A training contract is a period of training undertaken with an organisation, often a law firm but now allowed to include a number of different organisations, to get you qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales (as recognised by the SRA). In other words, it is a period of training which satisfies the SQE route’s requirement for ‘qualifying work experience’ (QWE).
You usually split this two-year period of training across a handful of different ‘seats’ – stints in different practice areas of a firm/sponsoring organisation. You’re a paid employee during this time period – for top City firms, you could be earning a salary around £50,000-£60,000 as a trainee (sometimes with a slight increase in salary for trainees in their second year). At a smaller regional firm, you might be looking at around £20,000-£30,000.
Most law firms look to fill their training contract placements two years in advance. You should aim to apply for your legal training contract by May or June of your penultimate year at university – if you are a law student. If you are a non-law student, you should apply in your final year.
Training contract applications are certainly very competitive. Some statistics have suggested that some Magic Circle firms have an acceptance rate around 2%. However, with a carefully researched and well-written application, your odds are likely to be much higher. As a result of the competitiveness involved with securing a training contract, many aspiring lawyers will apply to a number of different firms.
The ideal number of applications is essentially whatever number you can complete while still keeping your answers well- researched and original to the firm. In short, aim for the greatest quantity possible without sacrificing on quality. For the average applicant, this might be somewhere in the range of 5-15 applications.
There are a number of factors you should consider when picking where to apply for a training contract, including:
– Career progression
– Firm reputation/rankings
– Practice area focus
– Secondment opportunities
– Firm culture
– Other benefits/perks
Please note, while these training contract deadlines are maintained to the best of our ability, we always recommend checking deadline dates on the relevant law firm website.
|Study Route||When to Apply|
|Three-year qualifying law degree||Second year of study|
|Three-year non-law degree||Third year of study|
|Four-year qualifying law degree||Third year of study|
|Four-year non-law degree||Fourth year of study|
Here are some top tips to improve your application:
– Know the process: the first stage will often be an application form with a handful of firm-specific questions to answer (plus a CV and/or cover letter for some firms), then you’ll often move onto assessments like the Watson Glaser or SJT, and finally onto interviews.
– Be specific to the firm: lots of research is key – have specific firm deals/cases/projects ready to mention.
– Show your passion: be yourself and don’t be afraid to exhibit some individuality.
– Develop your commercial awareness: having a decent understanding of how the corporate world works is often very important, especially at larger firms.
However, a training contract usually offers more than two years of training. Often, and specially at top ranked law firms (e.g. Magic Circle or elite US), a training contract also means that your sponsoring law firm will pay all of your tuition fees for law school (covering both a conversion course, such as the PGDL, and your SQE exams, formerly the LPC) and provide you non-repayable maintenance grants to live on for the duration of law school (usually 1-2 years full time).
A training contract often also puts you at the front of the queue for NQ (newly qualified) associate positions at your sponsoring firm once you finish your two years as a trainee there. The number of trainees who are kept on after their training contract is known as the ‘trainee retention rate’ – many firms publish these statistics publicly a few times per year.
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