Students to be recruited from second year as graduate recruitment code is transformed

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Law firms will be able to recruit future trainees from their second year at university due to a change in the graduate recruitment code.

Until now, law firms were prohibited from making training contract offers to students until their final year. However the signatories to the code, which is voluntary, have decided that the best way to preserve graduate recruitment good practice is to amend the code to reflect the current needs of law firms and students.

From the next recruitment cycle, which runs from this September, training contract offers will be able to be made from the beginning of a student’s penultimate year - so the second year of a three-year degree or the third year of a four-year course. However as is the case currently, students are not obliged to accept, and firms are not allowed to pressure students into accepting, training contracts before 15 September of their final year.

Once students have accepted that an offer they must withdrew from others employers’ recruitment processes, again mirroring the current rules.

Junior Lawyers Division chair Max Harris said: “We found that there was widespread support for a code which offers best practice guidance on recruitment for trainee solicitors.

“However, it was clear from the evidence that the code, as previously written, was out of date and no longer reflected modern recruitment practices. After detailed discussions, we are pleased to announce that a revised code has been agreed between the signatories.”

The changes to the code have been prompted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s sudden withdrawal of support for the code, which began a debate among firms about whether the code was still of value.

Harris added: “The purpose of the code is to create a fair recruitment process. It should ensure that students are provided with time to decide if a career in law is for them, and if so, time to experience several vacation placements in a breadth of practice areas. It also should provide students with time to excel at university, to create a more level playing field from a social mobility perspective.

“The new code seeks to deliver these intended purposes. We have worked with recruiters to ensure as far as possible that the code will not put employers who follow it in a disadvantaged position compared to employers who don’t.”

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