Firms go traineespotting

With 14,000 students chasing 5,000 places, recruiters are rethinking the selection routine

Anyone hunting a training contract should note the endless queue. University graduates see law as a relatively safe option in a rocky jobs market, but in 2009/10 there were 11,370 full-time and 3,140 part-time LPC places compared with just 4,874 newly registered training contracts. 

With thousands of eager students getting in line, where do firms even begin when it comes to finding those with most potential? 

Well, it’s tricky. So tricky, in fact, that the market is being forced to think outside the box. Lets start with Kent County Council’s (KCC) legal team, which is taking applications for its trainee programme for four days only in a ‘flash sale’-style Twitter campaign.

“The idea is to attract people who really want to work in local government or already have an interest in Kent, not just people who are after any training contract,” says KCC’s principal solicitor Ben Watts. “The application process will only be advertised on our website and on Twitter, and then only for four days. We don’t want so many applications that we miss the right people.”

Others are using different tactics. RPC’s graduate recruitment slogan is ‘Rip Up The Rule Book’, something it proved willing to do by replacing its flat rate NQ salary with a performance-based system last week. The new base rate for a London NQ will be lower than £58,000 – that’s not far off half the £100,000 being offered by some US firms such as Davis Polk & Wardwell

“The concept of the flat rate has passed its sell-by date and no longer has integrity,” says managing partner Jonathan Watmough. “It doesn’t recognise the different merits of individual NQs, nor does it recognise the market variances between the different branches of law into which they will qualify.”

While the global elite are clearly playing a different ball game – with Davis Polk – it is good to see others mixing things up a bit. Whether KCC’s flash sale or RPC’s performance-based system pay off or not, the oversubscribed rulebook is overdue a rewrite.