How hard is it to get a training contract?

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Phil Dunphy
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Basically, I am looking to become a solicitor (only recently looked into it, and it seems a safer option than becoming a journalist). I was wondering how hard it is to get a training contract... I am NOT going to do an undergrad in law, but history OR politics. I am not looking to go to a city firm, but a small/medium firm in my home county.

Say if I got a degree in history with a year abroad from Essex. Graduated with a 2.1. Got my conversion course, LPC, etc. Would I get a TC straight after LPC?
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h-g-1
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Basically, I am looking to become a solicitor (only recently looked into it, and it seems a safer option than becoming a journalist). I was wondering how hard it is to get a training contract... I am NOT going to do an undergrad in law, but history OR politics. I am not looking to go to a city firm, but a small/medium firm in my home county.

Say if I got a degree in history with a year abroad from Essex. Graduated with a 2.1. Got my conversion course, LPC, etc. Would I get a TC straight after LPC?
Training contracts are extremely competitive and it's only getting more competitive as the number of law and non-law graduates continue...the numbers do not look to be diminishing.

For a non-law applicant, you would start applying for vacation schemes in your final year of university. I'm not sure how much research you've done but these are usually extremely useful in getting an insight into both the firm and different areas of law; in particular what different departments do and more importantly what solicitors in those departments do. For example, there is a difference between Corporate Finance solicitor and an Employment solicitor. Usually these vacation schemes will offer some route to getting a TC with the same firm so they are useful in that respect too. Then every year after that, you'd be looking to continue applying for vac schemes and for straight TCs as well although as time goes on, you'll apply for less vac schemes - particularly if you end up having got some under your belt.

Your ideal situation would be to get a TC then because firms usually will sponsor you for the GDL and the LPC which will save you at least the fees which cumulate to a little under £20,000. Sometimes, depending on your firm, you'll get maintenance grants which go towards your living expenses but by no means will cover all of it.

But many people don't get TCs at this stage; like I say, that's the ideal situation. Some get TCs on their GDL or even on their LPC. Some don't go straight into GDL or LPC because it's too expensive to self-fund so do other things like paralegalling etc. in order to get some experience or make themselves more attractive to secure that all elusive TC first.

While a 2.1 is the standard, much more important is your extra-curriculars as you'll be competing with other students that will do as many things to make themselves stand out. Is there a reason why you're going to Essex university? Some people may say that it's "university snobbery" but where you go to university could be seen as a factor....

First things first, research what kind of firm and what kind of area - if you're not doing a law degree, you essentially have a few years before you have to decide whether to jump into law or not.
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There's only one way to successfully plan your law career, and that's by asking yourself:

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Phil Dunphy
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(Original post by maskofsanity)
There's only one way to successfully plan your law career, and that's by asking yourself:

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(Original post by h-g-1)
Training contracts are extremely competitive and it's only getting more competitive as the number of law and non-law graduates continue...the numbers do not look to be diminishing.

For a non-law applicant, you would start applying for vacation schemes in your final year of university. I'm not sure how much research you've done but these are usually extremely useful in getting an insight into both the firm and different areas of law; in particular what different departments do and more importantly what solicitors in those departments do. For example, there is a difference between Corporate Finance solicitor and an Employment solicitor. Usually these vacation schemes will offer some route to getting a TC with the same firm so they are useful in that respect too. Then every year after that, you'd be looking to continue applying for vac schemes and for straight TCs as well although as time goes on, you'll apply for less vac schemes - particularly if you end up having got some under your belt.

Your ideal situation would be to get a TC then because firms usually will sponsor you for the GDL and the LPC which will save you at least the fees which cumulate to a little under £20,000. Sometimes, depending on your firm, you'll get maintenance grants which go towards your living expenses but by no means will cover all of it.

But many people don't get TCs at this stage; like I say, that's the ideal situation. Some get TCs on their GDL or even on their LPC. Some don't go straight into GDL or LPC because it's too expensive to self-fund so do other things like paralegalling etc. in order to get some experience or make themselves more attractive to secure that all elusive TC first.

While a 2.1 is the standard, much more important is your extra-curriculars as you'll be competing with other students that will do as many things to make themselves stand out. Is there a reason why you're going to Essex university? Some people may say that it's "university snobbery" but where you go to university could be seen as a factor....

First things first, research what kind of firm and what kind of area - if you're not doing a law degree, you essentially have a few years before you have to decide whether to jump into law or not.
Thanks

Well if I get the grades then I will be applying to UCL (for Politics and East European Studies)/LSE (Government)/KCL (International Politics)/Edinburgh (Politics)/Bristol (Politics & IR)

Essex is gonna be a back up IF I choose to do a hist degree

I am interested in corporate and family law

Thanks.
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Thanks

Well if I get the grades then I will be applying to UCL (for Politics and East European Studies)/LSE (Government)/KCL (International Politics)/Edinburgh (Politics)/Bristol (Politics & IR)

Essex is gonna be a back up IF I choose to do a hist degree

I am interested in corporate and family law

Thanks.
Yet you don't want to work in a city firm, were 95% of the corporate work is?

I'd seriously recommend choosing a city firm for your TC. They are far more likely to offer to pay your GDL/LPC, and give a good TC salary. After you've done your TC, you can then choose to go to a smaller firm (many solicitors do this), and at least this way you won't have to worry about finances. And who knows, you might end up enjoying mergers and acquisitions more than family law
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Phil Dunphy
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(Original post by zaliack)
Yet you don't want to work in a city firm, were 95% of the corporate work is?

I'd seriously recommend choosing a city firm for your TC. They are far more likely to offer to pay your GDL/LPC, and give a good TC salary. After you've done your TC, you can then choose to go to a smaller firm (many solicitors do this), and at least this way you won't have to worry about finances. And who knows, you might end up enjoying mergers and acquisitions more than family law
Thanks Family law is kind of like a realistic choice (getting into a medium small firm)

Corporate seems a great fit for me I have been looking at Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy.

Would you say it's better to do a non law undergrad or a law undergrad?
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Thanks Family law is kind of like a realistic choice (getting into a medium small firm)

Corporate seems a great fit for me I have been looking at Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy.

Would you say it's better to do a non law undergrad or a law undergrad?
That's a question we've been asking for many years . The legal profession is pretty much split when answering this - on one hand, the non-law grads have the benefit of wider range of knowledge, and aren't in the 'lawyer' mindset yet, on the other hand, law grads have more knowledge of the law and are in the lawyer mindset. So, who knows really. For what it's worth though, 50% of city lawyers are non-law grads. That could potentially mean that it's better to do non law - but we don't know the ratio of law:non law that apply to these firms, so do whatever you want to do, rather than what's best later on
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
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Phil Dunphy
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(Original post by zaliack)
That's a question we've been asking for many years . The legal profession is pretty much split when answering this - on one hand, the non-law grads have the benefit of wider range of knowledge, and aren't in the 'lawyer' mindset yet, on the other hand, law grads have more knowledge of the law and are in the lawyer mindset. So, who knows really. For what it's worth though, 50% of city lawyers are non-law grads. That could potentially mean that it's better to do non law - but we don't know the ratio of law:non law that apply to these firms, so do whatever you want to do, rather than what's best later on
Do they look at GCSEs when you apply? I got AABCCC in E Lang, E Lit, History, Food Tech, Maths and French

So they're obivously terrible compared to others. However, the reason for bas results is understandable.

My uncle died unexpectedly a couple of weeks before my first exam, and because of the nature of his death they had to do a post mortem and the funeral was amidst my exams.

Also, my aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

So I know unis will take this into account but will employers?

Thanks

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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Do they look at GCSEs when you apply? I got AABCCC in E Lang, E Lit, History, Food Tech, Maths and French

So they're obivously terrible compared to others. However, the reason for bas results is understandable.

My uncle died unexpectedly a couple of weeks before my first exam, and because of the nature of his death they had to do a post mortem and the funeral was amidst my exams.

Also, my aunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

So I know unis will take this into account but will employers?

Thanks



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Your GCSEs aren't going to be a major factor when it comes to applying for a TC, though it may be worth mentioning it on the application form (though it seems to be the case employers are more harsh as to what they judge to be mitigating circumstances than unis, schools, exam boards etc.)

You will need good A Levels though, many firms automatically filter out anyone with less than AAB and that could well be AAA by the time you apply. Of course your degree will have to be a 2.1 and you will need to stand out from the crowd in some way for top firms, through things such as very good extra curriculars, work experience or by having a First.
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Phil Dunphy
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(Original post by roh)
Your GCSEs aren't going to be a major factor when it comes to applying for a TC, though it may be worth mentioning it on the application form (though it seems to be the case employers are more harsh as to what they judge to be mitigating circumstances than unis, schools, exam boards etc.)

You will need good A Levels though, many firms automatically filter out anyone with less than AAB and that could well be AAA by the time you apply. Of course your degree will have to be a 2.1 and you will need to stand out from the crowd in some way for top firms, through things such as very good extra curriculars, work experience or by having a First.
Would it be worth getting involved with more outrageous ECs to stand out? Ie: skydiving, etc.
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Would it be worth getting involved with more outrageous ECs to stand out? Ie: skydiving, etc.
No, get involved in ECs and do well in them. So don't just do a sport, be the team captain (or compete at a very high level, but you tend to have to be doing the sport already for that to happen); don't just debate, do well in intra-uni competitions; don't just be in you subject's society, be treasurer etc. Or do things where you have to organise yourself a lot, so fundraising to climb Kili/Everest base camp is a common one.

Just do things which allow you to showcase all the skills they look for (leadership, teamwork, initiative, etc.) more than other candidates can.
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Phil Dunphy
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(Original post by h-g-1)
Training contracts are extremely competitive and it's only getting more competitive as the number of law and non-law graduates continue...the numbers do not look to be diminishing.

For a non-law applicant, you would start applying for vacation schemes in your final year of university. I'm not sure how much research you've done but these are usually extremely useful in getting an insight into both the firm and different areas of law; in particular what different departments do and more importantly what solicitors in those departments do. For example, there is a difference between Corporate Finance solicitor and an Employment solicitor. Usually these vacation schemes will offer some route to getting a TC with the same firm so they are useful in that respect too. Then every year after that, you'd be looking to continue applying for vac schemes and for straight TCs as well although as time goes on, you'll apply for less vac schemes - particularly if you end up having got some under your belt.

Your ideal situation would be to get a TC then because firms usually will sponsor you for the GDL and the LPC which will save you at least the fees which cumulate to a little under £20,000. Sometimes, depending on your firm, you'll get maintenance grants which go towards your living expenses but by no means will cover all of it.

But many people don't get TCs at this stage; like I say, that's the ideal situation. Some get TCs on their GDL or even on their LPC. Some don't go straight into GDL or LPC because it's too expensive to self-fund so do other things like paralegalling etc. in order to get some experience or make themselves more attractive to secure that all elusive TC first.

While a 2.1 is the standard, much more important is your extra-curriculars as you'll be competing with other students that will do as many things to make themselves stand out. Is there a reason why you're going to Essex university? Some people may say that it's "university snobbery" but where you go to university could be seen as a factor....

First things first, research what kind of firm and what kind of area - if you're not doing a law degree, you essentially have a few years before you have to decide whether to jump into law or not.
(Original post by zaliack)
Yet you don't want to work in a city firm, were 95% of the corporate work is?

I'd seriously recommend choosing a city firm for your TC. They are far more likely to offer to pay your GDL/LPC, and give a good TC salary. After you've done your TC, you can then choose to go to a smaller firm (many solicitors do this), and at least this way you won't have to worry about finances. And who knows, you might end up enjoying mergers and acquisitions more than family law
(Original post by roh)
Your GCSEs aren't going to be a major factor when it comes to applying for a TC, though it may be worth mentioning it on the application form (though it seems to be the case employers are more harsh as to what they judge to be mitigating circumstances than unis, schools, exam boards etc.)

You will need good A Levels though, many firms automatically filter out anyone with less than AAB and that could well be AAA by the time you apply. Of course your degree will have to be a 2.1 and you will need to stand out from the crowd in some way for top firms, through things such as very good extra curriculars, work experience or by having a First.
Hi again

I want to be realistic, so I will more than likely end up with AAB-ABB at A level and going to Essex and will end up with a 2.1. I will then get a GDL and LPC and then apply for a TC at a county wide solicitors firm in my home county. Will my academic credentials hinder me for a small firm like I mentioned? Also, how competitive are smaller firms?
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roh
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Hi again

I want to be realistic, so I will more than likely end up with AAB-ABB at A level and going to Essex and will end up with a 2.1. I will then get a GDL and LPC and then apply for a TC at a county wide solicitors firm in my home county. Will my academic credentials hinder me for a small firm like I mentioned? Also, how competitive are smaller firms?
Varies, some boutique practices can be ultra competitive because they are simply the best at what they do and have a leading light in the field as senior partner (eg. Family) whilst smaller High Street firms are probably less so, though still not somewhere you can swan into.

With AAB I'd personally consider a Redbrick sort of uni (Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Exeter etc.) before Essex. I know it has a really good Politics Dept. but there's no guarantees the HR filtering applictions does.

And don't write off larger firms because you get AAB-ABB at A Level, the strictest filter at the moment is only AAB.
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I suspect smaller firms are quite competitive, just because the applicant:TC place ratio is tougher. Big firms have a lot of applicants, but they also have a lot of TCs on offer.

You've got a long way ahead of you anyway - you'd be applying for TCs in your 3rd year at university and if at that point you don't believe your CV supports your application (or you apply but don't get a TC lined up) then that will probably influence your decision whether to go ahead and do 2 more years of expensive study with no guarantees of qualifying as a solicitor at the end.
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(Original post by Phil Dunphy)
Hi again

I want to be realistic, so I will more than likely end up with AAB-ABB at A level and going to Essex and will end up with a 2.1. I will then get a GDL and LPC and then apply for a TC at a county wide solicitors firm in my home county. Will my academic credentials hinder me for a small firm like I mentioned? Also, how competitive are smaller firms?
With the job market for TCs the way it is now, I've had chats with partners from smaller firms who are suddenly getting more applications per place they offer and these applicants were not the ones they normally had during boom time. I remember, in particular, a partner from Osbourne Clark telling me that they were getting hundreds more applications than they usually do and on top, there were Oxbridge applicants. Of course he did say that they wouldn't offer a TC to anyone just because of university but would make sure they were a good fit to the firm etc. etc. But it seems that for ALL firms, applications are increasing.

Like Crumpet says - in usually smaller firms, the number of TCs on offer will be very small compared to larger US or MC firms (for example). This is taking two extremes. Therefore, it's not a good approach to say "I'm not aiming for the biggies so OK grades at an OK uni will get me somewhere smaller" - chances are high you're going to be in competition with people with better grades from better unis.

If you're AAB - ABB, is it really impossible to get to a more reputable uni? I remember Essex uni when they came to talk about themselves at my school and I was under the impression they're pretty "new". I think what could help is have a google for local firms in your home county and then browse through the partner profiles or trainee profiles and whether any state what universities they studied at. It could give an indication of what they look for.

Again, I would say - if you're thinking about law, you really need to ensure you are in the best place you can be academically to make sure you're off to a good start.

However, as Crumpet also rightly points out - you've got a while.
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I don't think there is a problem with your academics. They are not outstanding but Essex is pretty highly rated so unless you are applying for the top city firms I don't think you will have a problem.

In an an ideal world you would want to start a TC straight after finishing the LPC, but in reality a lot of regional firms are only offering TCs to people with experience. It is quite common for people to work for a year or a few years as a paralegal because they can get a TC. Have a look at the recruitment pages on the websites of Essex firms to get an idea of their requirements.
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
I don't think there is a problem with your academics. They are not outstanding but Essex is pretty highly rated so unless you are applying for the top city firms I don't think you will have a problem.
While Essex probably isn't as highly rated as Oxbridge or some of the London unis, I've met at least one person who went to Essex and has a TC with a magic circle firm. It isn't as well-represented as Bristol/Durham/London unis, though.
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