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 if you have gained suitable and relevant previous legal experience. There are also options for part-time work and study training contracts. See below for details.
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
- holiday and sickness benefit entitlement
- the areas of law in which you will gain experience, and the skills you will practice
- 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 0370 606 2555.
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.
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 39kb).
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 are required to work full-time in the office while studying part-time. With a part-time study training contract, the study is the only element that can be part-time.
You can work and at the same time study:
- the last two years of a part-time qualifying law degree
- the part-time CPE or
- the part-time LPC
The contract usually runs for two calendar years from the start date of the course. If your training contract starts after the commencement of the course the contract will run from that date until the date that is two calendar years after the course start date.
The part-time study contract normally lasts between three and four years. The total period must not be less than what would be served if you were in full-time employment serving a two year training contract.
Time spent in a part-time study contract is counted as half time, so two years of a part time LPC will count as one year towards the training period.
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.
There are various options for part-time study training contracts. Further details can be found in the SRA Handbook.
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 (PDF 146kb).
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. You should try to find a firm/organisation who will take you for the whole of the training period so that your training is not interrupted by moving firms/organisations. 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 signed within three months of the start date and registered at the SRA within one month of the contract being signed by both you and the firm/organisation. 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.
You must be enrolled as a student member of the SRA. The part-time contract is most suitable if you have difficulty with funding, as it allows you to earn money as you complete your course. It is appropriate, therefore, if you have been unable to secure funding for either the law degree or the LPC.
Obligations on the training establishment
Until 1 August 2014 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. After 1 August 2014 the only requirement on employers in terms of trainee salaries will be to pay trainees at least the main rate for employees under the National Minimum Wage Regulations – currently £6.31 an hour.
The remainder of the responsibilities and obligations under the contract are the same as for full-time training contracts.
You can also 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't be less than would be served by a trainee in full time employment under a two-year training contract.
You are only allowed to start a part-time training contract if:
- you have satisfactorily completed the LPC
- you will be working no less than two and a half days per week (or the equivalent), meaning that the total time spent training will not exceed four years
- the SRA is satisfied that adequate training can be given.
The length of the training contract will depend on the usual number of days and hours you work each week. So the length will be:
- four years (1,460 days) if you work two and a half days per week
- three years and four months (1,216 days) if you work three days per week
- two years and six months (913 days) if you work four days per week
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.