It was recently announced that Eversheds have increased their annual trainee solicitors’ number by 25%. By creating the new ‘SQE Academy’ with ten spots available annually, they’ll provide a pathway for paralegals to qualify as solicitors. The two-year route operates alongside the training contract and apprenticeship programmes giving their most talented paralegals an opportunity to work towards SQE while picking up necessary work experience and receiving paid time off each week for their studies as an additional incentive.
Lorraine Kilborn, chief people officer, Eversheds Sutherland, said “SQE Academy will enable our candidates to move their careers through training to qualification as lawyers over the next two years. By opening up a new route to a legal career for candidates who will come through from more diverse backgrounds, we are reflecting the communities we operate in and meeting the demands of our clients who look to our firm to invest in and shape the future of legal services”
Eversheds is not the first, and likely won’t be the last, to increase their trainee numbers. Walker Morris has also increased their annual cohort by 25% (16 to 20) while CMS has jumped up from 79 to 95 trainees a year. We at DMJ view these actions as a way to push back against an extremely competitive marketplace for new legal talent. With salaries rising and firms busier than ever, it makes sense that they would start exploring additional avenues to increase lawyer numbers over the long-term.
There are additional benefits to simply adding bodies to the ranks. Instead of a revolving door of solicitors, firms have an opportunity to engrain culture, values and loyalty early on. There are still firms who have the capacity and managerial skills to hold onto solicitors for their entire careers and having them buy into company culture is a key factor in this.
This move also improves the legal market as a whole. Raising Paralegals to Solicitors not only increases the supply of lawyers to the market but encourages those from more diverse backgrounds who typically face a greater quantity of barriers to entry to get into law and see qualification as a genuine prospect.
These actions fall in line with what DMJ expects for the foreseeable future in the legal recruitment market. Where 2021 was all about the all-mighty pound with lawyers taking advantage of the market’s bidding war, we see 2022 as a year where firms adapt and fight to hold onto their talent through strong company culture, advancement opportunities and training and development among other benefits. Although there will always be a place for us legal recruiters, we do expect 2022 to be a different kettle of fish to 2021.