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The lowdown on training contracts

Your training contract: the first step to becoming a solicitor

If you want to become a solicitor you'll need to secure a training contract first. Stay ahead of the competition by finding out all you need to know about working life in law firms and entry routes for your graduate career in law.
Most training contracts are with law firms, although the GLS and CPS also offer them.

Solicitors provide legal advice, find solutions to problems and represent clients in negotiations. They spend a lot of time meeting with clients, researching cases, writing legal documents and liaising with other professionals. It all starts with a training contract (or 'period of recognised training' as it's also known), so if all this sounds like the kind of job you’d like, read on – competition for training contracts is stiff and you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to stay on track.

How do I become a trainee solicitor?

There's a set path you'll need to follow to become a solicitor. If you don’t have a law degree you’ll first need to complete a law conversion course, known as the common professional examination (CPE) or graduate diploma in law (GDL). Both law graduates and conversion course graduates then need to study the legal practice course (LPC), which is a vocational course designed to help you apply law to practical issues. After this you’ll need to complete a training contract, usually with a solicitors’ firm. During this time you’ll be known as a trainee solicitor. Once you’ve completed your training contract successfully you’ll be allowed to call yourself a solicitor.

Where could I work as a qualified solicitor?

Most training contracts are with law firms, although some other legal organisations – such as the Government Legal Service (GLS) or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – also offer them. Law firms vary in size and client base, with some firms taking on mainly corporate and commercial clients and others offering legal services to private individuals. Working cultures vary enormously as a result: legal work experience such as open days and vacation schemes can give you an insight into how different law firms operate. 

How do I get a training contract?

Most large law firms recruit online, and there’s no denying that competition for training contracts is fierce. But you can keep ahead of the competition by knowing what recruiters want to see in an application and by following their advice when applying – make sure you know each firm’s application deadline, for example, and check your application carefully for typos. You can improve your chances of securing a training contract by researching firms carefully, making good use of recruitment events and matching your skills to those that firms are asking for. Read the advice legal recruiters are offering on this site to make your application the best it can be.

What skills and competencies do I need to be a solicitor?

Legal recruiters will be looking for a range of skills in addition to top grades. Good communication and interpersonal skills, for example, are essential, as is attention to detail and, particularly if you want to go into commercial law, a sense of commercial awareness. The ability to learn quickly and work as part of a team are also qualities legal recruiters will be looking for – read our recruiter tips for more guidance.