The Legal Cheek View
Accutrainee offers around 50 training contracts a year, making it one of the largest training organisations in the UK. The company is not a law firm and as such offers a different kind of traineeship. It provides opportunities to train at a variety of organisations from investment banks and industry to niche law firms, US outfits and top 20 UK players. In essence, it employs trainees who are then seconded out to in-house teams and law firms. Secondments usually last between three and 24 months, and trainees can therefore benefit from training seats at more than one firm or organisation.
Throughout the training contract, Accutrainee provides mentoring and support, including a monthly meeting with a senior solicitor or the company’s own training principal. It promises graduates: “Once you’re seconded to a firm, that firm is committed to training and treating you in exactly the same way as it trains and treats its own trainees. The only difference is you’ll be employed by us and we’ll be monitoring and ensuring that you’re receiving the support and development you need.”
It’s an innovative model — clients pay for trainees only where they are needed and avoid all the regulatory and recruitment hassles and costs of a traditional 24-month training contract. The company, which ensures all Solicitors Regulation Authority training requirements are met, was founded by former Hogan Lovells banking & finance associate Susan Cooper in 2011 and took on its first trainee a year later. Graduates can apply at any time of year, with interviews arranged once a month. So, how does the Accutrainee experience shape up?
One obvious challenge is the fact the training provider is separate from the place of work. Does this cause difficulties? Not really, according to participants, one of whom explained: “The disconnect between my seconding organisation and training provider probably doesn’t make this as easy as in a large firm putting numerous trainees through the same formulaic training, but I nonetheless feel well supported by both.”
And trainees do tend to be well looked after with central training provided by Accutrainee, and mentors to monitor the training provided by seconding organisations. “Both the seconding organisations and Accutrainee are very dedicated and supportive in ensuring we have a complete and well-rounded training,” a lawyer explains. And the atmosphere at host firms is believed to be very welcoming towards their seconded trainees: “My peers at my seconding firm have been instrumental in helping me settle down and get off to a really good start in my training.”
Superiors are rated approachable, with “constructive remarks, on the spot evaluation, always prepared to listen and always willing to help and/or improve work environment,” according to one trainee, while another notes, “having less formal conversations allows for better working relationships and makes approaching my superiors comfortable”. And support is forthcoming from both the secondment firm and Accutrainee, with rookies reporting that they enjoy both regular mentor meetings with supervisors and a career coach at secondment companies, as well as an Accutrainee mentor.
Trainees also value the variety. “Being seconded to another organisation and having the opportunity to move around means we get an excellent variety of training,” says one survey respondent. Another rookie describes their training as “flexible and tailored to trainees’ interests and preferred areas without neglecting areas of improvement”.
Insiders also feel they can make a real impact with the work they do. “As Accutrainee’s model operates from businesses and firms requiring additional personnel, we trainees are provided with incredible opportunities to get involved in a major way with projects and other work,” explains one. Another trainee said: “I deal with commercial, employment, corporate and intellectual property matters so it is incredibly varied. I also deal with some contentious and non-contentious matters which is interesting.”
The work-life balance will depend on the seconding organisation, of course, but was generally considered “fair and reasonable” by survey respondents. For example, one trainee said “it fluctuates a fair bit… I am currently hugely busy, but the balance is generally good”.
The quality of the workplace environment depends on the seconding organisation involved. Accutrainee’s office is in central London and, so far at least, its clients have mainly been based in and around the Capital with trainees known to be heading to the likes of Canary Wharf.
Accutrainee provides access to its “dedicated web-based trainee portfolio which is monitored against SRA training requirements”, which now exists as an “amazing” new mobile app that makes it easy for trainees to log their progress. Technology-wise, one trainee reports that it “could be better. A contracts database would be good and access to tools such as Practical Law or LexisNexis”. Obviously, the quality of tech at seconding organisations will vary from place to place.
One area where Accutrainee could improve is perks, which for the firm’s trainee secondees don’t always match the level enjoyed by employees of the host organisation. As one junior told Legal Cheek, the reality often involves “seeing all your colleagues getting subsidised access to lovely gyms, a cycle-to-work scheme, season ticket loan etc, and you get nada”. And while other respondents expressed enthusiasm about the “pastries”, “away days and opportunities to focus on mental health and wellbeing” and “fairly generous social events”, another rookie lawyer commented that “the only but extremely valuable perk is the monthly mentor meetings”. Perhaps the main perk, and a major advantage of Accutrainee, however, is the opportunity to arrange a bespoke training programme, gaining a portfolio of SRA-approved traineeship experience in workplaces that might not otherwise be available.