News

Firm charges law students £695 for ‘virtual internship’

By on
32

Company co-founder accepts it’s ‘a bit controversial’

“We realise that [it] is a bit controversial”, says Virtual Internships co-founder Edward Holroyd Pearce. You can say that again: Pearce’s firm is charging students £695 for a remote legal internship in a scheme lawyers have branded “morally wrong”.

Virtual Internships claims that its programme, under which customers pay to work remotely for unnamed companies, offers “real-world, experience” to help “students & recent graduates kickstart their careers”.

The firm recently advertised the legal version of the scheme via careers website The Student Lawyer, touting a £100 discount on the normal price of £695. (On the Virtual Internships website, the package is priced higher still, at £795.)

For that, students get to work unpaid for up to 300 hours, as well as a “comprehensive professional development course”, mentoring and a reference. The company says that typical roles include “Legal Assistant, Legal Researcher, In House Legal Intern, Commercial Exec, Business Development”.

The 2019 Legal Cheek LPC Most List

The discount email, seen by Legal Cheek, specifically targets students unable to get a place on vacation schemes or mini-pupillages. Virtual Internships is based at the same London address as The Student Lawyer and the company’s co-founders are both directors of the website’s parent company, GradMedia.

Commenting on its pricey offering, a spokesperson for Virtual Internships told us the fee is required to cover the costs of delivering the programme and “a lot of the students use these internships to gain credit at their university.” They continued:

“We are also committed to making internships more available for traditionally underserved communities such as those with family commitments, disabilities, or those not wishing to relocate to an expensive city for a summer internship.”

In an interview last year, Pearce said that the company had “more than 30 people” signed up as of last October. Legal Cheek asked Virtual Internships which, if any, law firms or chambers were participating in the scheme. On this, the spokesperson added:

“Unfortunately we are not at liberty to disclose these names, without prior consent from the companies themselves.”

Around 80% of legal internships are unpaid or pay less than the minimum wage, according to research by the Sutton Trust. Virtual Internships argues that unpaid interns who have to come to London for an in-office work placement will rack up accommodation and travel costs, so paying for a virtual internship might actually save them money.

Others argue that companies using student labour should pay for it. Crusading QC Jaime Hamilton of 9 St John Street, who has set up a paid internship scheme in disgust at the exploitation of law students, called the Virtual Internships offer “morally wrong”.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

32 Comments

Anonymous

Bet Edward’s new holiday villa won’t be ‘virtual’…

Anonymous

Sweet Jesus

Anonymous

I think this is a good idea 👍🏻

LondonTrainee

Jamie Hamilton QC’s blog about this is here: https://jaimerhblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/internal-combustion/

I saw the same advert, and I was astonished. Not only did a ‘virtual’ internship appear worthless, but to also charge someone for one seemed abusive. I would be very surprised if decent law firms are asking for ‘virtual interns’: how much use would they be? In reality, I suspect that this is just a money-spinner to extract cash from vulnerable students, i.e. the ones who don’t know any better. I am curious to know who ‘hosts’ these virtual interns. I’d missed the connection between the ‘Student Lawyer Magazine’ and those making money from this: that just makes it even more questionable.

In case anyone’s interested, there’s a Management Today article from last year about this company which I have uploaded to this sharing site:
http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?file_id=74952120265344380134
(filename: 180509_Are virtual internships pointless.pdf)

I’m not sure that there’s anything anyone can do about this, is there?

Trumpistan forever

Should be given virtual money for this virtual Internship.

Anonymous

Bitcoin seems fair consideration.

Anonymous

Very sleazy.

Disgruntled Northerner

100% against this and think it’s very sleazy.

However, their point on criticising vacation schemes for being incredibly expensive for non-London based students to attend is so valid. Most firms don’t allow expenses to be claimed for accommodation/train fees (although train fees for assessment centres is often covered). Added to that, even if some level of extra renumeration is given, this can take AGES to actually come through.

Anonymous

Most city firms will pay atleast 700 for a 2 week vacation scheme though.

Although admittedly this is paid after the vacation scheme so students are required to have the money for accommodation ect upfront.

Anonymous

These companies are like leeches, sucking out the remaining hope of aspiring solicitors and barristers. I was once approached by a company who supposedly charges 1200 pounds to give legal experience. There are also some companies that hire desperate law graduates and pay them as little as 5 pound/hour in London. There is a lot of grey area and these companies are obviously profiting.

Anonymous

I know plenty of firms offering unpaid internships too. It is pretty shameful.

Even associates get shafted. I am 4PQE and am still on 75k. Total joke.

Anonymous

I mean 75k seems pretty good. Obviously I lack the particulars of your employment and firm but I wouldn’t mind 75 for 4 years pqe (outside London).

Anonymous

Unfortunately I am in London and all my peers are on at least 10k more than me.

Anonymous

Depends what areas you work in and type of firm really. I’m over 10 years pqe, most of my career in top ranked (legal 500 etc) firms for my area. Never earned close to 75k and wouldn’t expect to, but still ok pay. Interesting, varied work though with great colleagues. Try looking outside your little bubble and seeing the variety that the law offers.

Anonymous

Sounds like you work at an utterly shet firm, congrats brah

Anonymous

How in the world are you a 10PQE lawyer not earning close to £75k having worked at legal 500 firms?

The average salary for national firms in 2018 for 10+ PQE was £125k.

Here’s hoping negotiation isn’t part of your job description….

anon

perhaps your attitude says it all.
perhaps your not worth anymore.

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

We need stable jobs, job security and TWO YEARS MANDATORY PATERNITY AND MATERNITY LEAVE!!

Jeremy Corbyn will empower workers and express solidarity with public sector workers and the Palestinians!

VOTE LABOUR

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW

Senior partner

Look on the bright side and stop being so depressingly negative.

Students willing to do anything for experience seems like a good way to save money ratger than wasting it on a sex worker.

Think about it,

Desperate intern sucks lawyer off and then pays thinking they have secured an internship..

The only thing…there is no job.

Hire another batch of gullible idiots, rinse and repeat.

Looking at the bright side the dynamics of the current legal job market offers law firms the prospect of extra income and frequent oral.

What more could you want. The current market enables law firm owners to start a corporate harem and also earn extra income doing so.

Anonymous

This is so true. Real opportunities in the market.

Anonymous

HOLY F*CK THATS A TOP OFFER LADS WHERE DO I SIGN UP F*CK ME YEA

Anonymous

Paying to work. Fuck that. Go speak to your local firm about free internships if you’re that desperate.

Anonymous

This is the work experience equivalent of vanity publishing.

In academia I have known, for many years, of new researchers being targeted by companies offering to ‘peer review’ and publish articles in their journal for a ‘nominal’ administration fee of, say, £100-200. Generally the invitation is made by way of an entirely unsolicited email from the company. The journals are oftentimes of little or no reputation. But some, probably those who can’t get published elsewhere, pay the fee with a view to ‘enhancing’ their publication record.

A sharp practice indeed.

Anonymous

We have trespassed very far indeed from meritocracy

Anonymous

I just can’t deal with this crap anymore.

An Intern

I’ve worked under this company (very proffesional and talented ppl) because I was so desperate get work experience (marketing) when I couldn’t get nowhere else at the local companies and I’m glad I did it rather virtually so I didn’t have to move down London (I’m from Birmingham), where I would end up spending more £££ and I couldn’t help staying away for 3 months from my family and my newborn. I think it depends on your circumstances and how far you willing to go, when the opportunities are short and doors are closed on you… You must take decisions and get the oppurtunities whichever available….

Anonymous

Lol. Nice try. Not convinced.

Anonymous

Not trying to convince anyone, it’s the experience that I have that counts…

Fakebarrister.com

The Spielberg director within me thinks there should be adult content reflecting the level of desperation among law students.

Desperate interns perform oral on a fake barrister for an internship the only thing there is no job.

If you are not studying at Oxbridge or willing to don a faux downton accent you should really consider porn.

Remember folks it worked for Ella Hughes.

Working in the industry has the potential to boost your credibility among sjw feminist law firms. Provided you bitch on about exploited you were and how you now justice against sexual exploitation and all that BS.

Anonymous

Not trying to convince anyone, it’s the experience that I have that counts…

City trainee

Did you get a job out of it then? Because paying over half a grand to do a shady online ‘internship’ doesn’t sound like the greatest career move to me.
I got into law by emailing my local high street law firms and offering to work for free (a few years ago now). I believe that that’s how it’s traditionally done. Ended up in the City. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and saying you’ve got to move to London now or else. There are local internship opportunities out there that you don’t have to pay to access, especially if you have young children.

Join the conversation

Related Stories