The Training Contract Applications Process & Timeline
So you’re thinking of becoming a solicitor and want to know the training contract application process? Be warned the process is a long and hard one. Most people will not get through the gruelling process.
For those of you who are ready to undertake this challenge let us tell you some of the steps involved in success. We’ll also look at the timeline for qualifying as a solicitor.
Stages of getting a training contract
First of all law firms may do these stages in a different order. Or even exclude a stage totally. But we’ll look at all the stages you could possibly face in the application process for joining a top firm. As you will see, even getting to stage 2 or 3 means you have done very well!
Stage 1 – The Application
This is the stage of the process where most people get eliminated. As you would expect there is general information you need to fill in about your name, age, current location and address etc. Then you get onto the things that actually decide whether you make it onto the next stage or not. A big part of this (probably the most important) is the academics section. So what grades do you need to get a training contract? This will depend on the firm.
A commercial law firm based in London probably won’t settle for anything less than AAB at A-level and a 2:1 from university. Other firms may be willing to accept lower grades depending on the other sections. These other sections are work experience and competency based questions. So if you’re lacking in academics, providing a set of great essays or having a vacation scheme under your belt can really help.
Stage 2 – The Tests
This is the second stage of filtering; you will have to complete verbal and numerical reasoning tests. Numerical reasoning tests essentially make sure you can understand numbers and maths in a business environment, so there are lots of graphs and tables to read along with percentages to calculate. Verbal reasoning tests will assess your ability to logically de-construct sentences and figure out exactly what they are stating.
This in our opinion is one of the most important skills a solicitor can have. You don’t need to get all of the questions correct, the law firm you’re applying to will set the pass rate. However most do have a time limit. These tests are done online. You will probably have to redo these tests again at the assessment day to eliminate any risk of cheating.
Stage 3 – The Phone Interview
Being a solicitor you will do a lot of talking on the phone. The phone interview tests your confidence on the phone as well as filtering out yet more people who are unprepared. They will usually ask you about the law firm, and what you know about it. People who can’t give good answers here quickly fail. It’s a good idea to treat this part as a full blown interview. This stage will usually last around 30 minutes. You must research the firm well.
Stage 4 – The Assessment Day
This is the final stage. If you get to this stage you’ve done brilliantly! In this stage you will likely undertake the following tasks:
- Meet members of the firm – this may sound informal but it’s actually a test in it’s own right. You need to make a good impression.
- Meet other candidates.
- Complete a group exercise.
- Complete a presentation in-front of the other candidates and members of the firm.
- Complete a panel interview.
This is obviously an ideal timeline – for many it won’t be this smooth. For example, maybe you could decide to take a year out, or maybe you need to do the LPC part time while working. It all depends on your ability, finances, objectives and luck.
- Do you best to get respectable GCSEs. Although it’s rare, some firms may look at them.
- Try and get some work experiene. Even if it’s just for a few days. It will show a strong interest in law from an early age.
College / 6th Form
- A levels are very important. It’s highly likely firms will look at them during applications and they govern which university you can get into.
- Research and apply to a top university.
- Further work experience would be great. Getting a part time job, regardless of the industry, may also be beneficial. It may teach you a whole host of skills which prepare you for uni. See our section on university.
University Year 1
- The first year matters. Doing poorly in it can make things much harder later on. You will be asked for your first year grades when applying for vacation schemes. You may also have to provide your first year results in training contract applications.
- Since you will have the most free time in the first year it makes sense to make good use of the societies. Join the university law society, debate club and mooting team (even if you don’t want to be a barrister). It’s also a good way to network and make friends.
University Year 2
- Continue to perform well academically; you want at least a 2:1!
- Think a bit about your future. What sort of solicitor do you want to be? Attend law fairs and events at university. Speak to current solicitors and even research online.
- Apply for vacation schemes which take place over the summer. Try and get at least one! If you can’t try and get some other form of work experience.
University Year 3
- Make sure you get a great final grade!
- Look into the LPC, decide which provider you want to take it with and think about how you’re going to fund it.
- Apply for the LPC. (see our LPC section)
- Another vacation scheme won’t hurt!
- Get at least a commendation grade.
- Start applying to firms for a TC where you will complete the stages above.
- If you need more work experience seek out a paralegal / other legal role.
- Spend the next two years being trained as a solicitor. At the end of the two years you will be fully qualified!