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Period of recognised training (training contract)

The period of recognised training 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 period is two years, although it can be reduced if you have suitable and relevant previous legal experience. There are also options for part-time work and study training contracts. See below for details.

During the training period you will undertake the Professional Skills Course. 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.

Training 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/organisation 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 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.

It is good practice and common courtesy to accept the offer in writing.

Full-time training positions

Before you start a period of training, you have to notify the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that you intend to do so via the notification of a period of recognised training form, this can be found at Notification of a period of recognised training (PDF 198kb) . At this stage you would also have to confirm that you either have no character and suitability matters, or if you do, disclose to SRA what they are. There is more information about the process for assessing character and suitability issues at Eligibility to commence a period of recognised training form (PDF 405K).

When you start work, or shortly afterwards, your employer should give you a statement of the terms and conditions of your employment. The statement should give your normal terms and conditions such as your place of work, hours and starting salary, and should also state the length of your training and any requirements your employer may have about training.

The period of training is regulated by the SRA and is subject to the SRA training regulations. If your organisation breaches the requirements of those regulations, then you should report the matter to the SRA.

Requirements

During your training you should be given practical experience in at least three distinctive areas of English and Welsh law and practice including contentious and non-contentious work. 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, it must arrange a secondment for you to another training establishment that can offer you the necessary range of skills and experience.

As well as giving you work experience, your firm/organisation must allow you to attend the Professional Skills Course. The firm/organisation will pay the course fees and grant you study leave to attend. Read further information on the Professional Skills Course at Professional skills course information pack.

The Training Regulations 2014 - Qualification and Provider Regulations govern all aspects of qualifying as a solicitor. One of your responsibilities under the training period is to become familiar with the regulations and to check that your firm/organisation follows them. You should also take the time to read the Trainee information pack.

Recording progress/appraisals

You must keep a record of your daily activities during the training period. This must:

  • contain details of the work performed
  • record how you have acquired, applied and developed your skills by reference to the SRA Practice Skills Standards and the Principles
  • record your reflections on your performance and development plans, and
  • be verified by your supervisor(s) and training principal.

It is very important that you maintain a clear record, as the SRA may ask to review it and use it as evidence that you have met standards. 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/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. 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.

Part-time study training positions

A part-time study training position 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 training position is called 'part-time', you are required to work full-time in the office while studying part-time. With part-time study training, 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 training usually runs for two calendar years from the start date of the course. If your training starts after the commencement of the course the training will run from that date until the date that is two calendar years after the course start date.

The part-time study training 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 period of recognised training.

Time spent in part-time study training 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 positions. Further details can be found in the SRA Training contract guidance.

As with full-time training, there is a prescribed form to register the training period, a copy of the form can be found at Application to register a training contract. You will also need to declare ahead of starting your training any character or suitability issues, the relevant form can be found at Eligibility to commence a period of recognised training form (PDF 405K).

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.

Part-time training positions are 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

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 £6.50 an hour.

The remainder of the responsibilities and obligations during the period of training are the same as for full-time training positions.

Working part-time

You can also serve under a training position 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 period of recognised training.

You are only allowed to start a part-time training position 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 period 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 period.