An Adelaide-based law firm launching next month has been accused of exploiting workers and acting unethically by asking law graduates to pay $22,000 for a job with the company, seemingly capitalising on an oversupply of law graduates.
Adlawgroup is asking graduates for an “investment” of $22,000 for participation in a two-year program, which includes the cost of a practicing certificate and the “comprehensive continuing education program”.
The move to charge job candidates for work comes after a Melbourne training provider was found to be posting fake job ads to lure students to pay for training last month.
Marketing material for Adlawgroup says “the hybrid concept between employment and higher education” will “significantly grow the employment market for law graduates.
“In South Australia alone there are currently in excess of 2000 law graduates who have no immediate employment prospects,” said the company in its ‘Getting Started’ information pack.
“In addition to legal practice experience the Adlawgroup lawyer will gain business, marketing and practice management skills providing more flexibility for future employment.”
Facebook users have since hit out at Adlawgroup, calling the program “exploitative and unethical”.
“You are taking advantage of people when they are in a vulnerable position in life,” said Facebook user Brad Rea.
“Making graduates pay $22,000 for a job is absolutely shameful behaviour and should be stopped and a public apology offered to those people who have taken their time to apply.”
A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson told SmartCompany it had not received any requests for assistance from workers in relation to this matter.
“However, we have concerns, and are making inquiries,” said the spokesperson.
“As those inquiries are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further.”
SmartCompany contacted Adlawgroup but did not receive a response prior to publication. However, Adlawgroup project manager Tina Hailstone did tell the the ABCRadio PM program there had been already been interest in the program.
“In the first instance there are quite a few people who’ve said ‘Yes, please, we’d really like to sign up’,” Hailstone said.
Andrew Douglas, employment lawyer and M+K Lawyers partner, told SmartCompany there is a major issue with the oversupply of law graduates, with hundreds of graduates applying for just a handful of jobs.
“There are so many graduates being turned out and just no jobs for them. So people are spending their lives trying to find that experience to get a foot in the doors,” he says
Douglas says the situation is compounded for new graduates by the huge number of lawyers laid off during the recession who are now also looking for work, but who have the experience to land a job.
He says law firms do incur a cost to take on new graduates, because the cost of learning the professional skills is “so profound”.
“That said, all the good law firms do take on graduates and understand their responsibility and ethical obligation as lawyers to do so… We understand it’s a cost we have to incur,” Douglas says.
But Douglas says in this case, it is not clear Adlawgroup is doing anything other than providing a much-needed training program for graduates to gain experience.
Speaking generally, Douglas warns other employers considering charging for jobs to be very careful, as they will need to demonstrate their offering is a training program that is clearly growing the skills of those enrolled.
“There are a number of cases that question the capacity of an organisation to charge for training to undertake an actual job,” he says.
“While that isn’t the purpose here, there is a warning to other businesses that courts will look at organisations utilising exploitive training most unfavourably.
“Courts don’t like that process if people are nothing more than an employee,” he adds.