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City council to recruit eight trainee solicitors in one go as part of “grow our own” initiative

Coventry City Council is to take on eight new trainee solicitors with the hope that they will take on "any vacancies that might arise" at the local authority over coming years and reduce the legal department's reliance on agency staff.

Janice White, solicitor and Team Leader – People at Coventry, told Local Government Lawyer that the decision to recruit such a high number of trainees was made after discussions around replacing a soon-to-qualify trainee "quickly evolved into consideration of the difficulties in recruiting good staff and the need to 'grow our own'".

She said: “It is of course unusual for a local authority to recruit so many trainees at the same time, but we hope that by doing so we are developing a talent and succession strategy to address ongoing difficulties in recruiting staff with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to support the many diverse specialisms covered by an in-house legal services team and reduce the continued reliance on agency staff. 

"This is very much an invest to save initiative and the intention is that those graduates recruited now will hopefully move into any vacancies that might arise over the coming years."

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The local authority intends to employ graduates who have either completed a qualifying law degree or the Graduate Diploma in Law, and use Apprenticeship levy funding to support those graduates through the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Examination) 1 and 2.

At the same time, those graduates will be employed by the council on a fixed-term basis, and therefore able to complete the Qualifying Work Experience requirement and complete their portfolio for ultimate submission to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Coventry is also planning to recruit at least one, possibly two, trainees who have completed A levels or Level 3 CILEx paralegal, to complete the Solicitor Apprenticeship. "This is inevitably a much longer programme taking approximately 6 years to complete, but we want to support local school leavers, particularly those who face additional barriers and are from under-represented groups, and perhaps whose circumstances would otherwise make university study seem an impossibility," White said.

The plan is part of Coventry's overarching People Plan and Apprenticeship strategy, focusing on creating career pathways to grow its own workforce and promoting diversity, inclusion and social mobility.

White said that “there are no guarantees and we cannot categorically state that every apprentice who joins us will have a solicitor post waiting for them upon completion, but it is certainly our hope and expectation, and in accordance with our strategy, that as vacancies arise we will have 'home grown' candidates able to move into those roles upon qualification". 

She added: "In addition, as we all know, the requirements of in-house services are constantly changing and inevitably, opportunities that do not exist now, will open up over the intervening 2.5 or 6 years, depending upon which course of study you are following."

The closing date is 23 January. The successful applicants will join the council in the coming months and begin their course of study in August this year. It is expected they will qualify in November 2024.

White acknowledged that this recruitment drive was very much focussed on solicitor apprenticeship routes, but added that this does not mean that CILEx opportunities are not available. “Whilst it is not currently possible to support a school leaver through the CILEx route from start to finish, as we have done previously, we have a number of in-house staff who wish to progress and develop and we are looking at how we can use the CILEx apprenticeship options to support them to do so.”

Adam Carey

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