Co-op training contract freeze continues despite expansion

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By Thomas Connelly on

Hype of “100 training contracts a year by 2017” a distant memory


The Co-operative Group has revealed it has “no immediate” plans to increase its training contract offering, despite the recent purchase of a legal services business.

The legal arm of the retail and banking giant revealed yesterday that it had purchased Collective Legal Solution Group (CLSG), a Sheffield-based inheritance planning specialist for an undisclosed fee.

Despite this week’s positive development, it appears that it will have no effect on the Co-op’s training contract offering.

Back in 2012, the alternative business structure (ABS) trumpeted ambitious plans to offer 100 training contracts annually by 2017. The move — that would have placed the retail giant on a par with magic circle outfit Clifford Chance in the trainee intake stakes — was due to coincide with equally ambitious plans to create five legal hubs across the country.

However, all did not go to plan. In an embarrassing climbdown for the group, plans to take on the magic circle were quickly abandoned. Acquiring its ABS licence in 2012, the firm posted losses of £5 million for the 2013-14 financial year.

Speaking in 2013, Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) director of policy Christina Blacklaws said:

We are not saying that training contracts will not exist at the Co-op, absolutely not. We will increase the numbers as we increase the size of the organisation.

At that time, CLS was offering 10 training contracts a year.

With this week’s more positive development, it appears CLS is now adopting a more cautious approach to trainee lawyer recruitment.

Speaking to Legal Cheek, a spokesperson for CLS revealed that this latest “acquisition” would have “no immediate” effect on training contract numbers.

Unwilling to even reveal how many training contracts it currently offers, CLS would simply confirm that applications open in September and March each year. But before aspiring lawyers rush out to apply, they should take note that, according to the spokesperson:

The current criteria for applying for these contracts includes a minimum of one year’s service within the business.

CLS, with around 50 lawyers, will for the time being operate separately from CLSG and its 100 lawyers. However there are plans for the two legal outfits to merge gradually, and provide wills, trust and probate services.