Government lawyers provide a range of legal services to a vast number of government organisations, including central Whitehall departments.
They undertake high-quality legal work and have the opportunity to move around and work in different areas of law and practice, and within different departments, throughout their careers. For those who choose to specialise in a particular area of law or practice, there are opportunities to do so. Other benefits include a good work-life balance; flexible-working opportunities, such as homeworking, part-time working or job-sharing; and access to high-quality training and development programmes.
Whether the government is creating new laws, buying goods and services, investigating mergers which could restrict competition, setting the annual budget and collecting the right amount of tax, employing people, fighting organised crime or defending its decisions in court, it needs significant levels of legal advice on a whole range of complex issues. To carry out this work, the government needs its own lawyers, who understand its business, to provide legal services to a wide client base - including a range of central government departments and other government bodies.
Providing legal advice to the government is an important element of the work. Government lawyers work alongside ministers and officials as they seek to turn government objectives into policy and law and enforce regulation. Their work is determined by the business in which their departmental clients are engaged.
Constitutional issues, consumer protection, complex commercial and public procurements, cyber crime, education, EU-related matters, health and social care, immigration, managing and collecting tax, national security, trade, transport, welfare reform. The diversity of the 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 a wealth of specialist areas.
The legal work is interesting, intellectually challenging, varied and often unique. The opportunity to be involved in creating and implementing new legislation is simply not available elsewhere.Our litigation lawyers represent the government in the highest courts –with more cases at the Supreme Court each year than any other organisation! The outcome of cases can have wide implications for government policy and even raise questions of constitutional importance.
Government legal teams are based in central London and in a number of regional areas eg. Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester.
Training Contract/ Pupillage
Departments recruit legal trainees (i.e trainee solicitors and pupil barristers), each year, via the Government Legal Profession’s Legal Trainee Scheme, usually two years in advance. However, a number of places are also likely to be available for those looking to start their training sooner.
The departments which typically offer legal trainee places are the:
Legal teams are based around the country, with regional offices, for example, in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, and Manchester. The majority of the trainee positions are based in London. However, GLD may additionally offer legal trainee positions in Leeds. There may also be a possibility to undertake a ‘seat’ in Manchester with HMRC.
If you reach the final stage of the recruitment process, you will be given an opportunity to express a preference for joining one of these departments. If you are successful, your legal training will be the responsibility of that department.
Departments aim to offer all those recruited as legal trainees a permanent qualified lawyer position on successful completion of the training period, although this can never be guaranteed.
The training period (whether you are looking to qualify as a solicitor or barrister) will be for two years. Departments do not take into account previous training completed elsewhere.
Whilst the broad structure of the training may be similar to what you will find elsewhere, the nature of the work is likely to be very different. You will experience a range of interesting legal work – and may have the opportunity to participate in the legislative process itself.
You will be given early responsibility and will undertake real work for real clients from an early stage.
As a lot of government work requires conversations with the devolved administrations, some trainees may have the opportunity to complete placements with the devolved administrations in Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Training contract structure:
The nature of your training will vary according to the department you have been recruited to.
Generally speaking, you’ll spend time in 4 main areas of practice (known as ‘seats’). Each seat lasts 6 months.
You can expect to have two advisory and two litigation seats.
If you have a particular interest in Commercial law and would like to complete your training contract in this area, i.e. working across the teams providing commercial services to various client departments, you may wish to consider applying for the training contracts available within GLD’s Commercial Law Group.
The structure of the training period may vary between departments (i.e GLD and HMRC).
During the pupillage period (first 12 months) your time will be split between your department and a set of external barristers’ chambers.
You’ll be involved in the wide range of work in which your department and chambers are involved in. You’ll attend court, initially with your supervisor, carry out research for other lawyers and draft opinions.
Government departments use the services of external counsel for much of their court work. This means that legal trainees get the opportunity to work with and learn from experienced panel counsel who are leading experts in their respective fields. Barristers working within government departments are given the opportunity to conduct cases in tribunals or courts but the extent of that opportunity can vary between departments and teams. Candidates wishing to focus principally on an advocacy career should bear this in mind.
The Diversity Summer Scheme provides a one week vacation placement to undergraduates or graduates from diverse backgrounds which are currently under-represented across the legal profession.
This Scheme has previously worked in partnership with the following organisations:
- Aspiring Solicitors
- BLD Foundation
- Law Society Diversity Access Scheme
- Social Mobility Foundation
- Windsor Fellowship
Places on the Scheme are provided to these organisations.
Outside of the Diversity Summer Scheme, there are no other vacation placement schemes or work experience opportunities available.
It’s important to understand that the Diversity Summer Scheme is not used to assess suitability for a training contract or pupillage. The application process for the annual legal trainee scheme is entirely separate.
Salary & Benefits
Generally departments will pay your Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) fees in full where you have not yet started the course, at the time of accepting an offer.
There is no preference which Law or Bar School you attend, or, to the electives you undertake as part of the course.
You may also be eligible for a grant of about £5,400 (National) to £7,600 (London) for the vocational year if you intend to study for your LPC or BPTC on a full-time, or possibly part-time, basis. You’ll need to discuss your eligibility for a grant with the department at the offer stage.
Unfortunately, departments will be unable to provide funding for the Graduate Diploma in Law.
Government departments are looking to recruit talented people from diverse backgrounds who can demonstrate excellent analytical ability and communication skills. Since government lawyers have the opportunity to work in different areas of law and practice throughout their careers, rather than specialise in a particular area, they are also looking for evidence of innovative thinking. And because the work is often high profile and can have a significant and positive impact upon the lives of millions across the country, the lawyers they recruit will be motivated about public service.
Eligibility criteria: You will have (or be predicted to obtain) a minimum of a 2:2 in an undergraduate degree (or have satisfied the academic requirements of the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority or Bar Standards Board by other means). Your undergraduate degree does not have to be in law. You will also need to meet the Civil Service Nationality requirements
Please see the Government Legal Profession’s website for full details of the eligibility criteria.
In early July, we will be advertising around 60 or more legal trainee positions (training contracts and pupillages) on the Government Legal Profession’s website. The deadline date for applications will be late July 2020.
To ensure that you are notified as soon as the application process opens, you can add your contact details to the mailing list on our website.
Factors such as the school you attended, the A levels you obtained, your university and degree subject do not form part of the selection process. Online ability tests and a half-day assessment centre have been used in previous years to assess essential skills required for the role eg analytical ability, communication, and team working skills.
The assessment centre (usually held in mid-August) has previously involved a written exercise and interview.
A Guaranteed Interview Scheme and reasonable adjustments are available for those applicants with a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010.