DWF is set to offer a new trainee seat in its legal tech team, as the business faces increasing client demands involving innovation and technology.

The listed firm will give one trainee the opportunity to take on the seat as part of its next rotation in February 2021. The candidates will receive a list with all the seats available in coming weeks.

The pilot will first include a single trainee, with another one coming in September if the initiative is successful.

The creation of a seat follows the recent build-out of a centralised legal tech team in the North West region, which is led by head of legal delivery and transformation Jamie Whalebone alongside chief information officer Daniel Pollick. With a slew of new technology projects underway, the team is busy enough to offer support roles.

The trainee will be able to help both lawyers and clients with the application of technology on matters, identifying the right solution for each conundrum – whether it is around new capabilities or processes such as due diligence.

“On the educational front, it will help them change their thinking when it comes to service delivery,” Whalebone told The Lawyer.  “If they look at client matters and they learn to know which tools suit different needs, they will get to their PQE with a much richer understanding on the art of the possible.”

The trainee will be able to sink their teeth in projects around document automation, artificial intelligence and e-discovery, spanning requests coming from different practices. For instance, the candidate will be able to learn how to train algorithms in machine learning software, while also having the chance to collaborate with the research and development units comprised in the listed firm’s NewLaw offering Connected Services.

While this will be advertised as a regular seat, the firm will focus on those boasting backgrounds in technology and STEM subjects, the firm’s emerging talent manager Kate Hasluck noted, as well as relevant experience and inclinations highlighted in the personal narratives written as part of the application process.

The outcome of the seat pilot will be reviewed after the six month of the rotation. “We plan to always have a trainee in the team eventually, but one is enough at the moment to test the water,” Hasluck explained.

It is yet to be decided whether the seat will open the opportunity of qualifying into the unit as a newly-qualified lawyer, which will depend on the growth trajectory and workload of the legal tech team.

In DWF’s North West offices, first-year trainees earn around £26,000, rising to £28,000 in their second year.

The project reflects the need for new areas of knowledge that the next generation of lawyers will have to develop. It builds on other changes experimented by DWF when it comes to its graduate recruitment. Last August, the firm said it would stop asking for specific A level grades from training contract applicants. Instead, it will for “good A levels” or Scottish Highers or the equivalent qualification in other countries.

The decision was made to attract talent that might otherwise have been put off by the firm’s grade requirements.

A few weeks ago, DWF launched a new work placement scheme for BAME individuals, called Ethnic Minority Access Scheme, which has been developed with diversity-focused organisation Aspiring Solicitors to help six individuals from these backgrounds to gain paid work experience in the business over a period of one week. During the placement, candidates will work on live legal matters with the help of a supervisor and a mentor within DWF’s commercial practice in London and Manchester.

The first group will start in April 2021, with the programme running every year.