LAW firms are abusing the recruitment process by interviewing and offering jobs to graduates early and holding offers open for only a few days.
Interviews with more than 20 leading United Kingdom law firms for a survey found widespread condemnation of the practice which breaks Law Society rules.
LA Consulting and Quantum Enterprise Development found that firms of 60 or more partners received up to 2,500 applications for every training place, while the average number of applications per place was 1,660. They spent on average Pounds 83,000 on every training contract, with some spending up to Pounds 200,000.
But some firms complained that others were putting them at a disadvantage by offering jobs to final-year undergraduates before September 1, the first date for offers set by the Law Society, and forcing candidates to make up their minds quickly.
A spokesman for the Trainee Solicitors Group said: "The guidelines were issued to create a level playing field." She said recruitment so far ahead increased the risk of too many training contracts being offered. "We have all too recently witnessed the misery created when market conditions change and training contracts are withdrawn," she added.
Applications for places on the legal practice course for prospective solicitors fell for the first time last year, suggesting that poor job prospects might be dissuading potential students.
Levels of debt running at more than Pounds 10,000 for nearly 20 per cent of former LPC students are also likely to be a disincentive. But more than 2,500 people a year still qualify without finding a training contract.