UK’s biggest legal aid firm advertises for unpaid paralegals
Exclusive: Duncan Lewis tries to hire 20 “volunteer” paralegals — then pulls ad off its website after being contacted by Legal Cheek.
The nation’s biggest legal aid law firm has attempted to hire a host of unpaid paralegals.
In a sign of just how desperate the publicly-funded branch of the profession has become following the government’s cuts to legal aid, London-based Duncan Lewis advertised earlier this month for 20 Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduates to work free of charge for four weeks as “volunteer” paralegals. The positions are full-time. The firm said that paid employment might be offered at the end of that period “subject to individual performance and business need at the time”.
After being contacted by Legal Cheek yesterday, Duncan Lewis swiftly removed the ad from its website and other job sites. But it remains in the Google cache and a screenshot of it can be seen below. Note the proud mention, seemingly without irony, of the firm’s “GOLD Investors in People Status”.
The use of the term “volunteer” in the job description could relate to a legal requirement that obliges employers to pay the minimum wage to staff unless they are “volunteers” with “no expectation of … any reward for the work they do”.
A spokesperson for Duncan Lewis told Legal Cheek:
“Our online volunteer programme advertisement sets out the varied experience that can be gained with us. We are confident that these placements and the activities that we are able to make available beyond ‘work shadowing’ is fully in accordance and compliant within Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) guidance as to what they view as volunteering.
“Although Duncan Lewis sets out from the outset that there is no remuneration or offer of a reward for one’s placement time with us, we are proud to acknowledge that we are a law firm that is actively assisting our next legal generation and at times, in accordance with Acas guidance, where we have an excellent candidate, we do offer paid positions following placements where we are of the view that there is the business need.”
The firm declined to respond to our request as to why it had removed the advert from the internet.