Why March brought at least some good financial news; a reminder of the possibilities with flexible traineeships; but with basic equality and protection of rights, there is still #NoRoomForComplacency

So…. April. Spring is definitely here, along with the lighter nights. At the time of writing I continue to await my blue envelope, but I’m relieved to know that many of my colleagues and family have already been vaccinated, some having had both doses. I am fortunate to be young enough, well enough to continue to wait my turn, albeit with eager anticipation.

March brought delivery of a couple of positive financial changes for the profession not seen for over a decade. The 5% across the board increase in legal aid rates for this year came into effect on 22 March. My thanks again to Lawscot colleagues, Legal Aid Committee members and bar associations for their work bringing this about. As I have consistently said, this is a positive step on the road to tackling a generation of underfunding.

Last month’s column highlighted the deep concern about the budget approach adopted by the SLCC. On 31 March SLCC announced a planned 5% reduction in the levy across the board, and 20% for those less than three years qualified. These proposed reductions show some acknowledgment of the concerns we raised and here’s hoping this is an indicator of a change in attitude from the Commission.

#NoRoomForComplacency

I am writing this the day after the publication of the independent report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.

I have spoken and written throughout this presidential year of #MuchStillToDo and of the need to avoid complacency about rights hard won being set or complete. In maintenance of that spirit this month, I spoke at the FJSS (Fair Justice System for Scotland) Equalities Workshop about the work of the Society in this area. Workshop contributions from our Racial Inclusion Group convener Tatora Mukushi and head of Education Rob Marrs evidenced actions being taken.

I hosted a round table for the Independent Human Rights Act Review chaired by former Lord Justice Sir Peter Gross. The attendees from across the profession exhibited their knowledge and passion and the importance of human rights, and left the panel with much to ponder.

Could flexible traineeships help?

As part of my member engagement I was delighted to have a virtual lunch meeting with many of our Fellows. Their continued passion and motivation to be involved with and support their profession was inspiring. If you have stepped away from practice and your practising certificate but are interested in staying connected with the Society and likeminded colleagues, perhaps becoming a Fellow is for you?

I know they will use their networks to highlight and support the promotion of traineeships, and in particular flexible traineeships.

With greater demand this year, we see flexible traineeships as a positive way of boosting traineeship numbers and longer term sustainability of the profession. The standard traineeship is usually full time and two years in length, working in a number of seats during the traineeship. However, a traineeship can take different forms and can include a part time traineeship, a traineeship with one or more secondments, and a shared traineeship. This can take the form of, for example, a trainee working two days a week in one firm and three days a week in another, or 12 months in one firm and 12 months in another. In addition, a traineeship can be in any area of law and can cover just one area of law. There is a lot less red tape than people might expect.

We often hear from firms who are keen to take on new talent into the firm or organisation but don’t necessarily have the finances or work available for a full time member of staff, so a shared traineeship or part time traineeship would be a great choice for them.

In reality few flexible traineeships exist, and one of the reasons for this is that people simply don’t know about them. Another factor is that if a firm wants to share a trainee, it’s difficult to find another firm that may also want to share and make an arrangement that suits all. That’s one of the reasons we have partnered with Hey Legal, as it provides a forum online so solicitors can enter into discussions to see if sharing a trainee can work for them. If any firms want more information on flexible traineeships, see our web page or email legaleduc@lawscot.org.uk

#MuchStillToDo #NoRoomForComplacency

The Author

Amanda Millar is President of the Law Society of Scotland – President@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @amanda_millar

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