I have to confess I didn't know about the Graduate Recruitment Code, the withdrawal of the SRA from which has become such a hot topic on various websites in the last 24 hours, such as The Lawyer as highlighted below.
My initial thought was that this was the SRA simply following through the logic which saw it dump the compulsory minimum salary for trainees - these are simply not regulatory matters. The extent to which the SRA should take a more holistic view of what amounts to a regulatory concern (such as recruitment best practice) is an interesting debate, albeit for another day.
Now clearly I don't know how the code has operated and how much it is followed by the large firms in practice. But given that it is both voluntary and unenforceable, what can the SRA do with the knowledge that a firm may have breached it?
Should it not be for firms to sign up to the code in order to make individual commitments to its provisions? Or maybe the Law Society or City of London Law Society on their behalf? But I don't really get the point of the SRA endorsing it - maybe someone could explain what I'm missing.
The headlines have suggested that this move will give law firms free rein to recruit would-be trainees earlier than they do now. How realistic is that, I wonder? Would any law firms seek to recruit A-level students, say, given that they would be at least four years away from taking up a training contract at that point?
In any case, new, flexible routes to qualification envisaged by the SRA through its Training for Tomorrow programme mean that the old ways of recruiting the solicitors of tomorrow are already being thrown up in the air. This move should also be seen from that perspective.
The legal profession has reacted with anger at the SRA’s plans to withdraw from the Graduate Recruitment Code. The code is voluntary and not enforceable but is responsible for the way in which legal graduate recruitment functions on a high level. It seeks to promote fair recruitment and encourage a situation in which undergraduates are able to gain a breadth of experience and are not pressured to sign up to work at firms at an early stage in their education.