Trainee recruitment rules to be upheld by recruiters in wake of SRA’s withdrawal

The code governing how junior lawyers are recruited will be upheld after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) abruptly withdrew from it earlier this year, it has been revealed. 

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) will uphold the Graduate Recruitment Code after the SRA withdrew from it, reasoning that because the code was voluntary, the regulator had no role to play in it.

The legal profession reacted with anger at the SRA’s plans as, although the code is voluntary and not enforceable, it is responsible for the way in which legal graduate recruitment functions on a high level.

It seeks to promote fair recruitment and encourage a situation in which undergraduates are able to gain a breadth of experience and are not pressured to sign up to work at firms at an early stage in their education.

Currently the code states, among other requirements, that:

  • No offers can be made before 1 September of an undergraduate’s final year.
  • Offers have to be open for four weeks before being withdrawn
  • Once a candidate has accepted an offer they must withdraw from other firms’ application processes

The AGR, AGCAS and the JLD have decided to remain signatories for the upcoming phase of recruitment (which covers students being offered training contracts this year and starting work in 2017) and will work together to redraft the code for future years.

The three groups commissioned a survey of students and recruitment professionals, which found that 89 per cent of students and 100 per cent of careers advisers supported the code.  

A cross-party group is now reviewing the code and recommending changes to update it in line with current recruitment practices in time for next year’s recruitment cycle.

AGR chief executive Stephen Isherwood said: “The code provides students with the time and security to make considered decisions at this crucial point in their legal careers. The AGR and its members are keen to see that this recruitment season runs smoothly and that students aren’t subjected to unnecessary uncertainty.”

JLD chair Max Harris added: “The principles of the code remain valuable for both firms and students. The JLD are proud to be a signatory to this code, and we are incredibly pleased by the results of the AGR and AGCAS surveys. These show that firms and students retain their trust in the code, despite the SRA’s recent withdrawal.”

Previously…

10 Mar 15: Trainee code: SRA to withdraw by end of March as fellow signatories condemn move

5 Mar 15: “This will lead to paranoia among firms and automaton junior lawyers”: Profession responds angrily to SRA’s plan to scrap trainee code 

4 Mar 15: SRA may scrap trainee rules, allowing recruitment at any age