First job or final hurdle?
With a trusted degree in hand and a look of steely determination on your face, the training contract is the last stop before a career as a solicitor. But how exactly do these elusive beasts work and what are you expected to do about them?
What are they?
The connecting bridge between studying law and practicing it, training contracts are the first chance for a trainee solicitor to apply everything they learned at uni in
the real world. In a lot of ways, it’s like a legal apprenticeship.
Trainees are supervised by a professional solicitor from the firm they’re training at, who acts as a safety net and also provides feedback that will help the trainee apply their skills professionally.
As well as imparting new knowledge, training contracts afford the opportunity for a trainee solicitor to find out where they’re best suited. It’s not uncommon to move around departments and to try on different areas of the law to see which one fits.
What do you get at the end?
Two years of professional experience on the CV will certainly impress future employers. But the absolutely key part of any training contract is the PSC (Professional Skills Course). Without this you can’t be a solicitor and getting a training contract means your employer has to pay for it.
PSC’s are made up of three core modules and contain at least one formal, sit-down, written exam.
How long will it last?
Training contracts last two years. Usually, particularly in larger firms, this is divided into four ‘seats’. Typically, each is in a different department and usually last six months. While some smaller firms might not arrange it this way, it’s a requirement of the SRA (Solicitor Regulation Authority), who monitor these things, that anyone on a training contract covers at least three different areas of work.
For most graduates, a training contract is their first experience of practicing the law. The firm that they take the training with has an impact on what kind of law they get to practice and in what way. Spending two years in housing law, because that was the first training contract on offer, has set many a graduate with an interest in criminal law off on slightly the wrong track.
Like everything in the legal world, training contracts are competitive. Applying for one and hoping for the best
isn’t quite as effective a way of getting one as applying for all of them in a particular area of the law.