Editor’s weekly: Silver lining?

Three separate surveys published this week have confirmed every aspiring solicitor’s worst fear – the market for training contracts is in dire straits.

As we reported on Monday (6 July) law firms are receiving an average of 130 applications per trainee position this year compared with an average of 52 in 2008, according to research from Sweet & Maxwell. That represents a jump of 150 per cent (read story).

Meanwhile, ‘The Graduate Market in 2009’ report from High Fliers reveals that graduate jobs have been cut substantially during this year’s recruitment season. According to the survey, the legal sector has seen a 7.5 per cent reduction in vacancies compared with an overall drop of 13.5 per cent across the UK’s top 100 graduate employers.

But figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) paint an even bleaker picture. The AGR’s Summer 2009 survey revealed that vacancies in the legal sector have plummeted by over 19 per cent this year.

With this much bad news it’s probably tempting to throw the towel in. But before you concede defeat you should note that there are still jobs out there and lots of firms are still accepting training contract applications until the end of the month.

As CMS Cameron McKenna’s graduate recruitment officer Victoria Wisson explains in comparison to other sectors, which have seen vacancies halved, law can be seen as a more stable sector. “Many industries have closed their applications early, but the majority of law firms are still open and this should give confidence to students that there are training contracts available,” says Wisson.

What’s more, according to the AGR the legal sector is still the most generous with regard to graduate pay. The median starting salary paid by law firms is £37,000 compared the £36,000 on offer at investment banks or fund managers.

So as Robert McKellar, president of Exeter University Law Society, puts it: “You have to believe in your own ability, because if you don’t you might as well give up.”


PS – if you haven’t managed to secure a vacation scheme and are stuck for ideas on how to spend your summer then check out this week’s feature, which brings you tips on alternative sources of work experience (read article).