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Squire Patton Boggs warns it may defer training contracts

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Exclusive: City firm continuing to plan for August intake but urges future trainees to ‘hold off making financial decisions’ until COVID-19 situation is clearer

Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) has warned it may have to push back the start dates for its future trainees in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rookies due to start at the firm this summer were informed by email this week that deferrals remain a possibility “if trainee workload reduces over the coming months”.

In an email, seen by Legal Cheek, SPB says it is “fully committed” to its future trainees and is continuing to plan for its August 2020 intake. It does, however, recommend summer starters “hold off making financial decisions, such as entering into rental agreements for accommodation”, until the firm is able to provide a further update at the beginning of June.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of experience we provide to trainees”, the email continues, “and do not intend to compromise our existing programme in any way because of the current challenges we are all facing”.

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A SPB spokesperson told Legal Cheek:

“[W]e are fully committed to our future trainees and are continuing to plan for their start date of August 2020. As we continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19, we will remain committed to the safety and wellbeing of our trainees, whilst ensuring that they get the best possible experience with the firm when they join us.”

SPB has already put in place measures to curb the impact of the pandemic, including implementing remote working protocols and allowing UK staff to carry over holiday leave above their statutory entitlement into 2021. Other firms have postponed partner payouts, deferred bonuses and furloughed staff.

Last week Legal Cheek revealed Irwin Mitchell had become the first major UK law firm to delay the start dates of its trainees as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. All trainees due to commence their training contracts with the firm in August 2020 will now join in February 2021, six months later than originally planned.

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48 Comments

Anon

Their real estate team is down to one partner in London.

Nobody left

Real estate team? Which real estate team?

SPB toiler

“We pride ourselves on the quality of experience we provide to trainees”

LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Anonymous

So do I.

Incoming September 2020 Trainee

I am a September 2020 starter. I am so worried about whether the TC will go ahead as planned, or whether it will be deferred/cancelled. I’ve had no communication that it won’t go ahead however the situation is so volatile.

Can anyone shed light on what other firms are doing/planning?

what

I’m a September 2020 starter with an international firm headquartered in London and they’ve been really good with communications and it looks like we’re on track to start as initially planned (SRA forms were submitted last week etc). It’s sad to see any firm using this global (temporary) supply shock as an excuse to axe future trainees, but it’s classic SQB.

SQB (similar to Irwin Mitchel) is simply living up to its reputation as meat grinder. This communication is the firm setting expectations so that the fallout can be better managed when they do sack off their 2020 trainee intake. SQB’s UK presence barely even has a functioning HR department, it’s no surprise that they’ve taken such a short-sighted approach.

Toke toke toke

SQB? U high bruh ? pass mi d blunt ye ?

what

AYYY LMAO

*SPB

Davad

If they haven’t asked you in the last few weeks already to start filling in paperwork, it’s probably not happening sorry mate.

3rd year LLB

What kind of paperwork?

-

I’m from Irwin Mitchell and can confirm that we are delayed in starting our TC by 6 months.

Slater & Gordon future trainee

Noyce.

Anonymous

Here is a clue. What’s your burger flipping experience?

Future MC trainee

2022 MC TC. Have been told we’re okay and contrary to a lot of the online chatter there is no plan to push back my cohort’s start. Can’t speak to earlier groups though.

Recent departure

Avoid like m the plague. Any associate with their wits together jumps ship within 1-2 years of qualification as they can’t stand this pit.

Corporate team feels like it’s got those big spinning revolving doors installed on its floor given how many fee earners go in and promptly out.

SPB toiler

Yeah – I’m straight off to join the PE team at STB as soon as I qualify there in September.

Anon

Two SPB associates recently joined K&E in London. Your point being?

Kirkland NQ

Yeah glad to see the concierge desk now back to full strength. I had to wait a full morning recently for my Fielding & Nicholson suits to be dry cleaned!

anon

Go on LinkedIn and see for yourself you gormless two-bit cretin. Unlike you they now actually work as attorneys at K&E.

Kirkland NQ

I don’t use LinkedIn as I don’t need to market myself. PE houses know if they want a deal smashed they come to me. End of.

Jobs

Don’t believe this person’s trash and bragging about concierge services etc. This person doesn’t even work there. The people at the concierge desk do however have more job security than any of the people they service at the moment. You should check about how many people are on the way out of this place.

The real deal

LOL you are moving from the frying pan into the fire if that’s where they’re joining. The guys at K&E are all afraid of losing their job at the moment and others have or are already in the process of “departing”. You really should do a little bit of research before being so excited. K&E dish out offers to tons of people, they join and leave after a few months or a year. The firm is desperate to attract lawyers due its bad reputation and is now churning young associates like yourself for cheap labour whilst it gets rid of the tons of salaried partners it suddenly has no longer use for.

Anonymous

Inevitable really. I expect many more to follow.

truthsiren

I wouldn’t rule out City firms going a step further and furloughing their current first year trainees to save costs. Rumours have it some firms have already done so.

Anonymous

Which firms?

toiler

SPB brah

Anonymous

It sounds like SPB have taken a pretty similar approach to your firm. They are “continuing to plan for their start date of August 2020” so will have submitted their SRA forms as well. They’ve only said that they will confirm whether anything has changed at the beginning of June (4-5 weeks time) which presumably your firm will also be doing if they are “really good with communications” and anything does change.

dwadawd

But is sounds as if the trainee above hasn’t received any paperwork, that’s the point being made.

Vac Scheme Offer Holder

Interesting scoop. Curious to know if this means our Summer Vacation Scheme is going ahead – did anyone hear back from SPB on this?

Future trainee @ SPB fml

Dear the person with a vac scheme offer

I think it will go ahead in some form (probably remotely) or be pushed back as SPB don’t offer a direct TC route and need the vac schemes to go ahead

No skin in the game

For the avoidance of doubt, unilateral deferral of a job offer (when it has been accepted) amounts to breach of contract.

You can mutually agree to defer a start date; that’s why in 2008 onwards, firms offered compensation and required consent so that it would be seen as “voluntary”.

nonny

Breach of contract so what. What is the law student going to do – sue the law firm they’re about to start their TC with? I think not. This happened all the time in 2008 and 2009. Back then most firms were decent Enough to give 000,s out in compensation to deferred trainees for a 6 month deferral or so. Sounds great. Free cash to go travel.

I want my skin back

Just to be clear, firms are not “decent” to offer pay-off in return for deferral, they are contractually obliged to do so to make it appear voluntary.
Some trainees can be a stick in the mud and say in writing that they want to start on x date after all because of x, y and z reason, and check in with the SRA on the side. In some cases, that could work.

In the event that trainees are deferred and not offered compensation in a unilateral deferral, clearly that is a breach of contract resulting in substantial loss. You are absolutely correct that the bargaining power of a future trainee to a law firm is nil. Most firms will be aware of the blatant breach and will seek to keep things off email / over the phone as much as possible to remove the paper trail. Putting something in writing – resisting the deferral and pushing for market level compensation in writing is a smart move; you don’t get what you don’t ask for and many will give in. Law firms will try anything they can get away with.

In the event a trainee is deferred without compensation, there is a six year limitation period for bringing a breach of contract claim. You may possibly be able to go for an ET if within the relevant timeframe, but unsure. Law firms will want to keep this out of court especially when they don’t have a leg to stand on. When you leave the firm, unequal bargaining power dissipates and now they could be on the hook for a lot more than a 15k compensation package.

Anonymous

LC, delete this fake news comment at once.

tips@legalcheek.com

“When you leave the firm, unequal bargaining power dissipates and now they could be on the hook for a lot more than a 15k compensation package.”

In what world do you live? All law firms hate internal disputes. This is why law firms almost never enforce the “non-compete” clauses against leaving employees even where this leads to huge financial losses for them (and each case where this happens immediately goes to the press). It is seen as bad taste.

Do you really think your future employer (presumably other law firm) would like to have an employee who prefers to sue their employers over such relatively minor thing (6 month delay due to the largest pandemic since 1910s)? Suing your former firm over this is the best way to kill any chances of having a legal career.

Sorry but I am not sure law is a right career choice for you.

The above posted

My comment didn’t seem to go through – but just to be clear, I am a lawyer and you are not. I went through something similar after 2008 and worked something out confidentially with my firm.

People sue their firms all the time. Everything in your post is nonsense, I’m afraid. The fact it has been upvoted is a sad case of the blind leading the blind.

Future MC trainee

Actually, this may not be true.

For my TC (at an MC) we don’t receive our actual contracts of employment until just before we start. The offer document we receive and agree to contains a clause stating that the firm reserves the right to alter any of the terms in the document – i.e. salaries or start dates. Therefore if my firm decided to alter my start date, it would be within its rights to do so without providing me with any compensation.

Anonymous

Being offered a deferral is not the end of the world – although you can’t go do a ‘gap yah’ as many did in 2009 – you will hopefully receive a pay off to go away and come back later, which should give you the finances to try something different – volunteering, key worker, creative passion project – before your legal career begins.

Far from ideal but in the grand scheme of a decades long career, 6 months is small beer so chin up.

Shafted Future Trainee 2020

What is a reasonable/realistic amount of cash a firm will give for a 6 month referral?

trüthsirën

Interesting: all comments mentioning K&E in this article were deleted. The rumours must be true…

As above

agreed!!! I saw those comments too and now they’ve all mysteriously disappeared…

Chad Chadington

What rumours about Kirkland?

Abc

They’re basically cutting tons of lawyers in London, but keeping it quiet. Suppose in times like these those huge salaries aren’t sustainable.

Complaint

Why is Legal Cheek deleting comments on this story????? There were more comments providing information about the current crisis with names of certain law firms and people sharing their experience of where they’re moving to, yet an hour later someone from Legal Cheek has removed them! Why did you do that? Someone has already commented that you’re deleted people’s comments for no reason. Very unprofessional and sad to see that you’re doing that.

inouse

because they were asked to…

piper perri

any news on DLA Piper TCs?

Paul my skin back

LOL

Disgruntled Applicant

What I can say is a lot of firms will be following suit- a few smaller US places are no longer recruiting at all for the 2022 round and Charles Russell looked like they are backed into a corner lol!

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