Fad or future? Elite law firms target tech-savvy students for non-law roles

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By Thomas Connelly on

A new wave of TC alternatives is sweeping the City

Tech-savvy graduates are in demand at top City law firms.

A month rarely goes by without an outfit trumpeting the launch of a training scheme tailored towards uni-leavers who are keen to work in the legal profession but have no interest in dishing out legal advice.

These schemes are similar in structure to the traditional training contract in that grads usually spend two years rotating through various departments — or ‘seats’ — before being invited to apply for a permanent position within the firm, much like a final-seat trainee upon qualification. Participants will usually receive a professional qualification at the end of the scheme but do not, and this is the important bit, qualify as solicitors.

So rather than undertaking typical trainee tasks such as legal research and drafting, tech-minded grads are put to work on things like “legal applications”, “legal practice innovation”, “artificial intelligence” and “document automation”. Salaries are also more aligned to that of a paralegal than a rookie solicitor, with grads trousering around £25k in their first year.

Many big legal names have now embraced the two-year TC alternative.

City law firm Ashurst created a series of ‘New Law’ grad roles, including one in legal technology, while Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds Sutherland and Macfarlanes have all launched tech schemes for those seeking a career as legal technologists. Elsewhere, Slaughter and May developed a legal operations scheme which runs parallel to its training contract — despite being considered one of the more traditional firms on the City scene.

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The University of Law just last week unveiled a new legal operations programme in conjunction with a raft of firms including CMS, Dentons, Norton Rose Fulbright and Linklaters.

So is this a sign that law firms are finally recognising the role tech has to play in the legal services market? Striving to become more efficient whilst providing clients with innovative solutions to their legal problems. They should be commended for offering grads employment at a time when training schemes are in scarcity.

Or is it, as some skeptic may claim, an attempt by some firms to ‘rebadge’ their traditional paralegal roles, which can often conjure up negative images of endless bundling and hours spent at the photocopier.

With the vast majority of these schemes still in their infancy, the jury, for now, remains out. But one thing is clear — the appetite among law firms for tech-savvy graduates is showing no signs of waning.

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