Mark's Blog

New Trainee Retention Rates & Analysis

Trainee retention rates have recently been published and actually look quite good. Slaughter and May have published a retention rate of 91% for its newly qualified solicitors. That’s 42 out of 46 trainees retained. The figure from their March intake was at 90%.

Ashurst also increased their retention rate from March. They retained 83% of NQ solicitors up from 78% after 24 out of 27 trainees who applied for solicitor roles were offered employment. SNR Denton’s retention rates were up even more – 83% up from 60%. They are retaining 24 of 29 qualifying trainees.

So the retention rates do seem to be getting better. This should make sense. After all there are 44.5 graduates applying for each trainee solicitor role as I looked at here. So the best of the best should be the only ones getting training contracts. Only people who really want the job and have the ability to be an amazing solicitor. After all the competition, all of  the applications and all of the assessments a firm should be pretty sure that they’ve got the right candidate.

And that’s how I first looked at the figures.

But then I thought about something else. Is the actual training contract just another stage of the interview? Do firms ever intend to keep 100% of their graduates? Or is it a situation where they NEED to eliminate one or two candidates because of budget requirements? I don’t know. But 100% retention rates seem rare, and that seems odd to be because of the intensive recruitment process.

Another way to read the situation is that the trainee retention IS a cost cutting measure. NQ solicitors will need to be paid much less than a senior solicitor or partner. Their wages may even be less than an experienced paralegal or legal assistant. So firms could be cutting several senior jobs and replacing them with NQ solicitors that they view as highly talented. Because of the competitiveness perhaps trainees would settle for a lower wage too?

They would be happy simply getting a job in law and making a respectable amount of money in the process. I’d feel pretty annoyed if I’d worked in a firm for several years, got made redundant, and then the firm keeps 100% of its trainees! However this is just speculation. I have no idea how firms will deal with this sort of process, or the transparency which is involved.

I also found it interesting that graduates resigned; 2 of Slaughter’s trainees resigned before qualification. I guess working in a big commercial firm isn’t for everyone, but they must have disliked it enough to make the 59k NQ salary not worth it!

Other retention rates should be released within the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if the other firms repeat this upwards retention trend. But it is hard to know what to make of the numbers. Does the fact that we’re in a recession again mean the retention rate is likely to drop soon? Or was I right by saying that retaining more trainees could be saving firms more money overall?

Would love to hear what other people think.

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Update – Site Progression, New Series & News

Site update

I think things are going well for StudyingLaw.co.uk. We have had quite a few mentions on twitter and have even been referenced on university pages. This is very encouraging! But we’re still a young site and there’s much to do. Right now we’re working on a section with more barrister specific information and after that we plan to make some graduate profiles.

This will help students thinking about law at university get a clear picture of where they will be after they graduate. The only section of the site we’re having trouble with is this blog. I think my initial plan to just do anything legal based was a bit broad. So I seem to randomly be going from one subject to another. Athough stuff like law firm SEO does interest me, I don’t think it’s 100% relevant here. Maybe ill create a marketing blog in the future (I’ll be doing this – articles down for the time being). However I think some of our infographics have been great. So we will certainly be doing more of those in the future.

Now we will aim to focus on weekly legal news. Previously because so much time was going into making the site we didn’t really have time to keep up to date ourselves on recent legal developments! But now the content won’t be released as often as it was. The core site elements are in place. This means we can spend more time on this blog. So we hope to be commenting on the most recent legal developments weekly. We will either focus on the big stories or do a “News Round-up” like the one below.

Recently in the news

The Association of Graduate Recruiters reported that vacancies in law firms are likely to drop by 16.5% and 44.5 graduates applied for each trainee solicitor vacancy. We all know getting a training contract is going to be hard, but seeing the statistics like this makes very depressing reading. More LPC graduates will unfortunately be left with minimal chances of obtaining a training contract. I wonder how many LPC graduates are actually aware of the above figures? It was certainly a shock to me. Sometimes the pure desire to become a solicitor and achieve your life goals can get in the way of cold hard statistics…

Lord Neuberger presented his speech to the University of Birmingham Holdsworth club. In 2010 I had the privilege of seeing the presidential address by Lord Hope. There were similarities between the two speeches; both were about public judicial speaking with Lord Kilmuir being referenced in both.

Much of the media on the Lord Neuberger speech seemed to be a little sensationalist I thought. There were headlines using the words “slammed” and “criticised” in regards to Lord Neuberger mentioning the Lord Justice Stanley Burnton appearance on master-chef. Although Lord Neuberger didn’t seem to approve, he was referring to how Lord Kilmuir would react rather than putting forward his own opinion.  I just felt the media were too keen to go with a catchy headline on the matter. You can read the full speech yourself here.

I read an interesting story from The Basingstoke Gazette about a firm using Facebook to serve legal documents. They were served this way because of difficulties tracking down the wife of a client – she moved to Spain. However she was found on Facebook and permission was granted by the local court to deliver the relevant matrimonial documents via Facebook.

This seems like a logical step to take and should be more time & cost effective  for everyone involved. Obviously it should only be used in certain circumstances but I’m glad the courts are open to it.  As long as Facebook don’t add a “Serve” button next to “Poke”…

 

Working in Law: What You Should Know [Infographic]

Infographic on UK law - demographics, GDP contribution and costs

Here is a brief overview of legal services in the UK.

If anyone has any up to date data they could share with me I’d be very grateful. Most of the data here is from 2011 taken from the Law Society and the ONS. I actually found it a real challenge finding good data sets (I can’t afford to pay the Law Society fees for their reports).

Have a look at our infographic about getting started in law.

If you want to use this infographic on your own site please refer back to this page or http://studyinglaw.co.uk/

LSATs in The UK – A Solution to LPC Graduate Overpopulation?

Too many LPC places, not enough training contract vacancies; It’s a big problem. I’m not going to look for blame; I don’t really think anyone is massively at fault. For the colleges of law it’s simply a mater of supply and demand.

If there are students who want to take the LPC we can’t blame colleges for accepting them. For all they know the candidate in question could get a training contract, and the LPC can be useful in other legal roles. For example recently I’ve been seeing a lot of job adverts for paralegal / legal assistant roles which states “LPC graduates desired”.

They could perhaps be a little stricter with their entry requirements, but that’s about it. The law colleges are a business (edit the CoL is a charity). We need to remember that and not think of them in the same way we would a university. They need to make money and expand.

Students also have the right to follow their dreams and try and “make it” in their dream career. Even if they know their chances may not be great; it’s their choice to make.

So to balance out this “too many Legal Practice Course graduates” problem I believe there should be an additional testing phase after the LLB or GDL. This testing could be similar to the LSATs that American lawyers need to pass. Let me explain in a little more detail. LSAT stands for Law School Admission Test and it’s designed to assess reading comprehension, logic, and verbal reasoning skills (examples of questions below).

The LSAT needs to be passed before the student can get into law school. If we had it in the UK then a candidate who doesn’t have the raw ability to become a solicitor won’t get the required results, and therefore won’t be able to do the LPC. This is because the skills the LSAT tests are very closely linked (I believe) to being a good solicitor. It would save weaker candidates money (and time) in the long term.

It would also do something arguably more important. It would eliminate people who would have got a training contract because of family connections alone. This would mean future solicitors would be in their current job because of what they know, not who they know. It makes the process more about ability. It would also give law firms more criteria on how they choose their candidates since they would be able to ask about your LSAT scores.

This would be beneficial because it would make sure students who only had a good memory, or were just good at passing university exams wouldn’t make the cut unless they also had the logical  & reasoning skills too. This would prevent the sort of solicitors who are just like a human legal directory. Legal problem input – legal solution output. Some solicitors (and students with training contracts) I’ve been in contact with could even be better described as legal machines. Technically very good but perhaps not always understanding the essence of a legal problem, or being able to see logical alternative solutions (not saying they do a bad job!)

To me that’s what being a good solicitor should be all about; finding creative solutions and arguments to do the best job they can to help clients. I truly believe that candidates with superior verbal reasoning and comprehension skills are more likely to be this kind of solicitor.

The LSAT (or new equivalent) wouldn’t just help prevent the LPC graduate overpopulation, but would help improve the overall quality of solicitors. It could be heavily modified to test the core skills required of a solicitor (I may write a blog post about what could be in this test in the future). These skills are something which have been put secondary to legal knowledge for too long. And I believe this notion of “legal knowledge = a good solicitor” is in part why so many students have taken the LPC where in fact their soft skills were not up to the job of becoming a solicitor.

A test before the LPC may a) cause students to work on these skills therefore improving them or b) cause them to realise that practical law isn’t for them and allow them choose another legal area. I hate to see people in tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt with nothing to show for it. Testing I believe could at least reduce this number.

I’d love to hear other peoples thoughts on this idea. There could have been loads of things I’ve missed or overlooked. Or perhaps my personal experiences reflect a state of affairs which isn’t the norm. Feel free to comment!

Note : Although I’m talking about LPC students in this article the test could also easily apply to Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students. Perhaps it would make even more sense to have it for the BPTC since the course can cost over £15,000 in London and competition is even more fierce. Perhaps as well as containing LSAT elements, a test for Bar School applicants should also assess oral skills too.

Here is an example of the LSAT test from 2007 with answers at the bottom of the document. Do you think you could pass? (scroll down to see the zoom in button)

Other Top Quality Legal Websites

If you’re in the legal profession these websites will help you further or just provide you with some interesting reading. Although we recommend these sites we are not responsible for their content. This is the place for great sites which aren’t linked from elsewhere on our site. Note: This page accidentally got deleted a while back; if we used to link to you, but no longer do, please contact us.

http://www.venables.co.uk

Delia Venables offers a very useful site with information on free legal resources available online. She provides extensive lists of solicitors and barristers, with links to their web sites, an A to Z of legal resources by area of law, information on free case law and current awareness, jobs, CPD, transcription services, legal software, web services, expert witnesses and much else besides. There are also separate sections for individuals, students and companies. For students, there are sections on careers, resources and courses. Everything a student needs to know (well, almost).

http://www.binarylaw.co.uk/

I really appreciate this blog because of my interest in the law, technology and SEO. I actually found this blog after my blog posts on SEO and technology use in law firms. Consequently I feel much less original now! Although there is a lot of content on there (the blog has been going since 2004) so I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m relatively new to the legal blog world, but this one is definitely my favourite so far.

http://legal-aware.org/

The official blog of the BPP Legal Awareness Society. The Society comprises entirely of students, and is 100%  independent. Real experiences of BPP law students and a range of blog entries both political and legal in nature.

http://www.doortothelaw.co.uk

A site which goes into detail  about legal education prior to university. Good for students considering a career in law who are still in secondary school / college.

http://travisthetrout.wordpress.com

A fantastic blog which can teach current law students a great deal. The blog tracks progress through the LPC, work as a paralegal and more recently, work as a trainee solicitor. It has some especially useful advice on planning & note taking which can help anyone involved in law. The blog started in 2008 so I’ve only just scratched the surface of what the blog has to offer!

http://allaboutlaw.co.uk/

AllAboutLaw.co.uk is the essential law careers resource for school leavers, students and graduates.

Law Firms; Are They Fully Utilising Modern Technology?

This entry is going to be closely related to my next blog post which will go into detail about search engine optimisation (SEO) and the way it also may not be being used properly by some law firms (although I’ll briefly look at online presence here too).

This blog will look more generally at modern technology and its use by law firms. I advise you to read both entries in conjunction so you can get a complete picture of what I believe to be the technological deficit some firms face.

The technological deficit

I remember one of my friends telling me about the firm he worked at a few years ago. He was doing general admin / clerical work there. To my surprise he told me that the firm had only just recently (during the time he was working there) decided to switch from a paper based system to a computer based system. They also had limited knowledge of resources like WestLaw and LexisNexis.

I have also had a few experiences lately where the lack of understanding of how technology works has resulted in solicitors taking a more inefficient and time consuming route than they should. The reason for this is usually based on fear of doing something wrong. In one personal experience an older solicitor was afraid of accidentally sending a sensitive email to everyone in his address book rather than just to his colleague (who was located elsewhere). For this reason he decided to post a letter rather than email.

In another experience it became apparent the partner of a small / medium sized firm didn’t know the first thing about the value of websites. He seemed to think it was like the yellow pages but with pictures. He had no idea that with a little effort a website could reach hundreds, or even thousands of new clients every day.

The individuals in these experiences were brilliant solicitors – obviously very talented. It wasn’t really their fault they didn’t know these basic truths about the use of technology. I’m not saying everyone in the legal profession should be expert computer users, or that all small firms have the problems stated in this blog. I want to make that very clear. This is just what I’ve experienced, I don’t mean to generalise.

But to me it’s quite shocking that firms (especially the smaller ones with older solicitors) don’t invest more in basic technology training. It’s also surprising that the partners of firms don’t fully grasp how with a little time and effort, online marketing can be invaluable. Quite simply, if everyone in a firm fully understands the basics of modern technology then it can save them a ton of time and therefore make them more profitable.

Obviously I’m not talking about large international firms based in a major city here. I’m talking about medium / small firms. To me it seems that technology training and learning more about how it can assist a firm is not a high priority with firms of this size. The reason that it’s not a priority is perhaps again because of fear. Fear of something going wrong or fear about stepping out of the comfort zone into something they are not familiar with. Or perhaps they perceive IT training as too hard or expensive. None of these factors should stop a firm from potentially increasing their efficiency tenfold.

Online presence

I had a quick look at a selection of firms located at a random location in the UK to see what their online presence was like. The firms were located around a smallish town area so shouldn’t have more than 15 employees.

Solicitors 1

Has a one page website with contact details. No social media, no other news stories visible.

Solicitors 2

A website with the areas of law they specialise in and a list of solicitors. Minimal content. No social media to be found.

Solicitors 3

A great website with a blog updated at least every two weeks. Blogs are on a range of legal matters. A good amount of content on each page. Has a twitter and linked in account.

Solicitors 4

No website or online presence apart from legal directories by the law society.

Solicitors 5

A website which looks like it was designed in 1995. Being outranked in google by a non law company with the same name.

These firms apart from “solicitors 3” must have solely been promoting through word of mouth or newspaper advertising. I get the impression that they don’t seem to think that promoting online is necessary. Or that an online presence is a luxury that they don’t need right now. Unfortunately in this case standing still is moving backwards. With the change in legal services meaning that supermarkets and banks will be able to sell legal services, this could mean that firms who don’t improve their online presence will fall further behind.

Obviously these legal services providers will have a very strong online presence. Since people often google a certain service they require this means that the new legal service providers will have the first chance to “sell” to a prospective client via their website. Or will have a better sales pitch due to their superior online presence. The fact that a lot of firms have a poor online presence is hardly surprising – if some don’t even have a good general understanding of IT & technology how can they be expected to understand something more advanced like online marketing?

To conclude; smaller firms need to adapt. Online promotion I believe should already be a massive part of any firms marketing strategy. That goes for big and small firms. Too many firms simply do the bare minimum. Why pass up such a fantastic client source like the internet. They tick the “let’s get a website” box and move on.

It is this lack of understanding of perhaps the most important piece of technology today – the internet, which could cause firms to fail. As mentioned before a lack of technological knowledge, especially in small firms, seems to be a reoccurring theme in the legal sector (I actually looked at a range of accounting & insurance businesses in the area above too; they all seemed to have an online presence similar to solicitors 3).

Perhaps in a future blog I’ll write about some historical reasons I believe this to be the case. But In my next blog I’ll look at what firms can do to boost their online presence with minimal effort. I may also look at apps which could benefit law firms and what the future holds.

Let The Blogging Begin!

bob lob law law blog

Time for something a little bit different on the site. So far the articles I’ve written have been very much information based. Yes, there have been a few which have been slightly opinionated but I’ve tried to base everything I’ve said on either personal experience, or extensive research.

The way in which I’ve written has been very instructional and factual. Writing this way I find it’s very hard to be interesting, or add any sort of flair to my articles. I guess this is to be expected when I’m writing about the basics of studying law; it’s quite hard to make the LPC providers or available law jobs overly exciting.

The main reason I wrote those articles was simply for information purposes. I wanted to give people clear, structured, and accurate information. I believe I’ve achieved this. For the foreseeable future (the next few months) I’m still going to be writing that sort of article – I’ll still be fleshing out the site. Maybe after that I can start to create more niche articles which will be more interesting.

But still articles which will be based on fact. An idea I had was to explore the use of computers and technology in the training contract application process – are computer programs used to instantly discount applicants based on their application?

This sort of articles is unfortunately quite far off. Firstly I need to fully get the basics of StudyingLaw.co.uk down. And as I said before; that sort of instructional / pure information based article can get boring. Useful; but slightly boring to write (and maybe read).

For those reasons I’m going to do a bit of blogging. It will just give me so much more freedom. I think ill enjoy writing the blogs a lot more too. I won’t need to plan anywhere near as much. This entry for example; I just started typing. Yes it may seem a little unstructured at times but I find it much easier to write about. Sometimes I found myself struggling to hit 500 words with the main site articles! It also gives me the chance to explore other legal topics which have the potential to be much more interesting.

What will I be blogging on?

Essentially ill be writing about all legal areas which interest me. But these may not necessary be to do with legal education like the rest of the site. Here are a few areas I may blog about in the future:

  • Current legal news stories
  • SEO and the legal world
  • Use of technology & law firms
  • Development of the site / future ambitions
  • Legal frustrations / rants (especially in regards to training contracts!)
I especially like the idea of SEO in the legal world articles. This way I can talk about two of the things I am interested in at once! To give my site at least some form of “continuity” I’m going to stick to this rule of thumb when writing a blog entry:

 

Could someone who doesn’t enter my site from the “Law Videos & Blog” section still be interested in the blog content?

This gives me a wide spectrum when writing blogs but at least will not make me think that I should have created an entirely new site dedicated to a general legal blog. I will still be adding the occasional video I find useful or interesting off youtube, but I didn’t want the blog section to only consist of videos. That seems a bit spammy to me.

You can hopefully expect my first (real) blog post within the next few days. Then I aim to add to it once every 2 weeks at least.