First ever non-lawyer Lord Chancellor will enrol as a law student after 2015 general election in order to become a solicitor at magic circle firm.
Chris Grayling is set to join Slaughter and May after completing his term as justice secretary.
Grayling, who has forged close links with City lawyers during his time as Lord Chancellor, is preparing to commence the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at BPP Law School after the 2015 election is concluded. The history graduate will then undertake the accelerated Legal Practice Course (LPC) with a view to beginning as a trainee at Slaughter and May in July 2017.
The move is a risky one for Slaughter and May, with the possibility of a blacklash from a legal profession that, even at the corporate end, is overwhelming opposed to the legal aid cuts which Grayling has driven through. But the justice secretary’s contacts within government are believed to have led the magic circle giant to press ahead with the controversial hire as it seeks to bolster its public sector practice.
While acknowledging the “extremely positive previous experiences” enjoyed by Grayling, Slaughter and May insists that the move is principally about diversity. A spokesperson for the firm said:
“As a 52 year-old, Christopher falls within an age bracket that is underrepresented at trainee level. Although our graduate recruitment strategy is tailored principally to foster openness to individuals from non-traditional backgrounds, Slaughter and May is committed to taking steps to resolve all types of inequality, whether based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality or age.”
Re-training as a lawyer represents a major undertaking for Grayling, who will be 57 by the time he qualifies and well into his 60s before he would be expected to make partner. Legal Cheek understands that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will only grant Grayling relatively minor exemptions from his legal studies, with the Lord Chancellor to be allowed to sit condensed versions of the GDL constitutional law module and the LPC immigration module. Otherwise, Grayling will complete the courses as normal before entering a full two-year training contract.
The Ministry of Justice has released this statement:
“Chris Grayling has developed great affection for the legal profession during his time as Lord Chancellor and very much looks forward to joining Slaughter and May. Chris was attracted to the firm not only by its excellence in commercial law, but by its impressive pro bono capabilities.
“Chris is keen to lead from the front in demonstrating that the reforms to legal aid will see no reduction in standards. Going forward this will see Chris integrate a thriving commercial practice with a busy pro bono public defender role to marry the very best of British justice and showcase London as the world’s premiere centre of legal excellence.”