Trainee information pack
27 July 2016
What you need to know about training as a solicitor
To be a successful solicitor you will need more than just legal knowledge. The period of recognised training enables you to understand the practical implications of the law as well as developing your legal skills, your commercial and financial awareness, negotiation skills, drafting, advocacy and client care skills. The time you will spend training will prepare you for admission to the profession.
Each organisation we authorise to provide training will have a training principal and one or more supervisors. You will need to talk with your training principal and supervisor to understand how your learning during this time will be structured and supported. If you have any queries or problems relating to your training, you should discuss these with your training principal in the first instance. However, if the issue remains unresolved you may contact us for advice.
This period of your professional development is regulated by us to ensure that there is a framework within which your learning takes place. At the point of qualification, it is expected that you will be able to demonstrate all of the components of the Day One Outcomes which have main elements: core knowledge and understanding of the law applied in England and Wales; intellectual, analytical and problem solving skills; transactional and dispute resolution skills; legal, professional and client relationship knowledge and skills; personal development and work management skills; and professional values, behaviours, attitudes and ethics.
This is a summary of the key training requirements contained within the Training Regulations 2014, as well as some non-mandatory guidance to help you. Where there is a requirement repeated from the regulations, we’ll link to that regulation.
Before you start a period of training, you have to notify us that you intend to do so via the notification of a period of recognised training form. Through this process you also have to confirm to us that you either have no character and suitability matters, or if you do, disclose to us what they are. There is more information about the process for assessing character and suitability issues further on in this information pack.
Your firm will then notify us using the form available on our website (regulation 10.2(d)) that you are about to start training.
Employment law requires any employer to give you a statement of the terms and conditions of your employment when you start work, or shortly afterwards. The relationship between you and your employer is that of an apprenticeship, regulated by us, for the purposes of putting the skills you learn at the earlier stages into practice in a real, supervised environment. Periods of recognised training, which are apprenticeships in the eyes of the law, are no different. As an apprentice, you have enhanced protections which mean that your employer can terminate your contract of apprenticeship early only where there is serious misconduct, you are so incapacitated that you are incapable of being trained, or where the business has closed or fundamentally changed. Additionally, were you to be unfairly dismissed, compensation can reflect loss of earnings and the loss of prospects attaching to the qualified position to which the apprenticeship ultimately leads.
The statement of terms and conditions should state normal terms and conditions such as your place of work, hours, and your starting salary, but it should also state the length of your training, and any requirements your employer may have about training.
The vast majority of periods of recognised training go smoothly and provide a good standard of training and work experience. However, it is important to know that at all times your training will be subject to our training regulations, and if your organisation breaches the requirements of those regulations, then you should report the matter to us. The obligations that the SRA places on a training provider in relation to the requirements of recognised training are covered in regulation 12. Regulation 12 states that an authorised training provider must provide the appropriate support and opportunities to enable you to achieve the 'Day one outcomes'. Also bear in mind that as an apprentice, in the eyes of the law, you have recourse to the courts.
During training, regulation 12.1(b) requires your firm to provide practical experience in at least three distinct areas of English and Welsh law and practice. We do not specify the amount of time that should be spent in each area, but do suggest that, to gain the appropriate experience, you need to spend the equivalent of at least three months in any subject area.
If your firm cannot provide you with experience in three separate areas of law, or work that will enable you to meet the requirements of the Practice Skills Standards, they must arrange for you to be seconded to an organisation that can offer you the necessary range of skills and experience. Secondments can also be arranged where your organisation is able to provide the required range of experience, but you feel that they would benefit from time spent at a firm’s client company, for example.
Your firm or training provider needs to ensure that you have the opportunities and support that you need to meet the Practice Skills Standards (regulation 12.1(a)).
During the training period, trainee solicitors develop and apply the practice skills they will use as qualified solicitors.
The key elements of each skill – and the type of experience that will help trainees to develop that skill – are specified in the Practice Skills Standards.
Trainees develop the skills through a mixture of the following activities:
- completing work and tasks by themselves;
- assisting others;
- observing experienced practitioners.
Supervisors must ensure that, over the course of their training, the amount and type of work given to trainees adequately covers each skill and is of an appropriate level and complexity for the trainee in question.
Advocacy and oral presentation
On completing the training period, trainee solicitors should be competent to exercise the rights of audience available to solicitors on admission.
Their experience will enable them to understand
- the communication skills of the advocate
- the techniques and tactics of examination, cross-examination and re-examination
- the need to act in accordance with the ethics, etiquette and conventions of the professional advocate.
The tasks trainees perform must enable them to grasp the principal skills required to prepare, conduct and present a case:
- identifying the client’s goals
- identifying and analysing relevant factual and legal issues, and relating them to one another
- summarising the strengths and weaknesses of the case
- planning how to present the case
- outlining the facts in simple narrative form
- formulating a coherent submission based on the facts, general principles and legal authority in a structured, concise and persuasive manner.
The following activities are likely to foster these skills:
- helping to advise on pre-trial procedures
- helping to prepare cases before trial
- with one or more lawyers, attending the magistrates’ courts to observe trials, bail applications, pleas of mitigation or committal, and observing submissions in chambers, examination, cross examination and re-examination in open court
- observing proceedings in family cases, industrial tribunals, planning tribunals or other tribunals or forms of dispute resolution
- as training progresses, and under appropriate supervision, conducting interim applications before a Master or District Judge
- becoming involved in presentations for clients or in preparing or delivering in-house training.
Case and transaction management
Trainee solicitors must begin to acquire skills in managing and running a case or transaction.
Trainees must be given work to enable them to understand the importance of:
- producing a schedule for a case/transaction, broken up – where necessary – into phases
- planning out phases of work to include time, cost and risk management
- developing techniques to diarise, follow up and revisit matters at the appropriate time
- keeping accurate records and attendance notes
- effectively managing files
- regularly and fully reporting back to clients
- co-ordinating teams to review progress and revise options
- bringing matters to a timely, client-satisfactory conclusion
- wrapping up the matter, closing the file, and recovering costs and disbursements.
To develop these skills, trainees should work on larger cases or transactions as members of a team, or they should be given smaller transactions to run themselves, under close supervision.
Client care and practice support
To enable trainees to work effectively in an efficient practice, they must develop the skills required to manage time, effort and resources.
They should be given work that will enable them to:
- prioritise tasks;
- set and meet deadlines;
- review and report progress on matters;
- balance immediate and long-term objectives;
- keep appropriate records;
- understand the processes of setting fees and billing clients.
Activities that will help them to achieve this include:
- planning work by the use of their diaries
- using email, word-processing, scheduling and organisational systems regularly and appropriately
- working effectively with support staff
- recording expenses and disbursements and obtaining reimbursement
- opening and closing files.
Trainees should develop good working habits, and supervisors should check this regularly.
Trainees should understand the need to refine their communication skills so that they can present oral and written communication in a way that achieves its purpose and is appropriate to the recipient.
They should be given work that will help them to:
- select appropriate methods of communication
- express ideas concisely, clearly and logically
- use appropriate language
- use correct grammar, syntax and punctuation
- pay attention to detail by proof-reading, checking the format and numbering of documents, cross-referencing and using consistent terminology
- listen actively and speak effectively
Trainees can develop these skills by:
- drafting letters, internal notes and memos
- reporting to clients and others by telephone
- taking notes in meetings
- dictating notes and letters
The importance of keeping clients regularly informed of the progress of a matter and the client care outcomes in Chapter 1 of the SRA Code of Conduct should be emphasised to trainees. Trainees should be given regular advice, guidance and feedback on their performance.
Trainees should become familiar with contentious work and gain a full understanding of the skills and practice of resolving disputes, including settling, mediation and adjudication, in a fair, cost-effective and timely way that meets client needs.
Trainees should be given opportunities to observe and/or assist in resolving disputes so that they will understand the need to:
- take careful instructions
- identify the client’s purpose and advise on the possible outcomes and costs
- thoroughly research the parties’ liabilities
- gather evidence from witnesses or elsewhere
- consider all the options for resolving a dispute
- meet deadlines and keep clients informed of progress
- draft or prepare papers to assist in resolving a contentious matter
- control information central to the dispute throughout the proceeding
- represent the client and the client’s interests through meetings, conferences and hearings
- ensure that settlements and judgements are secure and enforceable
Trainees can develop these skills by attending tribunal hearings or alternative dispute resolution meetings, observing proceedings and assisting with the preparation of cases.
Supervisors should explain how the work the trainee undertakes fits into the strategies pursued in a case and into the context of litigation as a whole. Trainees should be given feedback on work they have done and should be offered a perspective on the significance of their work to the case as a whole.
Trainees should recognise the need for and be able to produce documents that are clear, precise and achieve their purpose.
They should be given work that enables them to:
- maintain a standard of care that protects client interests and meets client objectives
- address all relevant and factual legal issues
- identify relevant options
- demonstrate a critical use of standard forms and precedents
- draft documents that
- are consistent and coherent
- are clear and precise
- meet any requirements of form and style
Trainees can develop these skills by drafting:
- witness statements and affidavits;
- corporate resolutions;
- wills and trust deeds;
- statements of case;
- transfer of property documents;
- instructions to counsel;
The complexity of trainees’ work should be increased incrementally, and they should be given opportunities to amend drafts of documents received from the other side and to practise using standard forms and precedents.
Interviewing and advising
Trainees should understand the importance of identifying the client’s goals along with the need to take accurate instructions. They should be given opportunities to observe and to conduct interviews with clients, experts, witnesses and others.
They should be given work that helps them understand the need to:
- prepare for an interview
- allow clients or professional advisers to explain their concerns
- identify the client’s goals and priorities
- use appropriate questioning techniques
- determine what further information is required
- identify possible courses of action and their consequences
- help the client decide the best course of action
- agree the action to be taken
- accurately record the interview, confirming the instructions and the action that needs to be taken
- establish a professional relationship with the client, and deal with any ethical problems that may arise.
Trainees can develop these skills by observing and taking notes of meetings and interviews, whether face to face or on the telephone.
The purpose of a meeting should be explained to the trainee, and the conduct of the meeting should be reviewed with them afterwards. Where a trainee is conducting an interview, the supervisor should carefully monitor any advice given by the trainee during the meeting, and give guidance and feedback on the trainee’s performance after the meeting.
Trainees should learn to find solutions by investigating the factual and legal issues, analysing problems and communicating the results of their research.
They should be given work that makes use of traditional and computerised research tools and sources, business information and other relevant sources.
Trainees could be required to:
- research specific legal issues and factual, historical or commercial matters
- prepare for client interviews
- analyse corporate searches
- investigate title to property and other relevant searches
- review title documents and clients’ papers
- assist with due diligence enquiries.
The person allocating the work should give the trainee:
- background information on the context and purpose of the research
- clear instructions
- defined tasks
- information about any limitations to be imposed on their research
Trainees must also be given guidance and feedback on their performance.
Trainees should understand the processes involved in contentious and non-contentious negotiations, and appreciate the importance to the client of reaching agreement or resolving a dispute.
They should be given opportunities to observe negotiations conducted by experienced practitioners and/or to conduct negotiations under close supervision. They should be given work that will help them understand the process of negotiation including:
- identifying the central issues and explaining them to the client
- assessing the bargaining-positions of each party
- planning a negotiation
- establishing an agenda at the start
- listening actively
- using appropriate questioning techniques
- generating alternative solutions to resolve the issues
- using an appropriate negotiating style
- identifying the strategy and tactics used by the other side
- documenting the agreement or settlement
- explaining the benefits and disadvantages of the agreement or settlements
Guidance should be given on the purpose of negotiation, and feedback should be provided on the outcome and on the trainee’s performance.
Further details can be found in the Authorised Training Provider information pack.
We treat your integrity to be a solicitor as seriously as your knowledge and skills. If you do not meet our requirements for character and suitability, we will not admit you as a solicitor. You are also not eligible to commence training. Please ensure that you read our character and suitability requirements as set out in the SRA Suitability Test 2011. It is a critical requirement and one that you must have regard to throughout your professional career.
Before you start your period of recognised training, and at any point once it is underway, you have a responsibility to report to us any matters that may affect your suitability to be admitted as a solicitor. This will include criminal convictions, police cautions, reprimands and final warnings, academic misconduct, as well as financial problems such as bankruptcy or entering into voluntary arrangements. Your character and suitability will also be assessed by us when you apply to become admitted and will include a criminal record check and a financial check.
If you have a character and suitability issue to assess, you should apply to us at least 6 months before you commence your training.
Failure to disclose issues of character and suitability when required by regulation 6 of the SRA Training Regulations 2014 or the Admission Regulations will be regarded as a serious breach of the regulations. This will be treated as prima facia evidence of dishonesty and may result in your eligibility to train being revoked, your training being terminated, and/or your application for admission as a solicitor being refused.
To have your character and suitability assessed please complete the application for Eligibility to Commence a Period of Recognised Training.If you submit an early disclosure about an issue relating to character and suitability, before commencing the LPC, the fee for that assessment is £100.
Regulation 12.3 allows your training provider to reduce the term of the period of recognised training by up to 6 months where you have prior relevant work-based experience. This means that, if you gained legal experience within the three-year period prior to starting your training that has enabled you to develop skills and understanding equivalent to that undertaken during your period of recognised training, you can ask your provider to recognise this and reduce your period of training by an appropriate period of time. The maximum reduction to your training period that can be given is six months. It is entirely at the discretion of the organisation that is offering you training whether a reduction will be granted.
You will need to approach the supervisor or Training Principal at the firm or organisation where you gained the experience and ask them to certify that it was equivalent.
It is important that you keep copies of any supporting documentation as part of your training record, as we and/or your training principal may request to see them at any time.
During your training, you need to keep a record of the work you have done, the skills you have gained and your reflections on what you have learnt (regulation 14). The record also needs to be verified by your supervisor(s) and Training Principal. It is really important that you maintain a clear record, as we may ask to review it and use it as evidence that you have met our standards. There is not a prescribed format for the training record.
Regulation 12.1(d) requires your training provider to undertake regular reviews and appraisals of your performance and achievements during training. This is an opportunity for you to reflect upon your development and progress and identify further learning and professional development needs. We don’t specify how many times they have to take place, but good practice suggests three formal appraisals during the two-year period; one in the first year, one in the second year and one at the end of the contract. Informal reviews can be more frequent, and you should always approach your supervisor for guidance and support as and when you need it.
Before being admitted, you must attend and satisfactorily complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC). It is up to you and your training establishment when to undertake the course, but we advise that the course is completed during the period of recognised training as the PSC builds and reinforces the LPC’s learning outcomes once you have had some exposure to practice. We recommend that the Client Care and Professional Standards subject be done after you have completed six months of training. We cannot admit you as a solicitor if you have not completed the PSC.
The course is comprised of three heads – Financial and Business Skills, Advocacy and Communication Skills, and Client Care and Professional Standards – with a compulsory core of face to face tuition for each head and electives in one or more of the subject areas. 50% of the time spent on the electives may be by appropriately supervised or assessed distance learning.
We require your firm to pay fees and reasonable travel expenses for your first attempt at the PSC (regulation 10.2(e)).
If you consider that you have the appropriate experience or qualifications which are equivalent in scope and level to the PSC written standards, you may apply for exemption from one or more modules of the course. There is more information about this in our Equivalent Means guidance.
During your period of recognised training you may be asked to complete a questionnaire from us about your training, and your firm may receive a visit from one of our monitors. The purpose of monitoring is to focus on the overall adequacy of the training that your firm provides. It is not designed to assess your personal performance or knowledge of substantive areas of law.
You have a responsibility to understand and comply with the SRA Training Regulations 2014. You also should be proactive and take responsibility for your own personal and professional development and the direction of your training.
Generally, the period of recognised training is intended to be where you work with and alongside solicitors and other legal personnel, in most cases for the first time outside of a classroom. It is a time for you to develop your social and interpersonal skills, and suggest solutions to problems, even if you are not certain they are correct. Most importantly, if you make a mistake, you should admit it, and face up to any consequences.
Eight weeks before the end of your training, you will receive details of our pre-admission screening. This includes an identity and financial check plus a Standard Criminal Record Check issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service.
Six weeks before the end of your training, you will receive an application for admission and for a first practising certificate (AD1 form).
To be eligible for admission, you must have satisfactorily completed:
- your training
- the Legal Practice Course
- the Professional Skills Course
- the pre-admission screening
You and your training principal must also certify that there are no circumstances that may affect your character and suitability to become a solicitor, such as criminal convictions.