiny to ensure it is the right thing to do (and that challenge should come from the perspective of both the profession and the individuals that will be part of this). It has clearly been challenged from the profession's perspective - I can't imagine it is an easy feat to obtain approval from the SRA (or any other regulatory body) for a completely new way of doing things. From the perspectve of the individual, I think we need to step back and look at this in light of the realities of our industry:
    1. in terms of Acculaw being profit-making, why does that matter? What do you think a lawfirm (and its partners) are in business for? We have partners at certain firms that earn in excess of £2m a year. That may be obscene but this is the industry in which we all work. Why are we all here? Yes, we like the job but we also do it because it is a well paid and well respected profession. Logically, I don't see why Acculaw should be criticised for seeking to make a profit
    2. does becoming an Acculaw trainee lead to a lower chance of obtaining a job on qualification? Difficult to say but not a real point in my eyes because even if you have a training contract at a firm, I think we have all seen, through the retention rates over the last few years (which are, I suspect, massaged by certain firms), that a training contract is no guarantee of a job on qualification. Getting a job is all about excelling which comes down to a number of factors (right type of work for your skills , great attitude, right culture for you etc). Going to multiple firms through Acculaw seems to me to open up the opportunity to find the right place at which you can excel
    3. there are plenty of people out there who are paying their own way through law school and the GDL because they don't yet have training contracts. That doesn't mean these people are not potentially great lawyers. Signing up to this proposal (1) gives you a reasonable starting income (2) you will get trained (3) and gives you exposure to firms you might never otherwise get exposure to and you get such exposure in the capacity as a trainee. What's the alternative? You become a paralegal, in which case you aren't working towards qualification, you aren't getting training and you aren't getting exposure to law firms who will always find space for a trainee/lawyer they hit it off with and is good. On that basis, this seems to be opening up the profession to me rather than limiting opportunities
    4. there are several comments above about the profession being oversubscribed. I don't have the stas so can't comment but the Acculaw business doesn't on its face doesn't increase that issue. It is neutral at worst and potential slightly beneficial. After all, Clifford Chance either take on 100 odd trainees themselves or they take on 90 and let Acculaw take on 10 for them. In the conext of, say, major corporates or banks (who in the current climate are increasing their legal teams) this opportunity may just encourage them to give more serious thought to a trainee programme
    5. if I could have my time again, the biggest single thing I regret is not having the opportunity to sample diffferent types of firms before I joined one. A day spent at a firm gives you a feel but not enough to make a decision on whether it is absolutely the right place for you for the next 2 years. If Acculaw manages to sign up with a decent number of firms, it would be interesting to be able to try before you buy ie to be able to sample, for example, a magic circle firm, the London office of a US firm, a large non-magic circle international firm and a smaller and more dynamic/focussed firm such as Olswang. If you back yourself to succeed and have the confidence then this is a definite plus point
    5. the market is changing and will look massively different in 10 years for obvious reasons. I don't think the traditional way of doing things in the legal profession will continue to be the right way - challenging the norm and challenging firms to evolve is critical to the future success of our industry. This business idea has clearly made people sit up and will challenge the norm - it should therefore be applauded and for that reason alone I think Susan Cooper deserves a pat on the back.

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  • If, as the article states, trainees will be taken on by a minimum of 3 firms, for a minimum of 3 months at each firm, the overall minimum time that trainees will spend in law firms under this scheme as 'trainees' is 9 months.
    So what happens the rest of the time? Say there is a gap between placements...would the trainees sit at home, or would they be farmed out as paralegals in the meantime?
    Is there a time limit on how long a 'trainee' can remain a trainee at Acculaw? Would it be possible to keep a trainee who started and did 3 months somewhere, then had 18 months of of nothing (or paralegal work), and then because of market forces could only fit in another 3 months, meaning they were short of trainee experience and couldn't 'qualify'...or is there no time limit, and so theoretically, in order to accomodate 'market flexibility' could a traineeship go on for the limit of the validity of the LPC (5 years, I believe?)
    How will the sufficiency of the training be signed off; I'm not sure of the rules, but could someone do their 9 months and would that then mean they have completed an 'accelerated' training contract, or do they still have to do two years...if so, what happens during the other 15 months when they might not be working in a law firm?
    Also is the salary a salary which gets paid monthly, or would trainees only be paid the £20k for the time they spent in law firms, and not sitting at home/working as a paralegal?
    Lots of questions, and no answers.... it doesn't sound very good for the trainees, is all I can think. What a lonely existence.

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  • So far only Olswang has put its head above the parapet. I would like to see the names of the others who think this is a good idea. There is no nurturing of trainees to be had under this model and let no one be fooled.
    Lets just say by some good fortune a trainee got four 6 month seats at four law firms, but no NQ offer. The trainee applies for a NQ job a different firm (Firm Five) and gets an interview. The interviewer will presumably want to know why none of the four firms appealed to the trainee. The trainee then admits that all of them did appeal, but none made an offer. I can just see Firm Five jumping at the opportunity to hire this person, can't you? It would be even worse if the trainee said none of the firms appealed. Firm Five would just think this person has no idea and will probably disappear in a few months since he/she does not appear to find any law firm meets his/her standards.

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  • Does this "Acculaw will recruit its own trainees from postgraduate law schools" mean that one has to study on postgraduate course in order to get the TC? what about students studying on GDL? it means students will have to fund themselves for GDL and LPC, is that what they mean? it make even more impossible for young people to build the career in law.

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