Major firms sign up to part-time working initiative for trainees

Headley: Diversity of experience matters

Five law firms have now agreed to offer all those who successfully apply for trainee solicitor and other training posts the opportunity to work part-time.

The Law Society’s Project Rise initiative – set up in association with charity Aspiring Solicitors – has added London firm Bates Wells, Browne Jacobson, based in Nottingham, and Midlands firm Freeths to original participants Osborne Clarke and Eversheds Sutherland.

Project Rise, though launched by the society’s Disabled Solicitors Network in 2021 to coincide with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), is not exclusively designed for disabled trainees and could, for example, benefit those with caring responsibilities.

Firms are not required to offer a minimum number of training places, nor are they required to offer part-time training in any particular way – whether it relates to training contracts, graduate apprenticeships or other routes into the profession.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has clarified that someone working 32 hours over less than five days a week can still complete their qualifying work experience (QWE) in two years, as this is classed as ‘full-time’ regardless of the number of days involved.

Bates Wells was the first UK law to become a B Corporation (with ‘B’ standing for ‘Benefit’) in 2015.

Malcolm Headley, its training principal, said that “as a values-driven law firm, with a client base focused on purpose and positive impact”, diversity of experience mattered.

“We want to ensure that our search for the best trainees is not limited only to those who are available for a traditional working week. We’re looking forward to discovering a wider array of talent through this initiative.”

Caroline Green, senior partner at Browne Jacobson, said offering more flexible training routes for future solicitors would “make a real difference” to those wanting to join the profession.

“Over recent years we have implemented flexible working practices across our business and have seen first-hand the benefits that come with opening up opportunities to all.”

Becky Egan, head of diversity and inclusion at Freeths, added: “For us, it’s about nurturing and supporting our talent and we understand that this means offering alternative routes through to qualification.

“We’ve already successfully offered training contracts on a part-time basis and our legal assistant programme gives graduates the opportunity to work, gain experience and secure a place on our solicitor apprenticeship to complete their SQE 1 and 2 and their QWE.”

Law Society President Lubna Shuja encouraged more firms to join the initiative, which provided “more accessible routes to qualification for people from diverse backgrounds”.

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