There are many lawyers working within the government legal community.
Government lawyers have a unique legal practice in the sense that they have only one client—but that client is the government of the day. Whether the government is creating new legislation, buying goods and services, employing people or defending its decisions in court, it needs significant levels of legal advice. To carry out this work, the government needs its own lawyers who understand its business.
Government lawyers work not only with other lawyers but also as part of a wider team including policy makers and professionals from other specialist areas. They are involved in making the law as well as in interpreting it.
The work is complex, novel, politically sensitive and frequently in the public eye. The diversity of the legal work reflects the wide range of activities within government. These range across issues of national and international significance and across public and private law, embracing advisory and legislative work, litigation and prosecution and a wealth of specialist areas. There is often considerable overlap between categories of work. A case before the UK courts, for example, might require lawyers to advise on public law issues, on European Union (EU) and human rights law and on changes needed to primary or secondary legislation.
Training contracts and pupillages are offered through an annual ‘Legal Trainee Scheme’. Opportunities are usually available within the Government Legal Department (GLD) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and sometimes within other government departments andagencies, such as the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Over the two year training contract, trainee solicitors will spend six months each in four seats, with a compulsory seat each in litigation and an advisory practice. Work and on-the-job training depends upon the department to which trainees are allocated for their training contract but, generally speaking, will cover the basic essentials of research, drafting, negotiating, advocacy and advisory services.
The structure of pupillages may vary slightly according to the department. The training period (including the 12 month period of pupillage) in the GLD and HMRC is two years. Pupils will either spend the first six months, or middle four months, of pupillage in an external set of barristers’ chambers and the remainder of their training within their departmental legal teams. Pupils will be involved in the wide range of work in which their department and Chambers are involved. They will also get to attend court (with a supervisor), carry out research for other lawyers and draft opinions.
Formal training for all trainees includes a detailed induction into the practice of lawyers in government, training modules on administrative, civil and criminal law, EU laws, human rights and legislation, general management and professional skills and in certain instances, external training programmes for external qualifications, language training and any other relevant subjects.
All training positions are based in London, across various government offices in Whitehall, Westminster and Holborn.
We offer a small number of 1 week vacation placements on our diversity summer scheme every year. This scheme is targeted at undergraduates or graduates from diverse backgrounds which are currently under-represented across the legal profession.
We work in partnership with the following organisations to allocate the small number of places available on this scheme:
- Aspiring Solicitors
- BLD Foundation
- Law Society Diversity Access Scheme
- Social Mobility Foundation
- Windsor Fellowship
Outside of the diversity summer scheme, we will not be offering any vacation placements during 2017.
Salary & Benefits
Salaries may differ between departments. As an example of what to expect, the first year salary for legal trainees in the GLD and HMRC is £28,000. In the second year this is £32,000.
Departments will also pay LPC or BPTC fees in full, if you have not started the course. If you have already started the course, most departments will make a proportional payment based on the time remaining. Unfortunately, the GLS cannot reimburse you if you have already successfully completed your LPC or BPTC.
If you study for the LPC or BPTC on a full-time basis, you may be eligible for a grant between £5,400 and £7,600 for the vocational year. If you application is successful, you’ll need to discuss grant provision with the department to which you are allocated.
If you have yet to start your Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), we may also be able to contribute towards your GDL fees. However, since funding cannot always be guaranteed, you will need to discuss this with the department making you an offer of a place.
Benefits also include annual holidays of around 25 days, Civil Service pension scheme, the Civil Service Healthcare scheme, membership of the Civil Service Sports and Social Club at low membership fees and full-service staff restaurants and catering facilities.
Applicants must have or be predicted a minimum 2:2 in an undergraduate degree. You will also be eligible if you hold a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bar Standards Board or Solicitors Regulation Authority. Graduate Members of CILEx who have satisfied the SRA’s academic stage will also be eligible. Your degree does not have to be in law. You will need to have completed the GDL (if required), LPC or BPTC before starting training in September 2017, 2018 or 2019.
Government departments are looking for applicants who are able to make effective decisions (which covers analytical skills and judgement), excellent communication and team working skills and who can demonstrate a motivation to work hard and progress in their training and career in the public sector.
There are four parts to the Legal Trainee recruitment process.
Stage one is an online application form and online Situation Judgement Test, presenting applicants with situations you could deal with during your contract and seeing what response they believe would be most effective.
If you are successful in the first stage of your application, you will be asked to complete an online Verbal Reasoning Test. Applicants will read passages of text and then will have to indicate which presented states are true or false or not possible to say.
If you are successful in stage two also, you will be asked to complete an online Critical Reasoning Test, which assesses your ability to logically analyse assumptions, arguments, deductions, inferences and interpret information. You will be provided with a statement and you will have to say how true that statement is based on the information given.
If you pass all three of these tests, you will be invited to a half-day assessment centre. During the assessment centre, you will undertake a written exercise and an interview.