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Here are the four areas of knowledge you need to get a training contract

updated on 20 April 2021

To secure a training contract, you need to familiarise yourself with four areas of knowledge.

1. Know the legal profession

Solicitors need to understand how law firms and other employers work as businesses, why companies and individuals need legal services and what the different areas of law involve.

The first step is knowing where lawyers work: in law firms, barristers’ chambers, companies, government organisations (local and national), regulators, representative bodies, charities, trade unions, the police and just about anywhere there is an agreement that needs to be made or a dispute resolved. If you are a candidate starting out in your legal career journey, or want to refresh yourself on the basics, find out more with The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law.

Meanwhile, candidates at a more advanced stage can find detailed insights into every area of the legal profession in The LawCareers.Net Handbook 2021.

To understand how lawyers and their clients work, you will also need commercial awareness. Develop yours by regularly reading the News and Commercial Question sections on LawCareers.Net and listening to the LCN Podcast.

2. Know the job

Lawyers work across a vast range of legal specialisms, with so much variety in what roles involve day to day. Learn about what working life is like for different types of lawyer in solicitor practice areas. To help decide which environment is best for you, research the different types of law firm, as well as other career paths available with legal qualifications.

3. Know the employer

To be offered a training contract by a law firm or company, you need to understand its business and be able to explain why you want to work there and not somewhere else. Decide what kind of organisation you are looking for in terms of location, size and types of work.

Try to find answers to the following questions before you apply to an organisation:

  • What are the firm’s practice areas?
  • Which practice areas bring in the most income?
  • What sort of clients does the firm serve?
  • What seats are offered on the training contract?
  • What departments do most trainees qualify into?
  • What are the firm’s values?
  • What has been the firm’s trajectory for the last few years?
  • What are its prospects for the next five years?
  • What are the PEP (profits per equity partner) figures?

Find information on more than 1,000 employers using LawCareers.Net’s advanced search.

As well as online research, trying to have some direct interaction with employers before you apply is advised. It is worth attending open days and insight schemes (virtually or in person), as you will be able to get a better sense of the firm’s people and working environment.

Vacation schemes are a compulsory stage of the application process for a training contract at some firms, but they are also valuable opportunities to ‘try before you buy’ and experience an employer’s environment first hand. You can also find out how other candidates found the vacation schemes at a range of different law firms in LCN’s vacation scheme insiders.

4. Know yourself

You need to have good background knowledge of the law and lawyers to be able to work out what career path and type of law would suit you, what you have to offer and whether being a lawyer is a good fit. You should ask yourself the following:

  • Why do you want to be a lawyer?
  • What parts of being a lawyer are attractive/unattractive to you?
  • Which key skills of a lawyer do you have and which do you need to work on?
  • What practice areas interest you and why?
  • What kinds of client are you interested in and why?
  • Do you have any mitigating circumstances for poor grades and do you know how to express these clearly and effectively?
  • Have you got any relevant work experience? If yes, how do you use it to demonstrate and describe any key skills that you have acquired?
  • What gaps are there in your CV and what are you doing to fill them?
  • What are your key selling points?
  • How are your particular skills and attributes relevant to the firm you are currently researching?
  • What other evidence can you provide that demonstrates you have potential as a lawyer?

Use MyLCN to speed up the process and assess where you might need to improve.

Other sources of information – who can help?

Careers advisers

They are there to complement your hard work. Use your careers service for advice and to hone applications that you have already worked hard on – don’t arrive with a blank form and ask them to effectively fill it in for you.

Tutors/lecturers

If they have been in practice, ask what it is like and which areas interested them.

Firm recruiters

They should be open to interesting and insightful questions about their firms and how they recruit. But make sure that you have checked that the answer is not on the firm’s website – if it is, it suggests that you are a lazy researcher!

Trainees at your target firms

They are most likely to give you the ‘warts and all’ story of what life at a firm is really like.

Other students

Ask other people to look at what you have written. Practise interviews (or just talk through the answers to key questions) together.