A training contract in law is where you will be putting all your theoretical knowledge into practice by working at a law firm and is the final step towards becoming a solicitor. In order to avoid the risk of applying to the wrong firm for your career path, or sending generic applications to a range of random firms, it is important to do thorough research and then apply to a few chosen firms based on predetermined factors. Try not to limit your search to only those firms that offer the best salaries or are involved in the highest profile cases. Take time to find out what it is you ultimately desire in your law career.
Most law firms prefer to fill their placements for training contracts two years in advance which means you will need to apply before June of your penultimate year as a law student. Most national firms have a deadline of July 31. The earlier you send your applications the more time you will have to tailor your choices.
When choosing which law firm to join as a trainee solicitor, the first thing to consider is the area of law you wish to specialise in. Given the time constraints for applications, this may be difficult when you have completed only the second year of your law degree. Attending as many open days, law fairs, vacations schemes, and other placement opportunities as possible should give you a rough idea of where your interests lie.
The areas of law you choose to train in limit your will most certainly be affected by a law firm’s client base. For example, if you are interested in the field of financial law and global business, you should research international law firms, while regional firms will serve you better if you have a passion for family or private client law.
Once you have a better idea of the area of law you would like to work in, draw up a shortlist of your favourite firms. Check out their websites, read the legal press, and attend law fairs on campus. If you keep coming back to the original firms that first interested you, you will have more confidence that they will be the ones to fulfil your career goals the best. When you apply to a law firm, do so out of genuine interest in their areas of legal specialization and make an effort to understand the background of what happens there.
The right firm for you will also be majorly influenced by your salary preferences and location. If you would like to pursue an international secondment for your training contract instead of a regional firm you will be located far from home.
As far as lifestyle is concerned, if you don’t already know it, a solicitor’s career is far removed from the norm when it comes to office hours. A solicitor’s work/life balance is more likely to be skewed in favour of work as many solicitors work after hours. If you are looking for more consistent hours you may want to consider a regional firm where you can leave the office at a reasonable hour. However, you will not be paid as much. The pros and cons of both lifestyles have to be weighed up and only you can decide which one you will prefer.
It is important to understand that you may not be in a position to choose the precise combination of contract seats you would prefer to undertake as a trainee. Training contracts are partly influenced by the different sizes of departments you will work in, the type of work handled, and the preferences of fellow trainees. For example, in firms renowned for working in finance and transactions, you may have to do mandatory seats in these areas. Most law firms try their best to place trainees where they will be happy, but by selecting law firms that practice in the broad areas of law that interests you the most, you will have a massive head start to your career.
The structure of training contracts may differ but the standard will require you to complete 4 seats over a two-year period, each lasting six months. Some firms may have training contracts with 6 seats, each seat lasting 4 months. Certain law firms also provide trainees with opportunities to get involved in client secondments and pro bono work.
If you are not interested in training with a traditional law firm, you can apply for training with Government Legal Services with only one big client, the government itself.
The only way to get what want out of your training contract is to do your research thoroughly and compile tailored applications to the Brisbane law firm that will benefit you the most in your future career as a solicitor. The best recommendation is to start your search early and choose wisely.