It’s widely known that a law degree is no guarantee of a career in law, but how tough is it really to get a training contract? Graduate Ciaran Gill takes a look at the statistics.
Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, many students obtain their first insight into the world of legal recruitment through city law campus events or law fairs. Glossy brochures are handed out featuring fantastic-looking trainees singing the praises of their firm’s “collegiate”, “collaborative”, and “open-door environment”.
All buttered up and excited for the future, some law students may feel that a training contract is in the bag. One question needs to be answered, however: what actually are the chances of getting a training contract?
Training contract competition
In 2012, the UK emerged from a double-dip recession. The economic tribulations of the past years had taken a toll on the legal market. Consequently, the pool of training contracts offered by firms has fluctuated greatly since.
Rebounding from a low of 4,874 traineeships in 2009-10, the number of training contracts commencing in England and Wales during 2013-14 rose to 5,001.
Although positive, this figure still falls short of the 5,809 traineeships recorded before the financial crisis. The plight of the law graduate remains intact.
Before jumping in, if you're looking for a list of them all, head over to our Training Contracts section.
Getting a training contract is no doubt a competitive process, with many law graduates seeking a period of alternative employment while they consider their options and suss out the market. In the boom years, cases of this were much less common, with students being able to find a training contract with relative ease.
Tamara Sternberg, graduate recruitment specialist at Allen & Overy, agrees that it has been extremely competitive in recent years. The future health of the training contract market, Tamara says, will be influenced by a lot of factors, not least business demand.
"Law will always be a competitive industry, no matter how well the economy is doing.”
Tamara advises that Allen & Overy are looking for all-round individuals, and that applicants can improve their chances by developing interests outside their legal studies.
Work experience outside law is especially relevant “if you can draw out the skills you have learned, which could be transferable to a training contract in a law firm,” says Sharon Jacobs, graduate recruiter at Linklaters.
“Something as simple as demonstrating keen attention to detail in your application form can get you ahead of the competition."
"Take your time over your application form, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors and ensure you have tailored the application to the particular firm.”
While you shouldn't underestimate the time and effort you'll need to put into your training contract hunt, don't let the competitive nature put you off - there are still plenty of training contracts out there to be won. Get your name out there through writing and blogging, which will make your writing skills stand out.
Although if you do decide to start a blog that discusses the merits of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, it would be prudent to post your erotic fiction elsewhere.
Training contracts: the verdict
It is undoubtedly tough trying to get a training contract whilst remaining positive throughout. 2016 is not a good time to be starting a career.
The statistics do offer a silver lining; the market is improving. Yet as the market improves, so do thousands of other candidates who would have already obtained a training contract by now if they had graduated three or four years earlier.
Tenacity, drive and commitment to getting a training contract, though, will certainly serve to enhance anyone’s chances.