Can you get a training contract with no work experience?
Training contracts are becoming increasingly competitive to secure. Here, we discuss the demand for work experience and ways you can better your chances of being successful in your application.
What is a training contract?
It is the final stretch to qualifying as a solicitor. They last two years and are spent working in-house at a particular law firm or institution as a trainee solicitor.
With the introduction of the SQE, completing a training contract is no longer mandatory. Instead, you need to complete two years qualifying work experience from any legal institution. Despite this, most firms continue to offer training contracts, and they remain a popular option.
What do you need to do to apply for a training contract?
Applying for a training contract is a competitive process. You must have an undergraduate degree (or be an undergraduate student), however, with the introduction of the new SQE route, it does not have to be a Law degree.
Most firms require at least a 2:1 or above and you are also required to give evidence of your GCSE and A-Level grades.
However, it is not just your academic grades that matter. Your experience – both legal and non-legal – is important too. As we shall discuss, a large proportion of your training contract application will be made up of you providing examples and evidence of your relevant experience.
Some applications require you to write a personal statement which gives you a chance to explain the knowledge and skills you have developed from these experiences.
Is work experience vital?
Due to the level of competition when applying for training contracts, the more valuable work experience you have, the better. If you can display a strong commitment to pursuing a career in law you will certainly increase your chances of progressing to the next stage.
Therefore, whilst you are able to apply for a training contract without work experience, you may struggle to secure one if you cannot show some form of work experience.
It is not only legal work experience that is valued by law firms. They are also interested in other experiences you may have, such as your hobbies, interests and volunteering commitments.
All experiences can be beneficial and a great addition to your training contract application if you are able to explain the skills you have learnt or developed from these.
For example, if you have been part of a sporting team, you can utilise this to explain how it has helped you to develop your team working skills, which is also a vital skill as a trainee solicitor.
Quick ways to boost work experience
Vacation schemes are hard to secure and it can sometimes feel daunting when up against others who have this experience. If you are worried about your lack of legal work experience, there are a few ways you can boost your training contract application that you may not have considered, such as:
Virtual vacation schemes
There are several virtual vacation schemes available online, provided by a number of different firms.
Contact a few law firms or solicitors you are interested in working with to see if you can shadow a solicitor for a few days to get an insight into their working life. This will be particularly advantageous if you are hoping to apply for a training contract at that specific firm, or within the same sector.
Attend law firm events
Law firms often hold events or talks that you can attend. Their websites should give the details on when these are happening, and they can be held both virtually and in person.
In person events are great as these offer the chance for you to network and get to know employees at the law firm, helping to make a good impression, which will make your application stand out if they remember you.
Engage with employees
Try to engage with employees at the firm. Connecting with them on LinkedIn is a great way to start. Don’t be afraid to contact previous training solicitors from the firm to ask about their experience and for any guidance or advice they can give for the application process.
Legal Work Experience