Council collaboration sparks trainee scheme

As budget cuts force four London boroughs to buddy up, wannabe lawyers gain new training opportunity

Despite the biggest public sector cutbacks in a generation, local authority legal teams still have the next generation at heart. Local councils have responded to budget cuts by buddying up, with the London authorities of Merton, Kingston, Sutton and Richmond going four-ways earlier this year by setting up the South London Legal Partnership (SLLP). Good news not only for south London’s taxpayers, but also for those keen to start a career in local government – the group is hosting a trainee programme across its 90-strong shared service from next autumn.

Believed to be the first of its kind to incorporate four boroughs, a spokesperson for Merton council said the newly-formed group will take on two trainees a year. “This is an exciting time for our new legal team and it is great that we will be able to offer trainee solicitors a placement with us,” enthuses SLLP’s assistant director of corporate governance Paul Evans. “Practising law within the public sector can be both challenging and rewarding, and incredibly varied.”

Richmond Council
Richmond Council has linked up with three other boroughs

It’s a refreshing move for a market that in many corners has chosen to cut its trainee intake – magic circle firm Allen & Overy has revealed that it will reduce its annual trainee intake to 85 from 2015, while media boutique Wiggin, whose clients include Twentieth Century Fox and Virgin Media, has scrapped its scheme all together, with the next two rounds of trainee intakes the firm’s last.But it’s not all about London. Kent County Council’s legal team has also made a recent decision to launch a training scheme and at the time of writing was seeking four trainee solicitors with a passion for local government.

Even the way these councils are finding future trainees is a breath of fresh air. Kent’s legal team is using Twitter (handle @kentlegal) as the main platform for its recruitment campaign. “We want to recruit applicants who have a real entrepreneurial spirit who can make a real impact,” says Geoff Wild, Kent’s director of governance and law. “Using Twitter in the early stages is just one part of ensuring we get the right people.”

With proposed budgets for 2013/14 exposing further cuts on public spending, public sector legal teams are proving to be a forward-thinking bunch.