Corporate law outlook

Strategic Direction

ISSN: 0258-0543

Article publication date: 11 October 2011



Rollin, B. (2011), "Corporate law outlook", Strategic Direction, Vol. 27 No. 11.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Corporate law outlook

Article Type: Corporate law outlook From: Strategic Direction, Volume 27, Issue 11

Barbara RollinPartner and Head of Commercial Property, Gordons LLP, UK.

Recruitment is a serious issue for any business, but how do you make sure you take on and retain the very best people?

Over the last decade the ways to enter most professions have been narrowed down to the favoured route of graduate entry. However, I can recall a time when there were other ways to enter a profession, when people got hands on experience rather than academic technical knowledge without the necessary skills to apply it. So, which is best – the academic or the practical?

For years now universities have been churning out graduates from middle class backgrounds who were born into and have lived through the good old boom times and who know very little, if anything, about hardship, sacrifice and hard work. My own children, who are 16 and 18 know only about Sky TV, mobile phones, constant internet chat via Facebook and other social media sites, dishwashers, washing machines, two cars and two holidays abroad a year! It is not their fault though, it is mine. I wanted them to have the best I could give them and I guess I am like most parents when it comes to working hard to provide for them, but can they be bothered to work as hard?

I think the problems began when Government policy changed so that 18 years olds were actively discouraged from leaving school to get a job or sign on and were instead encouraged to do a degree. Whether it was out of some secret intent to help them, for the unemployment register, or to genuinely improve the standard and level of education across society generally I do not know and for the purposes of this discussion it does not matter.

All I know is that suddenly you could go to University to study anything, even The Beatles and David Beckham. How fantastic! At the same time society became more affluent and expectations rose. But how does that translate into the work place? I know it is a sweeping generalisation but I believe we have created a generation who truly believe that they are entitled to what they want without having to work hard to get it. It is the generation of the celebrity where a genuine career choice for some young girls is to become a WAG (wife and girlfriend of a footballer), and where appearing on a reality television programme seems to guarantee fame and therefore wealth.

Times are now changing though, as a result of the economic downturn that has occurred over the last few years, and maybe it is time to turn the clock back to try and regain those old fashioned values of determination and hard work. Not everyone can be David Beckham or marry him for that matter. Not everyone can sing or behave outrageously in the Big Brother house and so what are the options?

This year, for the first time, we are taking on a number of apprentices at Gordons. They will join us in September having left school at 18 after A-Levels and will take a different path into the profession by working and learning at the same time. The idea for the apprenticeship programme was that of the firm’s managing partner Paul Ayre, who was inspired to act after watching a TV programme about how the majority of the best jobs tend go to people from the wealthiest backgrounds. Inspired by the programme and the fact that he was in a position to make a difference, Paul worked with the firm’s HR manager, Karen Mills, for a number of months to set up the apprenticeship scheme.

Interviews were held which involved people from across the business who gained their qualifications in the same way the apprentices will. Their input has been invaluable as they know how hard the apprentices will need to work.

Following on from the interviews, ten potential apprentices will complete a week’s work experience at the firm, undertaking work from five different departments and seeing how the firms support services, such as the marketing department and office management teams, work. Each department has put together a work pack that each apprentice will be expected to complete and which forms part of their assessment, meaning the process will be tough.

A number of apprentices will then be chosen and conditional offers made pending A-level results in August. These successful applicants will then start work on September 12, enrolling on the ILEX course at a local college to be completed via evening courses, day release or distance learning.

For the apprentices, this offers an opportunity to get the career of their dreams without having to amass the huge amount of debt that their contemporaries entering the profession through university will accrue. It is also an opportunity to get real, hands-on experience that may lead to better job prospects than those who follow the more academic route are seeing at the moment.

There are so many graduates in the market place still searching for that elusive break filling their time with jobs that they are over qualified for. For some the dream job may never materialise and they seem reluctant to consider alternative ways of getting to the same end point. The people lucky enough to undertake the apprenticeship scheme are different. They have grown up in the last four years, seen job losses – maybe even experienced them at first hand in their families – and watched tuition fees increasing, knowing they are set to treble next year. Their perspective is one of reality.

For the firm the advantages are in the opportunity to shape and assist in the development of some very bright people who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to pursue a career in law.

Of course we are not alone in having apprentices. Many businesses have been taking on these types of recruits for years. We are, however, amongst the first to do this in the legal profession and we are very hopeful that it will produce some bright and determined lawyers in due course.

If you also use apprentices, we would be very interested in hearing from you so that we can share our experiences and learning. If you would like to do so, please contact Karen Mills, HR manager on 01274 202 110 or e-mail


© GordonsIssued on behalf of Gordons by Brand8 PR. For further information please contact Rob Smith. Tel: 0113 394 4580, Mob: 07840 677534, E-mail:

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