When it comes to a career in law, there are now different routes that you can choose from to become a qualified solicitor. While legal apprenticeships are an option to consider, traditional legal training contracts after university remains a popular choice for many.
What is a legal training contract?
A legal training contract is a two-year period of recognised training carried out in a law firm or in-house at a large organisation by law graduates pursuing a career as a solicitor.
You can become a trainee solicitor after completing a law degree and the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If you did a non-law degree, you can complete a law conversion course like the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before progressing to the LPC.
A law training contract gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the skills required to successfully practise law. You do this through completing different seats in at least three distinct areas of law.
Training contracts at Gowling WLG
In this blog post, we speak to one of our trainee solicitors, Tilly Berkhout, about her experience so far.
Tilly is in her second year with us and is currently on secondment to the Government Legal Department (GLD). Prior to joining GLD, she completed seats in our Corporate and Intellectual Property teams and is an active member of the firm’s Tech sector group and Netherlands country desk.
Q: Why did you choose to do a training contract?
I became interested in law during my undergraduate degree in Amsterdam, where I studied a mix of law, economics and philosophy. At that time, I was not familiar with the apprenticeship route and had always wanted to continue with further education after secondary school. A training contract allows you to experience several different practice areas before deciding which one to qualify into, which was one attractive element to it. I was also keen to do something that would give me good training and a qualification. The training I have had so far at Gowling WLG has been great so I am very happy with my decision!
Q: What were you doing before your training contract?
After completing my undergraduate degree in Amsterdam, I moved to London to pursue a career in law. During my first year of living in London, I volunteered part time in the legal team of an NGO and interned at a legal tech start-up while applying for a training contract. Once I had secured my training contract, I went back to university to complete the GDL and the LPC, both of which were financed by the firm.
Q: What is the process of applying for training contracts like?
When I was applying for a training contract several years ago, there were a number of different steps to the application process. First, I had to fill out an online application form, including my grades from secondary school and university. Applicants were then invited to complete an online verbal reasoning and psychometric test. After the tests, there was a video interview and successful candidates then took part in an assessment day, involving an individual exercise and a group exercise. The next stage was the vacation scheme; a week in which I was able to experience the firm from the inside. During the vacation scheme, we listened to various talks by practice group leaders, were introduced to some of the work the various teams do, and spoke to current trainees to learn about their experiences. The vacation scheme concluded with the very last steps to secure a training contract: a case study and partner interview. Shortly afterwards I heard that I had been successful! The application process is long but it’s worth it in the end.
Q: What were you looking for in a training contract?
As I had spent a large part of my life living abroad, I was interested in applying to a firm that worked on an international scale with large multinational clients. I was also very attracted to the possibility of doing various different seats and going on a client or international office secondment. While applying for training contracts, I spent a lot of time researching the industry sectors different firms worked in and was keen to join a firm that worked with clients in the Tech sector. Finally, I was looking for a firm that could offer a supportive and inclusive culture.
Q: What would you say about your experience so far?
The experience so far has been great! I have had the opportunity to work in a range of practice groups and across diverse industry sectors. The training I have received so far, both prior to the training contract and during, has been brilliant. For example, at the beginning of each seat you are given lots of training on specific areas of law and practice, often by more senior colleagues in the team. This is a great way to not only learn about the area of law you’re working in but also to build connections with the team. Currently I am on secondment to the Government Legal Department, where I am getting great experience in commercial contracts, public law and procurement. Working in-house at one of our big clients is a great opportunity to foster the relationship with the firm and learn valuable new skills.
Q: What would be your top tips to anyone currently going through the application process at the moment?
The process is highly competitive so make sure you do your research. On the face of it, many firms may seem similar but once you dig deeper each firm really is unique. This is important not only in order to be successful in your application but also to ensure that the firm you are picking is the best fit for you. Many firms hire predominantly through vacation schemes so I would recommend applying for those. As I said previously, these schemes are a perfect way to experience the firm from the inside and to find out whether you can see yourself working there.
Q: What would your advice be to anyone applying for training contracts during the current pandemic?
Applying for training contracts during a pandemic must be tough, however don’t be put off by the fact that opportunities to meet firms are now virtual. Gowling WLG has done a great job of organising virtual vacation schemes in order for applicants to still get the best possible insight into the firm and our people in the current circumstances. Also, consider how the pandemic might be affecting our clients’ businesses and the work we do; this could prove to be a good discussion point for applications and interviews. Good luck!
Applying for a training contract at Gowling WLG
We recruit 25 trainees every year across our Birmingham and London offices. Our trainees complete a two-year training contract, spending six months in four different legal teams. To find out more about the training contract opportunities we offer, visit our careers website