Firms can now recruit students onto training schemes in their penultimate year of university, following an amendment to a code of practice the Law Society backed yesterday.

Previously firms who wanted to comply with the voluntary code, which is also signed by the Law Society’s junior lawyers division, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and Association of Graduate Recruiters, had to wait until September of a student’s final year before making an offer and had to set their application deadlines to 31 July.

But in an update to reflect ‘modern practices’ the code now gives employers more flexibility about when to set their training contract application deadlines and when they can make student offers, as long as it is not before the penultimate year.

Max Harris (pictured), an associate at Baker & McKenzie and chair of the junior lawyers division, said the problem with the previous code was that often the interview process for trainee shcemes is already well underway by the 31 July deadline and some firms could have already decided on their trainee allocations.

This could leave students applying for places which had already been filled, he said, contradicting the aims of the code which is designed to protect students.

‘It was artificially protecting them but in reality it possibly wasn’t in their best interests,’ he told the Gazette.

Another concern with the previous code was that some firms were making offers before September, which could disadvantage those who abided by the code as it meant they sometimes found applicants had accepted training contracts elsewhere.

But, as with the previous code, students will not be obliged to accept any offers for training contracts before 15 September of their final year.

The changes to the code were prompted after the Solicitors Regulation Authority removed itself as a signatory in April 2015, which prompted the remaining three signatories to evaluate whether the code still provided value to recruiters and students.

The Law Society announced on Tuesday that it has replaced the SRA as a signatory to the code, which it said settles any uncertainty about whether the code would remain in place for the forthcoming recruitment programme.