What is the SRA Code of Conduct?
Did you know that law firms play by the rules of a voluntary Code of Conduct put together by the folks at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) when they recruit you lovely lot as trainees? No? Well, now you do!
The SRA suggests numerous ideas to firms, such as putting in place an internal process to help them recruit smoothly and creating a standardised application form. But how does the Code affect you and your application?
Key points that affect trainee applications
Firstly, law firms can’t discriminate against you on any grounds of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age or even the subject you’re studying at university. That’s an absolute must and means you can still apply for training contracts even if you aren’t studying law.
The Code also outlines that the applications cannot be received before 31 July of your second year. This is because way back in the 1970s when no Code existed, law firms used to move their deadlines to an earlier time than rival firms. This meant students were under loads of pressure and sometimes went back on offers because they subsequently got another offer from a firm whose deadline was later in the year. This didn’t create a very nice atmosphere at all. It was basically like saying you’ll paint a fence for one of your grandparents, but then your nicer grandparent coming along and offering you a bit more money to paint their fence.
Firms decide who is on the interview panel, how many interviews there will be and most importantly, what questions they’re going to ask you. This means exactly the same questions are asked to every candidate, meaning that firms can’t flick on the nasty switch in the interview room. Firms also have to give you alternative interview date if you request one – you may have lectures or exams but are free on another day.
The Code suggests that training contracts aren’t offered before 1 September of your final year. So, if you have a training contract interview in August between your second and third year and the firm really want you to train with them, you may not find out before 1 September. Firms are also required to give feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
How the Code of Conduct affects you
The Code is a two way street. If you’re given an offer, you need to let your firm know what your decision is within four weeks. This means that if you’ve had interviews at a few firms, you have time for them to get back to you to before you decide. If you receive loads of offers, as soon as you accept one, you can’t delay in letting another firm down.
This Code helps firms and aspiring lawyers be polite and fair to each other during the application process. You can check out a copy here and make sure you report any concerns to the SRA.