Ally Thomson, Director of Hey Legal, the training and resources platform for the Scottish legal community, examines the benefits of bringing a trainee into your business.

In the Hey Legal Quiz, our series of interviews with leading Scottish legal figures, we always ask guests about their most inspiring colleagues and those people who have had the biggest influence on their stellar legal careers. What follows is usually a disclaimer (very lawyerly!) that it is impossible to restrict the answer to one person and often a list follows. Invariably, senior colleagues who trained these lawyers feature, with the training having taken place decades before, but never forgotten.

The wise words of counsel, the guidance through new challenges, the understanding when mistakes are made, the setting of standards, the sage advice that sums up a situation, the joy of seeing progress are all referenced.

Often those who provided such brilliant tuition have long left the profession, yet they continue to influence the profession daily through the wisdom they imparted to those still practising and the careers they helped to launch.

The traineeship opportunity

New entrants to the profession, to state the obvious, are quite literally the future of the profession. Currently though, we are experiencing a traineeship crisis. For many brilliant potential lawyers, that Day One experience may never become a reality and many are being lost to the profession.

Do you remember your first day?

The excitement, the fear, the thrill of getting started in the career you had long dreamed of and worked so hard to make a reality. The assistant or partner who took the initiative and started to train you in the realities of the legal world you had, up until then, only studied from afar. The colleague who helped you when a situation seemed overwhelming and guided you through the legal maze.

How often do you face a situation now and find yourself thinking of some advice given early in your career that has become a guiding principle for you when facing a challenge?

No doubt every law firm would like to have a trainee or trainees in the mix. However, rather than recruiting, it can be easy to only see the challenges of bringing a trainee into a business: the onboarding, increased overheads, training requirements, and risk. It's true that great employees may be created who leave, but they might also stay and be the future of your business.

So what can recruiting a trainee do for you and your law firm from day one? Alongside academic excellence and enthusiasm for the law, trainees can bring:

  • Energy - an attribute never to be underestimated. Trainees have been on a long road to get to the start line and are bursting to start their careers.
  • New thinking - see the world differently, maybe more like your clients. I tutor on the Introduction to Legal Technology and Innovation Diploma course at Glasgow University Law School and the pupils are impressive and focused. They're thinking about their careers, how legal work will be carried out in the future and how law firms will be structured.
  • New skills - do you want your online presence energised? Your internal working processes reimagined? Your client communications improved? Trainees can drive these areas forward for you.
  • Diversity - bring new backgrounds and life experiences into your team.

Getting trainees on board can be a boost to your business and your own wellbeing, as you help others flourish. It also brings the added bonus of your firm contributing to the future of the profession.

With Diploma numbers at an all-time high and traineeship numbers reducing, coupled with the challenges that we face through economic uncertainty, we need creative thinking to bring new talent on board. Flexible traineeships are a perfect example of this, where a trainee is shared by two or more firms.

Yet, any initiative that helps trainees cross the threshold of a law firm and start their career must be a step in the right direction.

At Hey Legal, we'll soon launch the Scottish Legal Career Launchpad to promote traineeships and connect students, graduates and law firms to hopefully work together. You can register now to be kept up-to-date with developments.

So, at your next partners meeting, be the one who raises the question “Could we take on a trainee? Or more trainees?” You can positively impact your business today and influence the profession for decades to come.