F-LEX: a tech solution to a resourcing gap when there are unplanned peaks of work
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What is F-LEX for?
F-LEX was born when I was sitting in my law firm at 5pm with 38 bundles which needed to be prepared for 9am the following day and I knew I had a long night ahead of me. I looked out the window and saw a group of law students standing outside the law school. I was ordering my pizza to the office through my phone and thought why is there not an app which could also get me a law student?! Surely they would jump at the opportunity to get some paid relevant work experience and I could really do with the help! That was when the lightbulb moment came and I decided to try and tackle this problem myself.
How does it work?
F-LEX is an online platform which connects pre-approved law students to law firms and general counsel for a flexible, on-demand service. We have been going for 2 and a half years and have over 2,500 law students on our platform across London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester. We have helped over 2,000 law students build up their legal work experience and help improve diversity within the profession by offering those who do not necessarily have any connections in the profession, but are bright and ambitious, get their first opportunity.
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The current way to qualify is broken with only 5,000 training contract places for 25,000 law students. This unfortunately means there are huge numbers of students coming out of the LPC with £20,000 + debt and no hope of being offered sponsorship. But it also means there are 20,000 students who are ambitious and keen to get as much legal experience as possible to build up their CV.
Who uses F-LEX?
Our clients vary from large magic circle law firms to sole practitioners and can be anything from attending Court to write minutes, carrying out research about Trust law, assisting with KYC and compliance, doing a GDPR compliance review of the contracts or assisting with simple probate matters. A client can request someone from 3 hours right up to a year and we will find those who match on our system, send them a text message to check if they are free, and send over their profiles to be reviewed. All our students are interviewed by one of our team and this is an important part both in terms of vetting to ensure quality and finding out more about the law student to help us match the right person culturally to the right client.
The Way Ahead
There is a lot of hype over Artificial Intelligence and robots taking over the roles of paralegals. I have no doubt that technology will play a huge part in transforming the way legal services are provided, however I would encourage firms to still use and offer work placements to law students. They are the future of the profession, and need to learn the importance of skills such as attention to detail, organisation and time management, all of which will set them up in good stead to becoming a first rate lawyer.
I would argue that individuals will learn a lot more during their placements than they potentially currently do in the classroom. The SRA have recognized this with the introduction of the new SQE, which will encourage law students to go and gain “qualifying work experience” after which their skills will be tested through an exam called the SQE 2. We hope that F-LEX can play a crucial part in assisting with this by allowing law students to get placements which could count towards their qualifying work experience through our platform and should provide a win- win for both clients and law students.
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