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If you are a Trainee Solicitor in a regional high street firm...

(12 Posts)
SecretSmellies Wed 01-Nov-17 11:12:39

..... can I ask you what your day to day working life looks like?

I am rethinking of re-training as a solicitor.It is something I have wanted to do for years but we have never been able to afford the fees / timeout etc. I am going to a University of Law open day in January and need to make the decision.

I would (fingers crossed) want to work in a small high street firm near where I live. Can I ask what your working life / study looks like? I have a DS, aged 7, but by the time I finish my degree and qualify DH will be probably at home full time so that will be easy.(He has health problems and is semi retired now... will be fully retired then).

Also, can I ask about salary? I saw on the SRA website that recommended starting salary for a trainee is circa £16 k. I am on 28 K now and would be happy to drop to about 20 K for trainee purposes, but beyond that will really feel the pinch.

I'd be hugely grateful for any insights!

(I know training contracts are hugely competitive... I am being hopeful).

LauraMipsum Wed 01-Nov-17 19:46:45

I'm not one now, but I was one 2004-2006. TCs were much less competitive then - you started as a paralegal and unless you were thick as mince you got a TC afterwards. In the four years I was at that firm, only one paralegal wasn't offered a TC. I believe things are massively different now!

But day to day life: I had conduct of my own cases under supervision of a qualified solicitor. Nominally I did three different areas of law, but in reality I had my own caseload in one of those areas, and helped out / learned a bit in the others. A typical day would involve four one-hour appointments to see clients to take witness statements or go through interviews with them, the rest of the time was spent drafting, form filling, and endless endless admin and timesheets.

I'd get in about 8.45 and work solidly through until at least 6pm. I did the SRA qualifications in my own area and halfway through my TC qualified as a supervisor despite still being a trainee. After that I generally worked until about 10.30pm and then we'd all go to the pub for last orders.

I burned out and moved firms when I qualified.

namechangedtoday15 Wed 01-Nov-17 20:05:20

Not now but was years ago. I think you need to think about what you have to offer and why you'll be more attractive to a law firm than the hundreds of other candidates they have looking for a training contract.

As for salary, you need to think about the loss of earning you'll face as you study, plus the course fees (for the conversion course / law degree) and then the massive fees for the LPC (as was). That was about 7k in the 1990s so it was be more now.

I think the law society minimum wage is about £19k outside of London, and small high street firms won't pay much more than that. You'll earn more as you qualify but law is definitely not something to consider for the pay!

In terms of day to day duties, you'll assist on files. Some of it will be admin, research, drafting letters (to be checked by supervisor), attending meetings & taking notes, maybe going to Court to get things issued, form filling, emailing clients / other solicitors / court to progress cases.

Racmactac Wed 01-Nov-17 20:16:35

My training (2003/2004) was in high street practice with a shit firm.

I ran my own caseload, I was sent on inappropriate hearings - think high court in London for file that was given to me 5 mins before I was told to go. (I live 3 hours from city)

I took witness statements, wrote letters, drafted applications, went to court, pointed out mistakes to the partners, dealt with complaints. Basically everything that a qualified solicitor did but without the training!

TreaterAnita Wed 01-Nov-17 23:16:01

A regional high street firm wouldn’t be the best choice in the current climate tbh. A lot of the work that they would tend to do (conveyancing, wills, probate, low level crime, family, low value PI) is getting very pinched for various regulatory and commercial reasons. You’d be better looking at a bigger regional firm in a major town or small city. If you get a TC you should easily get £20k. Hours will vary depending on the firm, but I’d assume at least 9 till 6. It’s a grim time to be a solicitor at the moment though so I’d think carefully before taking the plunge.

blueshoes Thu 02-Nov-17 00:05:43

FYI, the SRA is consulting on a proposal that by late 2020, you will be able to qualify as a solicitor other than through a training contract. It will involve taking a solicitors qualifying exam and a two year period of work experience through a number of routes: formal training contract, working in a student law clinic, as an apprentice or a paralegal or through a placement as part of a sandwich degree.

This is significant because currently it is very difficult to get a training contract. The proposal theoretically makes it easier to gain the 2 year work experience through other means.

Read more here: www.sra.org.uk/sra/consultations/solicitors-qualifying-examination.page#download

I do agree that the law is generally a shrinking profession. The aim of the government for many years now has been to open up the legal sector to competition and gives consumers more choice and affordability. The lower end work is being eroded by competition from alternative business structures, commoditisation and advances in technology.

Think carefully as it is only going to get harder for lawyers to gain experience and earn a living.

MrsBertBibby Thu 02-Nov-17 08:45:28

the law is generally a shrinking profession.

I'm sure there was a piece in the Gazette only the other day saying there has just been a new high in practising solicitors,

God knows how, though. It's pretty tough out there. No small high street firm is going to want to pay more than minimum for a trainee, and they'll want you to prove yourself as a paralegal before they give you a TC.

It's a gruelling job. I trained in 94-96 and looking back I don't know how I survived the training, or the first 8 years post admission. And that was as a childfree fit young singleton with minimal expectations of social excitement or domestic standards.

Can't imagine doing any other job now, even though it can still be pretty hair raising, but if I'd known what it would take to get here all those years ago, I think I might have thought again!

SecretSmellies Thu 02-Nov-17 10:04:41

This is all fantastic information and a great insight, thank you so much!

I need to look at all my options. I feel like I am stagnating currently, and as my DH is ill am thinking about the future in terms of being the primary breadwinner.

I had heard about the SRA proposal for people to qualify without going through the usual TC route. A lawyer friend sent me an article written by a student who has just qualified that way. It sounded deeply gruelling. (My friend is in a Magic Circle firm so could not tell me much about the high street firm experience).

I have between now and Jan to really research it thoroughly... you have all given me great ideas to start. Thanks.

NewtsSuitcase Thu 02-Nov-17 10:10:51

Anyone with a family already really needs to think twice IMO unless you are prepared to uproot them and move across the country for a training contract (and then potentially do the same again on qualification). Chances of a local firm happening to want a trainee at the time you want to start and happening to think you're the best candidate are extremely slim. You have to go to where the work is.

You will also have to be prepared to do an awful lot of work experience to even get a foot in the door (which will impact on your family life) and unless you have absolutely impeccable academics then it wold be an enormous risk to take.

You would be better off taking a different route into law eg ILEX.

NewtsSuitcase Thu 02-Nov-17 10:12:30

Trainees are incredibly expensive. On the whole small firms want paralegals now who will work for minimum wage. They let larger firms train the junior lawyers and take them on once they're qualified.

blueshoes Thu 02-Nov-17 10:52:07

OP, are you prepared to be a paralegal or a document reviewer indefinitely?

Document reviewers typically have a legal background (law degree, not necessarily English) and help to review massive amounts of documents and emails for a litigation. They are often hired on a contract basis - and therefore sometimes called 'contract attorneys' - and can be self-employed or tied to an agency. They may or may not hold a practising certificate. Language skills are very useful for this as they are often called in to review documents in a different language. However, the work is gruelling, the work uncertain (since it is contract-based) and often the people doing it are young with few commitments. But there is a market out there, at least in London, for this.

The other area which is very useful to have legal skills is compliance, particularly in fields of anti-money laundering (AML) and increasingly data protection (DP). You can start as an analyst in a bank or a (bigger) law firm and have a career path.

For AML, this role can be done by lawyers and non-lawyers but with a law degree, you are ahead of the pack because you are in a position to interpret the legislation and translate it into systems and operational procedures. The regulations are ever changing and get more burdensome.

Data protection legislation has been around since 1998 but in May next year, the General Data Protection Regulation is a game changer which introduces massive fines. Companies are waking up to this and gearing up on DP specialists, of which there are only so many in the market who are kept pretty busy. It requires someone with multi-disciplinary skills but again, law is the difficult skill to plug. Hence if you can get into this area with legal background, that puts you ahead. You can work for a consultancy, accounting firm or a law firm that advises on DP.

Regulatory compliance is generally a hot area at the moment.

blueshoes Thu 02-Nov-17 10:59:08

OP: I had heard about the SRA proposal for people to qualify without going through the usual TC route. A lawyer friend sent me an article written by a student who has just qualified that way. It sounded deeply gruelling. (My friend is in a Magic Circle firm so could not tell me much about the high street firm experience).

The Magic Circle and big law firms are generally sceptical of the solicitors qualifying exam (SQE) and feel that the alternative routes into the profession other than a TC, will leading to dumbing down and lowering of standards. Hence your friend is not able to tell you much as I would assume the MC law firms will still want the Rolls Royce TC for their intake of trainees.

However, the government driver for introducing the SQE is to increase social mobility and to stop the requirement of a TC strangling the progress of law graduates who cannot get one. In other words, the SQE will lead to even more qualified solicitors in the market, competing for work.

It is good and not so good for you, depending on how easy you think it is to get a TC.

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