If you want to become a solicitor, you will need to apply for training contracts at law firms. Training contracts are highly competitive, so it's crucial your application stands out. This section includes a detailed guide to training contracts, applications, choosing a law firm as well as a step-by-step guide to securing a training contract.
Are you thinking about or in the process of applying for training contracts? This page will guide you through your training contract applications, when to apply and how to choose the right law firm for you.
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A training contract is the final stage of training towards qualification as a solicitor.
It can be done after a qualifying law degree and the LPC. Or, if you did a non-law degree, after a conversion course, such as the GDL, and the LPC.
This vocational stage is a recognised period of practical legal training. It is carried out in a law firm or equivalent and is supervised by the firm’s experienced solicitors. The scope and standard of training is regulated by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA)* and is commonly referred to as either a ‘training contract’ or a ‘period of recognised training’.
During your training contract, you will put all of your theoretical studies into practice. Your training contract usually runs for a period of two years, during which you rotate around a number of different legal departments, or ‘seats’, as they are more commonly known. This allows you to develop and build your legal work experience and practical training in a number of different areas of the lawwhich are both of personal interest and potential areas for qualification.
Depending on where you train, you may be required to complete four six-month seats or a greater number of seats of shorter duration. In smaller law firms with fewer departments, the training opportunities may be more limited and your training contract will need to be tailored accordingly.
Your training contract ultimately gives you the opportunity to shine and demonstrate to your firm and the SRAthat you possess the requisite levels of competence and skill required to successfully practice law as a professional qualified solicitor.
Typical Training Contract Tasks
During your training contract you will get involved in both contentious and non-contentious work, for a number of different clients. Daily tasks may include:
Attending meetings with clients, possibly taking minutes
Drafting emails and letters to clients
Drafting and negotiating legal documents and contracts
Researching and interpreting points of law
Preparing for and attending court proceedings
Administrative tasks such as proofreading documents and document reproduction/management
We spoke to trainees at Freshfields, Penningtons and Herbert Smith Freehills about what life as a trainee solicitor involves. Click on this links to find out more!
Want to know more about what a training contract is like? In the video below, Victoria, Trainee Development Manager at Norton Rose Fulbright, tells us more about what a training contract involves.
Professional Skills Course (PSC)
As part of your training contract, you must pass the PSC.
The PSC is designed to dovetail with the LPC and, as the title suggests, it aims to develop your professional skills. The SRA recommend that it is undertaken as part of your training contract. As such, it forms a vital part of the vocational training process.
The PSC will either be run in-house at your law firm (or equivalent) or at an external venue. The SRA is ultimately responsible for overseeing and regulating the PSC which is designed to cover the following core areas:
You will be required to undertake elective modules, for which there are no formal PSC assessments. The electives are designed to allow you to hone in on areas of the law which are of particular interest. Competency in the use of various IT programs and general commercial awareness also pervade the PSC.
When Should I Apply For Training Contracts?
Larger law firms tend to recruit up to two years in advance, so the timing for training contract applications is very much dependent on your degree choice:
If you are studying a three year qualifying law degree you can apply in the summer term of your second year
If you are studying a three year non-law degree you can apply in the summer term of your third year
If you are studying a four year qualifying law degree you can apply in the summer term of your third year
If you are studying a four year non-law degree you can apply in the summer term of your fourth year
The traditional deadline for training contract applications is on and around 31 July, but it is important to check precise deadline dates on the websites of your chosen firms.
Smaller law firms tend to recruit on a more ad hoc basis, sometimes only a year in advance. Again, it is important to establish the deadlines which apply to your chosen law firms early on, so that you can plan your strategy for submitting your applications accordingly.
Want to know more about the kind of work you might complete on your training contract? Hear from a trainee in the Banking department of Norton Rose Fulbright in the video below.
In-House Training Contracts
In addition to the training contract opportunities available within a law firm setting, there are a few more limited opportunities to complete training contracts in-house at commercial organisations with sufficiently large in house legal teams. Visit our page on In-House Training Contracts to find out more.
Training Contract Salaries
Training contract salaries can vary greatly from minimum wage through to £60,000+. Salaries are to a large extent determined by the size of the firm and where it is located. Trainees in London, for example, tend to earn more (average salaries are around £35,000 to £48,000) whereas trainees in the regions tend to earn sightly less (average salaries ranging between £18,00 and £35,000).
Step by Step Guide to Securing a Training Contract
Step 1 – Choosing a Law Firm
Before you start thinking about submitting an application,an important first step is to establish where you want to apply.
Your decision will invariably centre around a number of key considerations, including:
Whether you wish to apply to traditional law firms or in-house legal departments
Whether your interest lies primarily in commercial practise, criminal practise or high street practise
Taylor Vinters talked to The Lawyer Portal about other key considerations when choosing a law firm. Click on the link to find out more: Taylor Vinters: Training Contract.
Once you have considered the various factors, you will be in a strong position to compile a focused list of target law firms. Then you can start doing your homework! Research your preferred law firms in detail, considering:
Their client base
Any recent high profile deals or cases
Any influential partners
Any other facts of particular interest
By carrying out thorough research, you can tailor your applications accordingly and make sure you are applying to firms that are a good fit for you. Remember, law firms are not interested in standard form or generic applications. A commitment to and an understanding of their particular firm and its inner workings is crucial.
If, following the rigorous interview process and any assessment days, you have sufficiently impressed the law firm in question, they may offer you a training contract. Most law firms will call you in person to deliver the good news. It is then ultimately down to you as to whether 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 on an annual basis, there are a surplus of individuals who are still seeking training contracts. If you are struggling in the current climate to secure a training contract, try visiting our What if I Can’t Get a Training Contract? page.
Solicitors Regulatory Authority (the SRA)
The SRA is primarily responsible for regulating law firms, their solicitors and other employees in both England and Wales. The SRA has developed a Code of Conduct and Principles which must be strictly adhered to. This ensures that any legal services are provided with integrity and with the best interests of the client and the wider public in mind. You will learn more about this during the course of the LPC.
If these principles are in any way breached, the SRA can take enforcement action, which can have serious and career-altering consequences for the law firm, its individual solicitors and employees.
Visit the SRA website to find out more about the organisation and their Principles and Code of Conduct.