Irwin Mitchell overhauls trainee seat system

Sheffield-based Irwin Mitchell is to centralise its first year training budget as part of a wider overhaul of the firm’s training strategy.

Traditionally the firm gave trainee solicitors six-month trial periods in four seats over two years. Now graduates will spend four months in three seats for the first year before choosing to specialise in the second year.

Head of graduate recruitment Sue Lenkowski said: “We needed a radical rethink of the training contract to fit the needs of our broad business base.”

Irwin Mitchell’s business model is split between its personal injury practice, which deals with volume claims, and its businesses practices, which includes corporate commercial and commercial litigation.

Lenkowski said until now the firm had implemented a broad training contract to reflect its broad business structure, but the partnership had agreed trainees would benefit more from specialising in the second year.

She added that second year trainees would be given the opportunity to build relationships with clients before qualifying. “In the second year trainees will get hands-on experience and the transition from trainee to newly qualified will be smoother,” explained Lenkowski.

Furthermore, partners would be encouraged to take greater ownership of their trainees, a move incentivised by the restructured training budget. “We wanted partners to see this as a unique way of financing training for the first year so they would take ownership of the scheme,” Lenkowski added.

”A central budget will fund training contracts for the first year, in the second year the practice will pick up the bill.”

The scheme will be fully implemented in 2009.