Top firms pledge to treat training contracts and apprenticeships as equals

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Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields and NRF among big legal players promising not to disadvantage candidates qualifying through alternative routes

A raft of leading law firms have publicly pledged to ensure that students qualifying as solicitors through “alternative routes” are treated the same as their counterparts undertaking the more traditional training contract.

The 17-strong group pledge to screen candidates in a “fair and inclusive way”, which will not disadvantage those who have completed an alternative route to legal qualification, including an apprenticeship.

Firms making the pledge, which includes the Magic Circle law firms Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Freshfields, promise to assess all candidates’ suitability for any given role based on their experience, behaviour and competence to avoid disadvantaging those who have not done a TC, with inclusive competencies being listed for new positions and CVs being matched against the skills needed to fulfil the demands of the role.

You can read the pledge in full here.

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Other signatories are Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, Burges Salmon, CMS, Charles Russell Speechlys, DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds Sutherland, Fenchurch Law, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, RPC, Simmons & Simmons, Trowers & Hamlins, Watson Farley & Williams.

The recruitment promise follows the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and a new set of rules that give wannabe solicitors the flexibility of completing work experience with up to four different organisations in place of a traditional training contract. This has led to concerns from some that it will create a so-called ‘two-tier’ profession where law firms favour candidates who have completed a TC over those qualifying via one of the alternative pathways.

Commenting on the pledge, Norton Rose Fulbright’s corporate and early careers recruitment partner Clementine Hogarth said:

“It has been inspiring to see so many leading law firms come together to help level the playing field across the industry — the enthusiasm in the market about legal apprenticeships is really exciting. As we continue to further diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it is essential that we are recognising alternative routes into legal careers, and recruiting and progressing people based on talent and merit alone. The pledge is designed to highlight this commitment.”

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To be fair its the trainees that would be prejudiced. My experience of apprentices is that when it comes to their ‘training contract’ i.e. the two years before qualifying, they are superstars and streaks ahead of their trainee intake.



As you’d expect after four years immersed in the firm on 80% time, you’re basically going to be as good as the very best paralegals by that stage.


Donald J Dump

Talk about being damned by faint praise.


Albert Venn Diagram

Probably true for the more administrative areas of law like corporate where essential one needs hour drones to review documents and update templates. Clients would still want strong academics for those working on the more substantively challenging areas of practice.


Big chat

Not true



Why is the job of industry to “level the playing field”, rather than just assess the economic value of each candidate?



Exactly. One step away from quotas.


Albert Venn Diagram

We are in the world of quotas in a time when law firms spew out tick box diversity data PR releases and the government demands nonsense like reporting on the so-called “gender pay gap”.


Cynical Person

As someone who trained and qualified using an “alternative route” (not a solicitor apprenticeship it should be said), I would take this with a pinch of salt.

London law firms are great at many things but refraining from jumping to conclusions about someone based on their previous experiences to date is not one of them…



A&O are actually offering solicitor apprenticeships from next year – interesting to see if any of these signatories take that extra step.



Several already offer solicitor apprenticeships.



They have already started! The very first solicitor apprenticeship at A&O intake started this September.



They have already started! The very first solicitor apprenticeship at A&O intake started this September.



Not convinced that they can achieve the same thing as a university graduate. The top end of the legal market is filled with elitists where your socioeconomic and education background matters.


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