Gishan Abeyratne – consultant in BCL Legal’s private practice division – asks: “I wonder who writes the scripts at the SRA?”...

The SRA has once again taken a stab at making changes seemingly for the better and unfortunately fallen right into a pit of angry lawyers. It recently announced plans to withdraw from the graduate recruitment code which seems to have upset some people. Oops…

Before we pass judgement on the decision, let’s first consider the contributing factors. As it stands, according to the code (which firms currently abide by voluntarily) a training contract cannot be offered to a budding lawyer before 1st September of said applicant’s final year as an undergraduate. By scrapping the code, firms nationwide would be able to offer training contracts whenever they saw fit. Is that such a bad thing?

This decision has been met with some reticence from recruitment and legal professionals, with one quoted in Lawyer 2B as saying, “It [the code] exists because law recruitment is different from any other form of recruitment.” In my professional opinion as a legal recruiter I have to agree with this. “There are unscrupulous firms out there and students may be forced into accepting offers.” This is an interesting comment and does beg the question, if you were forced into accepting an offer of employment that perhaps you may not want then how committed are you going to be to that job? One graduate recruitment manager at a City firm said they’re “genuinely worried”.

The key concerns seem to be around diversity and equality, with the general feeling being that the SRA is making a poor decision that will not promote a fair recruitment process for future lawyers. We want to make the legal profession more accessible and while academics still count for a lot, the background and path to your academic achievements are now seemingly less important. What I’m getting at here is the legal profession is no longer just an Oxbridge club. Personally, I agree; I think removing the code is a bad idea. However, I also wonder how much would change? Graduates would still only be able to start their training contracts in September following the completion of their LPC. But then a strong candidate may miss out simply because he or she applied a month later than someone else. Isn’t this already the case though?

The system isn’t perfect but this seems to be a change for the sake of making a change. Well what’s the point in that? It would seem that the recruiting law firms to have voiced opinions so far are all singing from the same hymn sheet – DON’T DO IT!

I think the SRA needs to consult with its friends and colleagues within firms and the legal recruitment profession to gauge the opinions of those who would be affected by this decision. Not just the students but the people looking to hire them. Surely that would be sensible?

There is no conclusion to this piece, just an on-going discussion. One cannot assume that logic is universal, however it would appear that at the moment the SRA is being universally considered as illogical.

Gishan Abeyratne