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Training Contracts: A Guide for Aspiring Solicitors

Training contracts make up the last stage of training before qualifying as a solicitor.

The training contract application and recruitment process can be lengthy and it’s a well-known fact that the number of training contracts outnumbers the number of applicants.

But don’t panic! Read on for some useful tips, information on things like training contract seats, secondments and a step by step guide on how to get one.


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Contents

What Is a Training Contract?

A training contract is a two-year training period carried out in a law firm or in-house in a large organisation by law graduates pursuing a career as a solicitor.

This period of recognised training is regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA). It’s supervised by the law firm or organisation’s experienced solicitors.

You can become a trainee solicitor after a qualifying law degree and the LPC. Or, if you did a non-law degree, after a conversion course, like the GDL.

A law training contract gives a trainee solicitor the opportunity to demonstrate to their firm of legal department and the SRA that you they the skills required to successfully practice law.

Legal trainees do this through completing different seats and immersing themselves in the culture of the law firm.

Training Contracts Salary

A training contract salary can vary greatly depending on where in the UK you complete your training and the type of law firm you apply to.

 Starting Law Trainee Salary (London)Starting Law Trainee Salary (Outside London)
Recommended minimum training contract salary£22,212£19,619
Average training contract Salary£35,000 - £48,000£18,000 - £35,000

What Does a Trainee Solicitor do?

As a trainee solicitor, you will put all of your theoretical studies from university into practice.

You will get involved in work for a number of different clients.

Daily tasks may include:

Want to know more about the kind of work you might complete on your training contract? Hear from a trainee solicitor in the banking  department of Norton Rose Fulbright in the video below.

Law Training Contract Seats

Law training contract seats are periods of time that law trainees spend in specific legal departments. Rotating seats allows you to develop and build your legal work experience and practical training in a number of different practice areas of the law.

Depending on where you train, trainee solicitors will either complete four six-month training contract seats or a greater number of shorter seats. In smaller law firms and large organisations with legal teams, legal trainees may have fewer departments to rotate between.

The types of seats you can expect will vary from firm to firm depending on its law specialism. You will be placed in both contentious (those which involve disputes) and non-contentious seats.

In this video, Victoria, Trainee Development Manager at Norton Rose Fulbright, tells us about the seats at the law firm.

Training Contract Secondments

A training contract secondment is a period of training or seat that a trainee solicitor spends in-house in a client’s legal team. It could happen locally, nationally or overseas.

Larger legal firms tend to offer more opportunities to legal trainees for international training contract secondments. So if going on a secondment overseas is something important to you, you must bear this in mind while choosing the right law firm for you.

Read about what it’s like to do a secondment in Hong Kong

Professional Skills Course (PSC)

The Professional Skills Course is the last part of your compulsory training before qualifying as a solicitor and builds on the skills you’ve learned during the LPC or GDL.

It covers the following core areas:

During your Professional Skills course, you will take elective modules on areas of the law which interest you.

You can choose between contentious and non-contentious modules from various specialisms including criminal, family and corporate law.

There are also practice skills electives including modules on how to present, improve written communication and negotiate well. Commercial awareness also forms a big part of the course.

When Should I Apply For Training Contracts?

When you should apply for solicitor training contracts depends on your chosen study route and choice of law firm.

Study RouteWhen to Apply
Three-year qualifying law degreeIn the summer term of your second year
Three-year non-law degreeIn the summer term of your third year
Four-year qualifying law degreeIn the summer term of your third year
Four-year non-law degreeIn the summer term of your fourth year

Some larger law firms hire trainee solicitors two years in advance, while smaller law firms tend to recruit on an ad hoc basis.

To check precise deadline dates for specific law firms, go to our deadlines page.

Training Contract Deadlines

In-House Training Contracts

An in-house law training contract is an alternative route to a career as a solicitor. This type of contract takes place at large commercial organisations such as BT and the BBC or the government and the Crown Prosecution Court which have their own legal teams.

Visit our in house page to find out more about this lesser-known and highly competitive route.

How to Get a Training Contract – Step by Step Guide

Step 1 – Choose a Law Firm

Your decision will depend on a number of key considerations, including:

Read: How to Choose the Perfect Law Firm for You >>

Or take our law firm quiz!

What type of firm should you apply to? Take the quiz!

Step 2 – Submit Training Contract Applications

Learn about how to write the perfect application and training contract cover letter.

Step 3 – Attend Training Contract Interviews

Use the tips on our Training Contract Interviews page to help you stand out from the crowd.

Step 4 – In-House Assessments

If you get through the interview stages, you may be invited to an assessment day where you will complete a variety of tasks. These may include:

Eloise Rennie, a trainee at Freshfields, shared her top tips for surviving an assessment day

You can also take a look at these top seven tips for assessment centres >>

Step 5 – Receive an Offer

Most law firms will call you in person to deliver the good news. Then it’s up to you whether or not you accept the offer!

What if I Can’t Get a Training Contract?

With the number of LPC graduates exceeding the number of training contracts available, there are many law students who struggle to secure one.

There are various things you can do to increase your chances of securing an opportunity – from work experience to pro bono work.

Tips for Getting a Training Contract

Follow our training contract tips to increase your chances of being successful in the recruitment process.

Or listen to our podcast with a future Freshfields trainee on how she secured her Magic Circle contract.

Podcast: How I got My Magic Circle Training Contract

1.  Try Some Paralegal Work

Paralegals undertake a variety of administrative and legal work. They are responsible for providing support to solicitors, barristers and/or legal executives in:

Typically, paralegals are employed in law firms to work in a specialised department, such as the property, corporate finance or dispute resolution departments.

The benefits of undertaking paralegal work are numerous:

For further insight into the role of a paralegal, visit our paralegal page.

Or read our blog: How Paralegal Experience Can Get You a Training Contract

2. Do a Legal Internship

You may want to consider applying for legal internships or summer vacation schemes to help improve your chances of getting a law training contract.

Legal Interns usually spend time in an in-house legal department within a large company or organisation. Day to day, they are involved in a variety of tasks, including:

3. Get involved in Some Pro Bono Work

Pro bono is unpaid work undertaken by law students and practising lawyers. It aims to provide advice to members of the community who do not have the financial means to pay for legal advice.

Although pro bono work is unpaid, the satisfaction and experience you can gain from doing it is priceless.

This type of work also helps to build and develop your legal and communication skills because you will have to work with a large variety of people on many different legal matters. This makes you an impressive candidate when applying for a training contract.

You can get involved in pro bono work with a number of different organisations including:

4. Get Some Commercial Work Experience

You may want to consider applying for jobs at organisations that run businesses involved with the type of law you are interested in.

For example, if you are interested in banking and finance law, apply for a job in a bank where you can develop your commercial awareness a different angle.

Sign up to our commercial awareness newsletter for fortnightly insights into the ever-changing business world.
Sign up for Commercial Awareness Updates

5. Research Your Preferred Law Firms

By carrying out thorough research, you can tailor your applications and stand out from the crowd.

Law firms can spot a generic application from a mile away and will prioritise candidates who have put obvious effort into them.

Research the following:

6. Keep Your Search Criteria Broad

If you’re having trouble securing yourself a legal training contract, you should consider widening your search to law firms in other parts of the country.

You could also consider those that specialise in different areas of the law.

Next: Training contract applications guide

Read more:

We spoke to trainees at Freshfields, Bird & Bird, Penningtons and Herbert Smith Freehills about what life as a trainee solicitor is like. Click on the links below to find out more!

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