Stephen Vallance: Law fair initiative showcases high street opportunities
Stephen Vallance discusses a law fair initiative that showcases the opportunities at high street firms.
We were lucky enough to attend three university law fairs this year as HM Connect on behalf of Scotland’s high street firms. It’s an initiative that we started last year with the intention of highlighting the opportunities that exist not only with our own member firms but with high street firms across Scotland.
It arose as a result of feedback that we were receiving on how challenging it can be attracting trainees, particularly to rural locations, and also from students who still appeared to be struggling to secure traineeships during their Diploma year. As a result, we decided to take a stand as HM Connect to raise awareness of the opportunities that do exist and of the quality and breadth of traineeship that can be found.
The whole team has found it a real pleasure to interact with students last year and this to hear and experience their enthusiasm about this profession and, hopefully, to assist them with some insights into the current makeup of the profession and the opportunities that exist. It’s also been interesting to hear that for many work in a high street practice is not something that they have considered or had discounted as being too limited in its breadth.
What we have observed at the various Fairs was that most students have little idea of what life is like for the large proportion of our profession that work in smaller or rural firms. Most reacted very positively when we explained about the quality of work that many do and the opportunities that exist. We even provided students with information on regions and the types of firms and the quality of life that could be found there as well as how best to approach and engage with them. Time will hopefully tell, but the feedback from the events was very encouraging.
On reflection, Suits and other TV dramas may have a lot to answer for in the way that law graduates consider their careers. The issues however go far beyond that. As we looked around halls filled with the HR departments from many large Scottish, National and International firms there was an epiphany. Combined all of them together represented around 48 per cent of all traineeships in Scotland whereas our stall alone ‘represented’ around 40 per cent (the remaining 10 per cent going in-house). Faced with rows of stalls with ‘brand’ names and interesting giveaways why would a law graduate even consider life in a high street firm?
Our initiative, we hope, is a start in addressing this imbalance. Talks, lectures and tutorials on the various Diploma courses are also a help, as are initiatives from the Law Society and particularly Katie McKenna and the High Street engagement team. There are also local faculties who have attended Law Fairs to promote legal careers in their own areas. It is however something that could be addressed at degree level to try and ensure that students are aware of all of the opportunities that exist. We also hope that next year more high street firms will join us in promoting their opportunities either on our stand or their own and if we can assist in any way then drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.