Solicitor career path
First-year law and second-year non-law students
What does it mean to be a solicitor? Am I cut out for the work? Why do I want to be a solicitor rather than a barrister? Do I want to practise in London or the regions? In what practice area? These are the questions to be asking around this time (although we advise keeping an open mind about that last one). Answers can be gleaned by delving into the law section of your university careers centre and undergoing a healthy dose of self-analysis.
You might like to arrange some summer work experience to begin checking out the different types of firm (note that the formal work placement schemes don't take place for another year, though). Above all, work at achieving and maintaining good grades: when it comes to applying for formal work placement schemes and training contracts - firms will want to know your first and second-year grades, not just what degree you've ended up with.
Second-year law and final-year non-law students
Autumn term, winter holidays and spring term
Decide whether you genuinely believe that law is a career which will suit your character and skills through further research into the profession. Go to your careers advice service and discuss the profession generally with a careers adviser. Attend law firm presentations on campus and at firms' offices, and research and apply for work placement schemes for your summer vacation (some firms also offer winter and spring schemes). It's a good idea to do a few schemes in order to get a feel for the range and types of practice available to you. Check out Work placement scheme deadlines for closing dates.
Most university law careers fairs take place in October/November. They represent your best chance to meet people from the firms face to face. It is best to have done some preliminary research so you can ask intelligent questions. Many firms also organise on-campus presentations during these two terms.
Look into the funding possibilities for your legal training (in particular, local education authority grants) and check closing dates for applications.
Non-law degree students will need to apply for a place on a conversion course, known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). If you intend to study full time, you should apply through the Central Applications Board (www.lawcabs.ac.uk) from September onwards in your final year of university. The application system has recently changed so that there is no longer a closing date for applications; rather, applications are dealt with as they are submitted and institutions are notified weekly of new submissions. Applications for part-time courses must be made directly to the provider. Applications for part-time courses must be made direct to the provider.
Apply for further vacation work placements for the summer vacation. Thoroughly research the applications procedure for training contracts, especially those at firms you are interested in. By now you should be shortlisting the firms to which you want to apply.
Most major law firms will require training contract applications during this period (from mid-July onwards). Check out our Training contract deadlines page for specific dates. Gain some further work experience, either on a formal work placement scheme or through other means.
Final-year law and GDL students
Employers can start interviewing candidates for training contracts from 1 September in their final year of a law degree, so hopefully you will be busy with interviews at this point!
You must also apply for LPC courses now through the Central Applications Board. As described above, the application system has changed so that there is no longer a closing date for applications; rather, applications are dealt with as they are submitted and institutions are notified weekly of new submissions. Applications for part-time courses must be made directly to the provider.
The requirement that students enrol as members of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) before taking the LPC was scrapped in 2014. However, the SRA still runs character and suitability checks on students wishing to train as solicitors, and requires people to disclose any information related to this. If you do have such issues (eg, a police caution), you need to disclose this at the earliest opportunity – and at least six months before you would anticipate starting a training contract. Undergoing a character and suitability check before starting the LPC costs £100.
If you haven't succeeded in obtaining a training contract, keep applying! You might want to consider delaying starting the LPC if you are yet to find a training contract, given the competitiveness of the job market; time spent gaining experience and focusing on applications should give you a better chance of success.
If you have yet to find a training contract, keep making further applications throughout the year until you get one. Attend as many law fairs as possible and check for adverts in the Law Society Gazette and in our Jobs section.
The SRA requires providers to split the LPC in half, separating the compulsory Stage One subjects from the elective Stage Two subjects, which can then be completed during the training contract. However, the one-year option remains the most popular way of doing the course. For more on the LPC, see our dedicated LPC page and our News section.
The SRA made some changes to its education and training regulations in 2014 as part of a wider implementation of regulatory reform. One of the most important changes was the decision to allow law firms to pay their trainees the National Minimum Wage. This change is unlikely to affect those who want to train at commercial and/or City firms, but some smaller practices may well adjust their trainee pay.
In addition the SRA is no longer stipulating the exact terms of training contracts, which means that individual firms have been given greater freedom to design their own training programmes. However, this has led to little or no change in reality, so at the moment firms are continuing to provide training in the same way that they have been doing for the last several years. This may change in the future, but now this is broadly what you can expect from a training contract.
Ensure that your training contract has been registered with the SRA (your firm will usually do this for you). The format of the training varies from firm to firm, but most firms operate a series of departmental rotations (most often four seats in separate departments, each lasting six months). On-the-job training is provided throughout and is supplemented by courses and lectures during the two-year training period.
Around the middle of your second year, most firms will make post-training job offers and you will know whether you are going to be offered a position upon finishing your training contract. Approximately six to eight weeks before your training contract is due to end, the SRA will send you the necessary forms so that you can apply to be formally admitted to the roll of solicitors. Provided that all necessary training conditions have been satisfied, you will be admitted to the roll. Congratulations - you are a solicitor!