Legal Union steps in after trainee solicitor isn’t offered NQ role

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By CJ McKinney on

Rookie claims law firm continued to recruit despite telling her it couldn’t offer her position due to ‘hiring freeze’

A trainee solicitor whose firm wasn’t going to keep her on has spoken of how she managed to bag the role anyway — by getting her trade union involved.

The trainee, who we can’t name, says the firm claimed to be implementing a “hiring freeze” but continued to recruit other solicitors, including in her own department.

But after calling on the services of Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU), bosses apparently U-turned and kept her on as a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor.

Would-be solicitors in England and Wales typically spend two years on a training contract as the final step towards qualification, with most expecting to be kept on post-qualification. But there’s no obligation, and some NQs find themselves out on their ear after the two years.

The trainee supported by LSWU told Legal Cheek that she suspected her previous union activism was the reason she wasn’t going to be retained, despite “excellent and recognised performance over three years at the firm”.

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“I was told that there was a ‘hiring freeze’ preventing me being offered a role. Despite this alleged freeze, the firm has continued to hire solicitors, including in my own department”, she told us. “To me, it is clear that the real reason is the fact that I have been a workplace representative for the Legal Sector Workers union since May 2020, and the firm will do anything to prevent us organising.”

But LSWU caseworkers helped to “draft some frankly badass grievance grounds and grounds of appeal”. One grievance hearing later, “the firm has now U-turned and offered me a role as a solicitor.”

LSWU says it’s increasingly common for unions to be involved in these kinds of disputes.

The outfit has “other active cases involving trainees”, handled by a growing casework team including both paid and volunteer representatives.

LSWU was launched a couple of years ago as a branch of United Voices of the World, itself only founded in 2014.

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