Milbank, the US law firm, has fired an associate who set up a mentoring business which has been accused of overcharging vulnerable students and fear-mongering.
‘Ben’ (not his real name) and a group of biglaw friends are also under investigation by the Singapore Law Society for their 'Law Mentors' scheme.
A website advertising the service appeared last week before it was taken down on Tuesday. Set up by Ben, who until yesterday was a Milbank associate based in its Singapore office, it claimed that legal billings had plunged by 60%, average associate utilisation stood at 40% and that invoice recovery had fallen by over 30%. In the wake of COVID-19, "work has largely dried up", it said.
Predicting that there will be as few as 150 jobs for 700 graduates in Singapore in 2020, entrepreneurial Ben and his colleagues warned, "You are facing a brutal fight for career survival".
The FAQs section contained more horror stories designed to push students and their parents towards paypal. Answering the question, "What happens when NQs fail to secure jobs?", Law Mentors revealed the horrible truth that, "Disillusioned, many became teachers", or sink as low as becoming civil servants. Some "tried again the following year, competing with their juniors and further exacerbating the labour glut".
Relying on hope or luck "is a bad idea", advised the coaching platform. "Do not engage in a high-stakes gamble with your career. To stand out from amongst your peers, you will need a decisive advantage".
Ben and the rest of his team, who are unnamed but stated on the website to comprise ten lawyers including partners and associates at White Shoe and Magic Circle firms, offered to give their clients that decisive advantage in the collapsed pandemic economy.
The course promised 100 hours of "hands-on coaching and practice", via Zoom and Skype while the lockdown is in place, "to ensure that your supervisors will be impressed". It claimed mentees would leave with the skills to function at the level of an NQ during a vac scheme, and a 2PQE during a training contract.
It also claimed to have access to a UK and US network that could assist in placing mentees into internships and training contracts, implying that it could bypass firms' hiring processes by "first recommending our mentees to hiring partners or by placing them directly into vacancies within our network firms. We then guarantee their retention by equipping them with the skills required to dazzle their hiring partners”.
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"It is inevitable that you will outshine all your fellow practice trainees and secure a training contract associate role", promised the site. "Your hiring partner will be thrilled to acquire a lowcost, valuable resource who punches above his/her weight".
And all for the low, low price of thousands of dollars. "As a ballpark figure, our fees are typically in the region of 1.5 months to 2 months of your first full-time associate paycheck", said the site, which equates to between S$9k to $12k (£5k to £7k).
The Singapore Law Society said Law Mentor's dire predictions about the legal market and recruitment prospects were "speculative" and "unsubstantiated".
"We strongly caution parents and law graduates to be discerning about hungry wolves in sheep's clothing who seek to prey financially on the vulnerability of law graduates", said Gregory Vijayendran, the Law Society's president.
Ben told the Business Times no money had been taken before he pulled the site. "I meant it for interest gauging, but took it down after people said it was not right to take money from students who are just starting to look for jobs", he said.
Milbank declined to comment. But RollOnFriday has learned that it let Ben go on Wednesday. He will now be testing the strength of his own placing network, and hoping that he really did exaggerate the state of the job market.