Official figures: training contracts plummet by 12.5% over last decade

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Tough conditions for wannabe solicitors continue — as stats show London tightens grip on training contract market


Law firm training contracts have nosedived by nearly 12.5% over the last decade, as Law Society figures released earlier today dramatically illustrated the tightening job market for wannabe solicitors.

There were 5,001 contracts on offer in 2013-14, according to the society’s annual statistical report, a drop of 5.6% on the previous year and about 12.4% on the 2003-04 figure of 5,708.

City dominance

More than a third of the contracts currently on the market are at large corporate or City law firms. Searching for a training contract outside London at a high street firm will present students with an almost impossible challenge in some parts of the country.

The pool of trainee solicitors has continued its feminisation, with the number of women trainees at law firms 9 percentage points above that of their male counterparts.

According to the figures, about 36% of all training contracts were offered in the City, with another nearly 19% provided throughout the rest of the capital.

The best chances of bagging a provincial training contract came in the north-west, where slightly more than 11% of all training contracts were available. That was followed by the south-east on 7%.

Trainee deserts

The north-east was the driest of training contract deserts, providing only marginally more than 2% of those available throughout England and Wales.

But that region was followed closely by Wales, with only 2.6% of available training contracts and the East Midlands with only 3%.

Private practice law firms continued to be far and away the main providers of solicitor training, as they accounted for slightly more than 93% of contracts. In-house legal departments at corporations offered 3.7% of contracts, while local and central government produced 1.5% and 0.7%, respectively.

Women are increasingly dominating the law firm trainee demographic.

The figures show that 58% of the total trainee solicitor pool last year were women, of whom 56% were in private practice. In contrast, of the 42% of trainees that were men across England and Wales, 37% were at law firms.



This number is bound to decrease even further. As the legal pyramid business model re-balances itself, baby-boomer generation lawyers begin to retire and firms stop being so ‘top-heavy’ as some currently in the City are, there will be a gradually decreasing need for such large scale hiring.

The days of 100+ trainee cohorts that the likes of CC and Links used to have are destined on the ash heap of history.



Wish they provided data on paralegals. As one figure goes down the other is going up and up.

But, paralegals are not regulated and so……they are invisible.
Crazy situation given that a significant percentage of all legal work is now undertaken by paralegals.

Time to update the figures SRA.



Just did some research, approx 25% of all fee earners in UK Top 200 firms are not classed as solicitors. Therefore, one can assume that these are paralegals. Another way of looking at this would be to say that a quarter of all legal work is done by persons not regulated by the SRA and yet their work effort goes to lining equity partners’ pockets.
No wonder the number of NQs etc is going down.



Interested to read some sources on this if you can provide any?



Don’t forget that bills to clients often include IT staff (data room setup, disclosure, equipment in court/arbitration etc.), legal secs, post room and above all reprographics which typically has the largest margin of any law firm department.


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