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General practice, legal aid and advice centres

updated on 13 March 2023

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Law on the high street has changed following the Legal Services Act 2007. Thousands of tiny partnerships and sole practitioners have been joined by large franchises (eg, QualitySolicitors) and alternative business structures.

The revolution may lead to greater consistency in training and supervision, but it’ll also bring new challenges – technology will be used more often and lawyers may need to work weekend shifts. Some firms now market their services at kiosks or pop-up stands in shopping centres. Your clients will be ordinary people with a house to buy, a spouse to divorce, an ex-employer to sue, a will to write or an injury to be compensated for. Some will be entrepreneurs in need of guidance through an exceptional phase of their business plan. You’ll need good time management and people skills, and must be a confident decision maker.

It's been a torrid decade for lawyers assisting publicly funded clients and opportunities for new trainees are fewer than ever. Legal aid has become unprofitable – so much so, that practitioners who remain in the field must bolster their income from privately paying clients, while the government is considering plans to cut legal aid even further. With funding cuts and court backlogs, due to the covid-19 lockdowns, as well as recent barrister strikes, the UK legal aid sector is still playing catch up.

Even within law centres and other advice bureaux, priorities and clients must be selected carefully. This kind of work is only for those truly committed to universal access to justice. You’ll encounter abusive neighbours, rogue landlords, recidivist teens, individuals struggling to cope with disability or debt, and endless needs in your local community.

In 2014 the minimum trainee salary was abolished and firms became entitled to pay trainees the national minimum wage. While many – particularly in the commercial sector – will continue to pay their trainees well above that, it’s likely that some increasingly squeezed high street and criminal firms will make use of the rule change.

Despite a downturn in revenue for the professional services sector, in 2022 the legal industry saw its revenue grow; largely due to litigation disputes and insolvency cases meaning UK law firms have so far avoided making layoffs.

Use LCN's training contract search to identify which firms to apply to.