Authorised Training Provider information pack

Information for organisations employing trainees.

Status of this document

This is a guide to the regulatory requirements contained within the SRA Training Regulations 2014, which form part of the SRA Handbook. It contains non-mandatory guidance we believe may be of use to training providers, and where regulatory requirements are repeated we will link to the relevant Training Regulation.

If you are or intend to become an authorised training provider, you must comply with the relevant regulations – so while this information pack sets out some key requirements, there is no substitute for reading the regulations and becoming familiar with them.

If you are a currently an authorised training provider with trainees who commenced their training contracts on or before 30 June 2014, you should refer to the Training Regulations 2011. However, if you and the trainee agree to adopt the new Training Regulations 2014 you should notify us on the Transition from 2011 to 2014 form (PDF 3 pages, 220K) in line with regulation 21.3 of the Training Regulations 2014. Any training commencing on or after 1 July 2014 will be governed by the Training Regulations 2014.

The purpose of traineeships

Any organisation which wants to take on and train a trainee solicitor needs to be authorised by us first.

Traineeships are intended to give individuals supervised experience in legal practice through which they can refine and develop their professional skills. It is the final stage of the process of qualification as a solicitor. Trainee solicitors gain practical experience in a legal environment such as a solicitor's firm, a local authority or an in-house legal department.

Training future solicitors can be rewarding, generating long-term benefits for your organisation and the profession. But it takes time and resources to provide adequate training. If you are thinking of employing trainees, you should be sure that your organisation is able to provide the breadth of experience and supervision they need.

Key requirements

We require that trainees must:

  1. be paid at least the prescribed minimum salary (from 1 August 2014, this becomes the normal rate of the National Minimum Wage) – regulation 10.2(f).
  2. gain practical experience in at least three distinct areas of English and Welsh law and practice – regulation 12.1(b). If your organisation cannot offer this range of experience, you may arrange for a secondment for the trainee to gain the relevant experience – regulation 12.2
  3. be given opportunities to develop the skills they will need in practice, including opportunities to develop their skills in the contentious and non-contentious work needed to meet the Practice Skills Standardsregulation 12.1(a)
  4. maintain a training record (PDF 2 pages, 59K)regulation 14 – linking the experience they have gained to the skills they have developed, and documenting their reflection on their learning. The supervisor must verify the record (regulation 14.1(d))
  5. be closely supervised by qualified solicitors or others with the appropriate experience in English and Welsh law and practice – regulation 12.1(a)
  6. receive regular feedback and appraisals throughout their training – regulation 12.1(d). Good practice suggests that at least three formal appraisals during the training period are appropriate, and you can also carry out as many informal review meetings as you and the trainee need to enable a constructive training experience
  7. successfully complete the Professional Skills Course. You must pay the Professional Skills Course fees and any related expenses – regulation 10.2(e).

Once your organisation is authorised, you can employ as many trainees as you feel are appropriate, provided that you can meet the requirements of the regulations. Your organisation may also be monitored by us to ensure that the training it provides is of an appropriate quality and standard.

The training principal

Your organisation must nominate a training principal as required by regulation 10.2(b), who agrees to take a central role in training provision. Regulation 13 sets out the requirements for that role. Training principals must:

  • be a solicitor of England and Wales with a current practising certificate or a practising barrister
  • be nominated by the training establishment and be competent for this role
  • ensure that the training provided meets the requirements of regulation 12
  • ensure the trainee keeps a record of training
  • ensure that anyone involved in the training and supervision of trainees has adequate legal knowledge and experience in the area they are supervising and has the skills to provide effective supervision
  • certify to us that the trainee has completed the required training.

If you are exempt from holding a practising certificate under Section 88 of the Solicitors Act, this exemption also applies to the requirement to hold a practising certificate under the Training Regulations 13.1(a)

The training principal can delegate these responsibilities to others; if so, the trainee should be informed.

In order to meet 3 above, the training principal will need to fully understand the training requirements in the SRA Training Regulations 2014. The training principal is our main liaison about the establishment's trainees, and should advise us of any changes relevant to training. If the training principal changes, regulation 12.4 requires the organisation to notify us.

The training principal should be aware that all trainees are required to obtain a satisfactory criminal record check (standard disclosure) before admission. A DBS standard disclosure includes details of any current and spent convictions, police cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on the Police National Computer, except those filtered-out by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order). We also require all students to disclose any character and suitability issues to us before they commence training. They are not eligible to commence training until we have assessed the issue that they have disclosed to us.

We may also make use of, or require individuals to provide, overseas criminal records information whenever appropriate. The trainee – not the provider or training principal – is responsible for applying for the required DBS standard disclosure.

We send trainee solicitors DBS check forms and guidance approximately 12 weeks before the scheduled end of their training period. Regulation 12.5 requires the training provider to certify that there are no issues which may affect the trainee's character and suitability, and this is usually done by the training principal.

Becoming authorised

You can only provide training to trainee solicitors after your organisation has been authorised as a training provider.

If you wish to make an application for your firm to become an authorised training provider, you should complete and return (with the authorisation fee) a Training Provider Application (PRT1) (PDF 5 pages, 247KB).

Authorisation lasts for the lifetime of the organisation. However, we retain the right to apply conditions to any approval and, if we have serious concerns about the quality of training being provided, revoke authorisation altogether.

Recruiting trainees

Recruiting the best trainees for your organisation is essential, and operating good recruitment processes will help you achieve this. When recruiting trainee solicitors you should adopt practices and procedures that adhere to the requirement of the Code of Conduct.

Length of the training period

As required by regulation 5.2, the total length of time spent training depends on the usual number of days worked each week (not including overtime or weekend work). A full-time training period, in which the trainee works five days per week, is for two years (730 calendar days, or 522 working days). So, as a guide, if the trainee works

  • two and a half days per week, the period is four years (1,460 calendar days)
  • three days per week, the period is three years and four months (1,216 calendar days)
  • four days per week, the period is two years and six months (913 calendar days)

Trainees may also train while they study the Qualifying Law Degree, Common Professional Examination, or Legal Practice Course. If the trainee is working part time while they study, the same pro rata arrangements as above should be entered into.

Offering a training position

The training regulations do not prescribe how offers of training are made, but it is good practice to send a successful candidate a letter of offer as soon as possible following your decision.

Prospective trainees need to certify to us that they have no character and suitability issues before commencing training (regulation 6.1). If they have such issues, like criminal convictions or financial problems, they must disclose them to us for consideration before they can commence training.

Employing trainee solicitors

Entering into a training agreement

Employment law requires you to provide the trainee with a statement of the terms and conditions of employment when they start work, or shortly afterwards. Periods of recognised training are viewed as apprenticeships in the eyes of the law. As an apprentice, the trainee has enhanced protections which mean that you can terminate the contract of apprenticeship early only where there is serious misconduct, the trainee is so incapacitated that they are incapable of being trained, or where the business has closed or fundamentally changed. Additionally, were you to unfairly dismiss the trainee, compensation can reflect loss of earnings and the loss of prospects attaching to the qualified position to which the apprenticeship ultimately leads.

The statement should state normal terms and conditions like place of work, hours, and starting salary, supervisory arrangements, but it should also state the length of training, and the learning elements.

The vast majority of periods of recognised training go smoothly. However, it is important to know that at all times the training will be subject to our training regulations, and if your organisation breaches the requirements of those regulations, the trainee can report the matter to us. Please also be aware that an apprentice, in the eyes of the law, has recourse to the courts.

Before the trainee starts at your organisation, they will need to confirm to us that there are no character and suitability issues which require our consideration (regulation 6). Or, if there are issues, they must disclose them to us so we can decide whether they are eligible or not, by reference to the Suitability Test.

The trainee will be required to complete form 'Eligibility to Commence a period of recognised Training'. If he or she has disclosed issues relating to character and suitability which require assessment they are not eligible to commence training until we have assessed their character and suitability. It may take us up to six months to complete an assessment. During this period of assessment the trainee is not eligible to commence a period of training.

Recognising experience gained before training starts

Some trainees may have worked in a legal environment and gained equivalent experience before starting training. Your organisation can, at its discretion, recognise relevant prior experience and take this time into account to reduce the period of training – Regulation 12.3. This is known as 'relevant work-based experience'.

Regulation 12.3 allows you to recognise relevant work-based experience on a like-for-like basis up to a maximum of six months (183 calendar days). Part-time experience is calculated pro rata; for example a trainee who worked two and a half days per week for six months may be awarded a three month reduction to their training period.

It is entirely at your discretion whether to grant reductions in training periods. You can notify us, in writing, of any reductions that you have granted when you notify us that a period of recognised training has commenced or subsequently at any time prior to the completion of training, and pre-admission.

When considering whether to recognise previous experience, it needs to have:

  1. been gained in the previous three years
  2. been in English and Welsh law and practice, and in one or more areas of law
  3. enabled the acquisition of one or more of the Practice Skills Standards and/or the Principles, and
  4. been adequately supervised and appraised.

When considering whether to take account of relevant work-based experience for a trainee who completed a sandwich placement during the academic stage of training, you may also take the following non-mandatory guidance into account:

  1. the placement should normally have been at level 3 of the national qualifications framework or above
  2. the placement should have been for at least three months
  3. whether the placement was with an authorised training provider
  4. whether the trainee was paid a reasonable salary during the placement, taking account of the national minimum wage and the SRA minimum salary for trainees
  5. whether the trainee satisfactorily completed the placement and was awarded the academic stage qualification.

The minimum salary

Trainee solicitors should be paid at least a minimum salary as we prescribe. Current minimum salary levels, which came into effect on 1 August 2011 and are applicable to all trainees, are

  • £18,590 for trainees working in Central London
  • £16,650 for trainees working elsewhere

Current recommended salary levels are

  • £19,040 for trainees working in Central London
  • £16,940 for trainees working elsewhere

From 1 August 2014 these levels change, and trainees will have to be paid at least the single hourly rate of the national minimum wage specified in regulation 11 of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 which may change from time to time.

Induction of trainees

At the beginning of the training period, it is good practice to provide an induction for all trainees, including those who have worked for you before in another capacity.

The induction is an opportunity to clarify the roles and responsibilities of those who will be involved in the trainee's training, to familiarise the trainee with office procedures, to introduce fellow staff members and to explain the nature of the work they will undertake.

You are free to organise the induction as best suits your organisation. It does not need to be formal or lengthy. Suggestions for what should be covered include:

  • an introduction to your organisation, the training scheme, the Practice Skills Standards and your expectations of the trainee
  • how the training will be organised
  • the form of the training record that you want the trainee to keep, how and when it is to be completed, and when it will be reviewed
  • arrangements for supervision, informal performance review and formal appraisals
  • your office procedures including pastoral care, office hours, holidays, and health and safety
  • any other relevant matters, such as your IT and office equipment and systems for time-recording and billing, library and research facilities, secretarial and administrative support.

Termination of a training contract – 2011 regulations

From time to time, a trainee and their training establishment may wish to terminate a training contract. Training contracts which were entered into under the 2011 Training Regulations are subject to the 2011 regulations in full, unless there has been agreement of both the trainee and the training provider to adopt the 2014 Training regulations. As a result, training contracts may only be cancelled by means of:

  1. mutual agreement, completing an application to register the cancellation of a training contract. The training principal certifies that the trainee has satisfied the period of training, and is of suitable character to become a solicitor. Both parties sign to confirm their agreement to the cancellation. The completed form is sent to us
  2. a cancellation clause, where the training contract is conditional on the trainee passing the CPE and/or the LPC and the trainee does not pass
  3. an application to us by either party. This situation usually arises where there are training-related problems that cannot be resolved internally.
  4. an agreement that training should continue under the Training Regulations 2014.

We encourage training principals and trainees to resolve issues internally – if at all possible. If this proves impossible, contact us.

Unless there are other justifiable reasons to do so, we will only terminate a training contract if:

  1. the training contract is conditional on the trainee passing any of the academic stages of qualification or the LPC, and they do not pass
  2. the trainee's conduct is unacceptable
  3. the trainee is incapable of meeting the Practice Skills Standards; or
  4. the training establishment business closes or changes so much that it is not possible to properly train the trainee.

Termination of a training period – 2014 regulations

For periods of recognised training under the new regulations, it is important to realise that trainees are apprentices. Consequently, you may only bring an apprenticeship to an end if:

  1. you and the trainee agree
  2. the training contract is conditional on the trainee passing any of the academic stages of qualification or the LPC, and they do not pass
  3. the trainee's conduct is unacceptable
  4. the trainee is incapable of meeting the Practice Skills Standards; or
  5. the training establishment business closes or changes so much that it is not possible to properly train the trainee.
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