Trainees for hire: SRA backs revolutionary plan

New training scheme aims to cut upfront costs for law firms

Susan Cooper
Susan Cooper

The number of graduates recruited by City law firms could be dramatically reduced following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) decision to back a revolutionary training model for aspiring solicitors.

Under the new model Acculaw will recruit its own trainees from postgraduate law schools and then second them to firms on an ad hoc basis, meaning the number of training contracts they offer can be scaled back.

The trainees will spend no less than three months with each firm and will be seconded to a maximum of three different firms or in-house legal departments.

Acculaw, a for-profit organisation, claims the scheme will help firms to cut the upfront costs associated with offering training contracts to students while they are still at university. Such overheads include graduate recruitment marketing activities and Legal Practice Course sponsorship.

It is estimated that it costs a firm approximately £175,000 to recruit and train one graduate.

“Our model was developed to reduce volatility in the number of qualified lawyers available in the ­market,” said Susan Cooper, founder and CEO of Acculaw. “The traditional model is costly, inflexible and inefficient. We want to ensure that capable, talented graduates receive better opportunities to enter the legal profession by making training more attractive and commercially viable to firms and in-house legal departments.

“Training contract numbers have dropped by 23 per cent since July 2008. Legal process outsourcing threatens to reduce that number further. The number of lawyers available in the ­market should be governed by the supply and demand of legal services, not the ­temporary effects of recession or the lure of short-term gains from outsourcing work to low-cost jurisdictions.”

Trainees recruited by Acculaw should expect to receive salaries in excess of £20,000. Although this is above the minimum set by the Law Society it is still ­significantly lower than typical City salaries for trainees, which start at £30,000.

Acculaw’s advisory board includes former Herbert Smith partner Henry Raine and Professor Peter Giblin, a visiting professor in the ­Faculty of Management at Cass Business School.

Former Linklaters senior partner Tony Angel welcomed the initiative.

“[This is] an innovative approach to solving the challenges firms face in recruiting the appropriate number of trainees and managing their cost while mitigating the impact of market dynamics on potential trainees,” he said.