Articles From the Team

When Training Contracts Are Like Hens Teeth…Qualifying by Equivalent Means

About 16,000 people graduate in England & Wales each year with a Law degree these days, with a further 6,000 getting through the LPC each year, but unfortunately there’s only about 5,000 training contracts up for grabs each year, so the whole process gets more & more competitive year on year as seemingly perpetual paralegals are clamouring for places alongside those new to the market.

When LPC fees are about £12,000 and £15,000 in London before you’ve eaten breakfast or found a roof to put over your head, that’s quite a galling statistic.

If you’ve got tip top academics, some commercial nous, a good vacation placement and you interview well, you’re still in with a decent chance of netting an early training contract as an undergraduate, but if you miss that boat, you’re into getting as good a degree and LPC results as you can, followed by some strong paralegal experience as you continue to apply, and you can expect to be on the case with this for quite some time, often years.

There is another way though, which is starting to become a bit more popular, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Some people seem to think that qualifying as a solicitor by equivalent means that you just get a few years as a paralegal under your belt, fill in a form about your experience, send it in with a couple of references and hey presto, you’re qualified. I’ve also heard from a number of sources that some firms offer a lower NQ salary to a solicitor who has qualified with them by equivalent means than to a solicitor who has completed a training contract.

When you look at what’s actually involved, that seems inherently unfair to say the very least.

Basically, qualifying by equivalent means is a bit like running your own training contract, keeping an insane number of detailed records about the experience you’re gaining, and ensuring that you’ve gained relevant experience of 45 different areas of legal practice across at least 3 practice areas at ‘an equivalent level to a trainee solicitor’ (well, I don’t know about you but as a trainee I had to, at various times, pick up the partner’s wife’s dry cleaning, fly to Heathrow to pick up an abandoned BMW – that was a fun day – and drive to a partner’s house to pick up his rugby kit he’d left at home) so I imagine this is quite a tough call. You have to be incredibly focused and driven, asking for the right experience, identifying the gaps in your experience and taking steps to fill in those gaps. Eventually you’ll then need to put together a huge portfolio of evidence and an extremely detailed application, ensure that you’ve got proper references for all of it and send it all off, paying £600 for the privilege.

It occurs to me that qualifying by equivalent means is in fact far more stringent than the average training contract. Perhaps qualifying via this route should in fact carry a higher salary!

But if you’re the kind of person who wants to take more control over their destiny rather than continuing to fling out training contract applications along with thousands of others, it might just be worth looking into...

There was a great article in the Lawyer last week which tells you everything you need to know from someone who has gone through the process if you think that this might be the route for you. Given how detailed it is, I can see why he was successful!

For more information contact Juliet Lawson at BCL Legal.

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