Rich parents blocked from buying kids legal work experience as magic circle firms withdraw from charity auction

Allen & Overy and Freshfields in significant U-turn

Instagram (Rich Kids of London)
Instagram (Rich Kids of London)

A pair of magic circle firms have reversed decisions to offer up work experience in a charity auction.

The move comes after senior individuals at Freshfields and Allen & Overy pledged the paid-for placements as prizes to raise money for The Duchenne Research Fund, which helps find cures for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Bidding for a vac scheme-length fortnight at Freshfields and a week at Allen & Overy that was dubbed “perfect for [a] 17-19 year old school or gap year student” was to begin at £100 in a swish dinner taking place next month at the Lancaster London Hotel overlooking Hyde Park. Typically prizes at such events, which are sold to the highest bidder, can fetch thousands of pounds.

But overnight details of the duo’s involvement leaked into the legal blogosphere via RollOnFriday and both Freshies and A&O have backed out.

This morning Freshfields sent this statement to Legal Cheek:

We are immensely proud of our award winning work experience programme. Last year we provided placements to over 150 students from less privileged backgrounds. Whilst this opportunity was well intentioned with regards to the charity, it does not fit with what we are trying to achieve with those students. Accordingly, we are in touch with the charity and will ensure that we reach an alternative solution with regards to their fundraising efforts.

Hot on its heels, A&O issued this release:

This was a well intentioned offer from a partner to help a great charity undertaking much needed research into the fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We are vocal advocates of social mobility and as such have withdrawn the work experience offer from the auction to ensure our CSR efforts do not conflict. We will be making a donation to Duchenne Research Fund to ensure its great work continues.

Given their participation in diversity work experience schemes like PRIME, and other commitments to widening the socio-economic profile of new recruits, it’s surprising that the firms allowed the work experience places to be advertised for sale in their name. But their prompt action to withdraw from the auction represents progress for the legal profession.

Three years ago the bar declined to do anything when it emerged that Westminster School was auctioning off a mini-pupillage. Indeed, the coveted mini with a leading criminal barrister eventually sold for £2,660.

You can donate to the Duchenne Research Fund here.

60 Comments

Anonymous

What if the money could have been put to use for some underprivileged school outreach programme?

Would the auction then be deemed morally wrong?

(9)(19)
Anonymous

I think the point is that, as both the firms have said, there are others way to raise just as much money without contradicting principles of social mobility by allowing people to buy CV points.

(33)(4)
Bumblebee

I don’t think the first commenter was actually suggesting the auction go ahead and that the proceeds go towards social mobility. Rather, s/he was asking an interesting philosophical question about morality.

As an analogy, imagine the article was about animal rights and the commenter had asked, “What if a vegetarian is told that unless they eat one chicken, ten chickens will be needlessly slaughtered? Would eating the chicken be morally wrong?”

Obviously we could solve the problem by not forcing the vegetarian to corrupt his/her values, and not needlessly slaughtering ten chickens. But that doesn’t answer the question.

(14)(4)
Anonymous

Pathetic; a bunch of multi-millionaires hoping that ostentatious virtue signalling will atone for their sins. Does it occur to them that every padded out hour of billable time means the client company has £700 less to pay its workforce or fill its pension fund deficit?

(8)(17)
Anonymous

Well if they can’t afford to pay £700 an hour then perhaps they shouldn’t be using law firms which charge that amount.

(20)(0)
Anonymous

For every hour not billed to the client means work might be screwed up, which could screw the client and make the client bankrupt, forcing the client to screw its workers by firing them.

That’s a slippery slope there for you, my dear leftist university student who obviously has no idea what commercial awareness means.

(8)(2)
shadowy figure

oh get over yourself, we all know you inflate billable hours

(0)(1)
Anonymous

Firms actually often give discounts to their clients because of overbilling

(3)(0)
Anonymous

“…every hour not billed to the client means work might be screwed up, which could screw the client and make the client bankrupt…”

What? Clients that aren’t constantly charged by law firms are at risk?

Are you for real?

(1)(0)
Bantersaurus Lex

And this, folks, is why the term ‘commercial awareness’ is drilled into your heads throughout Law School.

(17)(2)
Anonymous

The only question left, then, is how did this guy become a partner in a law firm if he couldn’t see the stupidity of his idea..

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Whether it’s a lack of common sense or morals, there’s plenty of partners who fall into either or both categories.

(1)(0)
Corbyn. Sympathiser.

I imagine he was chosen for his skill and experience in his chosen field of law, and not for his PR skills.
Still, I agree with you that one would imagine that any lawyer (or indeed almost anyone in any highly sought after profession) would have more common sense than this.

(1)(2)
Anonymous

It’s not being stupid really. He’s just cynical. Someone called him on his bullshit, fair enough. Will that decrease the numberof applications of youngs that want nothing but become like him? Of course not.

Why restrain yourself when you know you can shit on the people and they’ll still ask for more?

(1)(0)
Bantersaurus Lex

I don’t think any malice was involved. Just not enough foresight to recognise the obvious implications this prize would give. A lack of common sense and a failure to appreciate the difficulties of less well-off students.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

There are plenty of these type of “auctions” that happen – just because a couple of firms have been caught out in one instance doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, or will not continue to happen. The “good intentions” are also often in the partners’ own self-interests and not just about raising money for charity.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

In any other industry this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but in law it’s a pretty shoddy idea given the competitiveness for vac scheme places. It also contradicts any social mobility policies the firms have.

I’m torn though because these prizes probably would attract pretty high bids for good causes. And MC firms not doing it won’t stop rich kids from getting work experience in daddy’s high street practice.

(3)(0)
Corbyn. Sympathiser.

I disagree. There are many professions, such as journalism, publishing, and architecture, to name a few, where similar ‘auctions’ for work experience would (or at least, should) be highlighted for the ‘buy-ins’ that they potentially represent.

As has been said above, it’s not as if money raising for good causes is one or the other. I’m sure that a law firm with extensive contacts and resources across the globe can provide an entertaining auction prize for bidders which doesn’t violate the firm’s own social mobility policies.

(2)(2)
Violet Beauregarde

But Daddy! You promised that I would get that Vacation Scheme!!

*Stampsfeetinrage*

(20)(3)
Anonymous

Wrong Roald Dahl character.

It was Verruca Salt to whom you are referring.

#epicfail

(2)(6)
Anonymous

Veruca Salt. You spelt it wrong. But you’re so clever you must have done that on purpose. Very good.

(6)(1)
Anonymous

Hi Veruca,

I’m sorry that I offended you by mistaking you with the purple child. Either way, you spoilt brat, my point was well-received and you don’t get your Vacation Scheme. Please learn to spell your name properly and you might get through to interview stage without Daddy paying for everything.

P.s. Doubt you’ll survive a training contract. They don’t allow ponies in the office.

(1)(2)
Veruca Salt

The last laugh was mine!

I pood my pants on purpose and made myself sick!

#cleanthatupdaddy

*pouts*

(2)(2)
Non-paying future MC trainee

But it’s not a vac scheme, it’s a vac scheme ‘style’ placement. Hardly the same. In any event, the firm isn’t to blame for this, it’s the partner who made the offer.

(3)(3)
Anonymous

A vac scheme “style” placement sure as hell won’t be described as such on the CV. You can bet they will remove the word “style”, and any recruiting firm later won’t bother to check.

In effect therefore they’ll pay to get a MC vac-scheme on their CV, instead of getting a place on merit, which will help enormously when applying for TCs.

(4)(2)
Anon.

However is still gives a massive advantage to the rich kids providing they are smart.

Especially for those who study non-law subjects, you do not get vacation schemes without work experience. And you don’t get work experience unless you know people.

If my rich and influential father payed £10,000 for the privilege of work experience at a MC firm I potentially wished to work for, I would milk the hell out of it:

1) Talk to every trainee about interviews/application process/extra-curricular activities.

2) Talk to Recruitment for longer then 5 minutes (as you would in a law fair). Perhaps even ask them to look over my CV.

3) Talk to the partner who have interviewed students in the past.

4) Mention the work experience in my future application. It’s more convincing to say I worked at your firm for a week and found the so and so good then to say I went to the careers fair and all of your trainees were super friendly!

5) Find a partner who specialised in an area of law I was interested in, and may potentially include on my application.

6) Network like crazy.

So I now basically know how to tailor my application and what I ought to do to become a better candidate.

(14)(1)
Anonymous

1.) Get good grades, and show a serious interest in law. That will allow you to get work experience. Maybe not in the form of heavy hitting corporate work, but a handful of mini pups at small chambers after first year will be all that is needed.
2.) Volunteer for a legal charity. Many Universities offer clinics, and if not, then CAB are always looking.
3.) Get an interesting job, and be active at university. Doing different things makes you look interesting.
4.) Once the above is done, apply for law firm open days. Be interesting, friendly, and do all of the stuff you’ve said above (except asking them to look over your CV). Strike up conversation with HR throughout the day, and make sure you are memorable.

You are now in a good place for applying for a training contract or vac scheme at said firm(s), without having the advantages of a connected family. Yes, this kind of thing gives people a slight advantage, but it doesn’t make it impossible for those of us who are willing to put the leg work in to compete.

(5)(2)
Anonymous

Thanks for the reply.

Should I still apply for mini-pup even if I have no intention of being a barrister?

(2)(3)
Anonymoose

Definitely. I did some with regional chambers, despite wanting to work in the city. I have since vac schemed and secured a tc with one of the firms that this article concerns.

During the minis I spent most of the time doing criminal, PI and employment, but did manage to get to look at some commercial problems. It’s quite interesting to see what barristers do in practice, but there are plenty of practical reasons for doing it.
a.) You need to show the firms you apply to that you are serious about a career in law. Any legal work experience helps to this goal
b.) There are usually questions along the lines of “why do you want to work in x field of law” and “why do you want to be a solicitor”. Answers based on evidence and experience will always get you further than answers based on hearsay or rhetoric. If you can identify the aspects that you enjoyed, and those that you did not, of the work that a barrister does and the other fields of law, you will be able to build a better response.
c.) it gives you the opportunity to spend a lot of time with professionals, so that you can ask relevant questions and build your knowledge of both sides of the profession prior to putting together applications.

(2)(1)
Anon

To secure your Mini-pups, did you say that you wished to be a barrister, even if this is untrue?

(0)(1)
Anonymoose

I said I was undecided as to which side of the profession I wanted to go to, but was interested in advocacy and seeing what life at the bar was like etc. Chambers aren’t charities in the end, and they’re not going to give work experience to people who are definitely not going to be potential pupil applicants. At the same time, you are under no obligation towards them afterwards, just be civilised and mind your ps and qs.

(0)(0)
Barwoman

Personally I find this idea a little questionable if there is no intention to even consider the Bar. Barristers are self-employed; looking after mini-pupils is a hassle. It is not in my view fair to mislead professionals into giving up their time by way of misrepresentation.

More pertinently, minis are limited – if you are there, a wannabe barrister who could really have benefited isn’t.

(0)(1)
Future MC trainee

I more or less did this and got a TC with an MC firm without doing any vac schemes or open days.

Getting a TC is doable as long as you have the skills, knowledge, and personality.

(1)(0)
Knemon

What University did you go to, if you don’t mind me asking?

(0)(0)
Anonymoose

Not sure if this is aimed at me or another poster in this thread. I don’t want to say which uni I went to/am at, because I would like to keep my anonymity. Not golden triangle, but still a RG University.

(0)(1)
Nobody

Even if you said the name of the uni, how the hell are we going to figure out who you are?!! Or, more to the point, why would we want to?

(0)(0)
Future US Trainee

“Especially for those who study non-law subjects, you do not get vacation schemes without work experience”

I obtained a vac scheme with a US firm whilst studying a non law subject and whilst having negligible work experience.. I’m not Oxbridge either, before you ask.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

Exactly the same with me. The point of vac schemes IS experience, some of them obviously want you to have a bit of legal experience but to insinuate that it’s impossible to get a VC without experience is totally wrong, and defeats their purpose

(0)(0)
Anon.

I’m quite interested to know what you wrote about in the ‘Why do you want to be a Commerical Lawyer’ box.

Without work experience, would you not just be resting on hypothetical assumptions?

I spoke with a former associate of a MC company, and he told me the same. ‘I think I have the skills to be a solicitor because so and so told me at a law fair’ is less persuasive then ‘Based on past experience, I think I have the skills to be an excellent solicitor’.

As a former associate of a MC firm told me, commercial awareness, team working skills, articulacy and the ability to turn the complex to the comprehensible applies to quite a few jobs. So why choose law?

(0)(0)
Anon.

Oh dear. That really was badly written and made no sense.

I hope law firms don’t read this!

(0)(0)
Non-paying future MC trainee

I accept both of your points, but still think the issue is being overstated.

1. They can remove the word ‘style’ all they like, but all recruiters know MC vacation schemes inevitably involve being automatically considered/interviewed for a TC. So, the question goes: “You did a vacation scheme at X, why are you applying for a TC with us?” and the lie slowly unravels.

2. Of course, they are getting a foot in the door on the basis of daddy’s money, and not merit, but doing a MC vac scheme ≠ getting a MC training contract. If they aren’t good enough on the basis of merit at a subsequent interview, they won’t get a TC offer.

Again, I accept your points, but thing this is being blown out of proportion. It definitely helps to get a foot in the door for TC interviews but no firm is going to offer you a TC just because you did a vac scheme somewhere else. You still have to actually be good enough.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Although despite the lie you have gained relevant legal experience. I’m not sure grace and favour placements count against capable candidates once you’re at interview stage.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

1. They can remove the word ‘style’ all they like, but all recruiters know MC vacation schemes inevitably involve being automatically considered/interviewed for a TC. So, the question goes: “You did a vacation scheme at X, why are you applying for a TC with us?” and the lie slowly unravels.

It’ll be obvious that’s it not a ‘vac-scheme’. if this sort of placement is aimed at 17-19 year olds, they’ll be applying for vacation schemes/TCs in 2-3 years time..Any recruiter will realise that the placement happened whilst the student was still in school.

(Also, I think firms understand that not everyone converts their MC VS. You’d have some explaining to do with regards to why you didn’t get the TC offer, but a Freshfields VS will be a big help to someone in their pursuit for TC interviews.)

(0)(0)
Puzzled daddy

Will there also be an article about DWF’s threats to sue their trainee to pay back the £12k LPC fees, Alex?

Or is that perhaps too sensitive to write about given they probably line your pockets for all the puffery you write about them on your blog?

(11)(1)
RoF Rozzer

Hah, of course ROF picked up on it – unlike the two-bit hacks at LC.

(4)(1)
Curious George

Do spill mate, I was offered a TC with them recently!

(1)(0)
Anonymous

I hope you love the firm a lot, because you’re going to be handcuffed there for 4 years.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

Not sure if you’re being sarcy. Read the link. Basically, leave the firm before 2 PQE, pay back your LPC costs.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

Of course I was being sarcy. I didn’t mean they physically handcuff you to the office.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Anon @5.25, wasn’t aimed at you. Was replying the curious

(0)(0)
They're having a laugh

Hah, if that is genuinely their policy across the board for all incoming Trainees then DWF can kiss their hiring strategy goodbye – only the most desperate/naive/misinformed would be willing to be indentured for four years in what is essentially an insurance claim boiler room.

If anyone thought Haliwells was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet until this bloated mess of a firm goes belly-up.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Not sure what all the fuss is about. CV “points” are already bought, anyway – albeit in a more indirect manner.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Oh wait, you’re addressing me. Sorry, the meth does make me a little twitchy.

CV points can be scored according to the area you grew up in (and therefore the school you attended, and your grades), the university attended (with cost implications depending on where you go), postgraduate and professional qualifications (where availability of funds is immensely important), and work experience/internships (with better experiences usually leaving you more out-of pocket).

(1)(0)

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