Your application timeline: key dates for getting hired as a trainee solicitor
Commercial law firms tend to recruit trainee solicitors up to two years in advance, so you'll need to plan ahead to get a training contract and launch your graduate career in law.
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
- Research, research, research! Where do you want to work? What areas of law would you like to practise ?
- Attend your university campus law fair and employer events through your careers service.
- Draft a CV and get it checked by a careers adviser at your university careers service.
- Non-law students: apply for winter vacation placements (most deadlines fall in October and November).
- Law students: research Easter and summer vacation placements.
Winter, Christmas vacation and spring
- Apply for summer vacation placements - some firms' deadlines are in December; many are in January.
- Investigate open days; another excellent way to gain an insight into law firms.
- If relevant, apply for a conversion course: the GDL or CPE.
- Apply for training contracts (some law firms have a 31 July application deadline; many use June deadlines)
- Apply for vacation placements with smaller firms.
- Take part in vacation placements. If you haven’t been fortunate in securing one, try contacting smaller firms or start enquiring about Christmas placements and undertake other work experience in commercial environments.
- Attend training contract assessment centres and interviews.
Application checklist: final year law students or conversion course year
- Finalise your funding options and be clear about closing dates for funding applications.
- Be available for interviews. Don’t forget to reread your applications beforehand.
- Apply for the legal practice course (LPC).
- 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 graduate 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.
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.