Clifford Chance is launching a new internship that will allow its future trainees to develop business nous and entrepreneurial skills, the response to an environment where clients increasingly demand a broader set of abilities than traditional legal advice.

Operationally, meanwhile, the firm will decrease the number of places available on its traditional vacation scheme as it focuses more on a different way of finding trainees and invests more in developing future talent.

The internship programme, dubbed LIFT – an acronym for ‘Learning Internships for Future Trainees’ – will for last two months and kick off over the summer of 2020, when Clifford Chance will arrange placements at several companies that are participating in the programme, as well as internal opportunities within the firm.

LIFT will give students who have signed up to a Clifford Chance training contract the opportunity to expand their legal education during their university break, with placements enabling them to pick up broader business skills spanning product design, business development and marketing, as well as tech knowledge around coding and data analytics.

LIFT was developed by the firm’s head of graduate talent Laura Yeates and graduate recruitment specialist Yasmina Kone, who lead a team of six graduate programme professionals and four development ones. The duo ran the application and review process around LIFT, as well as the matchmaking effort to place candidates in partner companies. The internship is paid, with the participants receiving the same at the Clifford Chance’s vacation scheme students, £450 per week.

LIFT builds on the firm’s existing ‘Spark’ scheme, a work experience week for first-year university students that can result in an interview for a training contract. The focus on Spark as its key trainee pipeline is one of the reasons for the firm decreasing the number of vacation scheme spots. To accommodate for the reduction in vac scheme places the firm will run additional open days for penultimate-year students.

Yeates said that LIFT is a further effort on the part of Clifford Chance to step away from traditional recruitment methods. “As the legal industry evolves, students are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from their peers. They are looking for opportunities that will help them develop both personally and professionally, and allow them to have an immediate impact when starting their training contracts,” she said.

As it developed the concept for LIFT, the firm organised a pilot that ran over a two-year period, funding placements for 10 trainees who would spend time at Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, a separate entity to the firm’s LLP and home to its set of digital tools, as well as a number of external companies. They included: cloud computing consultancy Cloudreach; real-time employment chat platform Meet & Engage; and online legal marketplace Lexoo, with which the firm previously launched a technology-focused internship.

During the pilot, two future trainees who went to Cloudreach earned a cloud practitioner certification that would normally require a six-month completion period.

The application process for LIFT will open in early 2020, with Clifford Chance currently looking for partnerships with companies interested in taking part in the project.

Over the past few years, Clifford Chance has looked at ways to adapt its training to a time when technology is radically affecting the legal profession. The firm recently debuted an apprenticeship training scheme for legal project managers, as firms are increasingly on the look-out for professionals to support large-scale client initiatives. The new scheme was developed in collaboration with experts from WhiteHat, a startup that creates alternatives to university through apprenticeships and was co-founded by Euan Blair, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.