Growing from Within

How thinking differently about recruitment can help in-house legal teams meet their biggest challenge…

The challenges facing in-house legal teams are well-documented. An economic and regulatory environment-induced pressure to manage increasing workload, while containing or in many cases reducing resources.

One of the tactics increasingly employed to deal with this is to reduce external spend. This is an obvious target in a market in which the buyer-seller relationship is shifting so rapidly in favour of the former. However, doing so while ensuring to requisite quality of service to deliver value to the business is in itself becoming something of an art form amongst General Counsel.

Unsurprisingly, increasing headcount within the legal department rarely features among the list of tactics for a GC to present to the finance function. It is hardly a demonstration of intention to reduce costs and indeed on the face of it would seem to fly in the face of this aim. Not only would it increase business overhead, it also reduces flexibility, in investing in a set of specialist capabilities to meet a need that may or may not exist next year or the year after.

However, when we talk about growing the legal team we are usually thinking about recruiting externally and here is where many may be missing an opportunity. All too frequently we hear of highly-valued junior members of in-house teams (whether paralegals or some other label) moving elsewhere in order to further their legal careers with training contracts.

This is something of a shame. They have spent time in a role where they are well-placed to understand the needs of the business and pick up that key in-house trait of being “commercial”, which in-house lawyers often complain is too rarely exhibited by private practice lawyers. Yet, they are effectively replaced with … private practice lawyers (either by recruitment or engagement as external providers, neither of which are likely to be cheap options). Recruiting trainees afresh also seems to be rare practice for in-house teams (particularly in the context of the high demand we are seeing from applicants for in-house roles). This would create a similarly good opportunity for the business to shape a lawyer in line with its requirements from day one.

While the existing approach seems to fly in the face of common sense, looking through the eyes of a General Counsel overseeing a continually hard-pressed team, the alternative of offering training contracts may appear less attractive.

The whole concept of meeting SRA regulatory training requirements is really the last thing anyone needs in such a position. Then there is the time, effort and commitment in overseeing the process, ensuring ongoing training requirements are met both from regulatory and personal development perspectives. To add to this there is often the likelihood that the range of work on offer within the legal department is not sufficiently varied to be able to meet the experience requirement, which on the face of it makes for an insurmountable hurdle even if the foregoing challenges are overcome.

A viable solution to this situation is an outsourced “trainee resourcing solution” of the type offered by Accutrainee. Accutrainee is an SRA registered training establishment. It solves the problem by taking on the staff as trainees and seconding them back to the business for a pre-agreed period of between 3-24 months. Where required, it will arrange for trainees to be seconded to other organisations to ensure the required range of experience is covered.

Not only does this overcome the training regulatory barrier, it also actually reduces headcount (for the 2 year period) and absorbs employer risk, typically remaining cost-neutral while in the meantime offering the longer term benefit of developing a valued member of staff towards full qualification as a solicitor. After the training contract is completed, the business can re-employ a fully qualified solicitor, on terms that are agreed entirely between the parties (Accutrainee has no part in this).

With all of the growing challenges facing business, it makes sense to look beyond the obvious for easy solutions. At Accutrainee, we believe this is exactly what we offer.

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