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Law Society publishes new guidance for recruiting trainees

20 July 2015 | tagged News release

The Law Society of Scotland has published recommendations to help employers put in place ‘fair access’ recruitment processes.

A series of guides aims to help employers adopt procedures which will help them attract solicitors and trainees with the right skills to meet the needs of their business and client base, but which avoid setting potentially unfair barriers for candidates.

The guides provide information for each stage of the recruitment process, from defining the job and skillset required, through to the interview stage. The recommendations encourage firms to:

  • omit questions that ask for personal detail such as title, age, marital status in applications
  • avoid asking where a candidate went to school or university
  • consider candidates who have alternative work experience to an internship/work placement at the firm 
  • set the job criteria so as not to exclude those who take an alternative route to qualification as a solicitor – for example by not insisting that all candidates have an honours law degree
  • promote the vacancy as widely as possible
  • consider any parts of the process which may lead to unconscious bias

Eilidh Wiseman, Law Society of Scotland Vice President and convener of its Education and Training Committee, said: “It’s important that we have a diverse legal profession which reflects our wider society. We are committed to making the route to qualification as a solicitor as fair as possible to ensure that people who have the ability and ambition to become a solicitor are not prevented from doing so by unfair barriers, particularly financial ones.

“Many organisations may not be aware that their current recruitment processes exclude applications from candidates who would make excellent trainees or new solicitor employees.

For example, many employers ask for school grades but we question the value of this. It might mean that an organisation would not consider a student who may have done very well at university, but who attended what might be considered an underperforming school and who didn’t achieve the same school grades as some of their university peers. Many universities now contextualise their admissions and the recruitment processes of some employers can undermine that process. We note that PriceWaterhouseCoopers – one of the largest graduate recruiters in the UK – has moved away from using school grades.

 “We advise employers to recruit outwith the group of candidates who may have done work experience or a summer internship with them. Obviously internships can provide employers with a good insight into how candidates perform in the office. However, there are reasons why some students cannot take up internship opportunities: for instance, they might lose an existing job which helps them pay their way through their studies or have caring responsibilities.

“We know traineeships and those all important first jobs can be difficult to find and that it is impossible for employers to be able to interview several hundred candidates, but changing some recruitment processes can make a big difference. For example, some employers have adopted a ‘blind’ recruitment process which has led to a much more diverse pool of candidates being selected as trainees.

“Making sure you have a very well-defined job description and person specification will help employers ensure they get the right candidate for the job – and the right job for the candidate’.

For more information and copies of the guides see the Education and Careers section on the website: Recruitment Guidance


Notes to editors

The Law Society is committed to the principle of fair access to the legal profession. Its policy aims include:

  • that the route to qualification should not be dependent upon an individual’s ability to fund their professional education and training.
  • continuing to press the Scottish Government to extend means-tested student maintenance loans to students studying the DPLP as the only short-term solution to the fair access issue.

More information is available on the Law Society website - Fair Access to the Legal Profession

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