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Understanding Law Training Contracts

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Understanding Law Training Contracts: Key Info

Training contracts are likely to be the final stage of your training prior to you qualifying as a solicitor – although this is now dependent on the SQE, Solicitors Qualifying Examination, as well. The application for training contracts at leading firms is difficult and highly competitive, with numbers of applicants around 50 times higher than the number of seats according to some estimates.

What is a Training Contract?

A training contract is a full-time job with a firm, during which you train on the job. You should expect to spend six months in a seat (an area of practice) and rotate four times, for a total of four seats over 24 months. Some firms will do four month seats instead, meaning that you would sit six in total. You might have the opportunity to go abroad during your training, which is a secondment – or, you might be able to work in-house with a client’s legal team. You should expect to benefit from a supervisor and dedicated training. At the end of the training contract, the majority of trainees will be offered a job. However, this is not guaranteed, and different firms will retain different numbers of their trainees. You will gain experience in both transactional and contentious practice.

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More Information on Training Contracts

You should know that training contracts are no longer necessary, as you could instead gain two years’ work experience as a paralegal, for example, and then sit the SQE. However, this approach would lessen your chance to build up contacts at the outset of your career. Training contracts will continue to be labelled as such, and will no doubt continue to be the principal way into higher paying and more prestigious careers in Law. A training contract is seen as an apprenticeship in law – meaning that you are seen as a trainee, and making it difficult for you to be fired from your work. It is only possible for you to be fired for serious misconduct – underperforming, for example, would not result in being fired, but it would no doubt result in you not being retained at the end of the training contract period. You will need to gain practical experience in three distinct areas, and each period of experience must be at least three months. You will need to complete the Professional Skills Course whilst training, for which your employer will foot the bill. This course covers finance and business skills, advocacy and communication, and client care and protection. You might be able to repeat a seat if you particularly enjoyed it or are set on specialising in that area in the future. Different firms will have different requirements in terms of compulsory seats – e.g. a firm that specialises in M&A might require you to take a seat in that area, for example. Again, different firms will be more or less likely to be able to offer you the choice of seats that you want. You can get more details of all firms’ structures in terms of their seats through BlackStone Tutors’ guides to the different firms and their training contracts. You will be given a supervisor for each seat, who will provide you with work to do, and conduct assessments as well. You will likely have appraisals at the end of each seat, and a less formal appraisal during the seat.

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What Are Training Contracts Really Like?

Each firm will be very different. However, there are some rules of thumb. In general, you should expect long hours if you choose to work at a large, multinational law firm, especially if you choose to work in London – and this becomes even more likely if you choose a Magic Circle firm or one of the hyper-competitive US firms. Remember that your salary is entirely linked to your seniority at the firm, rather than performance. All first year trainees will be paid the same, all second year trainees, all newly qualified lawyers, etc. Salaries are much higher at City firms, and far higher in London than in regional offices. This is especially true of the salaries for newly qualified lawyers, which can easily exceed £100,000, with the US firms providing the highest rates (some approaching $200,000 at the time of writing). You should expect there to be a good social scene with other trainees, and the firm should provide some budget for events – especially at larger firms with a greater number of trainees.

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