Training Contracts; Info on Getting One
Obtaining a training contract (TC) is the last, and hardest stage of qualifying as a solicitor.
At this stage the competition is extremely fierce; you really will be up against the very best. For these reasons proper knowledge and preparation is vital to obtain a TC.
But don’t worry; on this portion of the site we will give you tips & advice on the whole application process. This will give you the best chances of becoming a trainee solicitor.
What is a training contract?
Basically it’s the final part of your legal education. After you have graduated from your LL.B or GDL and have done the LPC you need to have a law firm train you for 2 years. This requirement is set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. During this time you will be known as a trainee solicitor.
Only once you have completed the compulsory 2 year training period will you be a fully qualified solicitor. After you have qualified, the firm you have completed your TC with may decide to offer you full time employment as a solicitor. It’s in their best interests to since they spent all that money training you! 83% of trainees were kept on in 2011.
Who offers training?
Training isn’t just given out by private sector law firms, but also the public sector via various government institutions. Public and private institutions both have their own advantages and disadvantages; read on to see which suits you the most and matches your career goals.
Remember that some training contracts may be better than others. Although you’re still going to qualify regardless of the firm, the perceived quality may differ. Think about it this way – you could work for two years at a local newspaper, or for the Guardian. One is going to look better than the other when you apply for your next job. But it’s always a good idea to seek employment in a firm that is similar to the one in which you completed your training. The better firm may be a smaller one if you’re thinking of applying for another small firm job.
These are the most common kind of training contract; the sort given by law firms. Smaller firms don’t usually offer TCs, rather they just recruit solicitors who are already qualified. You should be fully aware of the kind of law the firm you’re applying to practice as your TC will be focused around those areas.
For example, some law firms will offer commercial TCs where you are essentially trained to specialise in areas of commercial law. Others may offer family law training if they predominately specialise in that area of the law. In reality you will usually gain experience in 2-4 areas (known as seats). However these areas should usually be closely linked. It’s unlikely that you would take a criminal, corporate and public law seat at the same firm.
This training can be given by private firms too, or you could try to get a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) training contract. Being a lawyer with the CPS you will be responsible for reviewing the evidence against an individual charged with a crime and deciding whether there is enough for a conviction. You may also be advising the police on legal matters. The CPS TC and pupillage scheme was frozen until recently because of government cuts, but has been relaunched with 15 places on offer. This number should increase in the next few years.
Government Legal Services
Getting trained at the Government Legal Services you could be working in any number of departments. You could be working in EU law, human rights, administrative, criminal; practically anything. The government needs to defend itself and bring action on a wide range of legal matters, so there won’t be a shortage of work. You may also be advising ministers on various legal matters, such as the legality of a course of action. This is great if you’re interested in politics and have thought about going into it later in your career.
Being successful in your application is notoriously hard. Firms won’t just look at your university grades, but also your A levels and maybe even your GCSEs. The exact grades you need will differ from firm to firm, but usually it will be very hard to get a training contract with a 2:2. Many firms may also not accept anything below 300 UCAS points.
However this is something to which there is more flexibility. It is true that some firms don’t look a A level grades at all – but the majority do. They get so many applications that they need to filter the candidates down as much as they can. A level minimum requirements are a good way to do this.
Because of this competitiveness it’s important to make your application stand out. You can’t just have a decent or above average application. It won’t cut it. It needs to be outstanding – stuffed with loads of relevant work experience. There will be 50+ applications for every trainee solicitor role.
The articles listed above will help with all stages of your application.
Becoming a trainee
You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a positions to apply for. Google is great if you need some inspiration, and also the Legal 500 has a big list of firms which you can sort by location. If you’re feeling lazy and want to be notified of new positions you can set up Google alerts to email you when it notices a firms recruitment page has been updated (or even added). Just type in “training contract applications UK” or “law firm trainee vacancy” in the search query box.
We hope this page has given you a general overview of what the final stage of becoming solicitor is. Now onto the hard part. Actually getting a firm to train you! Have a look at the articles above for some great tips on doing that.