REUTERS | A bee searches for pollen among cherry blossoms on a sunny spring day in Lausanne, Switzerland March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Flex Trainee: helping to create a more diverse, representative and socially mobile legal profession

Flex Trainee is our scheme for trainee lawyers, designed to help them and the legal industry at large take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the SQE. The scheme was launched in 2021 and is currently well into its second cohort of Flex Trainees. We designed the entire scheme from the ground-up to help create a more diverse, representative and socially mobile legal profession.

The Flex Trainee mission

Access to the legal profession is a known and often-cited challenge:

  • 35,000 law graduates apply for only 5,000 training contract places each year.
  • Privately educated individuals comprise only 7% of the UK population but make up more than half of City law firm intakes.
  • Russell Group graduates represent roughly 22% of all UK graduates but 62% of all trainees.

These are big, concerning challenges and overcoming them requires systemic change. The introduction of the SQE is a huge step towards addressing these issues but time-poor lawyers can find it difficult to grasp this opportunity.

We continually speak with in-house leaders who are passionate about building a more accessible and diverse legal profession, and genuinely want to make a difference in their own teams, but often struggle to do so. Identifying bright and diverse young talent at such an early stage of their careers is daunting, difficult and time-consuming.

In-house teams often lack the capacity, budget and processes to properly recruit, train and manage unqualified legal professionals. We want to support in-house legal teams as they rise to these challenges. When the SQE was first announced, Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

“The SQE offers a fresh opportunity to increase access to the profession. A competitive training market, offering real choices, will help the profession attract the best talent.”

Now that the SQE is steadily being phased in, we are playing a central role in making that vision a reality.

How the Flex Trainee scheme invests in legal talent

We have partnered with legal social mobility charity, STRIVE, to identify aspiring lawyers from unique backgrounds who deserve their chance to break into a legal career. We’re incredibly proud of the candidates we’ve been able to identify for our first two cohorts.

Before a Flex Trainee is seconded to a client, we put them through a bespoke and highly personalised Flex Trainee Readiness Programme. We want the best for each Flex Trainee, which is why we’ve sought to supercharge their professional development. The Readiness Programme formalises the hard and soft skills that would normally take months to absorb in a professional workplace into up-front training. We cover need-to-know legal skills, advanced workplace soft skills, and even provide a full final week of training specific to the organisation each trainee is placed with.

We also give our Flex Trainees access to the SQE 1+2 prep courses with our partners at Barbri, and full access to our SQE Journal so that they can work with their supervisors to record and manage their progress towards SQE qualification. For the first three months of each placement, a Flex Mentor holds weekly 1-to-1 meetings with the Trainees to ensure that they are settling into their teams and making an impact, and to offer proactive training on anything they need to know. After three months, this reduces to a monthly check-in to review their progress. Finally, our Flex Trainees are all invited to attend monthly training and social events to help them form a long-lasting, trusting professional network that will put them in good stead for the rest of their professional lives.

Progress so far

We’re delighted to say that the Flex Trainee programme is a roaring success so far! Not only have our second cohort just finished their Readiness Programme, but we’ve partnered with an incredible range of like-minded organisations who share our passion for advancing diversity and social mobility within the legal industry. We couldn’t be happier to be working alongside the likes of Trustpilot, Vodafone, ASOS and The Crown Estate to make the legal profession a better place to work.

We’re currently lining up our trainees and clients for the third cohort, which will launch later this year, and will be the biggest one yet. If you would like to be involved in our mission to build a better tomorrow, today, then contact us via our website.

“This opportunity is making my dreams of qualifying come true and providing me with two opportunities: to train in-house, which is very rare for junior lawyers, and to build my legal and commercial network. I am so excited that such an opportunity is available to socially mobile students because at times it can feel like your chance will never come.”

Maab Safeldin, Flex Trainee.

“The Crown Estate is delighted to be involved with the Flex Trainee programme, which enabled us to hire a very talented individual and help them to achieve their ambition of qualifying as a solicitor. The programme is also perfectly aligned with our commitment to broaden access to those who have potential but may otherwise lack opportunity.”

Nicholas Cheffings, Interim Head of Legal and Company Secretary at The Crown Estate.

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