Amidst contemporary society, we are continuously faced with the challenges and demanding implications surrounding job professions. No matter what job you are applying for, it is subsequently becoming harder to gain employment. This is particularly true for solicitors. Due to the economic crisis that inflicted severe repercussions to job prospects, the pool of law training contracts has fluctuated greatly. That said, it makes it difficult for aspiring lawyers to gain placements and struggle to find that all important law training contract.
Think of your training contract as an apprenticeship. It will provide you with two years of opportunities and valuable experience that allows you to expand your horizons and improve your performance.
What you will learn, and what you will be doing within your training contract, will ultimately depend on the type of law firm for which you join. If you join a large firm, you are likely to spend your time in a range of different seats (i.e. departments), giving you an all-round feel to the possibilities open to you after your training contract has ended.
What is a Training Contract?
Defining a Training Contract
Also known as the period of recognised training, the training contract is the final stage of qualifying to become a solicitor. Alongside the Professional Skills Course, you will be expected to undergo intensive practice that allows you to use all the knowledge and skills you have been equipped with, and apply them in real life application.
Why is a Training Contract used?
The law training contact is used by law firms to determine a candidates’ progress and suitability. The training contract acts like an apprenticeship whereby you will be able to work as a trainee solicitor and gain an insight into the work life of a solicitor.
How long does a Training Contract last?
Generally, you will be expected to have a training contract for 2 years, during which you will spend 4 blocks of 6 months in different seats (i.e. in different departments of the law firm). However, the structure of how many seats you will need to sit, will vary depending on the law firm for which you are undertaking your training contract with.
Changes to the Training Contract
The SRA no longer stipulates the exact terms and conditions of a person’s training contract, and therefore law firms have been given the freedom to design their own training programme which they see beneficial to their firm. Remember, many law firms tend to want to keep trainee solicitors on after their training contract. So, make sure you perform at your best to ensure the best possible opportunities and potential long-term career with that law firm.
Where to look for a Law Training Contract?
If a law training contract is what you are looking for, you need to have an idea of where to begin looking in terms of gaining that all important contract. A great place to begin searching for training contracts can be found via the following web address: www.lawcareers.net. This page is host to 1000’s of law organisations that are offering training contracts and other important information regarding solicitor work.
- Use the filters on the website to narrow your search and define the criteria of your requirements.
- You can display your results by finding the top results or other results in order to maximise your chances of finding a training contract that suits you.
- You need to grasp the importance of the training contract deadlines. You need to ensure you have enough time to create and submit a strong application. The website offers all of the important information in regards to training contract deadlines in order to organise your preparation prior to your applications.
Other places to go in regards to training contracts are as follows:
- Law fairs
- Online Forums
- Online Research
What you will learn
As a trainee, you would have already mastered the basics in regards to training, but this opportunity will allow you to excel and become a competent solicitor.
Alongside the training contract, you will also be expected to undergo the Practical Skills Course (PSC). You will not be able to qualify as a solicitor without partaking in the PSC, therefore it is important to understand the importance of this stage of the qualifying process. You will be expected to take three main course modules, which include:
- Financial and Business Skills;
- Advocacy and Communication Skills; and
- Client Care and Professional Standards.
During the PSC, as well as completing the modules as mentioned above, you will also be required to complete 24 hours of elective modules. It is imperative that you fully comprehend the importance of each stage of the qualifying process for becoming a qualified solicitor. The period of recognised training is one of the most important stages to make a good impression and utilise your skills. Thus, you need to do everything you can to illustrate your key skills and qualities that are essential for any law firm you wish to work for.
Improving your chances
At the time of applying for law training contracts, it is important that, prior to your submission of your application, that you have taken all the necessary steps in order to improve your overall chances.
Remember, applying for a position within a law firm is extremely competitive, and thus competition for one position is fierce. Therefore, you need to make sure that you do everything you possibly can to ensure you with the best chances of being successful. You need to prepare for the application stages to ensure you give your application the edge over others who are subsequently applying for the same position you are.
There are a few things to remember when applying for a law training contract, in order to improve your overall chances.
Creating that all important CV. Creating a ‘killer’ CV that demonstrates your best qualities and illustrates you in the best light, will help to make a better impression. Remember, the CV is a crucial stage of application, and a stage that many law firms often use to filter out potential candidates. Ensuring that your CV is tailored specifically to the law firm of your choice, will enable you to demonstrate key assets and qualities that law firms are seeking.
- Make sure that it is easy to read, clearly laid out in a logical order, and that you haven’t tried to cram in too much. Usually 2 pages is sufficient enough.
- Make sure that it is informative and that it isn’t cluttered with irrelevant information.
- Make sure that you account for any gaps in your employment history. For example, if you were travelling or took time off to further your education, you should list those instances.
- Make sure that you include your entire schooling history including dates and grades. If you leave your grades off, the employer will be left to assume that they are sub-par.
The Application Form. By the time you reach the stage of applying for a period of recognised training, you should by now, know what type of law firm you wish to work for, and the type of lawyer you want to be. Within this chapter, you will be provided with guidance and support in preparation of your all-important application form. The application form is one of the most crucial stages to the application process of becoming a solicitor. The level of research and the effort which needs to be put into your application form is imperative.
When submitting application forms, it is important to produce a quality, professional and detailed application form which will make you stand out. It is the first time that you will get to make an impression and set yourself apart from other candidates. In terms of application forms, a lot of law firms rely solely on the application format in which they have laid out, as opposed to allowing candidate’s to attach their CV. The main aim of the application form is for law firms to be given all the necessary information which they want. The application form
Impressing at the interview. Getting an interview has become harder than ever, in recent years. Competition is fierce and therefore you need to be fully prepared and demonstrate that you are at your best. Nobody enjoys the interview process, in fact the majority of people find the whole experience nerve-wracking. You will need to show great levels of knowledge and experience within the law industry, and have a good understanding of the job role you are applying for.
- Extensively research the firm for which you are interviewing. Use the internet to search not only their website, but to find other articles or write-ups about the firm. It is important that you know what field of law the company operate within, and any major cases that they may have worked on. It will give you an advantage over other candidate’s if you show full knowledge and interest about the law firm for which you are applying to.
- Dress appropriately. If you show up in jeans and a t-shirt, the partners may not feel you take the position seriously. Your clothing needs to demonstrate your professional and mature demeanour. For men, a suit shows that you are serious about the job and take pride in your appearance and how you convey yourself to others. For women, a skirted suit or conservative dress with a proper hemline will give the same effect. Be professional in your dress, and show up well groomed. These little details may seem simple, but they are important and extremely effective.
- Familiarise yourself with some of the questions you may be asked during the interview process. Some examples of questions you will be asked are: What makes you interested in our firm? Why are you interested in your stated area of practice? What are you hoping for in your career?
Top Five Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Training Contract
In order to improve your chances of gaining a training contract, here are the 5 main tips in a nutshell, that will ultimately aid you to success for gaining that all important contract:
- Work Experience. Without work experience, you will not progress in your legal career.
- Perfect your CV and Application For Answers. Spelling mistakes, lack of information, poor layout, grammatical errors, incorrect information and offering nothing substantial to an employer, are the most common mistakes on a CV and job application. Make sure you have someone else go over your CV.
- Make Sure You Have A Great Cover Letter. Your cover letter is your chance to let the employer know about you and why you want to work for them. Do your research about the firm so you can be sure that your cover letter tells them you have what it takes to be a solicitor for their firm.
- Give Yourself An Interesting Persona. Simply stating on your CV that you like to read or watch movies will make you seem boring to an interviewer. There is nothing wrong with going sky-diving and listing that as a hobby. There are so many hobbies out there that show personality, and if you do it once, you can list it as something that interests you. Make yourself interesting and exciting.
- Consider Your Location. Because the competition is so tight in this field, people are willing to travel far and wide to get a position. There is no rule that says you have to state your address on your CV. If you have relatives near a firm you are interested, feel free to use their address. This gives you a tie to the area.
How2become a solicitor is a professional guide that will take you step-by-step through the entire qualifying process, including how to gain that all important training contract.
The guide also covers the following: a day in the life as a solicitor, educational qualifications, skills and qualities, the interview process, the assessment centre and a whole range of other important areas.