How many people get a training contract each year?
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably trying to calculate your chances of bagging the golden ticket: a coveted training contract. In this article, we’ll look at how many training contracts are available each year, the locations and law firms offering the largest number of training placements, and what to do if you do not get a training contract.
How many training contracts are available each year?
Elle Woods – played by Reese Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 classic, Legally Blonde – may have breezed through Harvard Law School, cross-examined a witness in a murder trial, and secured a victory through her insightful permed hair revelation, but you don’t need us to tell you that qualifying as a solicitor is nothing like the movies.
The Law Society’s annual statistics report makes for somewhat bleak reading. The average number of students qualifying with a law degree between 2011 and 2019 was 23,413. Of them, an average of 5,757 secured a training contract. That is roughly 25%. Not great odds.
But don’t despair just yet. Not every law student will decide to qualify as a solicitor. Some may pursue a career as a barrister, and others may go on to work in adjacent fields.
The average number of students who started their Legal Practice Course (LPC) – the prerequisite to qualifying as a solicitor – during that same period was 9,979, meaning almost 60% of LPC students secured a training contract. That’s slightly better odds.
But that still means that one in four aspiring solicitors lost the so-called “LPC gamble”. And at a cost of up to £16,750, it’s a hefty bet to lose.
Training contract numbers are on the rise
Training contract numbers – like the economy – plummeted after the 2008 financial crisis. But in good news, they hit pre-crash levels in 2018/19. At 6,344, the number of training contracts reached 2008 levels and increased by 9.2 % compared to 2008/09.
Thankfully, there is nothing yet to suggest that COVID-19 has had a similarly negative impact on training contract numbers.
In fact, many City, US, and international law firms have recorded huge earnings during the pandemic. And, as you’ll see, these firms are offering the lion’s share of training contracts.
Which firms offer the most training contracts?
Private practice firms are by far the most popular choice for trainee placements, representing 90.5% of trainee registrations in 2018/19.
Commerce and industry (5.3%) and government department (1.2%) were the second and third most popular choices.
Law firms with 81 partners or more represented 33.5% of trainee placements in private practice in 2018/19.
Firms with 2-4 partners (20.6%), 26-80 partners (15.2%), and 5-10 partners (14.6%) offered the next highest number of placements.
Magic Circle firms tend to offer the largest number of placements, anywhere from 80 to 100 spots are up for grabs.
Allen & Overy – 80 training contract vacancies
Clifford Chance – 90 training contract vacancies
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – 80 training contract vacancies
Linklaters – 100 training contract vacancies
Slaughter and May – 80 training contract vacancies
However, lots of Silver Circle, international, and US firms also offer a large number of training contracts. DLA Piper (70), CMS (79), and Pinsent Masons (69) are just some of the firms with a high trainee intake.
Of course, these firms all have rigorous entry applications and are extremely popular with applicants. Fifty vacancies seem a lot less when there are 1,000 applicants!
What areas offer the most training contracts?
It will come as little surprise to many that the Big Smoke is the epicentre of training contracts.
Of the 6,344 placements in 2018-19, the City of London accounted for 30% and Greater London represented almost half of all traineeships at 48.7%.
The North West (10.7%), South East (7.4%), and Yorkshire and Humberside (6.6%) were the three next most popular destinations for training contracts.
What if I don't get a training contract?
Whilst it may seem like it, a training contract is not the be-all and end-all of a career as a solicitor, and particularly for any current law students or recent graduates.
That is because the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is scrapping the training contract – and the current route to qualifying as a solicitor – in favour of the Solicitor Qualifying Examination (SQE).
As of September 2021, aspiring solicitors will be expected to complete at least two-years full-time qualifying work experience (QWE) and to sit two sets of exams, SQE 1 and SQE 2.
The range of experiences that count as QWE is much wider than the current training contract experience, and includes working in a law clinic, volunteering at Citizens Advice, and working as a paralegal.
QWE can be made up of four work experiences and must be signed off by a solicitor or compliance officer for legal practice (COLP).
So, does that mean the death of the prized training contract? Well, not quite.
Aspiring solicitors can still qualify under the current route until 2032 meaning many firms will continue to offer training contract places and expect candidates to complete the LPC.
However, the route to qualifying should gradually transition to the SQE over the next 10 years meaning the training contract will be phased out eventually.
In fact, some firms, like Kennedys, have already started to offer SQE training programmes in addition to the training contract route.
So, if you do not secure a training contract, do not give up hope. As Elle Woods said: “You must always have faith in yourself.” That’s one Hollywood line that does ring true.
Finding a Training Contract