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Legal Education >> Trainees >> traineeship woes?

Message started by kirstytaylor on Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:38am

Title: traineeship woes?
Post by kirstytaylor on Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:38am
Hello All,

I am a journalist writing an article about the problems faced by legal trainees in the current economic downturn.

Have you had a promised traineeship postponed? Are you on a traineeship that has been altered or, worse, have you been made redundant?

What do you think of the way firms have handled financial problems in terms of their treatment to trainees? Have your expectations of your future law career changed with all the doom and gloom in the industry?

These are just some of the questions I am looking to discuss with trainees and law students from across Scotland and would very much appreciate it if you could get in touch.

You can message back on this forum - perhaps we can get a debate going - or email me at

Responses can be named, or kept anonymous - I am just keen to hear your experiences during these troubled times...

Many thanks,


Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by everyonesfavouriteposter on Mar 25th, 2009 at 2:54pm
This year has been very testing, especially for students in the diploma who have been told that there was no longer a place for them at the firm they were expecting to join this September. As hiring for firms is done two years in advance, and the 2010 places have already been filled, this means that they would now have to start in 2011. If they had previously taken a year out before starting their traineeship, this meant that the diploma would then be out of date, and this is why the Law Society have had to say that they will extend the validity of the diploma because of the unique situation we find ourselves in. Prospective trainees must however, keep up their knowledge of the current law.

The issue of firms walking away from offers already made to final year students led the Society to publish a statement with their views on the subject. They basically said that offering a student a traineeship was akin to a contract and that firms could not just withdraw this. so what firms have been doing is asking the future trainees to defer starting for a year. If they agree, then some firms are offering them 5-6k for their troubles. Some firms are making all of the future trainees apply again for the job in order to ascertain who is to be deferred. I know of one girl who started a traineeship in September 2008, and was told in December that she was being made redundant.

Just this morning, a girl at uni got a phonecall from one of the Edinburgh firms asking her to voluntarily defer. If nobody wanted to voluntarily defer, the company were going to put names into a hat, and whoever was picked out would have to defer for a year.

For the foreseeable future, things do look bleak from a lawyers prospective, apart from things like bankruptcy and repossessions where business is booming! However, things will most definately pick up again in a few years......we hope.

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by grumpy on Mar 26th, 2009 at 10:39am
It's a real problem at the moment. Traineeships were never easy to get but now it's extremely hard. I practised law for over 20 years but gave up because it just wasn't worth it any more. When I started I was a real lawyer doing what real lawyers do. 20 years later I was spending at least half of my time administering, filling forms, attending CPD and so on and so on. All just to stay in practice. I still had  the same caseload but with half the time to do it in. If my kids ever thought of going into law I would advise against it. It's now probably wiser to use a law degree to open doors to other careers, something we were always told but we all thought that a law degree meant being a lawyer. You all need to think outside the box in these times.

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by everyonesfavouriteposter on Mar 26th, 2009 at 12:49pm
It's all form filling now, unless you are a litigator and can fulfill the role of a stereotypical lawyer whom everyone thinks argues a case in Court. The diploma is all about filling in forms, ticking the correct boxes. It's mind numbing. The only reason I am doing it is because I imagine it will pay off one day when I become partner and have a great salary to take home every month. To be honest, some of the forms are raelly complicated to fill in (IHT400 anyone!?), and the high rates of lawyers are entirely justified in my opinion.

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by postponedtrainee on Apr 23rd, 2009 at 12:16pm
I am a law graduate who secured a traineeship with a large firm in Dec 2006.  I was due to start in Sept 2008 but just weeks before the start date I was told that I was one of six new trainees being deferrred til May 2009.  It was the worst time of my life as I had already given up my part-time job so I ended up unemployed and claiming job seekers allowance for a few months!  It was very embarrassing.  I received no compensation whatsoever from the law firm.  However, I didn't want to make a fuss about it because the prospect of a traineeship was the most important thing and if I argued perhaps my training contract would have been cancelled.  It was very difficult to find employment in between times as employers were not keen to take on someone who they knew would be leaving in nine months and there was generally hardly any jobs available.  I just feel that I graduated at the worst possible time and I really wish I was given more support.  I can only hope that by the time I complete my traineeship the economy has improved and I will be able to find a newly qualified position  :-/

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by grumpy on Apr 24th, 2009 at 8:56am
This is a symptom of the hard times. However I believe that these decsions are being made by partners who are only thinking of their share of profits rather than anything else. EFP looks like being one of those who wants to earn big bucks. Whatever happened to young lawyers who wanted to help people and make a difference? Too many are heading into commercial law just to make money and have no interest in helping others. Lawyers have always overcharged and are now under pressure to do billable hours a la American system and the clients suffer. It will all come home to roost one day when people wake up and shop around for better deals. These fat cat lawyers don't just pay what is asked in their private lives yet expect clients to pay what is demanded without question. Come on the next generation and make a change to the climate of greed!

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by everyonesfavouriteposter on Apr 24th, 2009 at 3:50pm
I've been told that I'm selling my soul by going into commercial law. Bugger that. Who honestly wants to be sat all day drawing up wills, doing conveyancing, and settling inheritance tax bills!?

Title: Re: traineeship woes?
Post by zurich_allan on Apr 24th, 2009 at 6:35pm
It certainly has been a worrying 12 months or so for those students approaching graduation. I know some who have had traineeships secured for some time that are worried and waiting for a letter of deferral or cancellation to come through their letterbox. I think it's the uncertainty that's more unsettling than the reality though, as again, I know many students who have started their traineeships without a problem.

As grumpy said, it's interesting to see what other doors can be opened by having a law degree, as some graduates are turning to other more stable employment. Off the top of my head, some of my students have gone to work for the PF, the Children's Panel as reporters, I know of one that managed to get an executive position with a large debt collection firm, and several that have gone into either NHS or Government positions.

These aren't happy times for those qualifying and hoping to move into the legal profession, but then I'm sure that's the case with a great many other vocations and not just the law. The world will always need lawyers (though I'm not too sure whether that's a good or bad thing!!  :) ).

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