The qualification system for solicitors is changing. This page covers the current system, which will apply until autumn 2021, and during the 10-year transition period to 2031 if you’re already on the path to qualifying. Find out more about future changes.
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On this page:
- entry requirements
- applying for a training contract
- accepting a training contract
- what to expect during your training
- skills to develop
- at the end of your period of recognised training
- what to do if you have problems with your training
The period of recognised training is the final stage of qualifying as a solicitor. You can do your training after completing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), or while you complete the LPC. It involves supervised working as a trainee solicitor in a firm of solicitors or organisation that is authorised to take trainees. The arrangement with the firm is known as a training contract.
Your training will enable you to understand the practical implications of the law and develop the skills you’ll need as a solicitor.
The period of recognised training is normally two years full time, but it can be reduced if you have relevant previous legal experience.
When you successfully complete your training period and professional skills course, you’ll be qualified. You can be admitted to the roll of solicitors and apply for your practising certificate.
The framework for training and qualifying is set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), through the SRA Training Regulations 2014.
When applying for training positions you’ll find that individual firms set their own academic requirements for trainees. Most firms will expect you to have good A-level results and at least a 2:1 degree.
Some firms will consider mitigating circumstances if you do not have a 2:1 degree. You can usually explain your circumstances in the application. If this is not possible, contact the firm’s HR department to explain your situation. You’ll need evidence to back up your circumstances, such as a doctor’s note or letter from your university.
Legal Practice Course
You’ll need to complete the LPC before or during your period of recognised training.
Most firms will expect you to have some relevant work experience, such as internships with law firms during university holidays, known as vacation schemes.
Character and suitability requirements
To qualify as a solicitor, you must pass the SRA's suitability test. This is to make sure that you meet the high standards of honesty, integrity and professionalism that are expected of a solicitor.
The character and suitability requirements relate to:
- criminal offences
- behaviour that is dishonest, violent or discriminatory, or that misuses your position
- cheating or plagiarism
- financial dishonesty or mismanagement
- regulatory issues, such as disciplinary procedures
If you think you may have a character and suitability issue, you should disclose this to the SRA as soon as possible, and at least six months before starting your period of recognised training. To be assessed, complete the SRA’s character and suitability application form.
The SRA will assess your character and suitability before you start your period of recognised training and again when you apply for admission.
You may want to be assessed early, before you start the LPC, so that you can make sure before you start training that you’ll be allowed to qualify. 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 form before starting the LPC, the fee is £100.
If you have a disability
If you have a disability that may affect whether you can meet the SRA’s requirements for qualifying for admission, or if you’re unsure, you should disclose this to the SRA. You should do so at least six months before you start your training.
Applying for a training contract
When to apply
Many firms, especially larger commercial firms, fill training places two years in advance. You can start applying to these firms:
- during the last term of the second year of your law degree, if you’re a law student
- in the last year of your degree, before you start the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), if you’re studying another degree subject
Some law firms will pay for the cost of your LPC and/or GDL if they offer you a training contract.
Smaller firms and organisations tend not to recruit trainees so far in advance. You can apply to these during your LPC.
You should check application deadlines with the training providers, as each firm or organisation will set its own dates.
How to apply
Most training positions are with law firms, but training opportunities are also available in house at organisations including:
- government departments – through the legal trainee scheme
- local authorities
- organisations with large in-house legal teams
You can research organisations and choose which ones to apply to, based on the areas of law that you’re most interested in. Find out more about career options in law.
Training providers set their own deadlines, criteria and application processes, so you should check the details with the organisations that you’re applying to.
If you have a disability
When you apply for a training contract, you must disclose any disability that is likely to affect whether you meet the job requirements. You can talk about any reasonable adjustments you need.
If your disability is not likely to affect the job requirements, it’s up to you whether you disclose it.
If you are not successful
There is strong competition to secure a training position. Between 5,000 and 6,000 places are available each year, but there are many more applicants than places.
If you do not have a training position when you complete your LPC, you could consider other legal careers, such as working as a paralegal. This can allow you to use your legal skills and knowledge and to build your experience to strengthen future applications.
Experience in other legal careers can lead to a reduction in your period of recognised training and can also be a route to qualifying via the equivalent means route at a later stage.
Accepting a training contract
Recognising prior experience
If you already have work-based experience within three years of when you start your period of recognised training, you can ask your training provider to reduce the length of your training by up to six months. It is up to the provider whether to do this.
The training principal or supervisor at the organisation where you gained the experience will need to certify that the experience you gained was equivalent.
You should keep copies of any supporting documents as part of your training record, as the SRA or your training principal may ask to see them at any time.
Terms and conditions
Trainees are employed as apprentices. This gives you certain protections, for example your employer can only terminate your contract in limited circumstances.
When you start work your employer should give you a statement of the terms and conditions of your employment. This should include:
- place of work
- starting salary
- the length of training
- any requirements your employer may have about training
Many employers follow the Law Society’s Voluntary Code of Recruitment for Trainee Solicitors. The code can give you an idea of what you should expect as you go through the process.
The SRA removed the minimum salary for trainees from 1 August 2014. Employers must now pay at least the national minimum wage.
The Law Society recommends a minimum salary for solicitors. From 1 May 2019 this is:
- £22,121 in London
- £19,619 outside London
However many firms do pay more than the minimum.
Notifying the SRA
Before you start your period of training, you and your training provider must tell the SRA using its notification of a period of recognised training form.
What to expect during your training
Areas of law
During your training you must be given practical experience in at least three distinct areas of English and Welsh law and practice. Normally you will rotate among different legal departments.
The SRA does not specify how much time you must spend in each area, but it recommends that to gain the right experience you may need to spend at least three months in any subject area. These periods are referred to as seats.
If your organisation cannot provide you with experience in at least three areas of law, it must arrange a secondment.
Your organisation will have a training principal and one or more supervisors – experienced solicitors who will supervise your work.
You should always ask your supervisor for guidance and support when you need it. If you have any concerns about your training, you should raise them with your training principal as soon as possible.
Reviews and appraisals
Your organisation must do regular reviews and appraisals of your performance. This is an opportunity for you to reflect on your progress and identify areas where you need to develop.
The SRA does not specify how many appraisals should take place but it’s good practice to have at least a formal appraisal:
- in the first year
- in the second year
- at the end of the training period
Informal reviews can be more frequent.
You should keep a clear record of your work each day during the training period. The SRA may ask to review it and use it as evidence that you’ve met the required standards.
The record that you keep must:
- contain details of the work you’ve done
- record how you’ve acquired, applied and developed your skills by reference to the SRA practice skills standards and the Principles
- record your thoughts about your performance and development plans
- be verified by the person supervising you
Skills to develop
Practice skills standards
During training you’ll develop and apply the skills you’ll need as a qualified solicitor:
- advocacy and oral presentation
- case and transaction management
- client care and practice support
- communication skills
- dispute resolution
- interviewing and advising
- legal research
You’ll develop the skills through a mixture of:
- completing work and tasks by yourself
- assisting others
- observing experienced practitioners
For full details of the skills and experience you’ll need to develop, see the practice skills standards included in the SRA’s Trainee information pack.
Professional Skills Course
You’ll need to pass the Professional Skills Course during your period of recognised training. This is the final stage to becoming qualified as a solicitor.
At the end of your period of recognised training
Admission to the roll
Once you have finished your professional training, you can apply to be registered with the SRA so that you can practise as a qualified solicitor.
Moving into a job
Your training period will be for a fixed length of time, usually two years full time. Your training provider does not have to offer you a newly qualified job at the end of the training period. However many trainees do stay on and move into a job with the firm where they trained.
The organisation will often not decide whether they’ll retain you as a newly qualified solicitor until near the end of your training period. You may wish to approach your training provider to find out what your situation is and when they’ll make decisions.
You can also apply for jobs elsewhere at the end of your training period.
What to do if you have problems with your recognised training
You should discuss any concerns or problems with your training principal in the first instance.
You can also get support from: