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November 23 2022

Flex Trainee: how Next 15 found the perfect SQE trainee

Case Studies

Mary Bonsor

Mary Bonsor

The Next15 Communications PLC logo is seen in a potent contrast of black and orange.

Mark Sanford of Next Fifteen Communications PLC smiles warmly.

Amongst the first partnerships Flex Legal struck up for our Flex Trainee scheme was with the fantastic Next Fifteen Communications Group PLC. Next 15 is a global marketing communications business, consisting of 24 subsidiary agencies. In total, they employ over 3,500 people, across a staggering 50 offices, in 15 countries.

Having previously worked with Next15 for the “on demand” side of our business, and knowing that we share corporate values, we were really keen to partner with them again for Flex Trainee.

We approached Mark Sanford (pictured), General Counsel and Company Secretary at Next 15, when we launched the scheme last year. There was a clear alignment in our ethos and vision for the scheme, and we were thrilled when Next 15 agreed to welcome Afroditi Griva into their legal team as a Flex Trainee. Here’s how it all went down:

How did Flex Trainee help Next 15 find an SQE Trainee?

The launch of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam was greeted with mixed responses from the wider legal industry. We saw the potential of a massive force for good. Specifically, we saw a clear parallel between the QWE requirement of the SQE, and our existing processes for pairing legal talent and legal teams.

By setting up a new arm of the company for Flex Trainee, we began to seek out partners. Our hope was that by taking on the time-consuming admin of identifying exceptional and diverse young talent, we could make the process of taking on an SQE trainee tremendously simple.

Given how important diversity is to Next 15, and how they share our commitment to improving social mobility within the industry, they made for perfect early partners for the scheme.

Flex Legal had already selected candidates and had the infrastructure set up for the SQE. It saved us a lot of time and effort, and we knew we were getting good trainees.

Mark Sanford

Next 15 were incredibly receptive to the programme, and felt it really aligned with the social mobility mission of their organisation. “As a company we have a culture of inclusivity and diversity. I love the way the trainees were selected and this met with the ethos of our company” says Mark. We subsequently placed the incomparable Flex Trainee Afroditi Griva with Next 15.

How does the Flex Trainee “readiness programme” work?

The secret ingredient to Flex Trainee’s success is our readiness programme, which developed in the formative days of the scheme. Our partners and Trainees had placed an enormous amount of trust in us, so we were incredibly committed to making the early Flex Trainee placements a success.

To this end, we tasked Sophie Gould, Flex Legal’s Head of Learning and Development, to design a bespoke “readiness programme”. This would ensure that each Flex Trainee could make meaningful contributions to their organisations from day one. She created a rigorous 4 week training programme, built around the hard and soft workplace skills a legal professional needs to succeed.

The readiness programme was great. Afroditi arrived with some knowledge and ideas that helped her hit the ground running.

Mark Sanford

Flex Trainee: Cohorts 1 and 2

How has Next 15’s Flex Trainee experience been so far?

Next15 are incredibly pleased with the Flex Trainee experience thus far, and recently extended Afroditi’s placement for another year. Afroditi has fully embedded herself into Next15’s team, and has taken on routine tasks such as reviewing commercial contracts for sub-brands, drafting settlement agreements, and updating post-acquistion templates. She has even stepped up as an “acting GC” when wider team members have been away on holiday.

When asked to name a standout moment from her Next 15 experience so far, Afroditi said “When I drafted a three way influencer agreement between one of our brands, their client which was one of Europe’s largest cinema operators and a famous actor (Golden Globe recipient!) and was involved in heavy negotiations between our brand’s client and the influencer’s agent around the retention of IP”.

Flex Trainee has been welcomed across the business. We included a few paragraphs in our annual report as we think it reflects our values, and shows how we consider broader stakeholders in our decisions.

Mark Sanford

Additional Resources:

  • Hire a Flex Trainee - If this post has you contemplating how the Flex Trainee scheme might help your legal team, then arrange a call with our team today to learn more.
  • Apply to be a Flex Trainee - If you’re an aspiring lawyer from an under-represented background, then read the full details of how to apply to the Flex Trainee scheme on our Recruitee page.
  • Tomorrow’s legal industry, today - Discover how Flex Trainee can help you to enhance your in-house team with a talented, deserving future lawyer.