Your application timeline: key dates for getting hired as a trainee solicitor
If you miss the application deadline for your chosen law firm you could find yourself having to take a year off or apply elsewhere, so make sure you know not only what you need to do but when you need to do it. Deadlines for training contract applications vary and some firms (mainly smaller, high street firms) have a rolling application deadline rather than a final cut off date, but either way, you'll need to plan ahead.
Application checklist: second-year law or final-year non-law students
- Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses then assess yourself for suitability for the solicitors’ profession.
- Research, research, research! Where do you want to be? What do you really want to do?
- Attend law fairs and careers service events for those interested in the legal profession.
- Draft a CV and get it checked by a careers adviser.
- Investigate funding possibilities. Make sure you check the closing dates.
- Non-law students: apply for Christmas vacation placements (31 October is a popular application deadline among law firms).
- Law students: research Easter and summer vacation placements.
Christmas vacation and spring
- Apply for summer vacation placements.
- Investigate the possibility of attending open days.
- Look into other useful experience.
- If relevant, apply for a conversion course (closing date is the start of February).
- Apply for training contracts (many law firms have a 31 July application deadline)
- Apply for vacation placements with smaller firms.
- Investigate application procedures for training contracts.
- Undertake vacation placements. If you haven’t been fortunate in securing one, try some last-minute phone calls or start enquiring about Christmas placements and undertake other work experience in commercial environments.
Application checklist: final year law students or conversion course year
- Research firms ready for the training contract interview season in September.
- Finalise your funding options and be clear about closing dates for funding applications.
- From 1 September be available for interviews. Don’t forget to reread your applications beforehand.
- Apply for the legal practice course (LPC). Watch out for the closing date in late November/early December.
- Check the procedure for obtaining a certificate of completion of the academic stage.
- Enrol with the Law Society. You must be a student member to do the LPC.
- Get organised for your exams. Legal practice requires a sharp intellect and gradaute recruiters in law firms expect to see evidence of a consistently strong academic record on your training contract application. If there are or have been genuine mitigating circumstances affecting your exam results, make sure you mention these on your application.
- Acceptance deadline for LPC place.
- Make the most of opportunities to gain relevant experience.
- Obtain a certificate for completion of the academic stage of legal training.
Gap years for graduates who want training contracts
Many firms are happy for you to take a gap year before starting your training contract and a number offer training contracts beginning in March as well as September, but if you do want time out you'll want to plan for it in advance and use it well, as having unexpected time on your hands can put pressure on your finances as well as creating a potentially awkward gap in your CV. Attending recruiters’ events and law fairs will help you keep on top of deadlines as you’ll be able to ask questions and check application deadlines in recruitment literature.
Making your own bespoke application calendar is one way to keep track of what you need to do and when. Discuss your ideas with a careers adviser and consider mapping out your plans alongside the crucial dates on a large sheet of paper.