Deemed by some a cut price training scheme, the new Accutrainee model claims to offer law firms a way of reducing recruitment costs, whilst not sacrificing headcount.
Law firms, it appears, will be able to cut down on the number of training contracts they offer, and instead turn to Accutrainee for would be solicitors. But could this new model have a positive impact on diversity within the legal profession?
It’s no secret that my personal view on the pledges made by certain firms about increasing their diversity initiatives is, put simply, that they are more often than not cosmetic. So when cost savings come into the equation, could such schemes kick start real long term, meaningful changes to diversity? I suspect so.
Whilst I have no doubt that the top City firms will carry on being very selective surrounding their trainee recruitment, the Accutrainee model could well have an impact on the middle end of the market. Small to medium sized practices that choose to source staff for secondments through this route will open up opportunities that some potential solicitors, under the current system, could only dream of.
Take for instance candidates that have a sound law degree – a 2:1 or above – but not from a Russell Group institution. As it stands, the option of securing a training contract from a magic circle or leading law firm is often just a pipe dream. However, the new Accutrainee models looks set to offer at least a stepping stone to those with potential, and ultimately diversify the profession.
Furthermore, the scheme places trainees into both private practice and in-house positions. It could, therefore, be argued that those who take part in a series of secondments – in both private and in-house practices – could actually be more attractive to potential employers when they come to apply for their first role post qualification.
Clearly, such changes won’t happen overnight. What’s more the scheme will need buy in from multiple parties before we start to see real change. But with backing from several high profile firms, and with Olswang piloting the scheme, it’s off to a good start. And if we can tackle the issue of diversity at the stage where professionals embark on their legal career – surely there is hope for the future?
Justin Kopelowitz, Director DMJ Legal