We are committed to finding ways to help create traineeship opportunities in the legal profession. Flexible traineeships are a creative way of doing that. We want to work with employers to boost the number of opportunities available and support employers to find new solutions to getting trainees into their businesses.
This information aims to lay out the how flexible traineeships work, how they can be beneficial and explain the practical steps involved in setting up a flexible traineeship.
Traditionally the traineeship is a full time, two-year training contract at one organisation but it is possible to offer an alternative to this. Some examples of flexible traineeships are:
- Shared traineeships – when a trainee works at more than one organisation over the course of the traineeship. This might be for example, one year spent with one employer and the following year spent with another. Alternatively a trainee might spend certain days of the week with one employer and the rest with another, over the usual two-year period (this may be fluid to help with one firm when things are busier at one than the other).
- Part-time traineeships – when a trainee works on a part-time basis, and the length of the traineeship is altered to reflect the part-time hours. A traineeship must be two years or the equivalent pro rata.
- Multiple secondments – a trainee may have the opportunity to go on secondment more than once during the training period.
There are other ways that you might prefer to offer a flexible traineeship to fit around your business or trainee's needs.
The benefits can depend on the type of flexible traineeship, but there are several for both employers and trainees.
Benefits for employers
- There is less financial-burden than taking a trainee for two years full time; the costs are shared with another employer.
- If you need a trainee for just a few days a week, in a shared traineeship they could work the remainder of their week days with another employer. This means they could have part-time hours with your firm over the two year period, without having to commit beyond the two years.
- A trainee can help support 'pinch points' in your business, when you anticipate there would be more work.
- If firms or organisations offer a shared traineeship in a similar geographical location, it supports the growth of young solicitors in that area, which could be beneficial to succession.
- It may be a way for in-house teams to create a traineeship with a private practice firm which neither individual organisation would be able to commit to offer on their own.
- It may suit your business to have a trainee working part-time hours over a longer period of time.
- This could be a good opportunity for succession planning, if you can't take a trainee on full-time but want to train them in your business exclusively.
- Agreements for multiple secondments can help firms support several clients, or other firms and organisations you work closely with. This can be beneficial to client relationships, but can also bring enhanced expertise and knowledge into the firm.
- Multiple secondments might work in a similar way to a shared traineeship and have similar benefits, but the trainee will work predominantly with one employer.
Benefits for trainees:
One of the major benefits of all flexible traineeships is that a job opportunity has been created in a location, area of practice or with an employer(s) that it might not have been otherwise. This creates the opportunity for someone to qualify as a solicitor.
Dependent on the type of flexible traineeship undertaken, additional potential benefits include:
- If a trainee works with several employers, they get access to wider networks, a broader range of clients, experience of different workplaces and potentially practical training in a broader range of practice areas than they might have if they were working with one employer.
- If a flexible traineeship is created in a new location where opportunities are scarce, it could allow a trainee to live in an area where they wouldn't have been able to qualify otherwise.
- If a trainee undertakes multiple secondments, they can gain specialist expertise and experience working with different organisations, while their traineeship is overseen by their normal employer.
- If a trainee is undertaking a part-time traineeship, they can fit this around their lives and other responsibilities.
- Part-time traineeships can be particularly positive for diversity in the profession. For example those with caring responsibilities or health issues may struggle to undertake a traineeship full-time.
"I decided to complete my traineeship on a part-time basis to allow me to balance family commitments alongside my career. Completing a flexible traineeship at a small firm of three partners who have only had one trainee did come with some initial challenges, for example when it came to working out PQPR dates or when TCPD needed completing given my non-standard working pattern. However, I have found the Law Society have been very helpful at answering any queries and recalculating relevant dates on numerous occasions.
Overall, I am happy with my decision to train flexibly and although it has taken me considerably longer to complete my training, I believe that this has been to my benefit. In the course of over four years, there have been some unusual cases that have popped up that I am sure I would not have had the opportunity to get involved with as a trainee had I completed a traditional traineeship. I have also had the opportunity to witness leadership changes and advancements in the legal sector, which I believe will set me in good stead for my future career. Not to mention, I have had significantly longer than most trainees to consider my options for the future and decide how I want to pursue my career in law after training, all whilst gaining invaluable experience."
In terms of areas of work, there are no restrictions other than all work needs to allow the trainee to work towards the PEAT2 outcomes.
It means that trainees don’t have to work in specific areas of law during a traineeship – theoretically they could work in one niche area the whole time, or could work in several unrelated areas. So employers who might collaborate to offer a traineeship don’t have to have a crossover in their areas of work or be linked in any way. You could split your traineeship between a conveyancing firm and the legal team of a charity, for example.
There must also be someone to act as a supervising solicitor, which must be a Scottish-qualified solicitor who has held a full (unrestricted) practising certificate for the last three consecutive years.The employer(s) must also appoint a training manager, who could be the same person as the supervising solicitor.
Technically it could either be an employer, or group of employers, who offer a flexible traineeship, or a prospective trainee could approach an employer and pitch the idea.
In practice, it will often be easier for employers to make a plan and an application for a flexible traineeship in advance, then promote this to prospective trainees.
How Hey Legal can help
We are currently working with Hey Legal to make it as easy as possible for employers to get in touch with one another if they want to explore an option with other workplaces like shared traineeships or multiple secondments.
If your firm or organisation is interested in offering a shared traineeship, or exploring the options around how you can work flexibly with different employers to offer a traineeship opportunity, you can contact Hey Legal directly by emailing email@example.com. Hey Legal is building a database of firms who are looking to engage trainees of any type, including flexible traineeships. Your enquiry and information will be treated confidentially and the hope is that Hey Legal can introduce firms to each other with a view to increasing trainee numbers overall. This is an entirely free service.
Hey Legal can also help with seeking applicants for flexible traineeships or traineeships of any type, by promoting opportunities to students. Students can also send their CVs into Hey Legal to be potentially matched with a role through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout the traineeship, all trainees must:
- Achieve competency in the Professional Education and Training Stage 2 (PEAT 2) outcomes.
- Together with the trainee supervisor, complete eight PEAT 2 quarterly performance reviews (PQPRs), the result of which should be that you are satisfied that your trainee is able to demonstrate the achievement of the PEAT 2 outcomes.
- Undertake a minimum of 60 hours' required CPD for trainees, including undertaking a four-hour mandatory ethics course from an authorised provider.
(Of the 60 hours, 40 hours must be from an authorised trainee CPD provider – specific courses for trainees and courses providers and courses are accredited. The remaining 20 hours is non-authorised, which is just other CPD which is relevant to meeting the PEAT 2 outcomes).
- Maintain a regular diary in the Society's PEAT 2 record, linking the experience that they have gained to the PEAT 2 outcomes. This will assist you both when you undertake PQPRs.
- Be signed off by you as a fit and proper person.
- Fulfil the obligations under their training contract.
There is no requirement for a trainee to be working in a specific area of law, although they should be undertaking legal-specific tasks and gaining substantive and relevant legal knowledge.
Some elements of the training plan may need closer consideration than others, but with a collaborative approach between supervisors or employers, there is no reason the requirements can't be met. Consideration may need to be given to information barriers etc.
PEAT Quarterly Performance Reviews (PQPRs)
If you’re splitting a traineeship between two employers, or a trainee is doing multiple secondments, supervisors would need to be clearly communicating and recording a trainee’s progress between themselves.
It might be appropriate to do all PQPRs with one supervising solicitor, with any other supervisor(s) feeding in. Or you might have them with different supervisors at different points in the traineeship dependent on structure. Regardless, communication between supervisors and the trainee is key.
Completing the PEAT2 Record fully and regularly will help with record-keeping and communication.
Required CPD for trainees
Where multiple employers are involved, they would need to agree on a schedule to allow the trainee to undertake a minimum of 60 hours' required CPD for trainees, including undertaking a four-hour mandatory ethics course from an authorised provider.
Being signed off as a fit and proper person
For a shared traineeship, this will have to be agreed between all supervisors involved. Due to the regular PQPR structure, progress should have been communicated clearly throughout anyway. So as with any traineeship, it should never be a surprise judgement about whether someone has met the standard or not.
Fulfilling the requirements of the training contract and PEAT2 Outcomes
To ensure the trainee will have met all of the requirements, employer(s) offering a flexible traineeship must present a comprehensive training plan to the Society's Admissions sub-Committee.
If you have held a full, unrestricted practising certificate for three years, you can supervise a trainee. If you have not already done so, you will need to appoint a training manager for the firm or organisation. Find out more about who can act as a training manager and their responsibilities here.
In a shared traineeship, there will need to be a supervisor at each place of work. Communication and collaboration between different supervisors is essential, so there is agreement about the trainee's progress throughout.
How supervision works in practice will depend on how the shared traineeship is structured.
For example, if the trainee spends one year with one employer and the next with a different employer, then the supervisors would need to have a clear handover and comprehensive notes about trainee progress as they move from one employer to another.
Or, when a trainee's weekly hours are split between employers throughout the traineeship, it might be appropriate to do all PQPRs with one supervising solicitor, with any other supervisor(s) feeding in, or to meet jointly.
On a secondment the onus remains on the firm with the training contract to complete PQPRs but that firm should seek input from the firm to which the trainee is seconded. Alternatively, both permanent supervisor and secondment supervisor could jointly meet the trainee for PQPR but the permanent supervisor will be the one to sign it off.
For trainees doing multiple secondments, they would usually be remunerated by their permanent place of work. If there is a financial agreement with the organisation the trainee is being seconded to, this should not impact a trainee’s regular salary and can be arranged between the organisations.
For trainees who are doing a shared traineeship, this is something the employers can work out between themselves. Bear in mind what would be preferable for the trainee, e.g. if one monthly lump sum from one employer would be better, with the other employer reimbursing the salary to the paying employer.
Please note all trainees must be paid, as a minimum, the living wage as set by the Living Wage Foundation. The Law Society Council also sets a recommended salary for trainees each year, with over 90% of trainees getting paid at or above this benchmark. Read more about the Living Wage and recommended rate here.
A flexible traineeship application will need to be referred to the Admissions sub-Committee for consideration and approval. This would be made by the employer(s), rather than the prospective trainee.
You can contact the Admissions team at the Law Society for more information ahead of this process including the next deadline for a meeting, by emailing email@example.com.
There is no formal template required for the Admissions sub-committee to consider a flexible traineeship. However, an application will need to be made and we would recommend it includes as much practical information as possible about how the traineeship supervision will be managed, and how the firms/organisations which will be party to the traineeship plan to ensure that the PEAT 2 Outcomes are met by the trainee as well as practical arrangements. A more extensive planning application might be requested if sufficient information is not provided in the first instance.
Some suggested headings to structure an application around are:
Details of the trainee and employers involved in the proposal, as well as a summary statement of how the flexible traineeship will work. You may also want to reference any reading and/or liaison with a Law Society contact you have had ahead of this proposal.
2. Structure of traineeship
How the trainee’s time will be split between participating employers. This might be in relation to hours spent with participating employers, days of the week, or where time might be spent in different stages of the traineeship. If the traineeship is part-time, the pro-rata’d time required to complete the traineeship should be recorded.
3. Areas of work
What areas of work the trainee will be working in during each part of the traineeship, including the sort of tasks and projects they will undertake. This should also include details for any organisations the trainee will be seconded to.
4. Fulfilment of PEAT2 Outcomes
Will there be an opportunity to develop each of the PEAT2 outcomes throughout all parts of the traineeship, or might some be developed exclusively in parts of the traineeship? The committee will want to see a training plan that clearly lays out how the outcomes will be met.
Who will be acting as the primary supervisor, or will this role be split between different parties at different employers? Who will conduct regular Quarterly Performance Reviews and how will the supervisors communicate in advance of these?
Who will be paying the salary and what will the trainee be paid?
7. Start date(s)
List the projected start/end dates with each employer, paying close attention to any time that needs to be extended on a pro-rata basis to ensure the traineeship lasts two years full-time equivalent.
8. Key personnel
Who will be involved in terms of supervision, training management, and anyone who a trainee may be supervised by on secondment.
You can contact the Education, Training & Qualifications team at the Law Society for more information ahead of this process including the next deadline for a meeting, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.