The predicament of trainee lawyers left 'in limbo' by firms failing to tell them until the last minute whether or not they will be retained will be a priority for the Junior Lawyers Division this year, its new chair has said.
Bryan Scant, who took over the 70,000-strong division last month, told the Gazette that some trainees are informed only a day before their training contract is up that they will not be taken on. Others have been told that they would be staying only to be later informed that the firm had changed its mind, Scant told the Gazette.
‘Junior lawyers need the security and the availability to look for other options. If they are not being given enough notice that they won’t be kept on, or left in limbo, then they are unable to plan for the future,’ he said.
Scant said the JLD had approached the Law Society council for help and for it to issue guidance to firms but that the Society wanted to wait and see if the proposals for a Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) would change anything.
‘This is not the end from our point of view,’ Scant said. ‘We will be holding meetings with local committees and the executive committee of the JLD to decide the best way forward.’
On the SQE, Scant said the JLD was ‘not opposed in principle’ to the idea of a centralised exam but that more information needed to be provided – including on costs.
He said it was unclear whether an SQE preparatory course proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority would be mandatory.
Scant said that if funding options are not made available, candidates that are unable to afford the preparatory course may opt for the SQE only, which could result in lower marks.
‘I’m concerned from a social mobility point of view that we could end up going back to the day when only those that could afford it could become solicitors,’ he said.
Scant is a solicitor with three years' PQE. The JLD's 70,000 members include trainee lawyers from their first year on the LPC to those with five years' PQE.