Training contracts are the holy grail for an aspiring solicitor. It is a two-year long work placement at a commercial law firm that exposes trainees to a variety of areas of law – these are called seats. Trainees usually undertake four seats (one every six months) but some firms may have different arrangements.
Commercial law firms provide legal services to the largest companies and leading governments of the world and see their trainee solicitors as future leaders. As such, a career as a solicitor is handsomely paid, even when you are a trainee. Trainee solicitors at a leading law firm in London can expect to be paid £40,000-55,000 per year, and trainees outside of London can expect to be paid £25,000-£35,000 per year. These are rough figures and will vary by type and size of the firm.
Which law firm pays trainee solicitors the most money?
It’s well known within the legal industry that the heavyweights of the US legal industry tend to pay their trainees the most money (at the time of writing). For example, Akin Gump pays their trainees £50,000 in their first year, £52,000 in their second year and a cool £150,000 upon qualification. Not bad, eh?
Additionally, firms such as Shearman & Sterling pay £45,000 in the first year, £50,000 in the second year and £120,000 to newly qualified solicitors. Close behind the US firms are the large international firms and the Magic and Silver Circle. Baker McKenzie pay their trainees a starting salary of £48,000, Freshfields has a starting salary of £45,000, and BCLP has a starting salary of £40,000.
It should be made clear that these salaries will be paid to trainees who work in London offices. If you want to do a training contract with a national firm that operates across the UK and be based in another city such as Manchester, Bristol, Leeds or Nottingham, you will be paid less. For example, if you got a training contract with Shoosmiths in one of their regional offices, you would be paid £27,000 in your first year and £28,000 in your second year. Similarly, Mills & Reeve pay their trainees £26,500 in the first year, rising to £28,000 in the second year. Irwin Mitchell is similar, paying £26,500 to trainees in their first year and £28,500 to trainees in their second year.
What else should I consider?
Your salary will undoubtedly have an influence on your career choices but it shouldn’t be the determining factor when choosing a law firm to apply to.
First and foremost, you should be passionate about the firm and the work they undertake. There’s no use in applying to Slaughter and May if you are not interested in advising FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 corporations on commercial matters. Similarly, White & Case specialise in bank finance, financial restructuring and insolvency and capital markets to name but a few, so you should have a keen interest in these areas. Part of Irwin Mitchell’s practice covers Personal Legal Services, which covers personal injury and medical negligence litigation as well as asbestos-related disease, serious injury, international travel litigation, medical negligence and product liability.
Secondly, the US and International firms may pay the big bucks, but it’s well-known that their working hours and the demand on trainees are very high; weekend work is not uncommon, neither is working beyond your contracted hours on a regular basis. It’s therefore worth thinking about what you want from your training contract and career, and only you can decide this. Do you want a healthy work-life balance? Are you looking for a training contract that will progress your career massively? Do you want high levels of support from your training principal and partners?
Gimme a training contract!
Know what you’re after in terms of area of law, salary and location? Great stuff. Head over to our dedicated training contracts page to browse the latest opportunities.