What is an in-house training contract?
As part of your journey to becoming a fully-qualified solicitor, you need to gain extensive work experience beforehand. One type of work experience approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is an in-house training contract. Here we break down what this form of training contract involves.
Training contracts – what are they?
In order to qualify as a solicitor in the UK, candidates need to complete a Legal Practice Course (LPC), in addition to a two-year SRA-approved work experience known as a training contract.
It is possible to reduce a training contract up to a maximum of six months, resulting in a period of recognised training of a minimum of 18 months – as part of a process outlined in the SRA guidelines – which is more common in-house, due to training being more flexible.
With the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) in 2021, the LPC will slowly be phased out in the next 10 years and training contracts will be replaced by Qualified Work Experience (QWE).
Nonetheless, whether you do the training contract or the QWE route, the types of work experience opportunities available to you as a trainee solicitor will not change.
In-house training contracts are a form of recognised training available to those who want to qualify as a lawyer. We outline below what this form of training contract is and how it differs from other options.
In-house training contracts
In the UK there are two forms of training contracts – namely in-house training contracts and private practice training contracts.
Unlike private practice training, it is widely thought that in-house training contracts are not completed with law firms, but traditional firms can offer in-house opportunities so trainees act for the firm, not its clients.
As part of your in-house training contract, you will work within an organisation or a company’s legal department, unless in a law firm as outlined above.
How many in-house training contracts are available?
Admittedly, there are fewer places available if you take this route.
Even though in-house training contracts are less popular, there has been a recent increase in the number of candidates opting to take this path.
What kind of organisations offer in-house training contracts?
You are most likely to find a placement within a larger company or the government; according to figures from March 2020, 27% of in-house training contracts were in the public sector, with candidates working with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Government Legal Department (GLD).
In addition to there being fewer vacancies, in-house training contracts open up whenever companies need to fill a position. Therefore you need to keep on top of searching for vacancies if you are committed to taking this pathway.
On the other hand, private practice training contracts are more cyclical and positions are regularly offered by law firms.
What are the advantages of doing an in-house training contract?
In-house training contracts have many advantages over private practice training programmes.
Even though you are working in a legal department, many trainees will not be working for a firm that’s sole purpose is practising law. You may be required to possess a wide variety of skills in addition to your legal knowledge, including an understanding of the economic climate and commercial awareness.
Law firms usually specialise in specific area(s) of law. When doing an in-house training contract, you will be responsible for assisting your company or organisation in a variety of legal issues that may cover many aspects of law. By supporting your organisation in a wide range of legal matters, you will be exposed to more holistic training, putting you in a good position to apply to legal firms that may specialise in multiple areas.
Additionally, an in-house training contract would also allow you to enrol on a part-time LPC alongside your placement. This will enable you to reduce the amount of time it takes you to qualify as a solicitor, making the whole process quicker and more efficient.
While it is potentially a less accessible pathway, doing an in-house training contract definitely does have its advantages. Whichever option you choose, both routes are equally respected by law firms after you have successfully qualified as a solicitor.
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