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February 22 2023

How Phoenix Group are improving legal industry diversity

Case Studies

Mary Bonsor

Mary Bonsor

Phoenix Group Logo

It’s been over 15 months since we launched our groundbreaking SQE training scheme, Flex Trainee. Designed to support socially mobile aspiring lawyers to achieve qualification, we’re incredibly proud to have placed 27 talented trainees within 23 top in-house legal teams across the UK, from Vodafone and ASOS, to The Crown Estate and TrustPilot.

Now we’ve worked with three full cohorts of trainees, with another three due to launch this year, we thought this would be the perfect time to check in with one of our first partners for the scheme, Sarah Gormley, Head of General Counsel Operational Excellence at Phoenix Group.

How did Flex Trainee help Phoenix Group to find an SQE Trainee?

Phoenix Group is the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business. Their legal team pride themselves on being a centre of excellence, supporting operations across the whole group. As a team, their day-to-day tasks include taking care of: commercial contracts, transactions and insurance, and any M&A deals.

Phoenix are passionate about being a purpose-led organisation, for both their customers and employees alike. This bleeds all the way down to their legal team, and Sarah is particularly keen to challenge the current barriers to entry that many experience within our industry. This purpose-led approach aligns strongly with Flex Trainee’s mission to help socially mobile aspiring lawyers achieve qualification. So, as you can expect, we were delighted to place one of our first ever trainees, Jordan, within Phoenix Group back in October 2021.

After having previously worked with Flex for the on-demand paralegal side of our business, Sarah felt confident in our shared corporate ethos and values. Particularly in relation to Phoenix’s early careers programme which aims to help deserving socially mobile candidates secure life-changing opportunities. Following a successful chat with Flex CEO, Mary Bonsor, three of our trainees were shortlisted as suitable matches, and all three were viewed by Phoenix as top quality candidates. After much deliberation, Jordan was selected as the perfect match for Phoenix… and they’ve never looked back since.

All three candidates put forward were exceptional, and it was great that all recruitment was taken care of by Flex. This also meant that we had full confidence and trust in seconding Jordan out to a law firm.

Sarah Gormley, Head of General Counsel Operational Excellence at Phoenix Group

How the Flex Trainee ‘Readiness Programme’ helped Jordan to hit the ground running

Before each Flex Trainee is seconded to their in-house team, they undergo a rigorous, bespoke four-week Readiness Programme at Flex HQ. Created by Flex Legal’s Head of Learning and Development, Sophie Gould, this programme looks at 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.

Phoenix found this incredibly beneficial, especially as Jordan was coming straight from university into an office environment for the very first time. This training ensured that Jordan settled into the role fantastically from day one, and has been a crucial part of the team ever since. Over a year later, Jordan has made such a great impression that her placement has been extended into a second year, meaning that the entirety of her QWE will be completed at Phoenix Group.

Flex Trainee has offered me the amazing opportunity to qualify in-house, something I didn't think was even possible before! I've gained so much incredible experience and feel so excited to be well on my way to becoming a qualified lawyer.

Jordan, Flex Trainee

What has Jordan’s in-house training looked like?

Throughout her time at Phoenix so far, Jordan worked for six months within the Mortgage Solutions Team, supporting with equity release mortgages and technical product work, followed by six months in the Commercial Contracts Team, focussing on contracts and IP.  

As part of her second year, Phoenix has worked with Flex to arrange a law firm secondment for Jordan, where she still carries out work solely for Phoenix Group, but within CMS’ law firm setting. Again Jordan has received remarkably positive feedback from CMS, and this incredible experience will equip her with a formidable mix of both in-house and private practice experience. 

As well as getting stuck in with a range of legal tasks, Jordan has also been encouraged to get involved with wider organisational strategy days, away days and employee networks across the group, and even contributed towards the programme design for Phoenix’s Black History Month last year.

It’s wonderful to see our trainees embedding themselves into their organisations so well, and we’re really excited to see where the rest of Jordan’s legal journey takes her.

Together with like-minded, forward-thinking organisations such as Phoenix Group, we want to flip the script and help to make our industry more diverse, inclusive and accessible for all.

Flex have been great to work with throughout the process. It was amazing to know that they’re taking care of any admin surrounding the SQE, and the whole team have always been incredibly friendly. It feels like a true partnership.

Sarah Gormley, Head of General Counsel Operational Excellence at Phoenix Group

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.