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Termination of training

1 September 2016

Having your training contract terminated, whether due to a firm closure, merger or other reason, is a difficult situation to be in and you need to know what to do next.

This guidance explains:

If you are a student or a paralegal and your offer of training has been revoked, it is suggested that you contact the firm or organisation which made you the offer as it is possible that they may be in a position to help and advise you.

Regulatory obligations

Contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and let them know about your situation. The time you have spent in training may count towards any future training contract you enter into, or can be used to meet the requirements for qualification through equivalent means.

If your employer is unable or unwilling to sign off on your experience, you should contact the SRA to resolve the issue.

How much time have you spent in training?

You should be able to calculate how many months training you have completed and should have kept a training record. This record should be verified by the training principal and your supervisors.

What about previous legal work experience?

The decision to recognise prior relevant, work-based experience lies with your employer.

If you have legal work experience within three years prior to starting your formal training, it may count towards your overall training period. This experience can be recognised on a like-for-like basis for a period of up to six months. Guidance on this is available in the SRA's Authorised Training Provider Information Pack.

Where to go for further information

More information about the regulatory rights and obligations of trainees is available on the SRA trainee pages.

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Potential employment law issues

Termination of a period of recognised training by the firm

For periods of recognised training under the 2014 Training Regulations, trainees are apprentices. There are limited circumstances in which a period of recognised training by an apprentice may be brought to an end, and these are set out in the SRA's Authorised Training Provider information pack as follows:

'An apprenticeship can only be brought to an end if:

  • the employer and the trainee agree
  • the training contract is conditional on the trainee passing any of the academic stages of qualification or the LPC, and they do not pass
  • the trainee's conduct is unacceptable
  • the trainee is incapable of meeting the Practice Skills Standards or
  • the training establishment business closes or changes so much that it is not possible to properly train the trainee.'

The information pack doesn't contain a definition of 'unacceptable'' conduct. However, applying the law applicable to apprenticeships, which we are informed would be the likely approach of the courts, unacceptable conduct would be likely to require your employer to have concluded, after a thorough investigation, that you have committed a significant degree of misbehaviour. If you feel that your dismissal may be unfair then it is important to seek legal advice.

Waiving the requirement to complete a period of recognised training

The SRA has power to waive the requirements of the 2014 Training Regulations.

Regulation 18 of the 2014 Training Regulations states that, in any particular case, the SRA may waive in writing any of these regulations in accordance with the requirements of their waivers policy.

If you are dismissed you should consider applying for a waiver to the SRA's Pre-Admission Authorisation team to see if some or all of the time left to serve on your training contract can be waived.

Claiming against your firm

You may have claims against your firm for unpaid wages, notice pay (breach of contract) or a redundancy payment. The chances of recovering any compensation may be affected by the firm's financial position. The government has published guidance on claiming money owed to you if your employer is insolvent.

Where a firm is bought or 'rescued' by another, there could potentially be issues under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) (as amended by the Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014). The government has published guidance on the regulations for employees, employers and representatives.

If another firm takes over a collapsed firm, this could potentially give rise to a TUPE situation, meaning that the 'new' firm would need to 'inherit' the employees of the old firm. However, this is a complex area of law and legal guidance will need to be sought as to whether a TUPE situation has arisen. In addition, there are some exemptions to TUPE conditions during insolvency proceedings.

In such circumstances, there is no straightforward answer to the question of whether there is a case to bring, and independent employment legal advice should be sought.

You can apply for compensation if you haven't been paid your notice and you have:

  • a National Insurance number
  • started a redundancy claim and
  • received your claim reference number.

See the government's guidance on claim for loss of notice.

You can find details of employment law solicitors from the Find a Solicitor search facility.

Your liability for outstanding Legal Practice Course (LPC) fees

This depends on:

  • whether or not you have completed the LPC and
  • the contractual position regarding liability for paying the fees.

For example:

  • If the LPC has not yet been completed, you should contact your LPC provider to find out if any fees are outstanding and who is responsible for paying them. The LPC provider may not be willing to allow you to complete your course until any outstanding fees have been paid.
  • If the LPC has been completed but fees are outstanding, it is likely that the LPC provider will pursue the firm rather than you. If the firm breaches their contract, leaving you to make the payment, your only recourse is likely to be at court. However, if the firm is in insolvency proceedings, this may impact the recoverability of any sums awarded.

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Finding another training contract

Steps to secure another training place:

  • Update your CV.
  • Visit Lawcareers.net which lists all authorised training firms and often advertises training contracts.
  • Contact your local law society and ask if they know of any firms which may have an opening or might be in a position to see you through to qualification. They may even invite you to some of their networking events or let you know of other networking opportunities.
  • If you have worked for any other firms prior to commencing your training contract - even in a paralegal or support position rather than a formal training position - you could contact them to see if they can help.

If you are unable to secure a formal training place, it may be possible to complete your training requirements through relevant work-based experience and an application to the SRA for qualification through equivalent means. You need to:

  • see the SRA's equivalent means information pack webpage to find out what is required by the SRA for a successful application
  • contact recruitment consultants in your area as they may be able to find you something or at least assist you in approaching firms - consider paralegal work, which may give you the required experience for a successful application
  • contact the SRA if you have any queries regarding your ability to make a successful application.

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Applying for qualification through equivalent means

The SRA introduced equivalent means as a way of recognising education and work-based learning that fall outside the normal pathways to qualification, allowing individuals to show other ways they have met the criteria necessary to qualify as a solicitor.The requirements for this are in the equivalent means information pack. The relevant form for the period of recognised training outlines the specific requirements for this stage.

To apply successfully for qualification through equivalent means, you must show you have met the outcomes for that stage of legal education and training.

For the period of recognised training, these outcomes are set out at Regulation 12 of the Training Regulation 2014, which states an authorised training provider must provide training that:

  • is supervised by solicitors and other individuals who have the necessary skills and experience to provide effective supervision to ensure the trainee has relevant learning and development opportunities and personal support to meet the practice skills standards
  • provides practical experience in at least three distinct areas of English and Welsh law and practice
  • ensures that the trainee knows the requirements of the principles and is able to comply with them and
  • includes regular reviews and appraisals of the trainee's performance and development in respect of the practice skills standards and the principles, and the trainee's record of training.

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Other resources for information and support

  • Junior Lawyers Division (JLD)
    The community for LPC students, LPC graduates, trainee solicitors and solicitors up to five years qualified.

  • Law Society practice note on the employment implications of reorganising a business
    General advice for owners and managers within firms that are considering a reorganisation, including what the employer must demonstrate for a redundancy to be genuine.

  • Law Society Pastoral Care helpline (tel: 020 7320 5795)
    A referral service for solicitors going through personal, financial, professional or employment difficulties. The helpline is open from Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 17:00.
     
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority
    The regulator for the solicitors' profession. It sets the standards and requirements for entry to the profession and may be able to offer assistance with equivalent means and other regulatory aspects to trainees whose training contracts have been terminated.
     
  • LawCare (tel: 0800 279 6888)
    An advisory and support service designed to help lawyers, their immediate families and their staff deal with issues such as stress, depression, addiction, eating disorders and related emotional difficulties.

  • Solicitors Assistance Scheme
    Free, confidential help and advice with personal or professional problems to all solicitors in England and Wales, their families and employees.

  • LawCareers.Net
    A comprehensive, one-stop online resource created for future lawyers and those who recruit them.

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