The promise of a generous salary is a tempting reason to become a trainee solicitor but the flipside is that qualifying is an expensive business. Non-law graduates need to cover conversion course (usually known as the CPE or GDL) fees, which range from £4,000 to £11,250 full time, and all graduates who want to become a trainee solicitor need to fund the legal practice course or LPC, which costs from £7,000 to £16,200 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 2019, which is available free from your careers service. Of the leading solicitors’ firms advertised in TARGETjobs Law, 42 sponsor their trainees and most 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 £7,000 with nine now offering at least £10,000. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP give their future trainees an impressive £12,850 grant while they study.
LPC and GDL sponsorship from 42 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 £5,000 maintenance 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)
- Covington & Burling LLP LPC/GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance
- Dechert LLP Full LPC/GDL course fees and £10,000 maintenance for both courses
- Dentons LLP Full course fees plus maintenance grants of £5,000 per annum (£6,000 per annum 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
- Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP LPC/GDL course fees and £8,000 maintenance
- Gowling WLG Full LPC/GDL course fees plus £5,500 maintenance outside London and £7,000 in London for both courses
- 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 £7,000 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 £4,500 maintenance
- Norton Rose Fulbright LLP Full course fees and £10,000 maintenance for the LPC and £8,000 maintenance for the GDL
- Osborne Clarke LLP Full course fees and £6,500 maintenance grant
- Penningtons Manches LLP Full LPC course fees and £5,000 maintenance
- 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
- Simmons & Simmons Full course fees and £7,500 maintenance (LPC); £7,000 maintenance (GDL)
- Slaughter and May Full course fees and maintenance grant
- Stevens & Bolton LLP Full LPC/CPE/GDL course fees plus maintenance
- Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Full course fees and £12,850 maintenance
- 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)
- White & Case LLP Full course fees and £10,500 maintenance (LPC) and £7,500 maintenance (GDL)
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 'entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who face exceptional obstacles to qualification'. The DAS has been running for over ten years and aims to address the three key barriers to fair access to a career as a solicitor: finance; professional contacts; and opportunities to gain work experience. Each of the ten DAS awardees is provided with an LPC scholarship, a professional mentor and work experience brokered by the Law Society. 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 or bursaries at your chosen institution.
- Professional and career development loans Until 25 January 2019 when the scheme closes, there is a professional and career development loan scheme available for LPC but not conversion course students. These are offered by one high-street bank only, the Co-operative Bank. Application packages for these loans can be obtained by contacting the National Careers Service, rather than the individual banks, see the 'Extra information elsewhere' link below.
- The Law Society advice line The Law Society offer personal, financial, professional and employment advice via their pastoral care helpline on 020 7320 5675.