The promise of a generous salary is a tempting reason to become a trainee solicitor but the flip-side is that qualifying is an expensive business. According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies published in July 2019, students studying at British universities will graduate with much higher debts than before, averaging £50,000. Non-law graduates need to cover conversion courses (usually known as the CPE or GDL) fees, which can range from £5,000 to £12,000 full time, and all graduates who want to become a trainee solicitor need to fund the legal practice course or LPC, which costs from £9,000 to £17,000 full time, depending on course provider and location.
While you're here: massive changes to the way solicitors qualify are on the horizon with the introduction of the law SQE exam. Do you know how they will affect you? Find out here.
Financial support from commercial law firms
The following law firms supplied the information below for our publication TARGETjobs Law 2020, which is available free from your careers service. Of the leading solicitors’ firms advertised in TARGETjobs Law, 40 sponsor their trainees and the majority also offer a maintenance grant to cover living costs while on your conversion course or LPC. Having this support in place can really take the pressure off and leave you free to concentrate on your course work. This year, most commercial law firms offer maintenance grants from around £8,000 with seven now offering at least £10,000. Sidley Austin LLP give their future trainees an impressive £11,000 grant while they study. (Keep in mind, that the amount offered for maintenance grants will also vary depending on location – with trainees based in London receiving the highest amounts).
LPC and GDL sponsorship from 40 leading law firms
- Addleshaw Goddard LLP Full fees paid where applicable. See firm's website for details
- Ashurst LLP GDL and LPC sponsorship of £8,000 (in London) and £7,000 (outside London)
- Baker McKenzie LLP Full course fees plus £8,000 maintenance (LPC) and £6,000 maintenance (GDL)
- Bristows LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance for both courses
- Browne Jacobson LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and a maintenance grant for both courses
- Burges Salmon LLP Full course fees and £7,000 maintenance
- Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance for both courses
- Clyde & Co LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £7,000 maintenance grant (London) and £6,000 maintenance grant (Manchester) for both courses
- CMS Full course fees and up to £7,500 maintenance (London) and £5,000 (outside London)
- Cooley (UK) LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and a maintenance grant
- Covington & Burling LLP LPC/GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance
- DAC Beachcroft LPC course fees and a maintenance grant
- Dentons LLP Full course fees plus maintenance grants of £5,000 (£6,000 for students studying in London)
- DLA Piper LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees plus up to £8,000 maintenance grant (London) and £6,000 (all other locations)
- DWF LLP Full LPC/Scottish diploma course fees
- Freeths LLP If you are offered a place on the firm's legal assistant foundation scheme then the firm provides funding to cover relevant LPC and GDL fees. Interest-free loans available for the direct entry route
- Gateley Full LPC/GDL course fees plus £5,000 maintenance.
- Howard Kennedy LLP Full LPC course fees
- Irwin Mitchell Full LPC/GDL course fees plus £4,500 maintenance grant for both courses
- Jones Day Full course fees and £10,000 annual maintenance
- K&L Gates LLP Full course fees plus £7,000 maintenance (LPC) and £5,000 maintenance (CPE)
- Kirkland & Ellis International LLP Full course fees and £10,000 maintenance
- Latham & Watkins (London) LLP Full LPC and GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance
- Macfarlanes LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £10,000 maintenance
- Mayer Brown International LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £10,000 maintenance grant for the LPC and £7,000 maintenance grant for the GDL in London and £6,500 elsewhere
- Mills & Reeve LLP Full course fees and £5,000 maintenance
- Norton Rose Fulbright LLP Full course fees and £10,000 maintenance for the LPC and £8,000 maintenance for the GDL
- Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (UK) LLP Full course fees and a £9,500 maintenance grant for the LPC or £8,000 grant for the GDL
- Osborne Clarke LLP Full course fees and £6,500 maintenance grant
- Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP Full LPC course fees and £5,000 maintenance
- Pinsent Masons LLP Full course fees and a £7,000 maintenance for the LPC in London (£5,000 in the regions) or a £6,000 maintenance for the GDL in London (£5,000 in the regions)
- Reed Smith Full course fees and £7,000 maintenance
- RPC Full course fees and up to £7,000 maintenance
- Shoosmiths Course fees and living allowance: full details provided with offer of training contract
- Sidley Austin LLP Full course fees and £11,000 maintenance
- Slaughter and May Full course fees and maintenance grant
- Taylor Wessing Sponsors course fees of GDL and MA (LPC with business) at BPP Law School (London); a maintenance grant is provided
- Travers Smith LLP Full course fees and £8,500 maintenance
- Trowers & Hamlins LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £6,500 maintenance (London)/£6,000 (regions)
- Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP Full course fees and £10,000 maintenance (LPC) and £8,000 maintenance (CPE)
To find out more about sponsorship, salaries and other benefits offered by legal employers, see our list of advertising law firms.
Support for training to become a solicitor
Many large and medium-sized commercial firms provide financial support for the LPC and the GDL but to be eligible for this you’ll have to have a training contract lined up with them and attend the institution of their choice for the LPC.
US law firms with London offices tend to offer the highest maintenance grants (£10,000 or more) alongside their highest training contract starting salaries. Keep this in perspective: better to choose the law firm that offers the type of law you want to practise, the culture that suits your character and the location that’s best for you than be swayed too much by the size of the maintenance grant.
Financing your legal training to be a high street solicitor
Not every student will secure a training contract with a City, international, US or large regional firm – or want to. Sound financial planning is especially important for those joining smaller firms that cannot afford to pay fees. Most students in this position tend to rely on scholarships/bursaries, loans, parental support or part-time work in order to support their studies. It’s important to know how you’re going to pay for the course before accepting a place. Some smaller firms offer interest-free loans but it really does vary from firm to firm. Another alternative is that some institutions offer a two-year part-time option for both the LPC and the GDL, allowing you to keep earning while you study.
Loans and other monetary support for training as a solicitor
If you don’t have large sums of money at your disposal, then there are other means of financing your studies.
- Law Society Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) The Law Society offers assistance with LPC fees only to 'people from low socio-economic backgrounds' or with 'exceptional circumstances that have made it hard for you be become a solicitor' (which can be linked to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or other factors). The DAS has been running for over ten years and aims to address the key barriers to fair access to a career as a solicitor. Each of the ten DAS awardees is provided with a bursary towards the cost of the LPC, a professional mentor and work experience. Applications for the DAS open in February each year; see the Law Society website listed below for further information.
- Hardship funds When applying for the conversion course and LPC ask about any available hardship funds, bursaries or other funding methods offered by your chosen institution.
- If you are not eligible for sponsorship, grants and bursaries, you may choose to secure a loan from a private student loan provider. While these may offer more favourable rates than high street banks, it's down to you to pay back the loan (plus interest). It's advisable to exhaust all other funding avenues first, and to know exactly what you are signing up for.
- The Law Society advice line The Law Society offer personal, financial, professional and employment advice via their pastoral care helpline on 020 7320 5675.