The period of recognised training is the final stage of the qualifying process and can take place after the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or while you are completing the LPC. The training prepares you for admission to the profession. It involves working as a trainee solicitor in a firm of solicitors or other organisation authorised to take trainees. Details of the training requirements can be found within the SRA Training Regulations 2014.
The training period enables you to understand the practical implications of the law and develop the following skills:
- legal skills
- commercial and financial awareness
- negotiation skills
- client care skills
The period of training is two years, although it can be reduced if you have suitable and relevant previous legal experience. (See experience gained below.)
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulates this period of your professional development to ensure that there is a framework within which your learning takes place. At the time of qualification you would be expected to be able to demonstrate all of the components of the Day One Outcomes which include:
- core knowledge and understanding of the law applied in England and Wales
- intellectual, analytical and problem solving skills
- transactional and dispute resolution skills
- legal, professional and client-relationship knowledge and skills
- personal development and work management skills
- professional values, behaviours, attitudes and ethics
Upon successful completion of the training period a trainee solicitor is deemed qualified and able to seek admission to the Roll of Solicitors and apply for their first practising certificate.
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 applicants.
With the removal of the minimum salary, as of 1 August 2014, the 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 £6.70 an hour.
Before starting your training
Before you start a period of training, you have to notify the SRA that you intend to do so via the Notification of a period of recognised training form. At this stage you are also required to confirm that you have no character and suitability matters, or if you do, disclose to the SRA what they are. (See character and suitability below.)
When you start work, or shortly afterwards, your employer should give you a statement of the terms and conditions of your employment, this should include:
- any conditions to which the offer is subject
- the dates on which the training 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 position finishes
The relationship between you and your employer is that of an apprenticeship regulated by the SRA. You have enhanced protections as an apprentice which means that your employer can only terminate your contract of apprenticeship early if:
- there is serious misconduct
- you are so incapacitated that you are incapable of being trained
- where the business has closed or fundamentally changed
If you are unfairly dismissed, any compensation can reflect loss of earnings and the loss of prospects which are attached to the qualified position which the apprenticeship leads to.
Your firm is required to notify the SRA that you are about to start your training.
The period of training is regulated by the SRA and is subject to the SRA Training Regulations 2014, you have a responsibility to understand and comply with the regulations. If your firm/organisation breaches the requirements of those regulations, then you should report the matter to the SRA. You should also take the time to read the Trainee information pack.
If you have any queries or problems relating to your training, you should discuss these with your training principal in the first instance. If the issue remains unresolved, the SRA can offer advice.
Experience gained during training
During your training you should be given practical experience in at least three distinctive areas of English and Welsh law and practice as outlined at regulation 12.1(b). The SRA does not specify the amount of time that should be spent in each area, but it is suggested that to gain the appropriate experience, you need to spend the equivalent of at least three months in any subject area.
If your firm/organisation is unable to provide the requisite training or work that will enable you to meet the requirements of the Practice Skills Standards, it must arrange a secondment to another training establishment that can offer you the necessary range of skills and experience.
Practice skills standards
During training you will develop and apply the skills you will need as a qualified solicitor.The key elements of each skill and the type of experience that will help you to develop that skill are specified in the practice skills standards included in the Trainee information pack.
You will develop the skills through a mixture of:
- completing work and tasks by yourself
- assisting others
- observing experienced practitioners
Skills to be covered:
- advocacy and oral presentation
- case and transaction management
- client care and practice support
- communication skills
- dispute resolution
- interviewing and advising
- legal research
Further information can be found in the Authorised Training Provider information pack.
Character and suitability
The route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales also requires you to successfully meet the requirements expressed in the SRA's Suitability Test. Your integrity to be a solicitor is treated seriously. Failure to disclose convictions and other issues is a serious matter, and may result in refusal of admission as a solicitor in England and Wales. It is important that you read the SRA character and suitability requirements as set out in the SRA Suitability Test 2011.
The SRA is responsible for setting and maintaining standards for all solicitors practising in England and Wales and has a duty to consider the character and suitability of anyone who wishes to enter the profession. Your character and suitability will be assessed before you start a period of recognised training and again when you apply for admission.
If you know that you have a character and suitability issue, or are unsure as to whether you may have an issue, it is important that you disclose this as early as possible, and at least six months before you would anticipate commencing a period of recognised training. This will allow time for your application to be assessed. Every case is considered on its merits. The SRA will ask for written confirmation of the relevant issues, and individuals may be asked to appear before a SRA adjudicator to explain their situation. You have the responsibility at any point to inform the SRA of any matters that may affect your suitability to be admitted as a solicitor.
You may also wish to have an early assessment if there is a risk that you may not later qualify for admission on the grounds of an issue of character and suitability.
To have your character and suitability assessed early you need to complete the application for Eligibility to commence a period of recognised training. If you submit this before commencing the LPC, the fee is £100.
If you have gained equivalent work-based experience within the three year period prior to starting your period of recognised training regulation 12.3 allows your training provider to reduce the term of your training. You can ask your provider to recognise your prior experience and reduce your period of training by an appropriate amount of time. It is up to the discretion of the firm/organisation that you are training with whether a reduction will be granted, and the training principal or supervisor at the firm at which you gained the prior experience will need to certify that the experience gained was equivalent. The training period can be reduced by up to 6 months.
It is important that you keep copies of any supporting documentation as part of your training record, as the SRA or your training principal may request to see them at any time.
It is very important that you maintain a clear record of your daily activities during the training period as the SRA may ask to review it and use it as evidence that you have met standards.
Regulation 14 states that the record that you keep must:
- contain details of the work performed
- record how the trainee has acquired, applied and developed their skills by reference to the SRA Practice Skills Standards and the Principles
- records the trainees reflections on his or her performance and development plans, and
- is verified by the individual(s) supervising the trainee
Your firm/organisation is required to conduct regular reviews and appraisals of your performance and achievements during training. This is an opportunity for you to reflect upon your development and progress and identify further learning and professional development needs.
The SRA do not specify how many appraisals should take place but good practice suggests that there should be at least three formal appraisals with you during the two years of your training (one in the first year, one in the second year and one at the end of the training period). Informal reviews can be more frequent, and you should always approach your supervisor for guidance and support as and when you need it. If you have any concerns about your training, you should raise these with your training principal at the earliest opportunity.
Professional Skills Course
The Professional Skills Course (PSC) must be satisfactorily completed before you are admitted as a solicitor. It is for you and your training establishment to decide when you undertake the course but, as it builds upon the knowledge and skills you acquired during your study on the LPC, it is advised that this be completed during the period of recognised training. The course is made up of three heads:
- financial and business skills
- advocacy and communication skills
- client care and professional standards
There is also a compulsory core of face-to-face tuition for each head and electives in one or more of the subject areas. 50 per cent of the time spent on the electives may be by appropriately supervised or assessed distance learning. Your firm/organisation will pay the fees and reasonable travel for the PSC.
You may apply for exemption from one or more modules on the PSC if you consider that you have the appropriate experience or qualifications which are equivalent in scope and level to the PSC written standards. Further information can be found in the Equivalent Means information pack.
During your period of recognised training you may be asked to complete a questionnaire from the SRA about your training and your firm may receive a visit from an SRA monitor. The purpose of monitoring is to focus on the overall adequacy of the training that your firm provides. It is not designed to assess your personal performance or knowledge of substantive areas