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In-house Division

GC350 roundtable discussion précis: in-house training contracts

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This discussion was held on Tuesday 17 March 2015, at the Law Society. The meeting was conducted under the Chatham House rule.

The discussion was attended by general counsel representing a range of FTSE organisations. This précis provides an overview of the key points discussed.

It focused on two key areas:

  1. Pros and cons of offering a training contract
  2. Regulatory considerations

The meeting was led by Deborah Grimason, general counsel at Travis Perkins. Having trained in-house Deborah has over 25 years’ in-house experience at a range of organisations (Royal Mail, Nokia, British Coal Corporation, Lafarge Tarmac and Travis Perkins). She has been responsible for issuing training contracts in a number of these organisations and has often been the training principal.

Cons

  • Significant time commitment for the training principal.
  • Significant responsibility for the training principal.
  • Creating an adequate training programme can be challenging:
    • can you provide the appropriate range of seats?
    • in-house teams are likely to have a relatively narrow focus. Can you deliver the required variety through secondments?
    • do you and your team have the adequate resources, skills and competencies to provide the trainee with the support they will require?
  • At the end of the training period you will have invested a lot of time, money and effort into creating a valuable commodity that may well decide to leave the organisation.

Pros

  • Training in a commercial environment can be highly beneficial. It allows the trainee to come into contact with both business partners and clients. They will rapidly gain commercial acumen and will become involved in decision making much quicker than trainees in private practice.
  • Trainees will gain an excellent understanding of the business and develop the ability to understand how they can contribute to the business’ objectives.
  • They will learn to speak the language and technical nuances of the business.
  • Trainees will be practically applying the law.
  • They become part of a solution-based culture.
  • One of the challenges when recruiting from private practice is that they can perceive in-house as being an easy option. In reality this is not the case and many people find the transition very difficult. Thus, “growing your own” can be extremely beneficial to the business.

Regulatory considerations

Full details of the regulatory requirements can be found on the SRA website training contract page. Please note, the SRA are currently running a consultation on this subject. The points below are correct at the time of writing but maybe subject to change.

  • Organisations need to be authorised to offer in-house training contracts. Once authorised this is for the lifetime of the organisations (unless revoked) and that organisation can take on as many trainees as they wish.
  • Key requirements:
    • trainee must be paid the minimum salary.
    • they must gain experience in at least three areas. This can be arranged through secondment.
    • they must have the ability to develop skills.
    • a training record needs to be maintained and verified at the end of the period by a supervisor.
    • regular feedback must be given by a qualified solicitor with a minimum of four formal appraisals per year.
    • They must successfully complete the professional skills course. Study time is recommended for this.
  • Trainees must be given security of a two-year training contract. At the end of this period if they were employed by the organisation prior to being given the training contract they are entitled to their old job, but not necessarily a solicitor role.
  • The SRA can monitor training and ask to see training documents.

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About the In-house Division

Your In-house Division is dedicated to meeting the needs of in-house lawyers working in the corporate and public sectors, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

See our 2016/17 Engagement Programme.