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Research: Law firms are failing to support qualifying trainees who aren’t kept on

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Three quarters of rookie lawyers admit to having no back up plan

Trainee lawyers who are not kept on after qualifying should receive more support from their firm, new research has suggested.

Seventy-two percent of rookie respondents said that they thought their firm should provide some sort of support to newly qualified (NQ) lawyers not staying on post-qualification. Despite this desire for help, more than half of NQs (53%) reported receiving no help at all.

The research, undertaken by online recruitment platform NQSolicitors, questioned over 350 final seat trainees and NQ lawyers.

One respondent, who wished to remain anonymous, said she received no support after being told by her large commercial law firm that she would not be receiving an associate offer. She told researchers:

“This made me feel pretty unappreciated after working very hard for two years, and worried about finding a suitable position elsewhere. It made me feel quite dispensable although I was still working six days each week as I was so busy. They wanted me to continue to work hard but for no purpose from my perspective other than to learn as much as possible before I left, which is why I did it. I found the firm surprisingly ruthless given their size and history.”

That’s not to say that every firm is failing to offer support to departing NQs.

The findings show that 29% of respondents were provided with help with their choice of direction on qualification, although 44% of newbies said they would have liked this help. Meanwhile, 18% were offered assistance with their CV, yet 37% said they would have welcomed this type of support.

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Despite 50% of NQs stating they would have welcomed informal introductions to other firms looking to hire, just 12% of rookies were provided with this. Twelve percent were assisted with preparing for interviews (41% wanted this), while 5% were offered help with their LinkedIn profile (37% wanted this support). Just 23% of NQs said they did not require any assistance.

Elsewhere in the research, nearly three-quarters of respondents (71%) revealed they had no firm back up plan in case they were not retained, despite just 15% stating they were unequivocally confident they were going to be offered an NQ role.

The findings come after the Law Society of England and Wales urged law firms to avoid leaving trainees in retention limbo — i.e leaving it until the last moment to let them know if they’re being kept on or not.

The guidance, issued earlier this year, states that “as part of good practice” firms should inform rookies at least 12 weeks before qualification as to when they can expect a decision about retention. Then, the recommendations state, outfits should inform trainees of this decision no later than eight weeks prior to their expected admission date.

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54 Comments

Anonymous

Research doesn’t say they SHOULD receive more help. It says they WANT more help.

Which is probably the sort of daft answer that explains why they aren’t being kept on. Why on earth would any firm waste their time sorting you out after they don’t bother keeping you, presumably because you’re rubbish?

(31)(11)

Anonymous

If you didn’t meet their standards why would they help you find a new job? Life is tough, grow up, grow a pair and be an adult about it you poor snowflakes

(28)(8)

Anonymous

I cannot think of any other “profession” which wastes 2+ years of potential recruits lives, only to bin +60% of them at the last minute

It’s appalling and shouldn’t be allowed

(8)(25)

Anonymous

Bin 60%+?! Which firms do you know with a <40% retention rate?

(22)(1)

Anonymous

IM

(3)(0)

Tom C

You obviously don’t read my lovely retention rate articles 🙁

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Dechert is notorius

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Same at Kirkland, I am afraid.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Then why do they recruit laterals at NQ?

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Because half the trainee intake has left, dipshit

Anonymous

Notorius? Is he Greek or Roman?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Do you really think becoming a qualified solicitor is a waste of time? I’d argue that that’s the main goal of the majority of people taking these training contracts! If the firm deems that they can’t retain everyone from that intake it doesn’t mean they are just leaving the NQs with nothing, they’ve invested time and money to get those NQs trained in the profession that they chose. The firms don’t owe them anything as far as I’m concerned.

(26)(1)

Anonymous

*wink* *wink* Dechert

(5)(0)

Anonymous

It doesn’t waste two years of their lives, fool. It pays them handsomely and gives them a valuable and portable qualification that enables them to walk into a job elsewhere either in this country or overseas.

(12)(0)

Regional Partner

If they think that 2 years of a training contract in which they get exposure to great work and are paid many multiples of the average national income is a waste of two years of their lives then it goes along way to explain (a) why they were not kept on and (b) why they find it difficult to get another job.

The sheer sense of entitlement revealed in this survey is breath-taking.

(16)(4)

ROFL @ Regional Partner

Back to your regions you go then, Gomer.

An 3PQE at Kirkland & Ellis will earn only twice as much as you.

(1)(6)

loljkm8

“An 3PQE”? You’re certainly not a shoe-in for Kirkland & Ellis…

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Plenty of people are perfectly decent trainees but don’t receive an offer for all sorts of reasons. You might want to qualify into a practice area with only one slot and three applicants. You might have got unlucky with rubbish principals across the board, sill scraped through reasonable appraisals but not manage to impress anywhere (it’s very difficult to do extremely well in a seat if you have a bad principal).

Every cohort at big firms has numerous people who leave for various reasons, and the fact you think it only happens because they’re rubbish proves you are probably an embittered graduate with no TC at all.

That said, any trainee who doesn’t prepare not to qualify by lining up recruiters and making connections is just being negligent. Qualification is never a guarantee – the 2008 crisis mk2 could happen tomorrow or your firm might turn into KWM overnight.

(53)(1)

Anonymous

Whatever happened to people having some personal bloody initiative?

(36)(3)

Optional

In any other role would there be an expectation that your employer would help you to find a new job if they said they weren’t keeping you on? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but they have no more an obligation to assist a soon-to-be ex-employee than they do a random stranger.

It’s a tough world out there, anyone who’s managed to even secure a TC knows that and should be trying their best to perform and to show that they are a worthwhile investment, surely?

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Do you really think becoming a qualified solicitor is a waste of time? I’d argue that that’s the main goal of the majority of people taking these training contracts! If the firm deems that they can’t retain everyone from that intake it doesn’t mean they are just leaving the NQs with nothing, they’ve invested time and money to get those NQs trained in the profession that they chose. The firms don’t owe them anything as far as I’m concerned.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Did you even read my comment before you pasted your response? I said it’s the same deal, firm owes you nothing – if you want to stay you need to work hard and prove yourself.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Do you really think becoming a qualified solicitor is a waste of time? I’d argue that that’s the main goal of the majority of people taking these training contracts! If the firm deems that they can’t retain everyone from that intake it doesn’t mean they are just leaving the NQs with nothing, they’ve invested time and money to get those NQs trained in the profession that they chose. The firms don’t owe them anything as far as I’m concerned.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

I see.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Responded to the wrong comment, my bad

(2)(0)

LinksNQ

There’s a distinction. I know a couple of trainees in my intake didn’t get offers. A couple of others didn’t apply because they had an NQ offer from a US firm. The trainees who left for US firms were all really rather good; the trainees who just didn’t get an offer much less so.

(19)(1)

Anonymous

There are many reasons why people aren’t kept on. Being rubbish is only one of them. The firm may not have performed as well as they would have liked, and therefore don’t have the work, or the trainee may wish to practice on an area that the firm doesn’t have sufficient capacity to support.

While it’s right that people should show initiative, it is also right that they should be given enough time to do this through earlier communication of decisions. It is also in the firm’s interest to give some level of support. You never know where the trainee will end up. Perhaps in house at the firm’s best client.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

This is why firms should do more to support the poor little buggers.

Firm X has 2 applicants for 1 spot in Area A and 1 applicant for 2 spots in Area B. Firm Y has 2 applicants for 1 spot in Area B and 1 applicant for 2 spots in Area A.

Do some sort of trade. Simple example of course, but something should be done.

It is an absolute massacre out there. Battlefields with no rules or structure.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

What about that flog who got kicked out of Ince for being a dunce? Any info on his whereabouts?

(1)(1)

Not Amused

Children and young people often grow up believing that a powerful external force either ‘does’ or ‘should’ control all things.

This is understandable, but there are two important things to remember:

1. It isn’t true. Reality is random and fundamentally uncontrollable. So even if you allow an all powerful political force to control your life, it still can’t do so completely. Like kings of old it will fail when floods or droughts come.

2. Allowing an all powerful force to arise because you think it will be benevolent is how every single tyranny in human history has begun.

(14)(5)

Anonymous

This is far deeper than I expected for a Monday morning LC comment.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

This pseudo-intellectual comment misses the point that the trainees in this case are not inventing some higher power which owes duties to them, or causing that force to arise by making demands of it. The higher power already literally exists, in the form of the firm providing the training contract. The conduct of a law firm in providing training is not a ‘random and fundamentally uncontrollable’ force, it’s a force that is wielded by individuals and influenced by a number of different entirely knowable factors: commercial concerns, regulatory duties and – yes – pressure from employees. Trainees who demand that certain things be included in their TC provision may or may not have a good case, but they’re not thereby creating an authority or a duty of care on the part of the firm that would not otherwise exist.

(6)(0)

JD Partner

I recommended my trainee to a good firm on qualification. They’re based in a basement in Soho. I still see her every Thursday night on my way home.

(5)(6)

Anonymous

Top bantz

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Photo is inaccurate. I am unaware of any firm that allows trainees to keep desk plants.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

“Three quarters of rookie lawyers admit to having no back up plan”

No shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit

When it costs upwards of forty grand for an LLB, the competition for TCs and experience is intense

You don’t have enough money for a spread bet

Just start suing the unis when your LLB from Hull doesn’t get you a job

(5)(3)

AnActualLawyer

Yeah we’re talking about people who are already in training contracts and aren’t being retained, rather than law students. General note to students – you’re not a “rookie lawyer” the first time you pick up a constitutional law textbook.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Give a man a fish, he will eat the fish and then go hungry. Teach a man to fish, he may or may not catch fish for the rest of his life depending upon the quality of your teaching and his ability and effort as a fisherman. If you’re going to teach a man to fish, you are preventing from him learning to hunt because of the time it takes up. Also bear in mind that while you are teaching the man to fish the man only takes home a reasonably small percentage of what he catches. I think it isn’t so simple as blaming it on the now-fisherman.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

No backup plan, really? Recruiters are after you like rats leading up to qualification. It’s not hard to speak to a few and get your CV out there.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

It seems reasonable to expect to be told in good time whether or not there is an NQ position for you. I have no idea whether firms generally do this, or whether they stick to the ‘at least 8 weeks in advance’ rule suggested in the article, but that seems a reasonable time period. That should be sufficient time to find an NQ position at some other firm.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Some firms are notoriously shet at giving advance notice. They purposefully keep you in the dark as to the availability yet also want to stop you you sending out CVs to recruiters by having NQ interviews early on in the year, as early as April, for the September round.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Firms are not just employing trainees but also training them. So a firm has different obligations to trainees than to employees. Helping a trainee find a suitable placement at the end of training doesn’t seem obviously outside the firm’s remit to me. I don’t know if it is practical to demand that all firms take certain defined steps, but providing a mentor who is available to discuss applications and facilitate introductions is something that should be possible for large firms, and I think it would be best practice to offer this. Certainly this is what my chambers does for pupils who are not taken on. Being part of a profession means doing things for the good of the profession as a whole, not just for profit.

(7)(6)

Anonymous

It would cost very little and be in the interests of the firm to assist those who are not kept on. Being a bit of a shit to somebody can really come back to bite you in the legal world.

I know somebody who wasn’t kept on at their City firm (due to more applicants than places in their department of choice). The firm provided no feedback, no support, no details, no assistance and just acted like he never existed. Two years later and he is in-house at a major client of his training firm. Every chance he has to send work to a rival firm, he takes.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

US trainee solicitor here. Just a word, why do you guys feel the need to say “I’d argue…” and “x is this case”, when you haven’t a numpties about the job or the profession. It is amazing how confident you all are about your own opinions on the internet which are mostly based on looking at associate and partner salaries out of context.

(0)(6)

Anonymous

Come again?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I mean: none of you know anything about anything but pretend like you do. It’s very firm and individual specific. If firms don’t have the capacity and/or business need to take on a specific trainee, then yes they should help them find something elsewhere. Enough of unemployed students with crap grades telling people like me how lucky they are. Thanks.

(1)(4)

Anonymous

I know a fuck-load actually, you pr*ck.

I certainly know an awful lot about my own firm. I speak to former colleagues and friends at different firms and I know a good whack about those firms too.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Where do you train, US trainee?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

A US firm.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Please don’t encourage trainees to have a back up plan, as the head of a legal recruitment company where on earth would we otherwise get our staff?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I changed careers. When my last job was sucking and I was on my way out my former employer didn’t offer me anything. I didn’t need anything, I was leaving with an offer at a firm but they didn’t know that. I said I had been there (a big international logistics company) in a mid level position for 6-8 years and I told my boss I needed a step up or I’m leaving, although I was more polite about it. Boss said no and never talked to me again: everything was communicated through HR after that. I expected nothing more or less.

I honestly don’t think any employer should be expected to help staff leaving. Sure it’s a nice thing to do if it’s an amicable leave or a bad circumstance, such as the KWM failure, but not a rule. However, as this is a regulated profession I believe the BSB/Inns of Court, SRA and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives should be required to be more involved than they currently are. Hell, if not out of principle, then at least to get value out of the membership fees.

Barristers/CILEx/Solicitors in between roles should receive assistance from these organisations to fill short term vacancies as locums, or fill roles in the various university law clinics/CABs with guidance on how to be paid for legal aid work, etc. There’s plenty of gaps in the profession that need filling, but there needs to be centralised support for it to happen efficiently.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I like how you put cilex in front of solicitors.

Nice to let them pretend.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I’m a solicitor and I’ll be very honest and say that I don’t really know what cilex is.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The good ones are usually in low-tier conveyancing or SQE to become a solicitor anyways.

All jokes aside, it’s a shame that the profession considers them qualified lawyers but refuses to acknowledge that on the pay bands. Oh well.

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

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