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April 5 2022

Flex Trainee: tomorrow's legal industry, today

Flex News

sophie gould

sophie gould

A line of Flex Trainees stand in front of The Golden Hind on London's southbank

Flex Trainee is our scheme for trainee lawyers, designed to help them and the legal industry at large take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the SQE. The scheme was first launched in 2021, and is currently well into its second cohort of Flex Trainees. We designed the entire scheme from the ground-up to help create a more diverse, representative, and socially mobile legal profession.

What is the Flex Trainee mission?

Access to the legal profession is a known and often-cited challenge. 35,000 law graduates apply for only 5,000 training contract places each year. Privately-educated individuals comprise only 7% of the UK population – but make up more than half of city law firm intakes. Russell Group graduates represent roughly 22% of all UK graduates, but 61.6% of all trainees. These are big, concerning challenges; overcoming them requires systemic change. The introduction of the SQE is a huge step towards addressing these issues – but time-poor lawyers can struggle to breathe life into this opportunity thoughtfully and responsibly.

We continually speak with in-house leaders who are passionate about building a more accessible and diverse legal profession, and genuinely want to make a difference within their own teams. Unfortunately, they often struggle to do so. Identifying bright and diverse young talent at such an early stage is daunting, difficult and time-consuming. In reality, in-house teams often lack the capacity, budget, and processes to properly recruit, train and manage unqualified legal professionals. 

We want to work hand-in-hand to support in-house legal teams as they rise to these challenges. When the SQE was first announced, Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said that “the SQE offers a fresh opportunity to increase access to the profession. A competitive training market, offering real choices, will help the profession attract the best talent". Now that we’re in 2022, and the SQE is being steadily phased in, we are playing a central role in making that vision a reality.

Flex Trainee cohorts 1 and 2 sit around a table

How does the Flex Trainee scheme invest in legal talent?

We have partnered with legal social mobility charity STRIVE to identify aspiring lawyers from unique backgrounds, who deserve their chance to break into a legal career. We’re incredibly proud of the candidates we’ve been able to identify for our first two cohorts!

Before a Flex Trainee is seconded to a client, we put them through a bespoke and highly personalised Flex Trainee Readiness Programme curated by Flex Legal’s Head of Learning and Development, Sophie Gould. We want the best for each and every Flex Trainee, which is why we’ve sought to supercharge their professional development. The Readiness Programme takes the hard and soft skills that would normally take months to absorb in a professional workplace, and formalises it into up-front training. We cover need-to-know legal skills, advanced workplace soft skills, and even a full final week of training specific to the organisation each Trainee is placed with.

We also give our Flex Trainees access to the SQE 1+2 prep courses with our partners at Barbri, and full access to our SQE Journal so they can work with their supervisors to record and manage their progress towards SQE qualification. For the first 3 months of each placement, a Flex Mentor holds weekly 1-to-1 meetings with the Trainees to ensure they are settling into their teams, making an impact, and offer proactive training on anything they need to know. After three months, this reduces to a monthly check-in to review their progress. Finally, our Flex Trainees are all invited to attend monthly training and social events, to help them form a long-lasting, trusting professional network that will put them in good stead for their professional lives.

Flex Trainees clients laugh in joy with Mary Bonsor

How is the Flex Trainee programme going so far?

We’re delighted to say that the Flex Trainee programme is a roaring success so far! Not only have our second cohort just finished their Readiness Programme, but we’ve partnered with an incredible range of like-minded organisations who share our passion for advancing diversity and social mobility within the legal industry. We couldn’t be happier to be working alongside the likes of Trustpilot, Vodafone, ASOS, and The Crown Estate to make the law a better place to be.

We’ve also held our first quarterly client dinner, where we invited representatives from each partner organisation to discuss the scheme over a candlelit dinner. It was a fantastic evening and the perfect opportunity to get everyone sharing their thoughts and experiences with the scheme so far. We’re really keen to keep these dinners going, and know that they will help make the law a better and more diverse place to be.

We’re currently in the process of lining up our Trainees and clients for the third cohort, which will be the biggest one yet and will launch later this year. If you’re reading this and would like to be involved in our mission to build a better tomorrow, today, then reach out to us via the contact form on our website.

This opportunity is making my dreams of qualifying come true and provided me two opportunities: to train in-house which is very rare for junior lawyers and to build my legal and commercial network. I am so excited that such an opportunity is available to socially mobile students because at times it can feel like your chance will never come.

Maab Safeldin, Flex Trainee

The Crown Estate is delighted to be involved with the Flex Trainee programme which enables us to hire a very talented individual and help them to achieve their ambition of qualifying as a solicitor. The programme is also perfectly aligned with our commitment to broaden access to those who have potential, but may otherwise lack opportunity.

Nicholas Cheffings, Interim Head of Legal / Company Secretary at The Crown Estate