Brabners partners with BARBRI to support future talent

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Brabners is a purpose-led independent law firm and certified B Corprecently voted as the best law firm to work for by Best Companies 2023. With offices across Lancashire, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, it has an ambitious and inclusive culture that places people at the heart of its strategy. Brabners has partnered with BARBRI as its preferred provider to support its future talent through SQE.

We talked to Lynette Smith, Learning and Development Partner about her talent development vision for the firm.

Brabners prides itself on being an employer of choice. What does this mean in practice?

Being an employer of choice is hugely important as it helps us to attract and retain talented people.

‘Stand together’ is one of our core values and we truly want to build and maintain a supportive environment for all our colleagues — one that provides everyone with the chance to progress in their careers.

We are proud to hold ten Legal 500 Future Lawyers awards for job satisfaction, quality of work, client contact, sustainability, legal technology, inclusiveness, approachability, social life, ‘work from home’ and work/life balance. 

We think that these speak volumes about why Brabners is such a great place to work.

We are passionate about breaking down barriers to the legal profession.

Attracting the right talent harnesses the best talent. Our mission is to make the difference and we believe we are able to attract talent from a range of educational and widening participation backgrounds. We care deeply about equality, diversity and inclusion. That’s why we have initiatives to support our local communities by attracting candidates who are underrepresented, including our Maurice Watkins bursary and the Brabners bursary.

Our recently launched insight programme has been designed to raise aspirations in our communities, break down the barriers to the profession and welcome candidates to Brabners. This is a work experience scheme, designed for those studying at either degree- or A-level to learn from and network with professionals. 

Through our insight days, you can discover what life is like in the legal profession, whether as a lawyer or in our support functions. Our guest speakers — who come from a range of different sectors — discuss their work and provide guidance on how to make a successful application, as well as the various pathways into law (including advice for the SQE and apprenticeships). We also host a Q&A panel discussion with our trainee solicitors and a networking lunch with our colleagues. 

We strongly encourage candidates to spend this time with us. It enables us to provide them with guidance for next steps, discuss upcoming webinars, commercial awareness, vacation schemes and support for assessment days. We are passionate about offering the opportunity of supporting future talent.

Joining us also provides the opportunity to get involved with the programmes that set our award-winning culture apart, including diversity, sustainability and charitable giving. We work closely with charities, local authorities, social mobility organisations and universities to create bespoke insight programmes that meet the needs of all. We support our local universities by providing guest lectures from our fee earners, who offer guidance on the realities of the work as well as the challenges facing the legal sector.  

Brabners offers a number of routes to qualify and progress within the firm – tell us about them

Our internal development programme is an opportunity for colleagues to have career progression discussions in collaboration with their managers, our business partners and the learning and development team. These discussions are geared towards knowledge, skills and behaviour development and subsequently support positive progression. 

This collaborative approach ensures that colleagues and managers are aligned on their personal goals, team objectives and the overall strategic ambitions of the business. 

We believe that this approach helps to enhance careers and retain talent. The support of Damar Training and BARBRI has been instrumental to our ability to offer a range of career pathways.

Brabners has embraced apprenticeships for a number of years and in 2023 we enrolled our first legal apprentices with @Damar powered by BARBRI. The flexible options now available through Damar’s apprenticeships present a huge step forward in supporting diversity and inclusion. It provides opportunities for candidates to complete a paralegal apprenticeship progressing to solicitor apprenticeship which opens up pathways to talent from diverse educational backgrounds and supports differentiated learning.

You are now offering training contracts that include SQE as the qualification pathway. Why the transition to SQE now? And how is Brabners feeling about it?

We are really excited that there are now so many routes to the profession.

Coming from an educational background, I understand and appreciate the importance of access to a profession at any stage of your career. Our aspirations change throughout our life, our focus shifts and our priorities change, so we should be able to take our experience and make positive career changes. SQE has opened the door for so many and we fully support all candidates regardless of where they are on their journey. 

We are confident that with our collaboration with BARBRI we can provide flexible, study programmes that support all candidates, offering part-time and full-time routes. With the Brabners bursary, we are now able to fully fund a candidate’s journey from degree to qualification, supporting candidates with flexible programmes that suit their needs. 

We have worked hard to ensure we have all the data, evidence and expertise in place to be able to support candidates with a change to their learning. Our two-year training contract will remain in place to support two years’ qualifying work experience and developing subject knowledge, behaviours and skills to support the demands of a solicitor in today’s workplace. This is an adaptive training programme designed to evolve as we all navigate the challenges of the SQE.

Why did you decide to partner with BARBRI? 

BARBRI has given us unconditional support as we all navigate this new educational programme.

It has provided us with everything we need to transition from LPC to SQE. BARBRI colleagues have been available and flexible in our requirements, providing guidance for our new intakes of trainees. 

In addition to having excellent results, the BARBRI platform is perfect for today’s student. It provides guidance and up to date materials for today’s legal sector while offering one to one coaching support for our trainees.  

What do you look for in a training partner?

We have just devised a success profile for our training partners. This provides guidance to our training partners, outlining their accountability, competencies and how their support aligns with our values and behaviours. Within this guidance it’s clear that our directive is to provide support for both our trainees and their supervisors. Training partners are fully involved in our graduate recruitment process, priding themselves in reading every application and supporting through assessment days and vacation schemes. It’s important that our training partners are visible and identify opportunities to support learning and development to improve our processes and recommend new approaches which meet the needs of the trainee and the demands of the sector.

How important is equality, diversity and inclusion? How do you support this in your recruitment and development of people?

It’s important for prospective candidates to see people who look like them. When you see it, you can believe it.

That’s why we champion equality, diversity and inclusion as a core value of our business. At Brabners we appreciate that a diverse workforce allows for a variety of ideas and opinions, and we aim to foster an environment where all our people can contribute to our growth. 

In our processes we use contextual recruitment to recognise the true academic and career potential of a student, allowing us to think outside of studies alone. We also partner with various organisations to provide access to the legal industry to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as we appreciate your background should not be a barrier to your potential. 

All our people have the chance to join a series of colleague-led action groups that are focused on making improvements around issues close to our hearts, including LGBTQ+, ethnic diversity, physical and mental health, social mobility and sustainability. These groups work to shape our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

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