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In 1999 I was General Counsel for the mortgage lender Cheltenham & Gloucester (C&G). We had a reasonably big team of about twenty lawyers. However we wanted to recruit one or two more lawyers to cope with the expansion of the business and the legal work that was being created as a result. We went to the market through traditional means, but we were disappointed not to find candidates who “got” the in-house role or who were affordable.
Then one of my team mentioned that in the business elsewhere they were aware of two LPC graduates who were in non legal roles because they had not been able to secure training contracts. The idea to offer one of them a training contact quickly developed. We cleared the regulatory hurdles (which are modest and reasonable) and invited both of them to apply for one newly created trainee post.
So impressive were they that we in fact offered them both a role. The initiative proved to be a great success and both have gone on to have wonderful in-house careers. These are the key advantages of what we did way back over fifteen years ago. I believe these advantages are even more relevant today.
Interestingly, in the UK markets, I feel the same way about hiring Legal Executive talent. CILEX is one of the most impressive, but unheralded networks in the entire profession. The talent pool is wide, varied and invariably excellent. It baffles me why we do not do more in this space.
I would go so far as to say that in the UK the first question for a General Counsel who has a recruitment need is whether the role is better suited to a Legal Executive. This is not just about lower salary costs, but also about stability and commerciality. I won’t slip into cliché, but General Counsel really should ask the question about what type of lawyer they need and look beyond PQE as the differentiator.
My challenge to every in-house legal team, whatever the size, sector or location, is to consider (at least) when and how trainees or legal exec talent would be advantageous. A once a year assessment will ensure the opportunity is not missed.
In this regard it is worth mentioning a new business that is creating a positive impression. The business is called Accutrainee. Accutrainee sets out to deliver a flexible and efficient way to manage trainees. They in fact are the employer and recruit trainees which they then place on secondment law firms and in-house legal teams in accordance with their clients' requirements. The result, potentially is a really efficient and flexible opportunities to bring trainees into the team.
By so innovatively redefining how trainees can be sourced, Accutrainee can “de-risk” the process for employers and provide new opportunities for graduates as well. Their ambition is also to improve diversity in the profession. It is genuinely impressive.
The role of the trainee within the in-house legal team is still underdeveloped and modest. It is a significant area for most teams to explore. It should be a conversation within every team every time recruitment is considered.
Find out more about our LexisNexis in-house trainee and paralegal networking group. This group meets regularly and provides the opportunity for your to connect with your peers, compare notes, swap stories and sharpen your legal knowledge and commercial skills.
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