The process of applying for a law firm training contract and securing a placement can be long and extremely competitive. This guide offers some useful tips and information, including when to submit an application for a training contract and where you can potentially do your solicitors training contract. Gain firsthand insight into life as a trainee  and get an edge in your application with invaluable insights and tips from leading law firm Clifford Chance. 

What Is A Law Training Contract?

A law training contract – also known as a recognised period of training – is a compulsory, two-year period of practical training that law graduates must complete with a law firm before they can qualify as a solicitor.

A law training contract is currently part of the LPC qualifying route, but is replaced by the Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) requirement in the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route. You can find out more information about SQE courses here.

A training contract can be completed on a part-time basis, but this takes longer than a two-year, full-time, contract.

A training contract is where trainee solicitors put into practice everything they have learned while studying. During your training contract, you will do a number of ‘seats’. Seats are usually six-month stints across four different departments of a law firm. Some law firms will require you to work in a specific department, while others will ask you which department you would prefer to work in.

For the duration of your law firm training contract, you will be assigned a supervisor who will set you tasks and be available to answer any questions that you may have.

You will also have the opportunity to get involved in client secondments, which is where you could spend one seat with one of your law firm’s clients. This means taking on projects of your own, enabling you to build your confidence, network and understand what the client expects of you.

Professional Skills Course

As part of a law firm training contract, you will need to pass the mandatory Professional Skills Course. Your law firm should pay for your first Professional Skills Course, but if you fail the test, you will have to pay to retake it.

If you study full-time, the Professional Skills Course should take 12 days to complete. The course features three core modules:

1. Advocacy and communication skills.
2. Client care and professional standards.
3. Financial and business skills.

You will also need to complete 24 hours of elective training.

Find out more about the University of Law’s Professional Skills Course.

How To Find A Law Training Contract

Prior to submitting an application for a training contract with a law firm, you should do some research by visiting the firm’s website, speaking to past and present trainee solicitors, read any news stories about the firm and see what is said about them on social media.

When trying to find the right law firm training contract for you, the following factors will need to be considered:

  • Clients
  • Location
  • Legal practice areas
  • Partnership opportunities
  • Quality of training
  • Law training contract salary
  • The size of the law firm
  • The firm’s working culture

Beyond your period of training, you’ll want to choose a firm that is invested in your career and committed to helping you develop the skills you’ll need to be a successful lawyer. Find out about the different programmes that are in place at Clifford Chance to help you make a successful transition into life at their firm.


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When To Apply For Training Contracts

If you are a law student, you should aim to apply for training contracts in the penultimate year of your studies. If you are a non-law student you should look to apply in the final year of your studies. Most law firms look to fill their training contract placements two years in advance. The sooner you apply, the better because you will have more time to customise your applications for each law firm you apply to.

If it is too early for you to apply for a law training contract, you could start researching vacation schemes. For most law firms, vacation schemes are the main recruitment source for training contracts and they will recruit up to 90% of trainee solicitors from their vacation scheme.

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

Law Training Contract Deadlines

Most national and city firms will have law training contract deadlines set for 31 July. However, some deadlines are subject to change at the last-minute – they could either be shortened or extended, so it’s important to check with individual law firms what their training contract deadlines are.

Some firms will set their law training contract deadlines earlier – usually May or June. Meanwhile, some firms tend to recruit for training contract placements on a rolling basis, while others could invite you to an interview before their official training contract applications deadline has passed. Applying early ensures that you cover all potential scenarios.

View our training contract deadlines page.

How To Secure A Training Contract

To improve your chances of securing a law firm training contract, you will need to demonstrate to employers that you have done your research, know what the firm does and how you fit in with the firm’s culture.

It’s also important to have a good understanding of the firm’s application procedures. Every firm will have their own deadlines and series of steps for assessing incoming applicants, so it’s important to get as many details as possible to maximise your chances of securing a spot.  

When submitting an application form and cover letter, you should always aim to target your responses as much as possible to the firm you are applying to. Outline the specific aspects of the firm and the programme that interest you, and equally why you would be a good fit within the firm. 

You will be in competition with potentially hundreds of applicants, so you will need to make sure your law training contract application stands out. If you have completed a vacation scheme, include this in your application and give details of what you did and the skills you gained – especially if you are applying to the firm that you did your training contract with.

Take a look at Clifford Chance’s video which outlines their application and assessment process:

For more information on legal training opportunities, take a look at Clifford Chance’s Careers page for details on training contracts, virtual internships and upcoming events.

How Many Should I Apply For?

There is no limit on the number of law training contracts you can apply for – but 10 is generally recommended. However, every application you make will need to be customised for every law firm that you apply to. This takes time as you will need to do your research and demonstrate to recruiters that you understand their firm and its requirements.

Sending off the same law training contract application to every law firm you want to apply to is likely to result in a lot of rejections. You need to carefully pick out the firms that align with your legal interests. This should narrow down the number of applications you have to tailor and submit before the required deadline.

You should apply for more than one law training contract, even if you think that there is one that is the ideal fit and it’s a law firm you did a vacation scheme with. With training contracts hard to come by, applying for one and missing out means you will have to wait for the next round of open placements.

Do I Need To Register My Training Contract?

Yes. You will need to register your law training contract with the SRA. You and your training principal must sign a training contract agreement within three months of you starting work with the law firm. The contract must then be registered with the SRA within one month of it being signed.

Law Training Contract Locations

There are so many training contracts available across the UK and securing a placement can be competitive. There are many things to consider when thinking about where you should do your law firm training contract. While there is no ‘wrong’ place to do your training contract, you will need to choose a location that is the best fit for your future plans.

Law Training Contract London

A law training contract in London is a popular choice among trainee solicitors because of the high salaries on offer and the fact that many of the UK’s largest law firms are based in the capital. Most London law firms will have many different departments, enabling you to take several different seats during your training contract.

However, a London training contract can come with long working hours and a lot of pressure. Plus, the high cost of living on a trainee solicitors’ salary can make accommodation difficult to secure.

Find out more about Clifford Chance’s London training contract.

Law Training Contract Manchester

Doing a law training contract in Manchester enables you to combine city life with a lower cost of living while working as a trainee solicitor. Manchester is one of the most popular locations outside London for doing solicitors’ training contracts, and is home to some of the UK’s biggest law firms including Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper and Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP.

Competition for training contracts is also a lot less compared with London. However, trainee solicitor salaries in Manchester are lower than they are in London.

Law Training Contracts Birmingham

Similar to Manchester, doing a law training contract in Birmingham offers a blend of city life and a lower cost of living while working as a trainee solicitor. Some of the biggest law firms in the UK have a base in Birmingham, including Gowling WLG and Irwin Mitchell. There are plenty of smaller firms too if you are looking for a seat in a specific area of legal practice.

The competition for training contracts in Birmingham is much lower compared with London. However, salary levels for trainee solicitors are also lower than they are in London.


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Law Training Contracts Salary

In 2014, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) removed the requirement for law firms to pay a regulatory minimum salary. Firms are now required to pay no more than the national minimum wage. The Law Society recommends that trainee solicitors should be paid a minimum of £22,794 in London and £20,217 outside of London.

However, the average salaries for law training contracts tend to be higher than the recommended Law Society pay scales.

Starting Law Trainee Salary (London)Starting Law Trainee Salary (Outside London)
Recommended minimum training contract salary£22,794£20,217
Average training contract Salary£36,000 – £48,000£19,000 – £37,000


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