What Is A Training Contract?

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.

When Do Training Contract Applications Open?

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.

How Competitive Are Training Contracts?

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.

How Many Training Contracts Should I Apply To?

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.

How Do I Decide Where to Apply?

There are a number of factors you should consider when picking where to apply for a training contract, including:
– Salary
– Career progression
– Location
– Firm reputation/rankings
– Practice area focus
– Secondment opportunities
– Firm culture
– Other benefits/perks

Training Contract Deadlines Table

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 RouteWhen to Apply
Three-year qualifying law degreeSecond year of study
Three-year non-law degreeThird year of study
Four-year qualifying law degreeThird year of study
Four-year non-law degreeFourth year of study
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How Can I Secure A Training Contract?

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.

Do Training Contracts Pay For Law School?

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).

Do Training Contracts Help With Associate Positions?

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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