Graduation seems a very long way a way when you first start university. Worrying about paying back the student loan, finding a job in the legal sector and actually earning a living feel like distant problems that should be dealt with in a year or two.
However, aspiring solicitors do not have that luxury. If you want to work as a solicitor, you need to think and start preparing to apply for training contracts as soon as possible.
Currently, it's normal for students to start applying for training contracts in the second year of their LLB or the final year of their non-law degree, but the recent change to the Graduate Recruitment Code means that law students may soon start applying in their first year of university.
Tell me more about training contracts…
A training contract is a two-year placement that is undertaken by trainee solicitors after they finish their year-long Legal Practice Course (LPC).
The final step before qualification, it can be likened to an apprenticeship: an opportunity to put all your academic knowledge to vocational use. Trainees spend two years getting a practical legal education overseen by senior solicitors in law firms.
How does a trainee qualify as a solicitor?
During the training contract, wannabe solicitors will progress through at least three areas of work at the law firm, but there is the opportunity to experiene up to eight at some the larger law firms.
The time spent working in each area is known as a seat and it gives trainees the chance to sample different spheres of law in order to decide which area they want to qualify in.
Trainees must complete a contentious and non-contentious seat. Contentious areas of law involve disputes between parties that result in court cases whilst non-contentious law does not focus on conflict or involve the courts.
During the training contract, trainees undertake a Professional Skills Course (PSC) that will enable them to become fully qualified solicitors. This is split into three core modules: advocacy and communication skills; client care and professional standards; and financial and business skills.
In addition to the core modules, trainee solicitors will need to undertake around 24 hours of elective modules.
Successful completion of a training contract does not necessarily guarantee a job offer, although the majority of trainee solicitors do stay on at the firms they did their training contract with.
Will I get paid?
All trainee solicitors receive a salary, but this varies depending on the firm and location.
From August 2014 the SRA announced that firms were only required to pay trainees the national minimum wage. However, many trainee solicitors do receive more than this, with most City firms offering between £38,000 and £42,000.
Law firms, particularly the larger ones, regularly offer to cover the cost of the LPC and/or GDL tuition fees, with some even providing support for living costs.
How hard is it to find a training contract?
There are roughly 5,500 training contracts available in the UK, and far more LPC students than there are spaces.
Thousands miss out every year and have to re-apply the following year. Competition is fierce, especially for those at the large London firms.
It’s important to start your preparation early: research law firms, get some work experience over the summer and get involved with extra-curricular activities at university. To find out more take a look at: