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Training the flexible way

13 August 12

The latest help available from the Society for organisations wishing to take on a trainee without a full-time commitment

by Heather McKendrick

The Society’s trainee statistics for 2011 confirm that 488 traineeships were registered that year. This was a slight decrease (8%) from the previous year, but arguably the more interesting statistic focused on where the trainees are being trained: 56% are at the 44 biggest firms in Scotland and 45 are trained in-house, meaning that the 1,150 or so other firms in Scotland are training the remaining 195 trainees.

We know from speaking to small and medium-sized firms about taking on a trainee, that most agree it is a good idea and something they would consider. The difficulty many of them face is that they don’t have the range or quality of work available to train someone full time. Many are also concerned about the financial implications of recruiting a full-time member of staff. It is for these reasons that offering a flexible traineeship may be a great solution for many. A flexible option may also fit in with the trainee’s circumstances and can work well for both parties.

Some examples of flexible traineeships are:

  • Shared traineeships – when a trainee works at more than one firm or organisation over the course of the traineeship;
  • Part-time traineeships – when a trainee works on a part-time basis, the length of the traineeship reflecting the part-time hours;
  • Secondments or extended secondments – a trainee may have the opportunity to go on secondment more than once during the training period.

Flexible traineeships can offer significant advantages to both parties. For organisations these can include a shared or reduced cost of salary and training. If a trainee is working in different environments, they can bring unique experiences and new perspectives. It may also mean a potential reduction in recruitment costs if the trainee becomes part of your workforce in the future. For trainees, a flexible traineeship can bring the chance to work in different environments and practice areas.

The Society has always encouraged approaches regarding flexible traineeships, but is now offering further support, by establishing a database to assist firms and organisations wishing to share a trainee. As there are organisations of all sizes and practice areas across Scotland, it can be difficult to find another organisation keen to share a trainee in a way that suits everyone. The Society’s role will be to inform organisations about others considering the same option, to help build links and possible traineeship opportunities.

How will it work?

If a firm is considering sharing a trainee, we will ask for details to be completed on the online form (details below). The form will ask for contact details and information about what options you would consider (e.g. sharing a trainee throughout the week, or for longer periods, such as six or 12 months). We will then share the details on a regular basis with other organisations that have submitted their details.

All firms and organisations are encouraged to contact each other directly to discuss sharing a trainee. If a sharing model is agreed, they are asked to contact Katie Wood, secretary of the Admissions Subcommittee, for further information and advice about proceeding. The committee must approve flexible arrangements, and while they will be sympathetic, they will need to ensure that the trainee is adequately supervised and that the PEAT 2 objectives will be met. n

The online form can be accessed at For more information or advice in relation to flexible traineeships, email or call 0131 476 8200/8105.
All traineeship opportunities can be advertised free of charge on 

Welcome in practice

Linda George of Linda George Family Law Ltd, Hamilton, has offered a number of shared traineeships.

She explains: “About a year into starting out in business on my own, I was approached by the solicitors who shared the same building as they had employed a trainee and given her a first year’s training. They dealt principally with conveyancing and asked if we could then take her on for her second year, as we then specialised in family work and also did a great deal of civil court agency. From there matters have progressed to the situation where over the last two or three years there have been at least two trainees in our firm each year.

“What has struck me throughout is the willingness of the Society to encourage firms such as this very small firm to take on trainees, and be flexible in their approach and to support more young people to finish their traineeship, allowing them to scale the heady heights of becoming a solicitor. It is very rewarding to know that the traineeships we have provided have allowed six young people to move forward to obtain their own employment and enter the profession for which they trained.”

Moira Deeney of the Glasgow Bar Association says: “The GBA welcomes the Society’s initiative in promoting flexible traineeships, and agrees that a flexible traineeship can bring about unique opportunities for training and the chance to work in different practice areas.

“Those seeking traineeships in small to medium-sized firms in Glasgow are facing challenging times. There are presently 739 trainees training in firms throughout Scotland; of these, only 47 (6.36%) are with small to medium-sized firms in Glasgow (firms with 10 or fewer partners). Spending and staffing levels in the private sector have been cut, and uncertainty and changes in legal aid have compounded the difficulty in committing to a two- year contract with a trainee.

“The flexible solutions mooted by the Society, the suggestion of a database to assist firms with this scheme, and the new TCPD regime which has replaced the PCC, offering students and trainees more choice and flexibility, may make it possible for small and medium-sized firms in Glasgow to offer traineeships to those trainees desperate to start their career in law.

“The GBA endorses and fully supports the programme, and it is hoped that it will assist the Society in any way it can to promote the scheme.”

The Trainee and Newly Qualified (TANQ) society said: “We are in full support of this initiative which provides, in an uncertain economic climate, a win-win situation for both firms and trainees. Firms obviously benefit from employment options which can be adapted to suit the firm, while potential trainees will benefit from opportunities that they might not otherwise have had.”

The Society is also delighted to have the support of the Scottish Young Lawyers Association in promoting this initiative.

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Saturday September 15, 2012, 18:16

That's great for would be trainees. What happened four years ago when I finished my diploma, the Law Society provided absolutely no help or support. Five years of study for absolutely nothing.