Paralegals, who are unqualified lawyers in status supporting fee earners, are eligible to apply for a training contract in order to convert to the solicitor profession. A training contract is a mandatory stage of becoming a solicitor in England and Wales involving the completion of four 6-month seat rotations in different departments. In rare cases, firms may offer six seats, a practice led by, for example, Burges Salmon LLP. Once all the departmental placements have concluded, one selects an area of law for their professional specialisation. Following that, trainees are admitted to The Law Society.

This method of achieving further qualification is a very common practice amongst graduate paralegals, who have gathered legal expertise in theory and practicum, and wish to develop further in their career path.

Make the jump to becoming a solicitor with our legal CV and cover letter guides.

Training Contract Application Process

Training contracts principally do not have bizarre entry criteria, so you would have to supply the following standard information:

  • For the academic requirements of traineeships, one will be asked to provide details of their GCSE and A-Level grades, in addition to information regarding the completion of the Postgraduate Diploma in Law, the Legal Practice Course, or the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. Paralegal candidates must carefully research the funding options for the latter three and whether financial support from their law firm will be available should a training contract is obtained.
  • Completing the application questions and the ‘Contextual’ section is the next step before applying. Save for your contact details, these sections of your application will outline your profile and motivations behind applying, so recruiters will be facilitated in progressing the most suitable candidates through.
  • Critical thinking tests are commonly used as the second application stage. The Watson Glaser test (40 questions for 30 minutes) is the most frequently used format, so to get past it, keep in mind the maxim ‘practice makes perfect’.
  • Vacation schemes/work experience programmes are a direct chance for recruiters to monitor your work ethic, communication, and collaboration, so be sure to give all you have got! Following the termination of a vacation scheme, law firms ‘sieve’ out the better candidates and invite them to interviews, so technically this eliminates the direct training contract application and shrinks the final field of competitors.
  • Interviews can take place straight after passing the psychometric assessment, or before/after a company tests your employability skills through a work experience scheme. Interviews can range from 15 minutes to an hour in time and will focus on your application, your reasons behind applying for the traineeship in that precise company, current affairs… and tricky questions interviewers like to ask, for instance, ‘Where else have you applied for a training contract?’.

Direct training contract applications are also an option for paralegals to gain training contract offers, but as they are open to a wider spectrum of candidates, one really needs to be an outstanding aspiring trainee. Companies now rely on automated systems to check the initial applications/CVs, so do not be surprised if you fail to move past the first step: these systems check for the smallest details (including punctuation and spelling), and can reject you based on a simple, avoidable minor mistake!

Benefits of Applying For a Training Contract As a Paralegal

Paralegal applicants for training contracts are supposedly well prepared in knowledge and practical experience to undertake trainee duties, which are not different from what their current tasks involve. Other advantages include:

  • Internal applications. Some law firms carry out separate internal training contract recruitment, where only officials from the firm are entitled to apply for a legal traineeship in the same company. This is a great opportunity with increased chances of securing a Training Contract because:
    • the competition is significantly reduced as this segregates staff from external candidates;
    • paralegals have experience and knowledge in the organisation’s specific projects; and
    • one’s experience has most likely been observed and appraised by the firm, so the HR and management teams understand what skills you can bring for the traineeship, having already been showcased in alike circumstances.
  • Professional referees. Although no employer wants to let go of their top employees, having a trusted referee from the legal sector would be a perk if applying for a training contract elsewhere. Receiving a recommendation by someone, who has directly witnessed your work ethic in a relevant field can boost a paralegal’s chances of progressing through to the next application stages.
  • No leaps into the bare wild. Essentially, paralegal duties nowadays vastly mirror those of solicitors, and given that the 4-seat traineeship is preparation for qualifying as a solicitor, tasks would not be drastically different. Paralegal candidates would have already received a comprehensive enough introduction to a law firm’s environment, structure, and functioning, so they will be advantaged in diving straight into the work and excelling from the very start of the training contract. In addition, under the ‘time to count’ principle and upon consultations with your organisation, ex-paralegals can negotiate their paralegal experience to count towards the traineeship for a period of up to 6 months (12 months’ worth paralegal work because the paralegal time is slashed into two).
  • Increased salary prospects. While graduate paralegals are remunerated at £22,000 at the start of their career, 1st-year trainees can expect to earn around £25,000 and c.£30,000-£40,000 as a starting salary, respectively outside of London and in the capital’s leading firms. Moreover, 2nd-year trainees are awarded £30,000 on average outside of London and up to £50,000 in the City of London. People from other professional sectors with a non-law degree can also complete the GDL and change careers, but they risk receiving a potentially lower salary as a trainee compared with what they previously earned. Therefore, paralegals are advantaged again as the progress of their status and financial appraisal follow upward tendencies, as opposed to potentially entering a decrease.
  • Still having a job if being unsuccessful. Admittedly, failure is quite likely to occur, yet being employed as a paralegal whilst seeking traineeships offers certainty and security. It is unreasonable for a paralegal to resign their position before being offered a traineeship, so if one is unsuccessful in their first applications, they can always stick to their paralegal role until the next training contract vacancies are listed. With more experience as a paralegal, plus a taste of the application processes, paralegals can re-enter the legal traineeship hunt with more confidence.

Downsides of Applying For a Training Contract As a Paralegal

This article aims to explore and evaluate whether converting from a paralegal to a solicitor is not a two-sided blade, so aspiring trainees must note the following risks:

  • Failure to secure a pre-training contract vacation scheme. A very popular practice amongst law firms, regardless of their size and/or specialist services, is to recruit trainees only from the field of applicants that successfully secured a vacation scheme with them. If paralegal candidates slip at this stage, they will automatically lose access to apply to a training contract that is to start immediately or within a couple of years. Hence, entering a major law firm can be postponed, which will inevitably paralyse one’s career development in the short term.
  • The expanding competition. While this is a barely obvious disadvantage, one needs to realise its true extent. From a statistical point of view, on average 5,500 traineeship offers are listed annually in the UK, with the colossal six times more candidates in number ready to enter the competition field.
  • The scarcity of opportunities during Covid. Paralegals all have the knowledge and skills in common, yet other segments of their CV, for example individually initiated pro-bono work (e.g. working as a school governor), might be less eye-catching due to the Covid-19 disruptions of opportunities. As such, paralegals may lose their uniqueness and fall into the trap of becoming one of many because of the limited occasions to demonstrate transferable skills in different situations.
  • Mixing work with writing applications. Paralegals will either be on part-time or full-time contracts, so while being concentrated on projects and their personal life, they will also have to submit a number of applications. Writing applications itself is time-consuming, but proofreading them, or getting someone else to check them, can prolong submissions, so this would pose a sizeable challenge to time management and deadlines’ adherence.
  • Waiting too long for new Traineeships to arise. Companies now tend to recruit trainees for 1-2 years in advance, with some of the largest firms having even offered traineeships 4 years ahead of their commencement! Unfortunately for unsuccessful paralegal candidates, they may experience the unfortunate moment of having to wait several years before (re-)applying for a training contract at a firm, which again threatens to slow their career ambitions.

Where To Find Training Contract Opportunities?

Whilst there are many resources for finding the highly popular training contracts, one will be unable to check all of them, so here are some of the best starting points for discovering traineeships:

  •, of course! The deadlines page has perfectly synthesised and structured information about the listed vacation schemes and training contract opportunities, so why not let a single click transfer you to the land of available positions?
  • Job boards, namely LinkedIn,,, These platforms offer an abundance of available roles, so dive into them, and apply the application tips listed above. If you need further details or have inquiries about the programmes, it is a good idea to head over to the companies’ websites to research FQAs or contact Graduate Recruiters.

Career Paths Ahead of Ex-Paralegals After Completing a Training Contract

While it takes tremendous effort and preparation, motivation amid the rejections, and a pinch of luck, sticking firmly to a career conversion via the training contract opens doors for more respectable professional development in both status and financial rewards.

  • Becoming a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor is the immediate aftermath upon triumphantly accomplishing all training contract departmental placements. Subsequently, NQ solicitors can progress as Associates, Partners, and Directors in law firms, work in-house, or even divert to private practice and obtain a certificate for additional higher courts advocacy rights. Standard NQ starting salaries outside of London can vary between £27,000-£46,000. NQ solicitors in well-established firms should expect to earn £50,000-£60,000 initially after completing a traineeship, whereas the very top firms (including the ‘Magic Circle’) can offer anywhere between £84,000-£100,000 for their London City NQ lawyers. Of course, it is understandable that the salary is based on different expectations, so the level of projects NQ solicitors will engage in is to differ from firm to firm.
  • Elaborating into a judge is a rather long-term alternative to pursuing a career as a direct consequence of completing a training contract. As the solicitor position stems from the training contract period, one will need to go through this stage first, and then obtain a further 7 years of expertise in the solicitor field to be able to apply for a judge position in England and Wales before the Judicial Appointments Commission. District Judges (£114,793), Recorders (£154,527), and Circuit Judges (£154,527) are categorised as inferior judges. In contrast, Puisne High Court Judges (£192,679), Lord/Lady Justices of Appeal (£219,396), and Justices of the Supreme Court (£230,717) are all superior judges. All salaries listed in brackets came into effect from 1 April 2020.

Whichever path paralegals choose to adopt as a method of immersing more professionally into the legal industry, they must be considerate of the fact that becoming a paralegal is a bonus point for their CV due to the solid legal knowledge and expertise of the role.

By Georgi Minchev