Traditional training model is dead

So says Knights managing partner, who believes ABSs are being sidelined

For aspiring lawyers a training contract has long been considered the holy grail, so those who have fought tooth and nail for a spot might not care to hear what Knights Solicitors’ managing partner David Beech has to say: the traditional training model, he declares, is dead.

David Beech

“Students are being taught the same way I was 30 years ago and the legal system is not the same as it was then,” says Beech, whose firm converted to an ABS with the backing of James Caan’s Hamilton Bradshaw in January. It has since launched a paralegal apprenticeship scheme.

“The sector has changed and it will continue to change in the next 10 years – the training system needs to reflect that,” he adds.

Most aspiring lawyers, however, seem reluctant to embrace this.

In October a College of Law report suggested 68 per cent of law students would reject a job offer from an ABS. A measly one per cent said they would consider it. The 68 per cent, though, do concede that ABSs will be big employers of the future.

UCL law professor Richard Moorhead says students still see City firms as the place to be to boost the CV, despite consolidation.

“Students are cautious [about training with an ABS] – most would apply to the big City firms because they’re highly paid and highly visible,” he comments. “There’s a school of thought that says BigLaw is in trouble and if that’s true they will become less appealing financially or in other terms, but at the moment the low visibility [of alternatives] is an issue for students.”

Not everyone agrees.

Riverview Law chief operating officer Adam Shutkever says the top priority for young lawyers is to find a job with “a good career path and get a job, whether that’s with an ABS, a non-ABS or a big City firm – if ABSs broaden out access to the profession, that can only be a good thing”.

With the number of market entrants increasing by the day,

City of London Law Society chief executive David Hobart says: “This debate is about one size, not for all.”

Perhaps it is time horizons were broadened.