Training contracts in Law firms

The training contract is the final stage of the qualifying process and involves working as a trainee solicitor in a firm of solicitors or other organisation authorised to take trainees

The training contract period is for two years although it can be reduced by up to six months if you have suitable and relevant previous legal experience. There are also options for part-time work and study training contracts.

Upon successful completion of the training contract a trainee solicitor is deemed qualified and able to seek admission to the Roll of Solicitors and apply for their first practising certificate.

Training contract offers

Many firms (especially larger/commercial firms) look to fill training places two years in advance. Law students should start applying during the final term of the second year of their law degree. Non-law students should apply before starting the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law. For information about making applications see our top tips for contract applicants. Once you have been selected as a prospective trainee, the firm must send you an offer letter setting out the terms and conditions of your employment, including: any conditions to which the offer is subject the dates on which the contract will start and finish the starting salary, and how this will be reviewed – the SRA stipulates minimum and recommended trainee salary levels for trainees working in Central London and elsewhere in England and Wales holiday and sickness benefit entitlement the areas of law in which you will gain experience, and the skills you will practise any arrangements for re-employment when the training contract finishes. It is good practice and common courtesy to accept the offer in writing.

Full-time training contracts Within three months of starting your training, you and your firm should complete and sign the training contract form, and your firm should send it to be registered with the SRA within 28 days of being signed. The registration fee is borne by the firm. Until the contract is registered you are not regarded as a trainee and are not protected by the SRA Training Regulations 2011, so it is in your own interests to ensure that it is done. If your firm refuses or otherwise fails to register your training contract, think very carefully about whether you want to stay with them. Within thirty days you will receive a letter from the SRA confirming the registration and the date of expiry of the contract. If you don’t get this letter, contact the SRA on 01527 504433 Requirements During your training you should be given experience in at least three distinctive substantive areas of English law, including both contentious and non-contentious work. If your firm is unable to provide the requisite training, it must arrange a secondment for you to another training establishment, ensuring that the terms of the training code and contract are met during this period. As well as giving you work experience, your firm must allow you to attend the Professional Skills Course. The firm will pay the course fees and grant you study leave to attend. The Solicitors’ Training Regulations 2011 govern all aspects of qualifying as a solicitor. One of your responsibilities under the training contract is to become familiar with the regulations and to check that your firm follows them. You should also take the time to read Training trainee solicitors: the SRA requirements (PDF 146KB).

Recording progress/appraisals

It’s a good idea to keep a record of your daily activities during the training contract, not only because it will document your work and progress but also because the SRA may ask to review it. There is no officially prescribed training record format: some firms have their own systems for this purpose (you may be asked to keep a diary, for instance, or annotate a time sheet), but, if not, you can use the SRA’s sample training contract record (PDF, 40kb). Your firm is required to conduct at least three formal appraisals with you during the two years of your training contract (one in the first year, one in the second year and one at the end of the training period). Ideally, however, your performance should be reviewed in every seat or every six months. If you have any concerns about your training, you should raise these with your training principal at the earliest opportunity.

Part-time study training contracts

A part-time study training contract enables you to begin training and start earning money, while at the same time studying a part-time course (CPE /GDL or LPC) leading to qualification.

How does it work?

Although the contract is called ‘part time’, you will usually work full time in the office and will only be absent to attend study days for the course. On many part-time courses this will also include weekends. A trainee who undertakes two consecutive part-time courses, for example the last two years of a law degree and the part-time LPC, would complete a period of four years of training at the training establishment.

A trainee who completes only the LPC on a part-time basis would need to spend three years training at the firm, two part-time and one on a full-time basis. As with the full-time training contract, there is a prescribed form for the contract, a copy of which is in the ‘Training trainee solicitors’ guide (above). You will need to be on an approved course before the contract can be signed. The contract must be calculated in academic calendar years and would normally run, for example, from 2 September 2015 until 1 September 2016. This is the case even though the course is likely to finish in the June before.

The training establishment is not obliged to take you on for the whole of the training period and may just offer you the training while you are still studying. It is advisable to try to find a firm who will take you for the whole of the training period so that your training is not interrupted by moving firms. It is important to check the offer letter to see whether the training is for all of the training period.

Registration of the training contract

The authorisation and registration requirements are the same as for the full-time training contract. The training contract must be registered at the SRA within 28 days of the contract being signed by both you and the firm. Until it is registered you are not a ‘trainee’ and will not be protected by the SRA Training Regulations 2011. The SRA will send you notification of registration.

Eligibility

You must be enrolled as a student member of the SRA. The part-time contract is most suited to those who have difficulty with funding as it allows trainees to ‘learn as they earn’. It is appropriate, therefore, for those who have been unable to secure funding for either the law degree or the LPC.

Obligations on the training establishment

You must be paid the minimum salary each year you are in the contract. Details of the current minimum salary are available on the SRA website. However, if you are absent from the office to attend your course then the salary can be pro rata to account for these absences. The remainder of the responsibilities and obligations under the contract are the same as for full-time training contracts.

Working part time

This is where you serve under a training contract on a part-time basis, in the same way, as any other employee would work part time. The period of training must not exceed four years and can not be less than would be served by a trainee in full time employment under a two-year training contract. The length of the training contract will be calculated in days and half days depending on how many you work each week. So, if you work: two-and-a-half days per week, the period is 1,460 days, three days per week, the period is 1,216 days, three-and-a-half days per week, the period is 1,043 days, four days per week, the period is 913 days, four-and-half-days per week, the period is 811 days five days per week, the period is 730 days. If you work extra hours such as overtime or weekends whilst working part time, this will not be considered in order to reduce the overall term of your training contract.

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