Faced with the credit crunch and a diminishing workload, top law firms in England are paying the graduating law students they have hired to take a year off--with some compensation--until things turn around, reports the ABC London Bureau.
According to ABC's Emily Wither, one leading law firm, Norton Rose, is offering a deal to over 50 law students to receive $14,000 U.S. to delay their contracts for a year. The stipulation is that the students do something “meaningful … that will give them better experience to be a lawyer” during the year off, such as getting another advanced degree, traveling, learning another language, or even taking another job.
“We cannot ignore the economic downturn, and we are not immune,” Norton Rose spokesperson Sean Twomey is quoted as explaining. “This is a voluntary initiative intended to ensure that we have the correct numbers [on staff].” However, the article notes that only a third have accepted the offer thus far.
Other law firms have made similar offers, although for less money, to hold their top “trainees,” as they call new lawyers in the U.K. However, contracts are usually not in effect until the employee actually starts.
Some students are complaining that the money is not enough for a flat and living expenses, so they may have to go back home to Mum and Dad. Others think the deal is fair. “I think firms are actually being very generous in an attempt to avoid the bad PR of … telling trainees not to show up,” one impacted student, Kirsty Fradley, told Wither. “The fact is you train to qualify, and there is a shortage of newly qualified jobs. … It's far better to use the time to travel, learn a language, build an orphanage, and do all the other socially worthwhile things you'll never have the chance to do once you start working properly.” That's called racking up billable hours in America .
One group not enamored with the program is paralegals, who fear that the law students will take support jobs in their year off to turn some cash and take jobs away from those who intend to stay in that career.