The Co-operative’s legal arm, Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), has abandoned its aim to offer one hundred training contracts annually, following a poor financial performance during the 2012-13 year.
The alternative business structure (ABS) had planned to offer 100 training contracts a year by 2017 (24 May 2012). However, it recruited just ten trainees this September and has abandoned plans to match magic circle trainee intakes.
CLS director of policy Christina Blacklaws said: “We are not saying that training contracts will not exist at the Co-op, absolutely not. We will increase the numbers as we increase the size of the organisation.”
CLS will now recruit greater numbers of staff through its learning academy, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University (13 February 2013). Blacklaws explained that the ABS’s priorities had changed since 2012, when managing director Eddie Ryan had stated its aim to recruit 100 trainees annually.
She said: “We have now started our learning academy, which at that point was just a twinkle in our eye. Part of that is to offer traditional opportunities for people to take up training contracts.
“We see that as something really important; we want to have the law-makers of the future. We want those people who have the legal skills to take cases to the Court of Appeal.”
She added: “But in addition to that, through the development of the academy, we have taken a slightly less traditional approach to legal education. The motivation behind that is that increasingly difficult for a lot of young people to afford the traditional route.”
Blacklaws also touched upon the relationship between the traditional legal education model of university and training contracts and lack of diversity within the sector.
She said: “That [traditional route] has huge impact in terms of equality and diversity, particularly in relation to social mobility. So we have developed our thinking around training and education to open it up much more broadly beyond just training contracts, although recognising that they play a significant part in legal education.
“We think it is exciting to open this up to everybody, not just a few high fliers, so it is a change in emphasis and focus but it is not an abandonment of traditional training.”