On point.


Launching our Future Trainees Programme – A Q&A with Jenny and Laura

Share this page:

As Peerpoint launches its ‘Futures Programme’, a new way in which future legal trainees can undertake in-house work while generating an income, we speak to Jenny Grotepass, Peerpoint’s Head of Strategy and Growth, and Laura Robinson-Barnard, A&O’s Senior HR Manager for Early Careers HR, to explain more.


Why did A&O and Peerpoint decide to launch the Futures Programme?

JG: Changes to the route to qualification for trainee solicitors seeking to qualify in England and Wales mean A&O is excited to be welcoming its first cohort of legal trainees undertaking the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in September 2024. As part of this journey, there are periods of time for future trainees where they’re out of study and employment for up to 10 months, and sometimes even longer. One aim with the SQE route is to help increase social mobility, and these ‘gaps’ will likely present a challenge for candidates relying on income during those times. This could limit social mobility amongst future intakes of trainees. We’re really excited that we have the potential to help address this challenge and provide a really positive experience for the trainees.


Talk us through the initial discussion with Peerpoint about future trainees…

LRB: James Partridge, Early Careers Recruitment Partner and Training Principal, and Chair of A&O’s Social Mobility Working Group, is committed to broadening access to A&O and the legal profession more widely. As such, led by James, the Early Careers Recruitment and HR teams put our heads together and started discussing the art of the possible with Peerpoint; specifically, whether Peerpoint could offer paid work to future trainees between the completion of their degrees and joining A&O. This is when Jenny and I began working together on making this a reality. Some of the things we spent most time discussing were the training and support we would offer future trainees to set them up for success in Peerpoint-facilitated placements, how the professional experience gained would benefit them at later stages of their A&O careers, and how we would partner with clients to ensure they’d have access to our top junior talent.


Why is this a unique opportunity for future law trainees?

JG: We think this is unique because it’s a chance to gain experience with some of the best in-house legal teams at the start of a legal career. We’ve had conversations with clients who are keen to explore taking on a future trainee, including some of the big names in the tech sector and leading investment banks.

We also think it’s unique because of the level of support Peerpoint will offer future trainees. Each candidate will have a dedicated person from the Peerpoint team to support them through their placement. They’ll also have the A&O Early Careers HR team as a point of call and an experienced Peerpoint consultant to act as a dedicated professional mentor.

LRB: It’s a fantastic opportunity to build a professional network within A&O and with clients from the get-go. Building an understanding of how legal in-house teams operate and what clients need from their external advisers is so important in building a successful career. For example, an A&O Partner built a strong relationship with an in-house peer whilst on secondment to a professional services firm as a trainee. They both stayed in touch and now, many years later, this peer has become a client of the Partner.

Spending time in-house ahead of the start of their A&O training contracts will enable future trainees to build commercial awareness and a peer network from day one.


How does it work and how does it differ from other Peerpoint consultant placements?

JG: The programme will work in a very similar way to our standard Peerpoint consultant placements. We’ll discuss with the future trainee what their objectives are and take into consideration their existing experience and interests. We’ll then look at our clients’ requirements and ensure we match the right candidate with the right in-house legal team. This ‘match making’ is really important to ensure we achieve successful outcomes for both clients and future trainees.

Once we’ve agreed on a placement with the client, we’ll ensure the future trainee feels confident and equipped to get the most from the placement. Settling into a role in-house can be quite daunting. To provide as much support as possible during that time, future trainees will be matched with a Peerpoint mentor, an experienced legal consultant who will have spent time in private practice, working with multiple clients, so will be a great person to ask any questions to and get advice on how to settle in the in-house world. Peerpoint also runs a session on ‘landing well’ with clients which will be particularly useful for future trainees. Throughout their first month, they will have weekly check-ins with the Peerpoint team to see how things are going. We’ll also check in on how they’re getting on with their goals and catch up with them monthly after that so that they feel supported.

During their placement they’ll also have scheduled catch ups with their Peerpoint mentor and then at the end of their placement there’s one final meeting with the Peerpoint team where we can discuss feedback on how everything’s gone.


Tell us more about the Peerpoint mentoring programme

JG: This is a really exciting programme we’ve just launched in tandem with the Futures Programme. We felt it was important that future trainees going on placement with us had the benefit of being able to speak and ask questions to an experienced Peerpoint legal consultant. Our community of Peerpoint consultants is hugely passionate about supporting those starting out in the profession. A number of consultants have already signed up for the programme and will have access to the resources and support they need to be brilliant mentors to the future trainees. We’ll ensure that they have regular catch ups and a helpful framework so they can both get the most out of the experience.


What are the benefits of the Futures Programme for clients?

JG: In our 2022 global client survey, we heard that the number one thing clients would like to see from us was more junior talent on our consultant panel. This demand for junior paralegal-level support, up until now, was something that we were unable to fulfil. Clients increasingly expect interim resourcing providers to provide talent from the entire professional lifecycle of a solicitor so this is a great opportunity for both clients and future trainees.

Our clients will be able to access top calibre junior resource with confidence. As all the future trainees will have already gone through A&O’s rigorous application process there’s the assurance that they are up to the role. As always we know the importance of matching the right consultant, or future trainee, to the right client and we’ll also continue that Peerpoint support throughout the placement.


What are you most excited about?

JG: I’ve been both encouraged and touched by how many of our experienced legal consultants, A&O Partners and clients this programme resonates with. The sentence I have heard most so far from them has been “if only this programme had existed when I was at that stage in my career”. We know that there is so much more work to do in relation to social mobility, but this feels like a step in the right direction to us.

LRB: I would echo Jenny’s comments. Speaking from my own journey as a trainee, I would have jumped at the chance to take part in this programme, and earn an income while gaining such valuable experience, ahead of starting my training contract. I am so grateful for all of the enthusiasm and encouragement from everyone at A&O and Peerpoint who has been involved – it’s exciting for the firm.


What’s been your biggest challenge getting the programme to this point?

JG: The biggest challenge has been finding the right balance between offering structured support to future trainees and maintaining the agility our clients and future trainees will need. We’re really pleased with what we have come up with and look forward to getting feedback from clients and programme participants as more and more placements are occurring.


What’s your long term vision for the programme?

LRB: Ultimately, we’d love for this programme to enable greater social mobility amongst future intakes of A&O trainees. We’re excited to be able to support our future talent even before their first day at A&O and hope to play our role in taking the worry out of potentially having to support yourself financially before starting the A&O training contract. Peerpoint is on a real mission to try and change the way that people shape their legal careers and this feels like an exciting moment for A&O in that journey.


Find out more

To find out more about our Futures Programme, please contact the Peerpoint team or Laura Robinson-Barnard.